With health risks becoming predominant, more local establishments are offering alcohol-free beverages.

Though the craft beer, wine and cocktail industries continue to flourish, restaurants and bars are now paying closer attention to their alcohol-abstaining clientele by offering inventive, no-proof alternatives.

This shift toward more comprehensive drink menus, or the mocktail movement, is opening the door for bars to experiment with well-sourced ingredients and flavor profiles while promoting more inclusive social experiences for their guests who do not drink or are sober curious.

“When you are testing the waters of going out and not drinking, it can be rather tough if you don’t want to just drink water or don’t want the sugar or caffeine attributed to sodas,” says Josh Gandee, beverage director at Watershed Kitchen & Bar, one of several local establishments now offering temperance menus. “With NA options on the menu you are able to go through the same ordering process as you would with spirituous cocktails, and in a matter of moments you have something in your hand and can continue conversations with those you are with.”

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The trend aligns with a growing awareness surrounding wellness, particularly as young adults take greater control of their health. Studies have shown that the millennial and upcoming Gen Z generations, more so than earlier generations, strongly value personal health—from lifestyle choices regarding diet and exercise to spending habits to direct access to health-monitoring technologies.

Yet, binge drinking is highest among those who are 18 to 34 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also reports that one in six U.S. adults of any age binge drink four times a month. While about 90 percent of people who engage in excessive alcohol consumption do not meet the clinical criteria for alcohol use disorder, the increased risks for health problems, such as liver disease, cancer, depression, anxiety, violence and injuries, has more people rethinking old habits.

Nicole Hollerman, Watershed Kitchen & Bar’s wine and spirits sales representative from Cavalier Distributing, says she is passionate about the business she is in, but has chosen to limit alcohol consumption due to various reasons including responsible driving, health and recently having a baby. She is excited to see industry growth in the alcohol-free category. “A stellar NA menu offers me a chance to support and celebrate the creativity of a bar program without it having to be solely about alcohol consumption,” she says.

With the industry, as a whole, gaining awareness and acknowledging the importance of alcohol-free offerings and their rise in quality. Gandee says, “We are going to continue to see more and more exciting options.”

The Guild House, Veritas and The Light of Seven Matchsticks are among other local establishments with no-proof options available.

As for gauging your own drinking habits, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shares guidelines on low-risk drinking. It recommends fewer than three drinks a day and no more than seven drinks a week for women, and fewer than four drinks a day and no more than 14 per week for men.

If you suspect a problem with your alcohol use, the first step is to be more aware of your consumption and enlist friends and family members to help you track your usage, says Dr. K. Luan Phan, chair and professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral health at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He says, try to take steps on your own to reduce intake, such as adopting more nonalcoholic beverages into your routine when you are drinking socially.

“If you are unable to come up with strategies to cut down on your own, I think that’s when you can reach out for help, and there are a number of treatments that are useful in helping someone with an escalating or problematic drinking [behavior],” Phan adds.

Reprinted from Columbus Monthly Health 2020.