Cool girls don't drink alcohol anymore

Business Insider US
Shea Gomez, the founder of No Booze Babes
Shea Gomez
  • Young women are using Instagram to show others you can be both "cool" and sober.
  • Retired Party Girl and No Booze Babes are online communities for those rethinking their relationship to alcohol.
  • Alcohol alternative drink sales rose this year, on the heels of the "trendy" sober curious movement.
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Shea Gomez is a cool girl.

Gomez's Instagram feed is a mosaic of her in trendy pink crop tops and dresses, flashing a toothy smile outlined with bold, pink lips. Like so many influencer feeds, Gomez is holding a liquor bottle or wine glass, and she's dressed like she's about to spend the night in the club.

But Gomez's liquor bottle and wine glasses contain no alcohol. And alongside her perfectly lighted selfies, Gomez has graphics that outline some of the harms of drinking, as well as motivational quotes to help her followers get through the day sober.

Gomez founded No Booze Babes, an online community for people rethinking their relationship with alcohol. No Booze Babes has nearly 30,000 followers on Instagram and hosts get-togethers for the growing "sober curious" community.

The sober curious movement, which encourages people to rethink their relationship to alcohol, has taken Instagram by storm. Retired Party Girl, another community for young women ditching booze, also shares pink and purple outlined motivational quotes on sobriety to its 25,000 followers. Young women like Gomez are on a mission to prove it's "cool" not to drink, and ditching alcohol can even help women achieve self-care and empowerment.

Gomez is "the optimum amount of class and sophistication," said Nat Battaglia, who founded Mindful Mocktail, a recipe website for sophisticated cocktails made without booze.

"Girls just look at her and they're like, 'she's amazing, I want what she's having,'" Battaglia added.

American youths today just aren't as interested in drinking as their parents were.

Millennials and Zoomers are drinking less than Boomers and Gen X did at their age, according to the Washington Post, citing the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future study, which stopped surveying teens in 2017.

Newer research could be behind the trend: a 2018 global study conducted by Oxford University showed no health benefits from drinking, which flies in the face of previous theories that a glass of wine benefits the heart.

Plus, CBD-infused drinks - like ultimate cool girl Bella Hadid's Kin brand - promise a similar buzz without impairing your health or decision-making.

Tori Felder, Retired Party Girl's founder, said she felt unwelcome at traditional sobriety support groups. The recent wave of sober-curiosity hinges more on living comfortably around a culture steeped in alcohol when you're no longer imbibing.

"If people can glamorise alcohol, then why can't we glamorise sobriety?" Felder said

Tori Felder, the founder of Retired Party Girl (right)
Tori Felder

Felder and Gomez both encourage an environment that welcomes not just people who don't drink at all, but also people who only drink occasionally or are interested in stepping back. Gomez tries not to label herself or her followers as "sober" in order to create an inclusive space for people to learn how to be sober without stigma.

Where influencers are, brands will follow. Concurrent to the sober curious movement, a cottage industry of booze alternatives, or alcohol-free wine, beer, and liquor that have the sophisticated flavour profiles of whiskey or red wine, have sprung up over the last two years.

Nielsen data found non-alcoholic drink sales increased 33% to $331 million in the last year, and Whole Foods recently listed booze-free liquor as one of the food trends to watch in 2022.

Aishwarya Balaji co-founded A Fresh Sip, a marketplace and delivery service for alcohol-free beverages. Balaji said alcohol alternatives are "trending" right now because of the luxury and exclusivity of the products.

Alcohol-free liquor can range from $37 to upwards of $50, and Balaji said Soho House, the exclusive, invite-only social club, has even begun serving the product.

"We are seeing non-alcoholic cocktails offered at some of these more luxury or private events, and so I think it is now cool to be sober-curious," Balaji said.

Aishwarya Balaji, the co-founder of A Fresh Sip
Aishwarya Balaji

Spiros Malandrakis, the head of alcohol research at Euromonitor, told me part of the reason why non-alcoholic alternatives are taking off is due to the "Instagram effect," or the idea that people holding the drink are sending a message about their personal brands. Instead of a stirred martini invoking suavity, a Kin in Hadid's hand could signal a commitment to health and wellness.

Gomez's drink-less Instagram could have an aspirational effect: You can be a cool girl like her - if you don't drink.

"On social media, women can see other women living a booze-free life and they can say, 'Wow, if they can do it, I can do it too,'" Gomez said.

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