The last time the writer Ruby Warrington had a drink was at a friend’s wedding in Ibiza last summer. “I had a glass of champagne and started to feel a bit tired and groggy,” she says. “It was an interesting experiment.”
Warrington calls herself “sober curious,” which is also the name of a book she wrote in 2018. Whether you call it that, mindful drinking, or hip sobriety, the sober-ish movement is gaining momentum. Research shows that millennials and Gen Z are drinking less and less alcohol. It’s due, at least in part, to the rise of wellness culture — as much as we like to think that the polyphenols in red wine make it a health beverage, according to the wide-reaching Global Burden of Disease Study published last year, no amount of alcohol is exactly “healthy.”
“The question might not be, ‘Am I an alcoholic?’ but rather, ‘Is alcohol getting in the way of my best life,’” says Holly Whitaker of Tempest Sobriety School and author of the forthcoming Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol. She got sober in 2012 after confronting her many addictions, the 2 or 3 bottles of alcohol she drank some nights, plus pot, cigarettes, and an eating disorder. Her approach is focused on rebuilding yourself, and focusing on where you are right now. A good first place to start is “an awareness of our relationship to alcohol,” she says.
Whether forgoing alcohol entirely or just reducing its role in your life, the key is to develop a more intentional relationship with drinking. But that doesn’t mean a monkish lifestyle. In New York and beyond, Warrington hosts events under the name Club SÖDA (short for Sober or Debating Abstinence). You can drink high-end mocktails at a monthly sober drinking night called Listen Bar at Vonn in Manhattan or order pineapple-and-coconut drinks at Brooklyn’s entirely alcohol-free bar, Getaway. Daybreaker hosts morning dance parties across the country.
And sober seekers have more options to drink than non-alcoholic beer. Companies like Seedlip, Kin Euphorics, and Curious Elixirs have created booze-free options for adults to drink socially or just at home. “I was really trying to make something diametrically opposed to soda,” says Curious Elixirs’ founder John Wiseman, who has worked in and around restaurants and bars since he was 19 and who ran marketing for Daily Harvest.
His latest concoction is Curious No. 4, his take on an Aperol Spritz. It’s fizzy and not at all sweet — this isn’t the bottle of Martinelli’s sparkling cider wheeled out for kids on special occasions — with the citrus zip of blood orange and the spice of turmeric, ginseng, and tulsi. Drinking it has the same Am-I-in-Capri feeling of a good aperitivo. The goal is for people to feel even better after they drink his beverages.
Wiseman advises the newly sober-curious to spend 20 minutes in the morning doing exactly what you want. “For me that’s meditating and playing some music. Not for any goal, but just for a little joy to start the day.” Because the best part of not drinking is waking up without a hangover.