Is there satisfaction for the sober curious?

Published on November 15, 2019

You see, I am an alcoholic and have been alcohol free for over a decade. I understand that no one around me should pay the price for my malady, and so I have learned to live with alcohol around me and in my home. On occasion I have even taken trips to the liquor store by myself on short notice to grab beverages for either my ailing partner, or houseguests in need. 

One evening while perusing the rows and rows of ornate glass bottles on display with their colorful labels and clever names, I once came across a selection of non-alcoholic craft beers. This piqued my interest. The only non-alcoholic beers that I had experienced previously had tasted like sheer disappointment.  

When I drank before my sobriety, I had drank with the intention of getting drunk. I rarely cared about the quality of alcohol that I was consuming.  Like any good alcoholic, I cared only about its cost and effectiveness. But now that I have been living a sober lifestyle it is uncomfortable enough being around people who are drinking alcohol. I look for an alcohol free drink to hold in my hand during conversation that can ease some of that discomfort. 

Drinking water becomes monotonous and boring, and most other drinks are too high in sugar or sugar alternatives. I yearn for something more flavorful and robust, a drink that would encourage me to hold and sip during conversations rather than swill down and look for a refill. It seems that I am not alone.

Sober is becoming quite trendy recently and alcohol consumption has been on a gradual decline lately in the United States and Europe. Not only have some of the major bars and nightclubs been adding alcohol free options to the menu, but entirely sober-bars have been cropping up in some of the major metropolitan areas. 

These bars are carrying everything from spritzers, mocktails, and teas that are infused with herbs that deliver relaxing and euphoric effects. These bars are not just catering to the non-drinkers, and those in recovery, but to those people just looking for a night to without an alcoholic drink as well.  Let’s take a look at what some of these zero proof bars have to offer those seeking a sober nightlife experience.


Kava is a plant that grows in only certain Pacific islands.  The root is then harvested, dried and ground into a powder that is steeped in water to produce the herbal elixir.  This extremely bitter tasting drink is known for its calming effects, and has even been supported in scientific studies in its use to treat anxiety. There have been Kava bars popping up in major metropolitan areas across the United States and Europe as well as in the Pacific Islands where it is harvested.  Part of the reason for its slow growth in popularity is more than likely due to its bitter, earthy taste. Mixologists have tried to combat that taste by mixing it in fruit juices and sodas. There is a wide range of cocktail creations infused with the roots elixir at all of the varying Kava bars worldwide, and almost all offer it “straight up” to be drank from a traditional coconut shell bowl.


Shrubs are not just the perennial plants that grow in your neighbors garden. The shrubs that are being served up at sober bars are actually antiquated drinks that gained popularity in the seventeenth century and have recently made a resurgence in both regular and alcohol free bars. A typical shrub drink consists of making a syrup from sugar, vinegar, fruit and occasionally herbs.  This syrup is then blended with a carbonated water, for a flavorful, sip worthy beverage.  Shrubs have gained mass popularity in the bar industry in recent years, in spite of being logged away in some of our great grandparents cookbooks a century ago.

CBD Beverages

The latest CBD drinks are being served up to the drug and alcohol free in lieu of intoxicating concoctions at both bars and health food locations. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a non psychotropic compound that is found in the cannabis flower.  It has gained mass popularity in the past few years, and has become available virtually everywhere that it is legal. The mixologists behind the menus at both juice bars, and sober casual settings have been drumming up every type of concoction imaginable containing this relaxing compound. CBD coffees, teas, sodas, and smoothies are some of the available offerings that can help to calm you down and enjoy a sober evening out on the town.

Non-alcoholic craft beers

The latest in non-alcoholic drinks are slowly gaining momentum in the adult beverage market due to an increase in quality from traditional brews. Long gone are the days when a watered down O’douls was the only option available for the sober person when scouring helplessly through the liquor store shelves. Now there is a wide variety of different types of craft beer, and regular beers available in a non-alcoholic format.  With the new increase in quality in the NA beer market, also comes an increase in interest. Beers such as Heineken 0.0, which boasts zero percent alcohol (while tasting almost exactly like regular Heineken) are readily found in most liquor stores, while more inventive and experimental craft malt concoctions can be found in the sober bars that dot major metropolitan areas.

Non-alcoholic spirits

Spirits are the newest addition to the “drunk-free” menu in bars and liquor stores. Zero proof gins, whiskeys and rums are now becoming readily available through online distributors, and at certain liquor store locations. Though the recipes for these creations are kept secret, the words “distilled aromatics” and “botanicals” are used across the board when describing them. In the growing industry of sober nightclubs and bars, these spirits are being blended in the typical ways with sodas, and juices with the intent of creating delicious concoctions worthy of sipping the evening away.

The latest last-minute run to the nearest wine and liquor emporium with my fiancé to stock up on her favorite stress reducers proved quite interesting. 

It was the new “non alcoholic spirits” section of the liquor store that most recently caught my eye while shopping with my fiancé. I have been impressed so far with the drinks in the other areas of the sober market, so out of curiosity I took a couple bottles home and was disappointed to find that this very overpriced (and highly marketed) bottle of distilled botanicals tasted more like watered down perfume. Even in my dissatisfaction with the current available product I am hopeful that this category like all of the others above will evolve into something both well received and extremely palatable. I am just excited that there is not only a market, but also a wide selection of product now available for the non-drinkers like myself.

Daniel McGhee is a Columnist at Grit Daily. He is also the author of Chasing A Flawed Sun, the dynamic true story of addiction and recovery that takes you into the mind, heart, and soul of an addict. At a young age, McGhee became addicted to alcohol and heroin, and was homeless by the age of 18. McGhee lived through multiple overdoses, incarcerations and treatment facilities, and had heart attack at the age of 22.Now sober for 18 years, McGhee works at the Hopes Horizon treatment center, is a well-known community activist, speaker and addiction outreach provider in Baltimore. McGhee is the President and Founder of the non-profit Agape Projects, which fights homelessness and hunger, and provides assistance to low income seniors, helps people impacted by natural disasters, and facilitates animal rescue in Haiti and Honduras.

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