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Gen euphorics, alcohol proxies and virgin extensions come of age

GEN-Z are turning away from alcohol in favour of “dry” parties, sober curiosity and mindful drinking. What does this mean for sommeliers?

Gen Z (born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s) are starting to reduce alcohol intake, in comparison with previous generations. Research shows that non-alcoholic beer sales registered 6% total volume growth in 2022 and this is part of a large trend. This generation is causing a shake up in the alcoholic and non-alcoholic universes, ushering in a new era.

Euromonitor, head of alcoholic drinks, Spiros Malandrakis, says, “Functionality cues are replacing simplistic dealcoholising approaches. Botanical alchemy and molecular experimentation, with new ingredients, is making the no/lo landscape one of the most innovative and exciting in the alcohol ecosystem. ”

We envisage the day when a waiter asks “would you prefer your wine with or without alcohol” and that decision can be made without compromise on occasions when you choose not to drink alcohol.

David Hodgson, founder of Zeno, alcohol liberated wines, reveals, “When we started on this journey, my research indicated a global growth trajectory that was hard to ignore, however while other product categories (brewers & distillers) were developing increasingly good beverages, wine was lagging. I wondered if AF wine could be made that would satisfy wine enthusiasts – even becoming aspirational.”

He was not alone. At about the same time, Paul Matthew, CEO of Everleaf, the non-alcoholic aperitifs, realised demand was growing. “As a bar owner, I was seeing more and more of our guests wanting no and low options for when they want to go out and socialise. I wanted us to be able to offer them something as interesting, complex, and filled with stories as any of the best alcoholic drinks on the bar.”

We have seen a great shift in demand for no or lo alternatives. Sales have increased by 20 percent because they are popular and guest request them especially for lunch time or if they have to drive.

Both set off on an R&D journey to launch high-quality no-alcohol drinks that match up in taste and style to their traditional alcoholic alternatives. Hodgson says, “Our focus on the wine enthusiast, means ZENO wines comfortably sit on on-trade lists, providing the customer facing staff with alcohol free wines that they can recommend with confidence. We were mindful that this was a huge gap in the alcohol free wine spectrum and are working on proving to the F&B trade that alcohol free wines are now worthy of listing, generating far greater margin than water & other soft beverages, and providing a satisfying flavour & ritual experience.”

When asked about the important of this burgeoning category, Thierry Thomasin, restaurant director, The Savoy says, “We have seen a great shift in demand for no or lo alternatives. Sales have increased by 20% because they are popular and guest request them especially for lunch time or if they have to drive.” He continues, “We do stock a vast majority and ian ncredible selection.”

Matthew adds, “Sommeliers love the complexity of flavours, the fact that we’re not sweet and can be paired so successfully. I’ve chosen botanical profiles that are really versatile. For example, with Marine, the Calabrian bergamot citrus notes can be used to make a very fresh serve, or you can pull out the umami of the dulse, kelp and olive leaf to perfectly pair with seafood.”

Bence Kárpátfalvi, sommelier from L’Enclume, Cumbria, “We offer a unique but slightly limited selection of non alcoholic drinks, as the restaurant prides itself in only using ingredients grown on our 12 acre farm, or sourced from local producers. At the moment we offer 4 home made juices  and a shiso and marigold cordial.” He continues, “Non-alcoholic pairings are also available our own kombucha, and a couple of teas, as well as juices. ”

For Kárpátfalvi, the non-alcoholic boom has already happened in the restaurant culture. We are expected to offer non-alcoholic beverages and quite a few guests will enjoy these whilst dining with us.” He concludes, “It’s about offering different things, as the seasons change. More so than to just simply having more listings. As far as wines are concerned we don’t plan to introduce non-alcoholic options, however we do offer some spirits without alcohol.”


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David HodgsonEverleafLow alcoholNo-alcohol drinksPaul MatthewThe SavoyTheirry ThomasinZeno
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