Binge drinking by teenagers has declined. Millennials consume less alcohol than they used to, and many say they prefer cannabis (increasingly widely available and even legal) to booze. Nielsen data reveals that alcohol sales growth overall is slowing in the U.S., as non-alcoholic cocktails (or “mocktails”) appear on trendy menus. There are even alcohol-free and low-alcohol pubs in a country you would least expect.
And then there’s the “sober curious” movement, which The Guardian describes as consisting of “those who drink less or not at all, and broadcast their abstinence with pride as a part of their social media personas.”
What’s the alcoholic beverage industry to do? Such major companies as William Grant & Sons, Pernod Ricard, and Diageo, along with a number of independent entrepreneurs, are now selling low- or no-alcohol “spirits” — meant to be used in mocktails or in some cases sipped neat — complete with evocative names, fancy packaging, and sometimes real-liquor prices.
According to a recent report in the U.K.-based publication The Spirits Business, these are among the top brands in this new category:
Everleaf, concocted by London restaurateur and conservation biologist Paul Mathew, positioned as an apéritif and made with 18 different plants, including saffron, vanilla, and orange blossom.
Caleño, a “Colombia-inspired” herbal non-liquor, priced around $30 a bottle, flavored with juniper, coriander, lemon peel, and other botanicals and meant to be mixed with tonic water.
Slange Var, a Scottish entry made with honey, lime, and ginger, to be consumed neat, on the rocks, as a mocktail ingredient, or even as a mixer with rum, gin, or other spirits.
Pernod Ricard’s Celtic Soul, also around $30, described as “a non-alcoholic blend of carefully distilled dark spirits” including vanilla and oak flavors.
Atopia, from William Grant & Sons, a $32 gin-like tipple created by the master distiller for Hendrick’s gin — not alcohol-free, but 0.5% ABV, about the same strength as low-alcohol beer.
Willow at 4.4% ABV (approximately the strength of Guinness Draught), made with a base of the Calvados (French apple brandy), with pineapple, cherry tomato, and agave syrup among the ingredients.
No- and low-alcoholic “spirits” just might be the next big thing — even if they don’t become popular in the American cities where nearly one-fifth of residents drink heavily. These are the drunkest cities in every state America’s drunkest states.