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Flavor Wave of the Alt Drinks Movement

Wine down Wednesdays and Saturday pregaming. Boozy patio brunches or date-night dinner and drinks. Crushable camping beers and snifters for evening sipping. Drinking is synonymous with American culture and has been since its inception.

Fact is, sometimes we just need a drink. That is, until the pandemic happened. Just as the COVID crisis impacted so many of our routines and behaviors, beverage brands noticed a new trend brewing: the sober curious movement.

Born out of the sudden glaring focus on our collective and individual health, the sober curious are largely made up of people who don’t have an alcohol abuse problem but rather choose sobriety for physical and mental wellbeing. Between full abstinence or limited consumption, there are varying degrees of curiosity – and every one of them offer beverage brands the potential to tap into the growing world of Alt drinks.

Let Opportunity Flow

Called everything from zero-proof cocktails to buzzless spirits, the burgeoning industry of RTD mocktails is abound with opportunity for new and established beverage brands. Recent IWSR consumer research found over half of the consumers polled are drinking more nonalcoholic beverages than last year, and 60% of them want to choose from better options. Last fall, NielsenIQ reported a staggering 315% increase in no-and-low alcohol drink sales online while boozy beverages rose a more modest 26% in the same 12-month period.

Thus, the competition begins for the best boozeless options. And brands like Curious Elixirs’ blends and Ritual’s Alt tequila are delivering. Because this consumer market is largely health- and wellness-minded, brands like Mocktail Club are jumping in with plant-based options while others like Bax Botanics produce within a highly sustainable business model. Even the beer brands are joining, with Athletic Brewing Co skyrocketing to the forefront with their wide selection of styles and flavors.

Though the competition for consumers’ cooler space is heating up, there’s still a lot of opportunity to expand on the trend in meaningful and lasting ways, particularly through flavor.

Timeless Alt Drinks

A big reason people love their boozy drinks centers around taste. The heat and sting of a neat pour of bourbon sipped with a cigar; the sweet-and-saltiness of a margarita on a sunny patio. Consumers don’t want to lose those moments, those taste associations – but they also don’t want to lose control of their faculties. Brands that give back the flavors of tried-and-true classic drinks will win big in the Alt drink market.

Virginia Dare’s portfolio of timeless drink flavors promises all the feel-goods with none of the side effects.

  • Margarita: Authentically flavored and hand-crafted with lemon, lime, orange liqueur, nonalcoholic tequila, and a dash of sea salt.
  • Cosmopolitan: Cranberry and citrus blended perfectly with nonalcoholic vodka and orange liqueur flavors.
  • Mojito: Zesty lemon and lime, sweet sugar, and spunky white rum flavors come together in a tasty, refreshing take.
  • Old-Fashioned: Smoky whiskey flavors, bitters, and of course the classic orange peel—it’s the true taste of sophistication.

Alts & Crafts Drinks

As the sober curious movement matures, so do the palates. More people are in search of interesting and unique drinks that do more than simply quench their thirst. They need to reflect their lifestyle. The sober-minded, the wellness gurus, these people are seeking ways to improve their physical and mental health – which is where functional flavors can shine.

We’ve whipped up a whole list of flavor combos for which consumers look.

  • Elderflower Lemon Gin & Tonic: Botanical accents of elderflower compliment floral gin notes with an added dash of citrusy lemon and tonic. 
  • Apricot Bellini: A brunch classic, we’ve leveled up the popular Bellini with the warm, summer taste of apricot.
  • Grapefruit Hibiscus Paloma: Alt tequila, a splash of grapefruit soda, and a squeeze of lime – with a modern twist of hibiscus to class it up.
  • Ginger Lime Moscow Mule: Ginger is beloved for its taste and wellness associations, so we added a bit more in with the alt vodka, spicy ginger beer, and lime.
  • Blueberry Watermelon Mint Mojito: We took the classic Cuban mojito and created the ultimate summer sipper with added blueberry watermelon.

Alt Drink Flavor Trends of the Future

The future of RTD mocktails is bright and we’re excited to take the flavors to even greater heights with beverage brands. Here’s what we’re seeing as flavor trends with a ton of potential.

  • Berry Everywhere: From blueberries to cranberries to strawberries to raspberries, the berry is in and being paired with everything from lavender to lime.
  • Tropical Flavors: Classic coconut lime and orange mango will continue to remain highly popular among consumers during the warmer months.
  • Earthier Flavors: For the cooler months, consumers will seek out warmer-yet-lighter flavors like grapefruit ginger or strawberry basil.
  • Elevated Classics: Drinks like sangría and rosé will see whole new flavor profiles that still finish like wine.

Flavor innovation is especially exciting in newer industries, and there’s nowhere flavor stands out more than in the budding RTD Alt drink industry. Brands that prove to consumers that nonalcoholic drinks can taste just as good – if not better – than their alcoholic counterparts have an unprecedented opportunity to secure lifelong fans.

Schedule a call with Virginia Dare to dream up your next Alt drink success!