Are you ready for the booze-free off-licence?
With its stickered windows, battered cash register, wire shopping baskets and booze-lined shelves, Anya’s Off Licence looks, to all intents and purposes, like any other London off-licence. But all is not as it seems at this Belgravia corner shop. Anya’s Off Licence is actually a month-long pop-up, created by fashion designer Anya Hindmarch and no-lo drinks retailer Dry Drinker – and every bottle in it is either completely, or virtually, alcohol-free.
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Thomson & Scott Noughty Organic Sparkling Alcohol-Free Wine
The non-alc sparkler that the wine trade is getting excited about. Not the real thing, of course – but a satisfying second. £10.99
Lucky Saint 0.5 Per Cent abv Unfiltered Lager
Crisp, clean and refreshing – the low-abv lager with street cred. £16.80 for six cans
Taste the future of adaptogenic drinks with this trio of non-alc botanical aperitifs. £24.99 a bottle or £38.99 for all three
Fermented from top-quality loose leaf teas, these are kombuchas fit for the dinner table. £8 for 75cl
Duchess Alcohol-Free G&T
None of the alcohol but all of the juniper you’d want from a real G&T. £11.99 for six
Big Drop Pine Trail 0.5 Per Cent abv Pale Ale
Hoppy, flavoursome ale – just one of many great brews from this non-alc specialist. £14.39 for eight
Here you can buy zero-abv beers and kombuchas, non-alcoholic botanical “spirits” and alcohol-free sparkling wines. There are nootropic aperitifs, 0.5 per cent abv ciders, bottled mocktails and candy cigarettes (remember those?!). The premises (which Hindmarch has used since last year to host a rolling series of pop-ups) has been dressed almost like a film set; even the stickers in the windows – “No shouting, no swearing, no standing, no drinking” – have been designed by Hindmarch and her team.
“I’ve noticed a massive trend among my friends, and even more my kids’ generation, towards drinking a lot less,” says Hindmarch, speaking from the studio where she is currently working on her next handbag and accessories collection. “It’s now becoming quite fashionable not to drink – and I thought that would be an important and fascinating trend to explore. But I wanted to do it in the way we always do things, which is in a creative, light-hearted way.”
Hindmarch has a track record of campaigning on issues such as sustainability – her groundbreaking “I’m not a Plastic Bag” project highlighted wasteful practices in the fashion industry as early as 2007 (ironically, she now produces a handbag collection made from recycled PET bottles called, of course, “I AM a plastic bag”). But she maintains the pop-up is “not an anti-alcohol store. I still like a glass of wine at the weekend. But it’s about exploring sophisticated alternatives.”
About one in five UK adults these days is now teetotal – among young adults it’s more like one in four. And growing numbers of people are drinking less often. The result has been a boom in retailers specialising in non-alcoholic products. Most of these, until now, have been online – but bricks-and-mortar stores like Hindmarch’s have now started cropping up on both sides of the Atlantic, including the self-styled “mindful drinking movement” Club Soda, which has a non-alcoholic pop-up off-licence in London’s West End that runs until the end of this month. Fitted out like a craft beer store, it stocks more than 80 sub-0.5 per cent abv brands, plus five non-alcoholic beers on tap, and hosts regular tastings and cocktail masterclasses for both consumers and the trade.
“Our customer base is really diverse,” says Club Soda founder Laura Willoughby. “We get those going dry for January, people looking to moderate, people who have never drunk before, expecting parents, foodies and those who have made a switch to be alcohol-free. It feels like the whole of the UK has a reason to come through the door. It has been amazing!” The Nest arts space in Hastings recently launched the town’s first alcohol-free bar and bottle shop. Dublin’s The Virgin Mary Bar is also set to open its first physical teetotaller off-licence this month.
North America is even further ahead of the curve. Non-alc specialist Boisson now has five shops around New York city selling a wide range of non-alcoholic drinks as well as some seriously covetable barware. Soft Spirits in LA has also helped to give alcohol-free a stylish overhaul. “Having a physical shop is absolutely key for people to touch, smell and taste the products and talk to someone with a beverage background to guide them and give them the best recommendations,” says Danny Frounfelkner, a former sommelier who launched Texas’s first alcohol-free bottle shop, Sipple, with his wife, after going teetotal during lockdown. “The majority of customers have questions and people are hungry for guidance. The non-alcoholic category is an exciting, brave new world and bricks-and-mortar stores are the most important part.”
So what are the best-sellers at Sipple? “Wine is our most popular category, especially Noughty by Thomson & Scott, Surely and SipClean,” he says. Studio Null’s Prickly Red is also a favourite. “CBD-infused beverages are also a top contender with Mixer Elixir’s Ranch Water at the top of that list. Ready-to-drink cocktails are our second most popular category with beer and spirits close behind.”
Frounfelkner is excited about the potential for “functional spirits like Three Spirit drinks, which use powerful plants and adaptogens. People are more interested in drinking something that makes them feel good and gives a healthy buzz.”
“The non-alcoholic space is poised to be a $1.6tn industry in the next 3 years. It’s going to shake things up but will be another part of the beverage industry at-large. It’s just the next chapter and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
Anya’s Off Licence will only be open for a month – but its legacy, one hopes, will be more long-lasting. She says: “The response has been overwhelming – people have messaged us to say: thank you so much, I’ve felt like an outsider for so long because I don’t drink. And this has made me feel included, that it’s ok.”