It’s a popular time to be sober. Interest in Dry January, a month when many forego drinking alcohol, has jumped 259% compared with the same period last year, according to an analysis by the food website Pantry & Larder. Searches for “mocktails” have also hit an all-time high this month, showing an increase of 217% compared with Dry January 2022.
"Dry January has grown steadily in popularity since its inception, but this year's jump is the biggest we've ever seen," said Pantry & Larder’s founder Veronica Fletcher in a statement. The website analyzed Google Trends data from the last nine years to make these assessments.
California ranks 39th out of 51 U.S. regions for its interest in Dry January, and San Francisco residents are 43% less likely to be interested in Dry January than California residents overall, according to the study. Still, San Francisco sellers of NA, or non-alcoholic, beverages tell The Standard that sober curiosity is strong this month.
Joshua James, proprietor of NA bottleshop and eatery Ocean Beach Cafe, told The Standard that non-alcoholic beverage sales for his business tripled between January 2021 and January 2022 and that within the first 10 days of January 2023, he’s seen double the sales compared with this time last year.
Despite last weekend’s heavy rains, he says business has been crazy.
“It's a buzz in here. There's a lot of movement,” James said. “I'm selling a lot of bottles of non-alcoholic wine.”
James attributes the increased interest in non-alcoholic beverages to a surge of media articles about non-alcoholic beverages since last October and people wanting to drink less after drinking more during the pandemic.
“This isn't as much about sobriety and abstinence as it is about people drinking less,” he said. “This is mostly like millennials that are into having more wellness in their lives after Covid.”
He also says that drinking a non-alcoholic beverage is a lot cooler now than ordering an O’Doul’s back in the day.
“It's awkward to order an O'Doul's at a bar, right? So what we have now is like the complete opposite of that,” he said. “It's not stigmatized. The cans are super delicious and cool.”
Meanwhile, The Phoenix, a national nonprofit that bills itself as a “sober active community” and occasionally partners with and hosts events at Ocean Beach Cafe, has seen a jump in RSVPs to its events. The organization’s Dry January Happy Hour event on Jan. 29 at Ocean Beach Cafe already has over 50 RSVPs, up from the usual 20 or 30, Melissa Rushefski, The Phoenix’s Bay Area program manager, told The Standard. Additionally, The Phoenix’s “Sober Flow” yoga events with Yoga Flow SF have seen over 100 RSVPs and are at capacity, she added. Even traditional bars, like old-time whiskey saloon Elixir SF, have started promoting NA cocktails this month as part of Dry January.
The SF outpost of national NA bottle-shop brand Boisson was a little more coy about its sales numbers this month, but its co-founder and CEO Nick Bodkins did tell The Standard that the company has “definitely seen increased interest” in its products—not just this month, but since the holidays—and he expects the curiosity to continue even beyond February.
“There’s certainly an increase in people that take a hard break in January, but just as many do in February because they tell us it has fewer days!” Bodkins wrote in an email. “The most interesting behavior we see is the number of people who integrate our products into their lives throughout the rest of the year, even after they ‘finish’ their break from alcohol. They stick with it all year, and it fundamentally changes their approach to drinking.”
As for James, he’s glad to see Dry January taking off with more mainstream bars and restaurants adding nonalcoholic options to their menus. He thinks the trend is more than just a fad.
“People are having a shift in their view of this thing that is alcohol,” he said.
Christina Campodonico can be reached at [email protected]