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This coming holiday season, many glasses raised in Hollywood may be filled with spiritless spirits. Stars are jumping into the nonalcoholic adult beverage market with their own brands; sales are up dramatically in the $395 million sector (rising 20.6 percent between August 2021 and August 2022, according to market research company NielsenIQ); and a growing list of celebs are speaking out about alcohol-free, sober and sober-curious lifestyles (Ben Affleck and wife Jennifer Lopez, Anne Hathaway, Chrissy Teigen, Drew Barrymore and Kit Harington among them). Also driving demand is a pandemic-fueled societal focus on wellness.
“We are at the beginning of a new era of social drinking,” trumpets Christopher Lackner, co-founder of Jeng, a maker of CBD-infused, alcohol-free canned cocktails (including a Jeng & Tonic, and a Paloma). “Now that there are high-quality alternatives, it’s no longer difficult or awkward to be sober. In fact, it’s quite a treat.” Producer Jennifer Klein (of the upcoming Everest) served the company’s Moscow Mule cocktails at her annual holiday party in Brentwood last year.
Moving well beyond OG beers by the likes of O’Doul’s and Clausthaler, new nonalcoholic offerings include premium spirits, wine, bitters, mixers and premixed cocktails dressed up in vibrant, design-wise packaging. Among the famous names who have entered the space are Bella Hadid, co-founder of Kin Euphorics, a line of beverages that blends adaptogens, botanicals, nootropics (cognitive enhancers) and light caffeine to calm or energize; and Katy Perry, co-creator of wine-inspired De Soi sparkling drinks that mix juices, botanicals and adaptogens. Justin Bieber, Leonardo DiCaprio, Taraji P. Henson, Barbie Ferreira, Lori Harvey and Tommy Dorfman are all fans of Kin Euphorics, while CAA is an investor in De Soi.
Across L.A., a number of dedicated nonalcoholic beverage shops (that look like hipster liquor stores at a glance) are cropping up. Soft Spirits debuted in Silver Lake a year ago, while The New Bar opened this summer at 1821 Lincoln Blvd. in Venice. A de-alcoholized Syrah wine by London-based Noughty is a top seller at the latter.
Since debuting in 2021, New York-based nonalcoholic beverage retailer Boisson, which offers more than 125 brands, has rolled out six locations in NYC, one in San Francisco and three in Los Angeles — in Brentwood, Studio City and, most recently, Beverly Hills. The business will soon unveil its own Boisson Blanc nonalcoholic white wine ($16).
Among the brands sold at Boisson are downtown L.A.-based Amass (counting Derek Jeter as an investor) which makes Rivertine, a nonalcoholic option with a gin-like profile; and Free Spirits, a Marin County company that serves up nonalcoholic alternatives to bourbon, gin and tequila infused with B vitamins as a bonus. Emmy Award-winning composer Blake Neely (The Flight Attendant) has Free Spirits on hand at his Cow on the Wall Studios to sip during recording sessions, while producer Holly Wiersma (Billionaire Boys Club) tells THR that when she entertains, she sets up a dedicated “Free Spirits bar with craft cocktails because so many people don’t drink anymore.” Free Spirits will add a nonalcoholic vermouth in 2023, followed by ready-to-drink cocktails.
Other nonalcoholic brands of note include Little Saints, which layers CBD, botanical terpenes and reishi mushroom in its Mimosa, Spicy Margarita and Ginger Mule mocktails; and Chicago-based Ritual Zero Proof, co-founded by novelist and screenwriter Marcus Sakey (Good People). The latter entered the market in 2019 as a “liquor replacement,” now with gin, whiskey, tequila and rum options.
Downtown L.A.-based N.A. brand Optimist Botanicals, launched in 2021, with flavors that channel vodka (Bright), tequila (Smokey), and gin (Fresh) with a fourth Amaro beverage landing later this month. Optimist Botanicals is the top-selling nonalcoholic spirit at upscale grocery store-cafe Erewhon, according to the company, and is served at hot spots such as Gold-Diggers, The Hollywood Roosevelt, The Britely and Proper Hotels.
A fresh twist on cocktail mixers, Blake Lively’s bubbly nonalcoholic Betty Buzz juice-based elixirs in five flavors (including Tonic Water, Meyer Lemon Club Soda and Ginger Beer) were introduced in September 2021 ($30 for a 12-pack of 9-oz. bottle). The low-calorie beverages are designed to drink straight up or to mix with spirits, such as her husband Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation American Gin. Betty Buzz has sold over four million bottles to date, a spokesperson tells THR.
DJ and wellness entrepreneur Hannah Bronfman is an investor in Ghia, an L.A.-based nonalcoholic apéritif brand inspired by Mediterranean culture that crafts citrusy-bitter drinks like its Le Spritz from herbs, fruits and roots. Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Jenna Lyons and chef-restaurateur Daniel Boulud all sip Ghia, which debuted in June 2020.
Another recent libation launch came from Portland in the form of ready-to-drink nonalcoholic cocktail brand For Bitter for Worse, whose concoctions include its sparkling Eva’s Spritz aperitif; The Saskatoon, a pinot noir stand-in; and the whiskey-reminiscent Smoky No. 56.
For many customers, these beverages offer sophisticated libations that bring to life some of the culture of the cocktail world, all without alcohol or its side effects.
Says For Bitter for Worse co-founder Shelley Elkovich, “I can tell you that an A-list actress ordered 36 bottles of Eva’s Spritz during her pregnancy and another household name rush-ordered our drinks with overnight shipping to her penthouse in Greenwich Village.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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