There’s something missing from a new wave of bars opening around the world: alcohol.
Alcohol still far outsells low- and no-alcohol drinks. Drinkers in 10 key markets - including the U.S., Germany, Japan and Brazil - consumed 9.7 billion 9-liter cases of alcohol in 2020, compared to 292 million 9-liter cases of low- and no-alcohol beverages. But global consumption of low- and no-alcohol beer, wine and spirits is growing two to three times faster than overall alcohol consumption.
No wonder that a growing number of people exploring sobriety are frequenting the bars that pour adult drinks like craft cocktails without the booze. At 0% Non-Alcohol Experience, a futuristic bar in Tokyo, patrons can sip a mix of non-alcoholic white wine, sake and cranberries from a sugar-rimmed glass. At Sans Bar in Austin, Texas, customers gather at outdoor tables, enjoying live music, bottles of alcohol-free IPA and drinks like the watermelon mockarita, which is made with a tequila alternative.
Sober bars aren’t a new phenomenon. They first appeared in the 19th century as part of the temperance movement. But while previous iterations were geared toward non-drinkers or people in recovery, the newer venues welcome the sober as well as the curious.
Abstinence challenges like Dry January - which began in 2013 - and a growing interest in health and wellness, plus the ability to drive home, are behind the trend.
An explosion of new products is also fueling sales. There are drinks from smaller makers like Chicago’s Ritual Zero Proof - which opened in 2019 and makes no-alcohol whiskey, gin and tequila - and big companies like Anheuser-Busch, which introduced alcohol-free Budweiser Zero last year.
“I have the wonderful problem of too many great options,” said Douglas Watters, who opened Spirited Away, a New York shop that sells non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits, in November.
At OGN Towers, it's not unusual for us to enjoy a bottle of low or no alcohol beverages like Doom Bar or Peroni. Honestly, you have to really concentrate to tell the difference between them and their alcoholic counterparts. And it still feels like you're enjoying a beer at the end of a busy day.