The Nonalcoholic Beverage Explosion

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In the last few years, the demand for nonalcoholic drinks has gone through the roof. As more people choose to either limit alcohol or forego it altogether, many entrepreneurs (and established companies) have created tastier, better options for nonalcoholic imbibing. 

We’ll explore some of these beverages, though we emphasize and underline that we have no business relationship with any of these mentioned. Our goal is simply to highlight the growing landscape of these products, and how they offer some sophistication to adults seeking a lower-alcohol alternative.

As an aside, many people may not be aware that the FDA makes a distinction between beverages that are “alcohol-free” (containing none whatsoever) and “nonalcoholic,” which can contain up to 0.5% alcohol.1 While the amount in the latter is not enough for intoxication, people who—for one reason or another—cannot drink any alcohol at all, period, should steer clear of those.

The Changing Landscape of Nonalcoholic Beer

non-alcoholic beverages
Photo by Angele Kamp for unsplash

It’s been a long time since O’Doul’s was the only option for nonalcoholic beer.2 Many of us recall an era when everyone at a party was drinking, and O’Doul’s was the only alternative. Its taste aside (which receives decidedly mixed reviews), drinking it also carried a certain stigma and subtle shame: “Oh, you’re the one not drinking,” coupled with mild disdain.

Plus, it should be noted that, like a number of similar products, O’Doul’s is not entirely alcohol-free: Its alcohol by volume (ABV) clocks in at 0.4%. For reference, most beers fall between 5% and 7% ABV, though some can reach as high as 14%. Again, the small amount in a product like O’Doul’s is not enough to affect most people, but those who simply cannot drink any alcohol at all should avoid it.

Fast-forward to 2020 when, in the midst of the pandemic, the venerable Irish brewer Guinness introduced its first alcohol-free stout, called Guinness 0.0. Reviews were generally positive, but shortly after the launch, the company recalled the product in the UK, citing concerns of possible microbial contamination.3 But after tightening manufacturing procedures, the company reintroduced the stout in 2021.

Other brewers have followed suit, including Budweiser, Carlsberg, Heineken, and many more, as the market for alcohol-free beverages continues to increase. And many smaller companies have been making craft beers that can rival their alcoholic cousins.

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Don’t Overlook Alcohol-Free Wines

Even the wine industry is taking notice. Though some companies like Pierre Chavin make traditional wines, their Pierre Zéro line is so popular that it now includes dozens of varieties.4

One vintner, ARIEL, is proud of its 1986 Gold Medal, which it won even though competing with alcoholic products at the Los Angeles County Fair. The company uses a process called reverse osmosis, to remove the alcohol after brewing. Even the popular winemaker Sutter Home has an alcohol-free white Zinfandel, appropriately called Fre. And Lussory uses an evaporation technique to produce its acclaimed wines, all of which contain no alcohol.

If you’re feeling celebratory, but champagne is out of the question, some vintners have you covered.5 Gone are the days when the only option at the grocery store was a simple sparkling white grape juice. If you don’t want the possible hangover the next day, check out Pierre Chavin’s Perle, or the options from TÖST.

Even Spirits Are Getting into the Act

spirits herbs flavors
Photo by Dose Juice for unsplash

In 2015, a British company called Seedlip caused a stir when it introduced its line of distilled, nonalcoholic products. Its first batches quickly sold out. With three offerings, the company has wooed adults who want a sophisticated tasting experience—but without the alcohol. There’s no reason they shouldn’t have it. The flavors are definitely designed for adults, for those wanting an exotic palette. These are beverages to be sipped, not slogged.

Other companies have followed suit, such as Lyre’s, Monday, Ghia, and ArKay.6 All of these have created libations evoking spirits such as gin, tequila, Campari, and vodka. The options are only increasing. Some use botanicals to stimulate the palate; others incorporate white tea, or similar delicate flavors.

Plus, there’s the coolness factor. Who wouldn’t want to be on the cutting edge of new food and drink products? For many, being on the front lines of these developments is a heady experience. Many of these products have been featured in magazines such as Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, and Epicurious.

To Those in Recovery, Nonalcoholic Options Are a Gift

No one likes to be shamed at a party (or frankly, on any other occasion). Exhortations to drink are often well-intentioned, but whether or not to have alcohol is no one’s business but your own. Questions like “What, you’re not drinking?” can only make matters worse. No one’s preferences—whether alcohol-free or not—should be met with not-so-subtle skepticism.

That said, many of these new beverages can help people feel less overlooked when others are consuming alcohol. There’s no reason people can’t have a luxurious, tasty treat—that doesn’t leave a headache in its wake the next day.

It should be noted, too, that part of alcohol excess is based on patterns. Some people have a martini every day after work. For others, weekend brunch is dismal without a Bloody Mary. It’s true that some in the addiction field may be slightly wary of these new products, since the act of drinking is still tied to habits. And examining those habits is often crucial in wrestling with alcohol reduction. But there’s little doubt that, at “5:00 pm somewhere,” a nonalcoholic martini is a lot healthier.

For some delicious nonalcoholic mixed drink ideas, check out this list of the best summer mocktails.

How Ria Health Can Help You Find Balance

People come to Ria for different reasons. Some want to quit alcohol altogether, while others would like to be able to drink at a moderate level. Maybe you’d like to drink alcohol on some occasions, but not on others. One woman chose to do Dry January, which then became Dry February and Dry March. She added, “When the pandemic is over, I’d like to be able to go out and have a nice cocktail with my husband.”

We can help you control alcohol, and find the amount that makes the most sense for you—whether it’s an occasional drink, or none at all. If you’re finding that the urge to drink is more of a duty than a pleasure, perhaps we can help you find a better way. Call us: We’d love to talk with you about your drinking habits, and find the best solution for you.

One more disclaimer: We have no business relationship with any of the products or companies mentioned here. Our sole purpose here is to call attention to some of the most interesting alternatives to alcohol. If you’re trying to drink less, we hope you’ll try some of them. Better yet, give us your comments, or let us know of beverages you’ve found that we haven’t cited.


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Written By:
Bruce Hodges
In a career that includes writing, editing, communication and fundraising consulting, Bruce Hodges has created and edited text for online and print publications, including proposals, press releases, and podium remarks. Among many other interests, he explores poetry and essays, and writes articles for The Strad magazine (London) and WRTI public radio (Philadelphia). “As a lifelong advocate for innovative causes, I think of friends no longer with us who struggled with alcohol. If they had access to the revolutionary science behind Ria Health, some of them might be alive today.”
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.
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