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Sobriety Goes Social: Sober Bars Are on the Rise

Sobriety Goes Social: Sober Bars Are on the Rise


10 minute read

Sober bars are not a new concept, but they get more popular every year. 

People are more cognizant about their health and wellness these days, often choosing to live an alcohol-free lifestyle. This has created a demand for social spaces that cater to those who choose not to drink. 

Sober bars have emerged as a welcoming solution for people to socialize without the pressure to drink.

What is a Sober Bar?

A sober bar is an alcohol-free bar. Instead of mixed drinks like a bourbon old fashioned, bartenders mix up non-alcoholic cocktails for their patrons. 

What is the difference between a sober bar and a regular bar? The difference between a sober bar and a regular bar is that true sober bars only serve non-alcoholic drinks.

The offerings at these alcohol-free taverns are still created by skilled mixologists. You can find non-alcoholic beer, mocktails, craft kombucha, and dealcoholized wines, like Surely’s Sparkling Brut

Some people call sober-friendly bars alcohol-free bars, spirit-free bars, or temperance bars. All of these names reflect alcohol-free establishments that mirror the experience you’d have at a typical nightclub — without the booze.

Why do people go to sober bars?

Non-drinkers or those that indulge in alcohol can still enjoy visiting a non-alcoholic cocktail bar. People may choose to go to sober bars because they are sober curious, recovering from alcohol use disorder, or for other personal reasons.

What is the concept of a sober bar? Sober bars used to be looked at as an alternative for those in recovery from substance abuse. These days, sober bars (and bars with wide varieties of non-alcoholic beverages) are for everyone. They’re trendier, flavor-forward, and focused on authentic conversations and experiences. 

Sober bars are on the rise as a place to sip, savor, and even meet new people without worrying about drinking too much, harming their health, or lowering inhibitions. Heading to a sober bar can make your sober curious lifestyle even more fun. 

Just as traditional taverns can be more than just drinks, sober bars extend past non-alcoholic spirits, offering unique food and drinks, live music, and a great atmosphere. Hello, selfies! 

Drinks to try at a sober bar

Most sober bars have tasty options you can drink with a wide variety of non-alcoholic ingredients. Craft mocktails may include homemade syrups, botanicals, or thoughtful flavor combinations. Some popular mocktails even have zero-proof spirits for a similar taste without the same effects.

Other spaces serve soda-based drinks, non-alcoholic wine and beer, or flavored seltzers and kombuchas. There’s something for everyone to try. 

What to order at a sober barSome of our favorites are:

  • Flavored kombucha (we especially love ginger flavors!)
  • Virgin piña colada
  • Non-alcoholic rosé
  • Black cherry soda
  • Virgin daiquiri
  • Shrub beverages
  • Non-alcoholic hemp beer
  • Fizzy flavored lemonade
  • Tea “cocktails” 

What do you order at a bar sober? If you’re at a regular bar and trying to stay sober, try a Roy Rogers, Shirley Temple, or a virgin mojito. These options have flavor and style but without any alcohol.

Current Sober Bar Trends

According to history books, people have been interested in sobriety for centuries. It’s not just some new fad. Here’s what to know about the rich history of the sober curious movement.

British Temperance: The Origins

In 19th-century Britain, it was common to find people abstaining from drinking liquor as part of the temperance movement. This social revolution preached the value of drinking in moderation.

Tee-Totally Alcohol-Free

While the temperance movement was booming, “teetotalers” went even further with how they cut back. These teetotalers were completely booze-free, skipping not only hard spirits but also beer and wine.

The Recent Rejuvenation of the Sober Curious Movement

In 2018, author Ruby Warrington struck a chord with a more modern crowd, coining the term “sober curious.” The name is the perfect depiction of where many 21st-century drinkers find themselves: interested in drinking less, but not ready to swear the teetotaler’s oath.

The goal of the sober curious movement, according to Warrington, is to encourage everyone to re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol. 

This mindful movement welcomes everyone to abstain, from the weekend drinker to the tequila shot enthusiast to recovering alcoholics. 

For those who haven’t dealt with alcohol addiction, there may be no need to swear off drinks forever. Simply cut back, think about why you drink, and consider switching to no-alcohol alternatives like non-alcoholic wine.

Where We Stand Today

The sober movement is gaining traction. Worldwide, non-drinkers are actually the majority.

The WHO estimates that 58% of the world’s adult population hasn’t had a drink in the past year. If you’re considering sobriety, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, research is showing that the last year of the 2020 pandemic and health concerns triggered a spike in heavy drinking.

In the media, many celebrities have made the choice to go abstinent. There are a lot of good reasons to drink less, or not at all:

  • Potential weight loss
  • Wellness benefits like reduced cancer risk and better immune function
  • Resetting your relationship with alcohol, like practicing a Dry January
  • Discovering new hobbies and ways to connect

What is the target audience of a sober bar? The target audience of a sober bar can is anyone looking to reduce alcohol consumption and still be social. Recent polls find 50% of American adults state that they’re trying to limit alcohol consumption. The same Nielsen study found that 66% of millennials are sober curious.

Our favorite Sober Bars

Sober bars have been popping up across the country, catering to the growing demand for alcohol-free social spaces. These bars provide a unique experience, but share the common goal of a safe and welcoming, alcohol-free space.  Here are some of our favorite bars around the country.

Sans Bar Austin TX sober bar

Photo Credit - NPR

Sans Bar — Austin, TX (and multiple pop-ups)

Sans Bar started as a pop-up business serving “hand-crafted zero-proof cocktails” in Austin, Texas. Now, they’re a permanent fixture in the trendy city’s nightlife scene.

Founder Chris Marshall saw the need for building an alcohol-free community and connection after his work as a counselor at an alcohol treatment center.

Sans Bar even offers alcohol-free party hosting classes, teaching you how to have a great time without a hangover.

With collaborations featuring the best in the zero-proof game, they boast a rotating slate of new options and themed events at their permanent location to keep the party going. If you want sober Christmas in July, DJ-ed dance parties, or alcohol-free karaoke, this is the spot for you.

Bonus: Sans Bar is expanding around the country, with pop-ups from Alaska to Los Angeles.

Getaway — New York City, NY Sober bar

Photo Credit - Grub Street

Getaway — New York City, NY

Getaway is one of the hottest bars in Brooklyn, even without any alcohol. They’re famous for their social media-friendly aesthetics and their innovative flavor combinations. It also doubles as a coffee shop for your other favorite non-alcoholic beverages.

Offerings range from some of the best non-alcoholic beer around, like Athletic Brewing and Hairless Dog, to sparkling iced teas and intriguing seltzers or club sodas.

Mocktails include Paper Train, a tobacco/orange/vanilla sparkling beverage, and Coconaut, a tropically delicious dessert in a glass. Everything in the building is non-alcoholic. 

Photo Credit - Huff Post

The Other Side — Crystal Lake, Illinois

The Other Side was ahead of its time. The space opened in 2013 to provide a safe space for those who have gone through addiction treatment. It quickly evolved into a local watering hole for the sober curious on top of their initial noble mission.

Variety is key here. The Other Side boasts options like open mic nights, comedy shows, and dancing.

Unlike the other two options on our list, the primary focus here is connection, not concoctions. If you’re passionate about meeting new friends or educating people on alcohol, this is the spot for you.

Photo Credit - Awake Denver

Awake — Denver, Colorado

In an effort to change how people perceived the decision not to drink, cofounders Billy and Christy of Awake turn this choice into a positive act.  

Billy is a health consultant and Christy focuses on sobriety coaching. They use their career experiences to create a socially conscious space to inspire people interested in the sober-conscious movement.  

They donate portions of their profits and sales to mental health non-profits, including those helping with addiction. Awake has a bottle shop of non-alcoholic options for your at-home bar. They are in the process of relocating so stay tuned for their new spot!

April 2023 Update: Awake Denver is temporarily closed until they can locate a larger space to host more patrons in response to growing demand.

Photo Credit - Listen Bar

Listen Bar — Williamsburg, New York

After having pop-ups all over New York City (from Manhattan to Brooklyn and beyond!), Listen Bar finally settled into their South Williamsburg space. Catch live music here and a drink that Snoop Dogg asked to have named after him! 

The entire menu at Listen Bar is alcohol-free. The bartenders here are musicians, and mixologists work with herbalists to craft drinks with the highest quality ingredients. What sets this bar apart from the lack of ABV in the drinks is that the menu is categorized by nutritional preference! 

For Mocktails and Mindful Drinking, Give this a Try!

If you want to cut back on alcohol without cutting down on taste, we understand. The desire for a great alcohol-free wine is what inspired us to create Surely. We found that some non-alcoholic wine alternatives just tasted like grape juice, and that’s not what any adult wants after hours.

Thankfully, if you’re sober curious, cutting back can still taste great. Our sparkling rosé is an excellent addition to your sober bar at home, a picnic in the park, or the next time you Netflix and chill. We can’t wait for you to fall in love with Surely!

Sources

  1. Half the world’s adults do not drink alcohol – what should the policy implications be?
  2. Changes in Adult Alcohol Use and Consequences During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the US
  3. Many Americans are looking for a bar experience without the buzz

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