WILMINGTON — As younger generations drive health-conscious trends beyond just “sober October” and “dry January,” demand in the mocktail and soft drink industry is growing. Carter Jewell Hamerski is leaning into it to launch a new bartending business and retail space, Mocksie.
On Friday, she will open her “little tasting room” at 713 Princess St. offering non-alcoholic products for sale. Its main focus is to create packages and services that Mocksie will provide for those looking for zero-proof cocktails, wine and beer at events.
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“To be clear, we are not a bar,” Hamerski told the Port City Daily.
This is part of its long-term goal: to become a non-alcoholic bottle store.
“Right now we’re taking clients who may want to gift something other than sodas, water, and juice at their weddings, baby showers, or parties,” she said. “I hope to run pop-up tastings and events for now – starting small and seeing where it grows.”
However, she also sells products to the public for those who want to try something new and alcohol-free. Because Mocksie serves low-alcohol—nothing more than 0.5%—or zero-alcohol products, it’s not regulated by the state-controlled ABC commission.
Hamerski began researching the business idea earlier in the year after making the choice to cut libations. She read “Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol,” by Holly Whitaker, essentially a “road map” for reducing alcohol consumption.
“It addresses the culture of toxic alcohol and in particular its connection to women,” she said. “He specifically talks about ‘mommy juice’ – no big things to say in front of your kids.”
It wasn’t until November, after the election season ended, that Hamerski said she began to seriously consider Mocksie’s viability. She served as campaign manager for Amy DeLoach Block and volunteered as a bartender at political fundraisers. She noticed the demand for non-alcoholic beverages increasing, which also happened at Junior League functions she attended as a member.
“Recently when I’ve been hosting events, people have really flocked to some of the non-alcoholic items,” Hamerski said, referring not only to those who have pledged to be sober, but also to people who can’t. – be not drinking, such as pregnant women or those facing health problems.
“I started to realize that there was potentially a market for it,” she said, noting that it was different from 10 years ago when she was a bartender in the concert hall. of his family, Ted’s Fun on the River.
According to a 2021 Gallup poll, 60% of Americans drink alcohol, down 5% from 2019. Gen Z is a big market driver. Compared to millennials, they drink 40% less alcohol, according to data source Numerator. He also said the generation is more aware “of the impact of alcohol on their mood, level of alertness and even their image on social media”.
Hamerski said she looked at NielsenIQ stats when researching a business plan for Mocksie and found in October 2022 that soft drink sales were up 20% from a year ago. , representing a $395 million industry. Non-alcoholic beer accounted for 85.3% of sales, while wines and spirits accounted for 13.4% and 1.3% respectively.
Numerous non-alcoholic establishments – often referred to as “dry bars” or wellness lounges – are popping up across the country in major cities: Sans Bar in Austin, Ocean Beach Cafe in San Francisco, Awake in Denver and Listen Bar in New York. Laura Silverman’s Zero Proof Nation blog tracks bars and bottle shops that serve sober and health-conscious customers. It also lists the latest soft drinks and products hitting the market.
De Soi is one, co-founded by pop artist Katy Perry. The brand sells non-alcoholic appetizers and even adds natural adaptogens, such as Reishi mushroom, ashwagandha (Ayurvedic herbs), bergamot, L-theanine (amino acid component), to the products for additional health benefits. health.
“Their Champignon Dreams product is delicious,” Hamerski said. “It’s super earthy.”
The tea consists of maple syrup, passion flower and Reishi mushroom, and has hints of sweet strawberries and hints of bitter grapefruit.
“There’s also a company called Busty Lush; they have really good beers,” Hamerski said. “I really like She’s Golden.”
It is a blond beer, composed of water, malted barley, citrus hops and yeast. It is dry with a moderate bitter bite and flavors of tropical fruits. Founder Laurel Harrop, whose husband is a brewer, started the business last year as she discovered that few options existed when she was pregnant.
Additionally, Hamerski said Athletic Brewing Co., as well as Petal seltzers, have tasty selections. Athletic — founded by Arizona Cardinals defensive end JJ Watt — brews with all-natural ingredients in items like Brut IPA and a “light copper cerveza.” The seltzers, each just 19 calories, are made with a blend of plants and herbs.
For starters, Hamerski offers around 15 varieties of non-alcoholic beer, five different non-alcoholic wine products, and 10 non-alcoholic spirits, including Seedlip, Spiritless, and Lyre’s.
“Lyre’s has really neat Italian flavors — almost like a Campari to make a good spritz,” Hamerski said. “And Ceder’s has a great pink gin.”
Ceder’s started in 2017 and distills non-alcoholic spirits with classic juniper but also exotic botanicals like rooibos and buchu, from South Africa’s Cederberg Mountains (hence the name Ceder).
“I really like Ceder’s rose and mixing it with grapefruit and faux bubbles – it’s a great little Paloma-type drink.”
However, some bold spirits, she found, cannot be replicated — yet. “I haven’t found a bourbon on the rocks that tastes like you’d expect,” she said.
The Spiritless 74 version of the whiskey includes a smoke that Hamerski showcases in mixed drinks, like an old-fashioned apple.
One of the biggest challenges she faces is pricing the product and keeping it affordable. Unlike alcohol spirits which provides $10 bottles of fine varieties, zero-proof items tend to cost more. For example, Seedlip bottles range from $28 to $90, while Lyre bottles are $29 and up.
“There are no cheap versions available yet,” Hamerski said.
In its bartending packages, it also offers completely alcohol-free mocktail selections to help consumers who may not have a big budget. A spicy fall punch, made with ginger beer and blended with cranberries and cinnamon, followed high at a local tasting she hosted.
The hardest flavors to balance, she said, came in the sweeter cocktails — like dessert martinis.
“I drank a few creamy pumpkin drinks that I thought people would like, but it went back to the cutting board,” she said. “It’s definitely a learning experience.”
While some restaurants and bars in the city have started to pay more attention to creating alcohol-free menus — Arboretum West, The Green House and Dram & Draft, for example — Hamerski said there’s a long way to go. to go for Wilmington to catch up with growth orienting itself. Watering holes and bottle shops lag behind, barely offering non-alcoholic O’Doul’s and Heineken.
“Guinness comes into play and Sam Adams now has a great non-alcoholic beer,” Hamerski said. “So the bigger the industry gets, the more companies get into it. I’ve noticed that in grocery stores there isn’t even a non-alcoholic section yet – unless you’re at Total Wine. C is thrown together and you have to walk the aisles Mocksie will be like no other place in town.
His business is currently in phase one. Hamerski advises clients on event packages, starting at just $50, to complement a bar serving alcohol or as a giveaway only. A former office building on Princess Street, located three blocks from the Coca-Cola Building in the Soda Pop District, will have limited inventory to retail at first.
“We can do five or six packages depending on the budget, but if that’s not possible, we can help you get canned drinks,” she said. “Or you can just buy a beer or wine to take home.”
Hamerski will hold an open house Friday at 713 Princess St. from 3 to 7 p.m. There will be tastings, appetizers and produce for sale.
[Ed. note: The article has been updated to correct the name of the book “Quit Like a Woman” — PCD regrets the error.]
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