Why is this interesting? - Thursday, May 2

On alcohol, adaptogens, and a post-drinking world.

Colin here. A lot of the world seems to be focused on the cannabis economy these days. And for good reason, it is blowing up and addressing areas as wide as anxiety and pain to food for arthritic pets. But if we zoom out, I think the broader trend is the increasing movement to a post-drinking world. Socializing has long revolved around alcohol: at the pub after work, at festivals, at house parties, at dinner, and, of course, late night. But now there’s a cottage industry that caters to those that are opting out of happy hour.

Why is this interesting?

As the themes of mindfulness, wellness and self-care in an anxiety-laden world are now front and center, I’ve been paying attention to a slew of companies that play in this nascent market. Seedlip positions itself as what to drink when you’re not drinking. According to the brand, it is based on the distilled non-alcoholic remedies from The Art of Distillation written in 1651. The problem is that other than Spice 94 (“A complex blend of aromatic Jamaican Allspice berry & Cardamom distillates with two barks & a bright citrus finish”), the rest of the products seem like little more than water infused with whatever they can use to justify a $35 price tag. Also, absent is any change in demeanor from the liquid.

Kin Euphorics, on the other hand, is running after the same space but using adaptogens (“non-toxic plants that are marketed as helping the body resist stressors of all kinds, whether physical, chemical or biological”) to cause a change in mood or sensation. The selling point here, according to a review, is “that it uses a blend of both nootropics and adaptogens, alleviating stress and facilitating a feeling of bliss in one go…” In this case, the head change or relaxation that comes from a cocktail occasion is being replicated without one. According to Forbes:

Kin is essentially a dietary supplement in beverage form. Its active ingredients consist of supplements like GABA, 5-HTP and rhodiola extract. It also contains caffeine.Individually, these active ingredients might be known for their promised nootropic or adaptogenic benefits (in some cases, both), but Kin isn’t marketed as a dietary supplement. This “euphoric” is meant to be sipped like a cocktail.

It’s not just the drinks, though, physical communal spaces are also playing into this trend. Getaway is a booze free bar that just opened in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It’s trying to solve for removing the social stigma of being in a bar but not drinking, and the resulting guilt of ordering just a soda water with bitters. And on first glance, the bracingly sweet and sugary mocktails from earlier times might come to mind, but their offerings are more interesting. Check out what Grub Street had to say:

For those who, like myself, might balk at the prices, the bottom half of the menu is very compelling. Shrubs and cordials run for $6 and $4.50, respectively, and there are full-service coffee-and-tea options. Most inviting was the extensive array of $4 soft drinks, Fever-Tree tonics, Dona sodas, and my all-time-favorite difficult-to-find aperitif: the alluringly bitter, electrically red Sanbitter. This section also left me wanting more — not from Getaway but from other bars. While most typical bars can’t devote the time or the money needed to make elaborate, locally sourced, alcohol-free cocktails, I’d love to see places reach for a few more niche prepackaged options that extend beyond the usual offerings.

Questions remain of course. It’s hard to imagine bars without the booze and yet to be seen whether people will still seek them out without the social lubricant of alcohol. It will be fun to watch how this trend plays out, especially if there’s new social norms and behaviors that spin out of it. Seems like socializing is set to be rewired.

Chart of the Day:

The New York Times had a great piece on the huge differences in the cost of something as simple as a blood test in a single state. “New data, analyzing the health insurance claims of 34 million Americans covered by large commercial insurance companies, shows that enormous swings in price for identical services are common in health care. In just one market — Tampa, Fla. — the most expensive blood test costs 40 times as much as the least expensive one.”

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Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)