Sober Socialising


As alcohol falls foul of modern aspirations, we explore the new mediums taking its place on the social circuit

The alcohol industry has been beleaguered by a culture of misuse, growing knowledge of the negative health effects, and the associated unfavourable press. As modern health aspirations lead to a steady rise in teetotalism, we explore the new products and services likely to take its place. How will we continue to satisfy our basic human needs – the desire to relax, connect, excite and release? It’s not about abstinence but finding innovative alternatives that provide the same emotional benefit without the harms.

Come with us to the year 2029 as we imagine the post-alcohol future of socialising by creating three venues set in New York City.


concept venue 1: ‘THE DISTILLERY’

The Customer Experience

Biology professor by day, mixology matriarch by night, Serena Hamer is helping patrons demystify the effect of alcohol on their bodies. Guests mail in a cheek swab a fortnight ahead of their reservation to provide staff with genetic insight used to engineer a personalised cocktail degustation.

Tests are run to identify which drinks, in which quantity and frequency, will deliver their ultimate state of contentment and socialness while also ensuring a pain free morning-after. High tech wristbands are issued on arrival, providing guests with regular readings of their blood alcohol level, mood indicators and other vitals to give real time insight into their biological and psychological responses. Now the drink can flow all night, but the alcohol doesn't.

The bar also provides a popular ‘Drink Wise’ service, for those on their 21st birthday, to help educate new drinkers on their limits in a fun and safe environment.

Brand Involvement

Alcarelle™ (synthetic alcohol) has helped fund the test lab in return for access to learnings which fuels their innovation pipeline and provides The Distillery with custom built products – a truly collaborative and closed loop innovation program.

In August they will launch a 16 piece ‘vodka palette’ with base elements of varying ABV and origin (quinoa, golden syrup and bitter melon etc) to further enable the bar to tailor their offer to the unique sensitivities, taste preferences and biological responses of each customer. The most anticipated SKU is the ‘sober shot’ – a potent alcohol metaboliser made from ginseng, charcoal, milk thistle and honey that is a wake-up call and night-cap all in one! 


concept venue 2: ‘PATSY’S’

The Customer Experience
This buzzing Lower East Side haunt is the second incarnation of the iconic Patsy’s Health Food Shop. Calco (pharmaceutical and supplement multinational) bought the store 18 months ago when they saw the opportunity to take this humble health food shop from Side Street to High Street. They have since refocused the store on community and connection – becoming a neighbourhood hub and popular alternative to the traditional bars it is flanked by.

 The in-store café opens its doors twice a day – providing new windows of time for socialising that are attuned to our fragmented lifestyle. The 5am – 2pm ‘Kiss the Dawn’ shift is followed by the 5pm – 2am ‘Salute the Moon’ session and is open to all ages. Whilst there is a strict no alcohol policy, there are no fun police. The menu serves up an exotic range of naturally derived mood enhancers for all ages. Popular menu items include:

  • Think Big Lick (imagination boosting amaranth and cannabis paste

  • A Breath of Fresh Air (ginkgo biloba spiked Himalayan salt inhaler - promoting mental clarity

  • Happy Baby (chamomile infused almond milk babyccino - for a restful night’s sleep)

Brand Involvement

Patsy’s is the pet project of Calco General Manager, Toby Garrow. Some might question
the maverick move of a traditional pharmaceutical business, but the queue outside the door has silenced the critics.

Garrow explains the decision behind the collaboration: “We are increasingly aware of the connection between body and mind, health and happiness. We all enjoy having fun and sharing that experience with friends and family, but the original facilitator of that – alcohol, has fallen out of favour. Existing alcohol-free alternatives feel second rate, so the potential for a new breed of mood enhancers makes perfect sense to us.” 

Calco’s pharmaceutical accreditation, rigorous testing capabilities and extensive procurement network add weight too: “New age nutrition is a nightmare to navigate! We can be a trusted authority, helping consumers to separate fact from fiction and enjoy alternatives in confidence.”


concept venue 3: ‘OPEN HOUSE’

The Customer Experience

Once filled with the smell of leather and the sounds of machinery, this former shoe factory is now a living museum of music. Guests not only attend gigs but are active participants. From Fijian Kava Ceremonies to Turkish Sufi Whirling to East Coast Straight Edge Punk, the program is wide ranging, fully immersive and designed to attract an all-age crowd. The mission of the museum is two-fold – to preserve ancient traditions by breathing new life into them, and to unite a multi-generational and ethnically diverse community through the power of music. 

Brand Involvement

Many of the shows have a traditional food or beverage element, which has been the catalyst for exciting brand partnerships. Last month Phantom Distillers supplied custom batches of Black Drink ahead of the Cherokee Green Corn Dance. This potent elixir, renowned as a traditional cleansing agent, claims to ‘purify the body physically and spiritually, leading to a state of perfect innocence’. It’s hedonism of new but grounded in the authenticity of old.

The week prior, Cosford’s Wine Estate prepared Palm Wine for an Igbo Wedding Ceremony. Cosford’s Marketing Director, Rebecca Candiff, explains: "It has been a terrific opportunity for us to reconnect with the traditional origins of alcohol – to go back to where it all began with religious rituals and community ceremonies that elevate the senses and bring people together.”

Key opportunities for consumer-facing brands in the social sector:

  • Captivate audiences by reappraising taboos to define new categories.

  • Use diagnostic technologies to give control back to the consumer and start to remove the stigma of stimulants created by overindulgence and abuse.

  • Go humbly. Build deeper, long-term relationships by evolving the role of your brand from social hero to facilitator.

  • Let the past inform the future. Bring together tradition and innovation to curate rare experiences and foster community connection.

  • Deliver heightened social experiences by delighting the body, mind and spirit.