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We are in the emerging golden age of Alcohol-Free Adult beverages. There’s more and better options for modern drinkers than ever but things are getting confusing. If it doesn’t have alcohol, what makes it adult? As more creative brands enter the space that aren’t trying to mimic alcohol, what are the rules?

As uncomfortable as it may be that the line between adult, non-adult, and alcoholic drinks gets blurrier, we actually think it might be a good thing and here’s a helpful guide on how to think about it.

First, lets define what used to be an adult drink:

  1. Contains alcohol

  2. Utilizes complex blends of flavors and aromas to create layered, sophisticated taste

  3. Served in elevated glassware or packaging

  4. Served in adult-centric spaces or occasions like bars, parties, clubs, or adult social gatherings

  5. Can be used to alter physical or mental state

  6. Used as a social hourglass

  7. Generally consumed when daily obligations are no longer relevant

Luckily, all of these dimensions can be achieved without alcohol except for, of course, “contains alcohol.” The new definition of Adult Drinks may contain some or all of these dimensions but don’t necessarily need to embody all of them. For example, a THC beverage may not have complex flavor and aroma but it is undoubtably adult. Conversely, a very bitter, herbal, and aromatic drink served at a bar may have no mind/body altering affects but it is still, inarguably, an adult drink. If it checks at least 2 of those boxes, it’s probably an adult drink. But most importantly, do you like it and want to drink it as an adult drink? If so, then it’s an adult drink.



Analogues are beverages that are either made identically to alcoholic drinks and then dealcoholized, or they are crafted to look, taste, smell, and feel as close to an alcoholic drink as possible. These are often the most recognizable. NA Beer, wine and spirits fall into this category. Examples are Athletic, Ritual, and Sovi.


A functional beverage is usually not designed to look and feel like an alcoholic counterpart but they contain functional ingredients like adaptogens, cannabis, mushrooms, Ocean Minerals, or some other ingredient that has a noticeable affect on how you feel and how your body functions. The functional ingredient is generally one that is felt fairly quickly after consuming the drink so that the affect and the consumption experience are linked but they may have also have long term, cumulative affects. Examples are Kin, Recess, and Guinep.


Creative RTDs or “ready to drink” can come in cans, bottles, or any other interesting packaging. The same care that goes into making wine, beer or spirits, goes into creative RTDs and they may even look like a wine or spirit at first glance but they taste nothing alike. They are often hand made with rare, precious or limited ingredients. Some examples are Unified Ferments, For Bitter or Worse, and Figlia.



This category may be the most controversial but also may be the most important. Soda, by definition is not an adult drink. It’s an “everyone, everywhere, all the time drink.” But there are some talented craft soda producers who are challenging that notion and creating very adult flavors and packaging. Using unique ingredients and playing with flavor profiles for the sophisticated palate, we think this may be a big growth area in the next year. Some great examples are Savoure, and Kimino.