Last weekend we took ourselves down to the Mindful Drinking festival organised by Club Soda at the Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London. It was amazing. Not only were there so many sober legends on the panel talks, but there were so many brands showcasing their low and no alcohol drinks; ciders, wines, bottles of fizz, cocktails, spirits and beers. There was even the opportunity to do some beer tasting and cocktail making with Lyre’s.
It was amazing to meet Laura Willoughby who co-founded Club Soda five years ago with one goal:
To be part of “A world where nobody has to feel out of place if they’re not drinking”.
The Mindful Drinking Festivals are all about bringing together Club Soda’s favourite drinks so they are all in one place for everyone to try. And wow, did they succeed. Thousands of people attended the event over the weekend, all with different reasons from choosing a sober lifestyle, being sober curious, being pregnant or possibly trying to conceive and simply the designated drivers.
Club Soda has even developed a guide to event, venues and drinks based on consumer research and a bank of primary and secondary information. They report that:
- People are drinking less alcohol and this is a generational trend that will continue
- Interest and sales in low and no alcohol drinks is increasing
- Less people are going to the pub than ever before
With this in mind it is easy to see why there is a need for these events and we observed first-hand just how well-attended the event was and the level of organisation that must have gone into it. They also report that 57% of consumers (from their members) have confirmed that the choice of low and no alcohol drinks does influence their decision of which venues to go to. So, there is a real need for drinks companies to move towards producing high quality, non-alcoholic drinks as we move forwards.
In London, it did feel very much like this is being catered for pretty well. During Dry January 2020 Brewdog opened a completely alcohol free-bar and ran ‘Drink all you can Jan’ with free refills across all its bars throughout January. The Alcohol-Free bar is a pilot that they hope to roll out throughout the UK and Europe, as apparently 24% of beer drinkers choosing more low or no-alcohol options. There are also other ‘Dry’ bars such as Redemption in Covent Garden and Notting Hill (where our March event will be held https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/88427939347).
It seems as though London is well and truly leading the revolution, but what about our home city Manchester?
In a short sentence: it is lagging behind. But there are a few places that are definitely on the crest of the wave and setting the bar, and it’s pretty high.
This week we were invited to taste a range of Alcohol-Free Drinks from the Dry January menu at Dive NQ (Tib Street, Manchester).
Not only did they provide amazing food with a range of vegan and non-vegan options, but the drinks were amazing. We absolutely loved all of them. Here is what we tried:
1. Passion Fruit Mojito – fresh mint, fresh lime, homemade passion fruit puree and plenty of ice, topped off with some soda water for some fizz – absolutely like the real thing.
2. Soft Love – banana syrup, fresh strawberry puree, pineapple juice – this is just like sipping a cool pool-side beverage!
3. Coconut & Lime Margarita – fresh lime, sugar, coconut syrup – this is one for the lovers of shorter drinks and is a tangy and exotic drink.
We, along with Bee Sober Manchester, will definitely be holding future events here, and the good news is, the Dry January menu is here to stay! What we loved about these drinks is that they were all juice based but in an adult way and the attention to detail is perfect.
The final event of the week was the Low and No Festival organised by Leila Raoufi at Wilson’s Social (Oldham Street, Manchester) who hosted a panel of guests (ourselves and Bee Sober Manchester included) and invited a number of brands to showcase their drinks.
This was one of the first of its kind in Manchester (well done Leila) but brands such as Booch & Brew, Crave Drinks, Big Drop Brewing Company, Steep Soda, and Nonsuch Shrubs attended and were more than happy for us to sample their amazing drinks and chat about their amazing flavours and options.
To top the afternoon off nicely, we were treated to a mocktail masterclass by Nathan, co-owner of two bars, Speak in Code (Jackson’s Row, Manchester) and Double Down (Hilton Street, Manchester).
Not only is Nathan also living a sober lifestyle (and joined us on the panel) but his ambition and aim is to ensure his bars are inclusive and provide the same flavours for those who choose to live a sober lifestyle. Nathan is somewhere between a bartender and mixologist as he cares equally about his guests and the drinks and that is evident in the way he talked us through the flavours and mixing and the detail and care that had clearly gone into making the garnishes and decorations.
We sampled a Double Zero:
Home made Raspberry Shrub, fresh Lime, soda, Basil Salt solution. Basil salt paint garnish.
Pineapple Tepaché (Fermented pineapple with Verbena, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, Demerara, smoked Paprika), Fresh Lime, Soda. Garnished with Pineapple leather made from the leftover ferment – blended and dried out.
And their homemade Root Beer with Mushroom ice cream:
Homemade root beer with Sarsaparilla, chocolate mint, anise, vanilla, malt extract. Garnished with a homemade mushroom ‘ice cream’ (all plant based).
Sounds strange but it’s true and surprisingly lovely, but don’t take our word for it, go along and give it a try. We are going for food and drinks next weekend!
So, all in all, we think the Sober Revolution has started in Manchester, and if this is the start of what is coming, we are VERY excited.
Alex and Lisa – The Sober Experiment