Did you miss Dry January? No worries, you can give Sober October a try instead. Practising autumnal abstinence may feel new to many of us in Canada, but the month has been celebrated across the pond for about a decade now, first in Australia in 2010 as “Ocsober” and then a few years later in the U.K. where it launched in 2014 as a cancer fundraiser under the moniker Sober October.
Whether going dry for a group fundraiser, or just for personal reasons, the trend toward sober-curious is growing – in large part because since the pandemic many of us have been drinking more alcohol than ever before.
Sober October for the win
Interested in giving up the drink for your own Sober October month? Rebecca Fischer with the Ohio Recovery Center, recommends a few tips for real-life situations you might encounter. For instance, she suggests having your “why” ready. Of course you don’t owe explanations to anyone for going sober, she says, but having an explanation ready will help you feel confident. You don’t need to make it complicated, either. Just saying “I’m participating in Sober October,” or “I’m just not drinking right now,” will likely be enough to stop the conversation. If it doesn’t, consider having a wing person – someone who supports your decision and can defend it for you in social situations, she says.
Another great tip is to remember to celebrate your wins. Habits are hard to change, so celebrate even the small victories. Fischer recommends scheduling a self-care treat, such as a massage, once you pass day 15, or letting yourself take up a new hobby that you’ve been thinking about.
Great drink options for Sober October
And, if you’ve looking for some replacement beverages for Sober October and beyond, we caught up with Fiona Hepher, CEO and creative director of Sansorium, an online marketplace and delivery service that specializes in alcohol-free beverages for all the deets on the movement and more.
FS: There’s obvious interest in the “sober curious movement.” What is propelling that?
FH: Since lockdowns in March 2020, many saw an obvious rise in their alcohol intake over the pandemic, with the closure of stress-relieving outlets like yoga and fitness classes, the blend of office and home life and above all the isolation and loneliness. Many folks reported their 5 p.m. happy hour started creeping earlier into the day, while we went deeper into social isolation, and the frequency starred many blank in the face. With the increased hyper-focus on health, and our socially distanced lives, we believe this fast-emerging industry reflects the shifting values of the world in light of the pandemic; more well-being, more connection.
FS: Some alcohol-free beverages are high in sugar or additives. How do you find healthy choices?
FH: Totally! And the traditional mixers like Coke, soda and tonic water – when added to alcohol, or not are loaded with sugar. For years, mocktails were primarily made with high-fructose syrups and definitely weren’t any better. But many alcohol-free wine, beer and spirits that are on the market today, and that we curate at our shop, have much lower sugar content – and with some brands, none at all. For example, here’s a sugar comparison with some beverages we stock:
- Noughty’s Sparkling Chardonnay contains 2.9 grams of sugar per 100 millilitre – just shy of one glass of wine – which falls in the typical range for an alcoholic dry white pinot grigio, chardonnay or sauvignon blanc.
- Free Spirits created the Spirit of Tequila, Gin and Bourbon. Each spirit has 5 calories, about one gram of sugar and is flavoured with natural extracts. When mixing your cocktail of choice. Think: Low-sugar tonic for a gin and tonic or bitters for a bourbon old-fashioned. You’re sipping a very low-calorie, low-sugar cocktail.
FS: The holidays are coming, what’s your recommendation for creating a festive vibe without booze?
FH: Creating a no- or low-alcohol party doesn’t need to look all that different to your regular celebrations. For instance, you can enjoy your usual Christmas-morning mimosas by mixing OJ with Oddbird Prosecco. And, for parties, cocktails can still be on the menu. One of our favourite recommendations is the dark and stormy made with Lyre’s Dark Cane Rum, a splash of Gimber’s Original and a tonic like Fever Tree Light.
Sober curious? Here are a few online shops to check out
Partake Brewing offers a selection of beers including Blonde, Pale, Red, IPA, Dark/[Sptout NA offerings. All under 30 calories, and low carb, this Canadian company was started by Ted Fleming who gave up alcohol when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
Harmon’s Organic Non Alc Craft Beer is the first sustainable and organic alcohol-free craft beer from Ontario, founded by a few of the former team of Mill Street Organic. The first two brews, Lunchbox Lagered Ale and JackPine Pale Ale are so yummy you won’t even miss the alcohol.
Sobrii is an Ontario-based distillery that came into being in 2017 with the creation of a small batch gin that has no artificial flavours, sugars, sweeteners or calories. Recently it launched a tequila that includes agave, jalapeño and coriander among its ingredients.
Born of the pandemic, Soberlicious is a Canadian-based online store that offers a global selection of wine, spirits and beer, with an ever-growing assortment of brands, perfect for dipping your toe in the waters of Sober October.
Created by two Ottawa entrepreneurs, Silver Swallow is the first non-alcoholic champagne-inspired kombucha on the market in Canada. Now available in most areas of Ontario and Quebec, their luxury kombucha is carefully brewed in Canada using a rare organic white tea, silver swallow, which is hand-picked in Yunnan, China.
Already established in the U.S., Better Rhodes has recently in Canada. This site features curated collections of alcohol-free beers, wine and spirits, making it easy to try new bevvies. We love their Cleverly Sober Sample Kit, which gives you a chance to try a range of products.
Seedlips is a London-based NA that’s been creating alcohol-free distillations since 2015. Now shipping to Canada, the collections are both unique and enticing. Consider, SEEDLIP SPICE 94 which is a blend of Allspice & Cardamom with fresh citrus top notes to balance the long bitter finish.
Acid League is U.S. based company that now ships to Canada. Its libations are made to be paired with food and are created using blends of juices, teas, spices and bitters.