As seen in Teetotaler Magazine
The AF movement is a firework with an ever shortening fuse that is on the verge of exploding onto the mainstream scene.
We all started somewhere to get where we are now; which is at the beginning of something excitingly full of possibility. My personal journey was more divinely handed to me rather than a decision made on my own. I entered the AF community after developing intolerance to alcohol that would made me sick for days after one drink, but not every single drink. For me it was a roulette game of, “Will this be the one that lands me on the sofa, out of commission, or not?” After three separate painful episodes over an extended period of time of about a year and a half, I stopped trying. It wasn’t worth the risk. My final alcohol drink landed me in the Urgent Care clinic. Lesson learned, I put down drinking alcohol and picked up a new lifestyle with a purpose. I wanted to continue living complete with celebrations and socializing, just without booze. It seemed simple enough until I went out and gave it a try.
My mission was born out of necessity to socialize with a drink that didn’t include dire consequences. Now…in my corner of the world at the end of 2018 AF drinks were pretty sparse. There was only one restaurant in town that had mocktails on the menu. At most places if I ordered a mocktail I got curious looks or even snarky comments from unenthusiastic bartenders. Undaunted, I was determined to see mocktails on every menu. So I began talking with restaurants and bars spreading the word that a new category of customer was looming on their horizon. I passed out mocktails at food festivals, art walks, ladies nights out, and even competed in an Egg Nog competition just to educate the public on the idea of alcohol free cocktails/mocktails. Most people humored me by tasting my wares. Some people asked where I sold my drinks. Very few understood that I was selling a concept – a lifestyle. Not everyone took me seriously, but by the end of 2019 there were twelve places in town with mocktails on their menu. (Insert celebratory fanfare here) Meanwhile I began an Instagram account and found a community of like-minded souls that inspired, supported, and encouraged each other. I kept hearing my thoughts echoed back to me there, “Why can’t I socialize minus the alcohol?” “Don’t seat me at the kids’ table with a Shirley Temple.” “Please set your mind free to create an AF cocktail worth sipping.” “Having a drink without alcohol IS the point.” One part of my life was an uphill struggle while in another area I was meeting more and more kindred spirits.
Then 2020 hit….
The entire world shut down and life as we knew it literally vanished almost overnight. This “Mother of all disrupters” year has brought surprising bright spots and devastating losses. I hunkered down along with everyone else, and lost touch with many of the local places with whom I had built relationships. I don’t know if they currently serve mocktails or not. Although, it’s probably a safe bet that they aren’t all that interested in conceptual expansion into another drink category. I believe they have been hanging on for dear life, and sticking with what they know, which is … sell booze. A big personal loss for me was a local bar that was near and dear to my heart succumbed to the shattered economy and closed. I was their first customer the day they opened, and the first actual paid-for drink they served was a mocktail. It was very sad to see them go.
On the other hand, as we all turned away from our physical communities we began to gather on the internet. We have mastered the art of Zoom meetings and Facebook live events and IGTV sharing. It has been quite an impressive pivot personally from local to global interests. I may have lost touch with people and place here, but I now can say I have new friends in Spain, Australia, the UK and across North America. It has been a year of Mindful Drinking festivals and Beer festivals and interesting group hangouts with amazing people. This year I have witnessed both the AF community and AF industry grow exponentially. There has been quite a number of new brands take off and brave new entrepreneurs take on the task of packaging and selling them. Their courage is heartening. It has been a year of people taking challenges and turning them into opportunities.
Missing your celebration bubbly wine? No problem! There are many wine makers who continue to develop better and better NA and AF versions of their wines. Is opening a wine bottle an issue for you? Well, there are enough canned versions of these beauties and wine infused sparkling water brands to satisfy.
The most successful drink translation to NA and AF in my opinion is beer. Nothing is lost in the flavor of countless craft brews on the market. This category continues to grow in the most delicious ways.
Alcohol free spirits is also making enormous strides in “sippability”. What began as botanical water distillations has blossomed into delightfully textured libations.
In order to solve the problem of getting these products into the hands of AF consumers brand new companies have started up as bottle shops and curated packagers that offer introductions to multiple beverages that before could only be purchased on the manufacturer’s website. One stop internet shopping is becoming easier and easier.
And marketing the products directly to the people who want them? This is where I, among others step in and highlight them in our IG stories and feeds. We interview the product makers, and develop new ideas for drinks to share with the world. Everyone I have met so far has had a generous spirit in common. From both sides of the equator people are happy to use their 15 minutes of internet fame to give wholeheartedly to this community.
As my perspective shifted, the mission shifted from “A mocktail for every menu” to crusading for bringing the AF movement into the mainstream globally. By sharing the stories of the fascinating people I meet and the fantastic places and products I find; I hope to engage, enlighten, and entertain the general public. For me, zero has meant a whole new world. I didn’t just give up drinking alcohol. I gained a universal kinship and exciting new way of life.