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Sober October: Why mindful drinking is becoming more popular

Thanks to the surge in alcohol-free alternatives, sipping for a good cause has never tasted so good, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

There is a wealth of options available for the sober curious (Pentire/PA)

The thought of cutting out, or cutting down on booze used to imbibe such a sense of sobriety you may as well have lived under a rock for a month – but this is no longer the case.

“For hundreds of years, the definition of a ‘proper adult drink’ has been synonymous with alcohol, but now that’s changed because the quality of alcohol-free and low-alcohol drinks has improved so dramatically,” says Pierpaolo Petrassi, master of wine and head of trading for beers, wines and spirits at Waitrose.

“You no longer feel you’re missing out if you have an alcohol-free beer, or a cocktail made with a zero-alcohol ‘spirit’,” notes Petrassi.

Zeno Alcohol-Liberated Sparkling Wine, £11.99, Waitrose (Waitrose/PA)

Indeed, he says most of their customers now want to buy both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, so they’ve arranged all the low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks into a dedicated space in 253 shops across the UK, to make them easy to find.

Which is great news if you’re supporting Macmillan Cancer’s Sober October – but also looking for a booze-free bevvy beyond…

“As we head into the autumn months, more and more people are making the bold, counter-cultural choice to ditch alcohol for a month and try Sober October,” says Christy Osborne, sobriety coach at Love Life Sober.

“With Christmas and all the parties that come with it, it’s the perfect time to take a break from the booze.”

She says it may be less popular than Dry January, but Sober October is gaining traction along with the rise of the sober and sober-curious movements – and remarkable growth of the non-alcoholic beverage market.

Botivo Batch 14 Slow-Sipping Botanicals, £26.95, 50cl, Botivo (Botivo/PA)

Health and wellness

At its core, Sober October represents a broader societal shift towards health and wellbeing, notes Osborne. “In today’s fast-paced world, more individuals realise the effects of regular alcohol consumption on their physical and mental health.

“Taking a month off alcohol can act as a reset button, helping many to gain a clearer perspective on their relationship with drinking.”

Sober October isn’t just a personal journey

Osborne says it’s a collective experience shared by thousands across the globe…

“If you haven’t visited sober Instagram lately, I encourage you to peek at the thousands of accounts sharing their stories, tips, challenges and victories, creating a sense of camaraderie that makes the challenge more enjoyable,” suggests Osborne.

In addition to social media, she recommends online communities and support groups if you want to tackle a month off booze with like-minded new friends.

A chance to recalibrate

Mavrik Non-Alcoholic Cocktails, Mix of 36, £54 (was £72), 200ml, Mavrik Drinks (Mavrik Drinks/PA)

As Osborne points out, taking a break from alcohol can be eye-opening. “Many of my clients report better sleep, clearer skin, increased energy, and even weight loss.

“The tangible benefits observed in just 31 days often motivate individuals to reassess and modify their drinking habits long-term.”

If you’re looking at cutting back or moderating your drinking, a Sober October reset can show you how not drinking feels, says Osborne, and make your decision to cut back much more effortless.

How is the non-ABV market responding to the rise in Sober Curiosity?

Caffé Carnivale Espress0% Martini Nitro Cans, 12 Pack, £29.99, Mocktails (Mocktails/PA)

According to Forbes, the no-alcohol drinks market surpassed $11 billion in 2022, with that number only set to rise. Osborne says: “With the increasing number of people opting for non-alcoholic options, the retailers have risen to the occasion, both in quantity and quality.”

Captain Morgan Spiced Gold 0.0 Alcohol Free Spirit, £15, 70cl, The Bar (Captain Morgan/PA)

“Today, the market is flooded with non-ABV beers, wines, spirits, and mocktails, ensuring there’s something for everyone.”

Furthermore, brands are investing in creating beverages that mimic the complexity, aroma, and taste profile of their alcoholic counterparts, says Osborne.

Pentire Coastal Spritz, Non-Alcoholic Aperitif, £22.80, 50cl, Pentire Drinks (Pentire Drinks/PA)

“From traditional brewing methods to including herbs, botanicals and exotic ingredients, the non-ABV industry is constantly innovating, ensuring consumers have exciting options.”

Why are even regular drinkers opting for non-ABV options?

Clean Co Clean R Rum Alternative, £16, 70cl, Clean Co (Clean Co/PA)

“Life is unpredictable,” opines Osborne. “There might be days when you have an early meeting, are on medication, or simply not in the mood for alcohol because you want a good night’s sleep.

“Non-ABV options provide the flexibility to enjoy the ritual of a drink without the nasty after effects of alcohol.”

Mindful drinking

The narrative around alcohol is changing… while enjoying a glass of wine or a cocktail remains a ritual for many, there’s also an increasing awareness of the merits of moderation, notes Osborne.

Plus & Minus Non-Alcoholic Wines, Australia, the range is priced from £10 per bottle, ZeroZilchZip (Fourth Wave Wine/PA)

“This shift leads many to alternate between alcoholic and non-ABV drinks, depending on the occasion or mood.”

She continues: “The rise of Sober October and booming non-ABV market is emblematic of a broader cultural shift towards sober curiosity, mindfulness, health and choice.

“There’s never been a better time to try Sober October, with all of the incredible community support and non-alcoholic options on offer.”


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