Compared to a decade ago, the non-alcoholic drinks scene is unrecognisable. Much to the delight of the sober community, pregnant people, Dry January optimists and even those simply keen to swerve a hangover with a spot of mindful drinking, what used to be a pitiful selection of super-sweet 'mocktails' has transformed into a burgeoning market. These days, there are zero-proof spirits from major distilleries, genuinely good alcohol-free beers, chic aperitifs and a variety of other great sober options on offer. And now, there are drinks that claim to boost your mood and reduce anxiety at the same time, meaning your sober nights out don’t have to mean standing in a corner while your friends have fun without you. But are they safe? Do they taste nice? And do they actually do anything?
Consider Kin Euphorics. Founded by supermodel Bella Hadid and wellness guru Jen Batchelor, Kin calls upon adaptogens, nootropics and serotonin-boosters like 5-HTP within a range of non-alcoholic beverages, which are now available in the UK after making waves in the US since 2017. You might have seen them on Instagram or TikTok: this new breed of NA drink brand tends towards a strong social-media presence, Gen Z-friendly packaging and a sort of California-inspired 'good vibes' approach to marketing. Kin's premixed canned drinks, for example, proclaim such benefits as “social energy”, “beaming joy” and “inner peace”.
Hadid is, naturally, the ultimate poster girl. “I love Lightwave for moments when I want to mellow out. When I feel that anxiety riding up through my tummy and chest, I know it’s time to get my journal out and chug my Kin,” the model tells Bazaar of one of the brand’s most popular drinks, which combines adaptogens and nootropics, including botanics like reishi mushroom, L-theanine, and L-tryptophan. “It drops the layer of ‘worry’ for me, and in no time I realise I’m able to speak and think more clearly, instead of spending that time thinking about my anxiety.”
Hadid's attitude chimes with the attitudes of an increasing number of the Gen Z community. In fact, a 2019 DrinkAware study found that UK adults aged between 16 and 24 were the most likely to be non-drinkers, compared to all over-25s. And it’s not just Kin leading the change. Bartender-founded brand Three Spirit creates drinks designed “to enhance your night from start to finish”, from Social Elixir – which features nootropic lion’s mane mushroom and has a moreish, bittersweet flavour – to Nightcap, which has a selection of adaptogens to help you “relax and unwind”. They look good, and they taste good too – a far cry from the sugary, fruit-based concoctions many non-drinkers will be used to.
According to Batchelor, nootropics and adaptogens work by regulating our endocrine systems, and provide mood-boosting effects that offer those who use alcohol as a social lubricant a better alternative. “We’ve surveyed more than 20,000 people on this topic since launch, and most people say they turn to alcohol to help them gain confidence in social situations,” she says. “ We know that the ingredients we include in Kin can help them be on their A-game instead.”
Meanwhile, UK-based brand Trip is stocked everywhere from Sainsbury’s to Holland & Barrett, offering lightly sparkling canned drinks infused with 15mg of CBD, a non-psychoactive compound from the cannabis plant which has been linked with anti-inflammatory benefits, anxiety relief and pain relief. The brand boasts a partnership with the sleep app Calm, and has even expanded into merchandise such as clothing.
Another UK brand, Goodrays, uses 30mg CBD in its range of drinks, which includes blood orange and grapefruit, passionfruit and pomelo, and elderflower and yuzu flavours. It also sells CBD gummies. The brand’s website says the drinks offer “relaxation and refreshment, without the compromise”, and refers to cannabis as “the world’s most misunderstood plant”.
But are these drinks safe? Some of Kin’s products come with a warning that they shouldn’t be consumed if you’re under 18, breastfeeding, pregnant, have a medical condition, or are taking SSRIs, while Three Spirit’s drinks have a similar message, alongside the advice to wait for up to an hour before driving after drinking its products – though the brand does make clear that “there is nothing in Three Spirit that would make it illegal for you to drive”. Similarly, the World Health Organisation has found no public health-related problems associated with the use of CBD, and in the UK there are no official legal restrictions on CBD drinks, though many brands and retailers choose to sell them only to over-18s. CBD is not advised for use in pregnancy or when breastfeeding, but this is due to a lack of relevant research rather than proof that it isn't safe.
If you’re keen to cut back on your alcohol consumption, it seems there’s no harm in trying them. You’ll certainly save on empty calories and hellish hangovers. And – who knows –you may find you have a better time, too.
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