Whether you are sober curious, a non-drinker, temporarily abstaining or embracing the mindful drinking trend, there are more ways to satiate your thirst than sipping sugary soft drinks and garish mocktails. We peek at what’s being handcrafted, infused, and distilled sans alcohol on the Northern Rivers, so you can enjoy a premium drinking experience minus the hangover.
Once upon a time in Australia, not ‘drinking’ meant sipping calorie laden soft drinks and getting a whole lot of stick from your mates. But recent years have seen a seismic shift in our drinking habits, with low and no alcohol drinks soaring in popularity, and expected to grow 31% in volume in the period 2020 – 2024. Here in the creative hotbed that is the Northern Rivers, savvy brewers, distillers, and beverage makers are heeding the call of health-conscious consumers.
“With the rising consumption of non-alcoholic beverages, naturally people are going to start searching for some sort of effect to elevate their drinking experience,” says Tom Wooley, CEO of Byron-based Organica Beverage Co. Their newly launched brand, Dayse, co-founded by surfers Jack Freestone and Alana Blanchard, is on a mission to shape the future of social drinking, by replacing the need for alcohol without losing the good times. Take their Functional Spritzer range, tailored to have a positive effect on the mind and body by creating what’s called a functional buzz. Drinks with names like Awaken and Easing are infused with mood enhancing adaptogens – like gingko, passionflower and turmeric root, and nootropics (cognitive enhancers) which create an elevating effect, restore balance, and encourage calmness. As well as being a great product, Tom Wooley attributes the start-up brand’s success to, "The Northern Rivers community really backing small local businesses, plus, a lot of people here are really passionate about health & wellness, and this is a community that understands the benefits of not drinking alcohol too often."
Meanwhile, over in Tyagarah, Kate Forrester, Director of Etota Drinks, came to mindful drinking via a stint in rehab. Unable to find a drink that she could mix, with a great taste that was shelf-stable and had no artificial preservatives, she set out to create her own. Formulated by two award-winning bartenders, the result – Etota Bittersweet Aperitivo – is made in the classic Italian/French aperitif style. Sourcing natural ingredients from Australian suppliers, it’s handcrafted from 15 fruits, spices and herbs and can be drunk alone, or mixed into healthy mocktails, or lower ABV cocktails. “Research shows that more Australians are shifting towards mindful drinking,” says Kate. “People who buy and drink non-alcoholic drinks, are also drinking alcohol, so we are creating a family of products for drinkers, non-drinkers and people who want to drink less."
How about no alcohol beers some of you may ask. Bridging the gap between drinking and not drinking, NAPA (Non Alc Pacific Ale) from Gold Coast based Hiatus Beers, is all the flavour – think refreshing citrus and tropical fruit bursts – minus the hangover. “Hiatus Beers is for anyone who currently drinks non-alcoholic beer or is looking to take a break from alcohol—for a day, a week, a month, or just the next round,” explain co-founders and long-standing insiders, Jules Ryan, Nic Sandery and Nick Detmold. “Cracking open a crisp, light lager at the beach is part of the trip for many people. But as more folks are reducing or abstaining from alcohol, the beverage space has opened opportunities for low and no-ABV alternatives to provide a tasty stand-in for traditional, boozy libations,” they add.
With so much interest in not drinking you would almost think someone would open a booze-free bottle-o. Oh, hang on, someone has. Sunnyboy Cellars in Byron Bay opened earlier this year, with wives, Ella Bryant and Bella Mayne, jumping in to fill the gap, with a carefully curated selection of alcohol-free wines, bubbles, aperitifs, beers and spirits, including all the brands above.
The Organic drink Co.
Still fancy a good old cola or ginger beer? Byron’s The Organic Drink Co. makes tasty organic beverages the traditional way, but low in sugar and with no added chemicals, preservatives, or additives.
North Wall Kombucha
A family owned and operated business, established in Byron in 2019, producing small batch, raw and all natural kombucha made in its most traditional form, using local ingredients wherever possible.
Dating back to 2012 in Byron Bay, StrangeLove was a little ahead of its time, with a mission to, “not be unemployed like everyone else, and to create exciting & interesting non-alcoholic drinks.” Their range includes premium mixers, sparkling waters, and Low-Cal sodas with a focus on exceptionally good ingredients.
Mount Warning Mineral Water
No matter where you are in the Northern Rivers, the silhouette of Wollumbin (aka Mount Warning), a volcanic remnant, is never far from view. So, if you are going to buy water – and who doesn’t love a refreshing sparkling water sometimes? Go local and choose this mineral rich water, filtered through ancient volcanic rock on its way to a vast aquifer at the foothills of the mountain.