How often do you hear that little voice in the back of your head speak up, “Am I drinking too much?”
In an alcohol-infatuated metropolitan area like the Valley of the Sun, it’s not difficult to question your drinking. If you look around, the ability to get a beer or glass of wine is everywhere. At the grocery store? A bar. At the nail salon? Drink offerings. At shopping centers? You can carry drinks around with you while you browse.
From a business perspective, it’s understandable. People pay for drinks. From a health and wellness perspective? It’s a little more gray.
As a focus on health and wellness becomes more prominent in the modern age, so too is a trend of people being more mindful of their alcohol consumption.
It’s called sober curious.
The term sober curious was first born from Ruby Warrington, a New York-based writer who authored a 2018 book by the same name. Warrington’s book gives a guide for transforming a person’s relationship with alcohol. Warrington outlines that while a person may not have a “problem” with alcohol, the substance is always present. Sometimes it’s out to dinner with friends, after a long week of work or an awkward social situation. One drink can turn into two, which turns into a six-pack.
While these instances are not reason to identify as an alcoholic, there’s an effect from that drinking, whether it’s bad sleep or a slow weight gain.
Warrington’s book seeks to promote how life can get better when you replace alcohol.
“The sober and ‘sober curious’ lifestyle has been gaining significant traction over the past few years,” said Kristine Abrams-Petersman, who owns The Nixer, a non-alcoholic pop-up bar. “It’s about choosing — and then creating — a life without or with limited alcohol consumption. Many people are becoming more mindful about their relationship with alcohol and they are looking for alternatives.”
Abrams-Petersman, who is sober herself, purchased The Nixer with her husband Roger in March. She says since their new business venture, business has been booming.
“The market is definitely out there — and growing. People are so happy to have options when they choose not to drink alcohol, whether that choice be for a moment, for 30 days, or for a lifetime,” Abrams-Petersman said. “We get thanked all the time for offering craft non-alcoholic options with real and mindful ingredients, not just juice, soda, etc.”
William R. Corbin, an Arizona State University Department of Psychology professor, says he believes younger generations are more aware of the health consequences of alcohol misuse, and rates of abstaining from alcohol use have increased dramatically during the past two decades among young U.S. adults.
“There are also more visible efforts to promote the health benefits of not drinking, like Dry January, and the marketing of mocktails,” said Corbin. “I think young people are just more comfortable talking about not drinking or taking a break from drinking.”
Corbin says while choosing to abstain from alcohol has become more popular across demographics, the rates of alcohol abstinence seems to have increased more among younger adults. He points to a 2023 review paper called “Substance Use and Misuse” that concludes young people who choose to abstain have better mental and physical health, and do better in school.
“...(T)hough it is hard to infer causality,” Corbin said. “It may be that the type of person who is in better health and is invested in their studies is more likely to choose not to drink. Of course, choosing not to drink also decreases risk for many long-term health consequences, and population level increases in abstinence should be expected to contribute to reduced consequences of impaired driving.”
Abrams-Petersman points out social media is playing a part in the growing communities of sobriety as well.
“Social media provides platforms for people to connect, share their experiences and support one another in their sober/sober-curious journeys,” she said. “And that support is everything when exploring the alcohol-free lifestyle.”
Two JW Marriott resorts within the Valley are among corporate entities providing more options for consumers looking to abstain from alcohol.
In Paradise Valley, the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa has four mocktail offerings. Director of Food & Beverage Erik Nygren says they have mainly seen an increase at the pools with a request for non-alcohol frozen drinks.
“We want guests to be able to enjoy unique beverages that are still delicious but (non-alcoholic),” Nygren said. “We typically have large groups at the resort and some of them are not drinkers but want to enjoy the bonding time with their group, but not drink water or similar beverage. Well thought out (non-alcoholic) drinks help them feel part of the action.”
Martiza Portillo, general manager of the Tia Carmen restaurant on the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa property, says they are seeing an increase in requests for mocktails and non-alcoholic drinks.
“There is an exciting movement in the market where guests are asking for more alcohol-free options and we are happy to provide them with our great offerings,” Portillo said. “Whether it’s the new mom-to-be that wants to celebrate at a girl’s brunch or a group of gentlemen that are honoring ‘sober January,’ there is a strong request for these types of beverages.”
Mocktails give consumers an option to order a fun drink without the buzz.
Tia Carmen offers two mocktails that are found on the drink menu, along with a handful of non-alcoholic beers.
The tall & bubbly mocktail features prickly pear, hibiscus and sparking apple; while the short & spicy mocktail features aguachile, ginger and pineapple.
“Tía Carmen was a woman that believed in bringing people together. There is nothing more awkward than being the only person at a table that doesn’t partake in alcoholic beverages while everyone else around you does. At our restaurant, we provide options that help everyone feel like they are a part of the energy. It was a very important aspect of the beverage menu for Chef Angelo,” Portillo said.