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Is Being Sober Here to Stay? Sober Curious Communities Grow Across the Country

by Carmella D'Acquisto

There’s nothing like a drunk night out with friends, a glass of wine after a long day, or a happy hour with coworkers, right? Or is there? 

The sober curious movement, a purposefully ambiguous title for people who are cutting back on drinking alcohol, has been gaining traction for over five years. And while it may have seemed like a fleeting fad when the movement got started, with the amount of new non-alcoholic companies, bars and lifestyle brands that have developed in the last several years, we now have so much more infrastructure to support the movement.

While studies have shown that drinking rates have been going down for years, the popularization of the movement is believed to have kicked off in 2018 when Ruby Warrington’s book Sober Curious was published. The book features tips on curbing your drinking habit and insight from research, interviews and personal experience, without the traditional guilt associated with over drinking, or a drinking addiction. 

From there, a movement blossomed, especially for younger generations. A 2018 Berenberg Research report found that Millennials and Gen Z populations are drinking less than Gen X and Boomer populations did at their age. Additionally, 64% of Gen Z respondents believe they will drink less frequently as they age, due in part to health concerns, hangovers, mental health struggles, and other negative results of drinking alcohol.  

This movement has exploded in part because of social media. The hashtag #sobercurious has been used nearly 500 million times on TikTok and over 500 thousand times on Instagram. There are hundreds of sober curious influencers who share their journey through total sobriety or as a “damp” drinker, someone who is reducing their alcohol consumption without going completely sober. This includes talking about health concerns, showing off their mocktail recipes and more. 

 

@eatlizabeth Lessons from my 60 days of sobriety ? #soberlife #sobriety #healingjourney #selflove #sobercurious #recovery ♬ Weather – Novo Amor

 

Companies like Seedlip, Recess, Curious Elixirs and Kin are cashing in on the movement, offering non-alcoholic spirit, wine and beer alternatives that sober or sober curious people can drink at home. The sale of non-alcoholic spirits nearly doubled in 2022, according to Nielsen IQ data, giving people an alternative to water or soda that is complex in flavor and satisfying. Many people make mocktails that they can put in a cocktail glass with a garnish and feel like they are participating in the festivities without any of the consequences. 

@carolinecitelli Replying to @kitty.spence Don’t let anyone tell you @Kin Euphorics ? is anything short of incredible #sobercurious #kineuphorics #sobercycling #alcoholfree ♬ original sound – Caroline | Pilates

 

New York’s first sober bar or “elixir lounge,” Hekate Cafe, opened in the East Village not even a year ago. Sober bars across the country have been finding success, including Wildcrafters in Jacksonville, Coast Dry Bar in Chicago, Alt Bar in Rochester, there’s even a sober dive bar, Inmoxicated, in the beer-laden state of Wisconsin. 

 

@morgiemartini Got cut off but this SOBER DIVE BAR is called Inmoxicated and is located in Racine, WI and is everything you’ve ever loved out of a dive bar!!!! They have karaoke nights, trivia, pool… you name it. It also pairs as a NA bottle shop and is so welcoming ?? I’ve never been to anything quite like this #sobertiktok #sobertok #sobercurious #nonalcoholicdrinks #nonalcoholic #soberlife ♬ Evergreen – Richy Mitch & the Coal Miners

 

Having an alternative place to gather with friends and socialize in the evenings is giving this movement a stronghold, helping to ensure it’s not a passing fad. Even traditional bars have been expanding their non-alcoholic options in order to hold on to some of the demographics who are leaving to find their N/A drinks elsewhere.

Are you ready to explore the world of the sober curious? Maeve O’Neill, EVP of Addiction and Recovery for All Sober shared in an interview with PureWow that reducing your alcohol intake starts with introspection. 

“The first step of this journey is examining your personal relationship with alcohol,” O’Neill said to PureWow. “Think about the times, places and people you usually drink around and examine why you were drinking and how it benefited you. Think about what is important to you and what you value in life and how alcohol influences them.”

Other steps include finding a supportive group of friends or peers, controlling your environment and finding hobbies to explore that are not in a bar setting. 

“As conversations became more open about sobriety for those involved in recovery,” said O’Neill “[The sober curious movement] allowed for open dialogue and examination of why we may drink and the choices we make.”

Ready to give N/A drinks a go? Grab your prettiest glassware, find a fun mocktail recipe, purchase some non-alcoholic spirits and shake yourself a gorgeous mocktail that looks like it cost you $15. If you have trouble finding non-alcoholic spirits in your shops, you can purchase over 200 varieties on Drizly.com 

Top photo: Nurlan Tortbayev for Pexels

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