Sober curious: The mindful approach to alcohol

Have you ever wondered what the sober curious movement means? Perhaps you've heard of the "damp" approach to drinking. We're taking a look at the story behind both terms and examining why a mindful approach to alcohol is becoming the norm. With dry January behind us, lots of people are reintroducing their favourite tipples. But this time, they're not going all out. After work drinks look a little different and TikTok is full of non-alcoholic cocktails and energy boosting smoothies. But rather than ditching the booze altogether, gen-Z are exploring what it means to drink more consciously.


alcohol free Pentire and tonic in a tall glass garnished with rosemary on a wooden surface with a white wall and white pan lids in the background


The Sober Curious Movement


Do you remember the story of Instagram influencer Louise Delage? Back in 2016, she was repeatedly pictured in glamorous situations with a drink in hand. At parties, and bars, on the beach and on board the odd yacht. Yet far from wondering about her unhealthy relationship with alcohol, over a hundred thousand people followed her, aspiring to her dazzling lifestyle.


She was in fact created by Addict'Aide, an agency in France supporting addicts. Their campaign aimed to raise awareness of how appearances are deceptive when it comes to alcohol. Most of us didn't even pick up on the fact she was always drinking. It was simply accepted as part of her it-girl persona.


Fast forward a few years and we're starting to question the necessity to drink in social situations. Sober curious influencers are popping up and social commentators are starting to view abstention as the next step in the wellness movement. After all, a day spent detoxing in the spa followed by a night of hammering your liver with shots doesn't make much sense. 


Damp January and Beyond


Whilst most of us have heard of Dry January and Sober October, you might not be aware of damp January. Rather than abstaining completely for the first month of the year, Gen Z are taking to TikTok to discuss conscious drinking. Keen to improve their physical and mental health, 20-somethings are cutting right back on their alcohol consumption. However, they recognise that the odd glass of wine does bring them joy. So, can they have both the health-benefits of sobriety AND the pleasure of drinking?


Perhaps the social media imprint of generations that came before them has influenced today's youth. Far from the hedonistic days of partying until you drop, socialising is becoming a more measured affair. Young people don't want to be photographed drunk and out of control, only for those images to end up on Instagram. The price of drinks is a factor too, with the cost-of-living crisis driving young adults to become spendthrifts.


Instead, lots of us are turning to a sober curious or damp approach. Instead of ordering a bottle of wine as soon as we walk into a bar, we're starting with something non-alcoholic. At some point in the evening, we might treat ourselves to a gin and tonic, before moving back to alcohol-free alternatives. On other nights, we'll go out and not drink at all. Appreciating that we can have a great night without drinking is a big part of the sober curious movement.

Sober curious drinkers sitting around a wooden table consuming premium alcohol free drinks



The Changing Face of Work Drinks


What do after-work drinks look like for your company? Perhaps you head to the bar en masse once computers have been switched off for the weekend. Have you noticed what people are ordering these days? There is an assumption that most of us will choose an alcoholic drink to wind down. Particularly if your colleagues aren't vocal about their drinking choices. But what are they really drinking?


Here in Switzerland, a growing number of bars are serving some rather luxurious alcohol-free options. Do your colleagues go to the bar and come back with spectacular cocktails or elegant glasses of wine? Could those be non-alcoholic? Take Thomson & Scott Noughty for example. Producing sparkling Chardonnay and rosé and a rich, smooth red wine. Yet all of them have been dealcoholized. Would you know it if you tried them? Absolutely not. Dealcoholisation at low temperatures retains the wine's flavour so consumers really do get the best of both worlds.


Have you ever checked what alcohol-free options the bar you frequent is serving? Perhaps you should. If your local thinks non-alcoholic drinks means lemonade, Coca-Cola and orange juice, it's time for a rethink. After work drinks shouldn’t "out" the non-drinkers. We don't need to make excuses about driving anymore, and it's no longer necessary to feel like a child drinking fizzy pop while the grown-ups drink wine. Instead, simply ask your bar tender about alcohol-free options. Perhaps you'll enjoy one or two of those before moving on to something stronger. Because we are all free to choose.

Bottle of Noughty dealcoholized red wine displayed against a dark background with a glass of the same beside



Is the Sober Curious Movement the Beginning of the End for Bars? 


With bars around the world shutting down during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is a sad fact that many of them were unable to reopen. In the years since life started getting back to normal, more have found themselves unable to continue. So, is the sober curious movement to blame? Absolutely not.


In fact, "damp" drinkers and the sober curious have pushed brands to try something different. These days, most of our favourite tipples have an alcohol-free alternative. Low and no-alcohol beers are abundant. Noughty wines are extremely luxurious and pitched at the same price-point as their alcoholic counterparts. But what if you're a spirit drinker? Try swapping gin for Pentire, whiskey for Feragaia and aperitif for APRTF or Wilfred's.


The price point of alcohol-free drinks is comparable to that of their boozy counterparts too. Why? Because production takes a very similar format. So, if bars get on board with the sober-curious movement, offering good quality non-alcoholic alternatives, they might just boost their profits. Drinkers are still out there, but we no longer need them to prop up the bar.


It goes without saying that alcohol abuse and dependency have extremely negative consequences. So, perhaps our "damp" and sober curious friends could be the saviours of alcoholic drinks after all. Because everything is better in moderation.