June 28, 2021 — The pandemic was more than unnerving, lonely, and isolating. It ended up being a drinker’s dream, with margarita Mondays and wine Wednesdays becoming a regular occurrence on top of nightly happy hours. In fact, nearly 1 in 4 adults said they managed pandemic stress by drinking more, according to an American Psychological Association survey released in February.
“Drinking particularly increased among people who don’t consider themselves to have an alcohol problem,” says Joseph Volpicelli, MD, executive director of the Institute of Addiction Medicine in Plymouth Meeting, PA. “It creeped up on people.”
On the other end of the spectrum, COVID-19 prompted many Americans to start taking steps to eliminate alcohol entirely. If you’re among this group, science is definitely on your side, with recent studies increasingly showing that no amount of alcohol is healthy and that alcohol can be cancer-causing.
Health concerns may be one of the biggest things driving the current sober-curious movements that include committing to “drying-out periods” of several weeks or more, inspirational hashtags like #soberissexy, online sober coaches, “sober” bars, and “craft” distilleries that make and sell plant-based faux booze.
In fact, when even Molson Coors is getting in on the rapidly evolving nonalcoholic drinks market — the company just debuted Huzzah, a seltzer powered by probiotics and “feel-good ingredients” — it’s yet another indication that the big brands are jumping into this societal change.
Shelley Elkovich, founder of For Bitter For Worse, a Portland, OR-based alcohol-free botanical cocktail company that launched 6 weeks before the pandemic, quickly hit the ground running as customers sought out sophisticated cocktail alternatives as many began feeling like their drinking was getting out of control.
Elkovich can relate, as she says she was once a big drinker.
“I definitely drank too many ‘quarantinis’ during the pandemic,” she says. After she fell while trying to exit a boozy boat ride, she was diagnosed with a rare neurological syndrome and realized that she had to stop drinking so much.
For Elkovich, this has led to a radical life change.
“I now see alcohol absenteeism and sober curiosity as a social movement,” she says. “I like that we’re pushing back on what messages are OK and which aren’t.”