It’s safe to say 2022 is the year of the booze-free, the sober curious, the mindful drinker.
In our own backyard, we started ‘22 with District Fray’s Second Annual Dry January Guide, offering recipes, round-ups, and interviews with D.C.’s star players of the no and low alcohol scene. In February, Samantha Kasten opened Umbrella Dry Drinks’ month-long pop-up in Alexandria, VA. Throughout the spring and summer, an increasing number of bars and restaurants began to offer intentional non-alcoholic options for patrons across the DMV. In August, Kasten opened a long-term pop-up due to high demand and a real thirst for these products. In October, Gigi Arandid launched her capsule collection of I Am Sxber t-shirts to signal the coming of her alcohol-free social space, Binge Bar.
And now we have the area’s first ever Mindful Drinking Festival on Saturday, November 5 spearheaded by Derek Brown – renowned mixologist, author and owner of the highly acclaimed Columbia Room (which bittersweetly shuttered its doors earlier this year), arguably D.C.’s first mindful drinking outpost – and Erika Goedrich of Craft Beer Cellar DC, whose aisles offer full proof, low proof, and no proof options for customers and will be the backdrop for the festival.
Says Goedrich, “We’ve seen an explosion in the number of products available as well as growth in the number of people asking about non-alcoholic options. Some people are cutting back on alcohol while others are cutting out entirely. There are so many reasons a person may be looking for a non-alcoholic option.” Goedrich hopes that “guests talk to each other and share stories or festival gives people a chance to explore, yes the beverages, but also how mindful drinking — drinking with attention and intention — fits into their lifestyle.”
Brown, who authored “Mindful Mixology: A Comprehensive Guide to No- and Low-Alcohol Cocktails with 60 Recipes” earlier this year, believes this is just the beginning and that next year will offer even more for locals and tourists. Since the onset of the pandemic, the rise of non-alcoholic bottle shops and entirely booze-free bars around the country and the rest of the world has exploded. “Consumers are getting more savvy when it comes to no and low alcohol options. We need to meet that demand.”
“This is something we have all been waiting for and the data supports it!,” Arandid chimes in. “During the early stages of Binge Bar’s incubation [in early 2020] — I spoke to an NA brand and distributor who expressed that online orders grew six times in the District. I can only imagine what the statistics are now! It is also time to be vigilant on how we can help lift the city and educate the community on all things mindful drinking.”
Kasten knew, “there were people in recovery that were looking for options to allow them to be more involved and included in the social scene,” when she opened her non-alcoholic bottle shop, but she’s been most amazed, “by the number of customers who still drink alcohol, but are just looking for sophisticated alternatives to help them cut back or have a more mindful approach. It truly shows that the low and no alcohol options are for everyone, and this movement is all inclusive.”
Starting at 3 p.m., Brown will offer hourly cocktail demos. He’s most excited to make his Twelfth Night Cider. “It’s so good, and people who are reducing or eliminating alcohol really miss delicious, adult sophisticated drinks during the holidays. This gives them one they can make with ease and bring along to the party.”
Brown concludes, “I’m sure [festival goers will] try something they really love. That’s the point. Give people options.”
The Mindful Drinking Festival is Saturday, November 5 at Craft Beer Cellar DC. Tickets are sold out but a wait list is open.