Low-Alcohol Drinks Are the Future of Booze – GQ Magazine

On the periphery of the hard seltzers and the low-ABV spirits, a whole bar cart of other ascendant new products are jockeying to change how you think about drinking. A company called Kin Euphorics markets an amaro-adjacent concoction with a novel twist: It has replaced the booze with a mixture of adaptogens and nootropics. If you tripped over those words, you're not alone, but nootropicsessentially supplements said to increase cognitive functionhave become fiercely popular in certain tech-world circles and among the sort of ambitious, self-optimizing tinkerers for whom a hangover would be anathema. To them, nootropics work as a type of miracle drug; you might think of them as Ritalin for people with an aversion to pharmaceuticals.

Jen Batchelor, cofounder of Kin Euphorics, realized that nootropics could be useful not only at the office but also in social situations. Why would we relegate them to simply being able to code for eight hours at a time? she recalls thinking. I certainly want to be more coherent, more articulate, when I'm hanging out with friends. Batchelor was looking for something that would allow a person to participate in drinking culture without having to drinkand, crucially, without having to palm a tonic and lime all night. She wanted to make something that was more than just a prop.

A similar aspiration guided Ben Branson to launch his nonalcoholic brand, Seedlip, in the U.K. in 2015. It has since spread to cocktail lounges and bar carts in the U.S. Seedlip is an actual distilled spirit, not a substitute for one, meaning it's got all the heft of gin but none of the alcoholan idea that prompted an early investment, and then outright acquisition, by liquor giant Diageo last year.

I think we're a bit more conscious of what we put in our bodies. We read the labels, we like to know where things come from, we like to know who's behind them, says Branson. And I think, secondly, we are more focused than ever before on our health and wellness. We have access to products, tools, software, podcasts, et cetera, that can help us be more informed as to the choices we make in our lives. We know that we should exercise. We know that we should eat better.

While Kin and Seedlip both serve the actual sober folks among us, their appeal is far wider. About 20 percent of our consumers are in the sober-curious category, Batchelor says, referring to people who still drink but see the value in a dry nightor week, or month. There's so many reasons that people come to [Kin]. More than anything, we hear that it's additive, as opposed to having to get rid of something entirelyit's more of a moderation.

This tinkering with old habits, this retooling for the future by trying something new, has become a theme across the culture this year. We've been taking stock of our routines, have we not? When we locked things down during quarantine, we cracked spines on cookbooks, listened to audiobooks about the Spanish flu, devised exercise routines in a corner of the living room. And we taught ourselves how to drink on Zoom. The new spirits we'd been flirting with turned out to be the perfect companions. No surprise then that Seedlip and Kin both saw a significant uptick in orders in April. And from March to April, Haus recorded growth of 500 percent on its core line of spirits, according to Hambrecht.

Across the industry, the data reflects the moment of transition. Liquor-store sales may be up, but with bars having been closed, the producers have spent the year selling significantly less booze overall. Which is to say: People are drinking at home more than ever before, and many of them are drinking more frequently, but in general we're consuming less alcohol. We've discovered, finally, and partially by accident, a sort of new moderationone that's marked by an explosion of new things to try and new ways to experiment. The more and more these other options are available, I think, the more people realize, yeah, it actually is possible to find some sort of consumption schedule that works for you, Haus's Helena Price Hambrecht says. People are realizing there's a mix now. Indeed. Just add seltzer.

Mark Byrne is a writer in New York who has also been a consultant and an entrepreneur in the liquor industry.

A version of this story originally appears in the August 2020 issue with the title "The Future of Drinking Has a Very Light Buzz".

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Low-Alcohol Drinks Are the Future of Booze - GQ Magazine

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