By Shea Carver for Port City Daily | December 7, 2022
A mocktail of ginger beer, muddled with cranberries and cinnamon. (Courtesy Mocksie)
WILMINGTON — As younger generations steer health-conscious trends beyond mere “Sober October” and “Dry January,” there is rising demand in the mocktail and non-alcoholic beverage industry. Carter Jewell Hamerski is leaning into it to launch a new bartending business and retail space, Mocksie.
Friday, she will open her “tiny tasting room” at 713 Princess St. featuring non-alcoholic products for sale. Her main focus is building packages and services Mocksie will provide for those looking for zero-proof cocktails, wine and beer at events.
“To be clear, we are not a bar,” Hamerski told Port City Daily.
It’s part of her long-term goal, though: growing into a nonalcoholic bottle shop.
“Right now, we are taking clients who maybe want to offer something other than sodas, water and juice at their weddings, baby showers or parties,” she said. “I’m hoping to do tastings and pop-up events for now — starting small and seeing where it will grow.”
However, she is also selling products to the public for those who want to give something new and booze-free a try. Seeing as Mocksie is serving either low-alcohol — nothing over 0.5% — or no-alcohol products, it isn’t regulated by the state ABC controlled commission.
Hamerski began researching the business idea earlier in the year after she made the choice to cut back on libations. She read “Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol,” by Holly Whitaker, essentially a “roadmap” to cutting back on alcohol.
“It addresses toxic alcohol culture and especially how it relates to women,” she said. “It particularly talks about ‘mommy juice’ — not great things to say in front of your children.”
It wasn’t until November, after election season wrapped, Hamerski said she began seriously considering Mocksie’s viability. She was the campaign manager for Amy DeLoach Block and volunteered as a bartender at political fundraisers. She noticed the request for nonalcoholic beverages ticking up, which also was happening at Junior League functions she attended as a member.
“Recently, when I’ve hosted events, people really flocked toward some of the nonalcoholic items,” Hamerski said, referring not only to those who have committed to being sober but for people who maybe cannot drink, such as pregnant women or those facing health issues.
“I started realizing there was potentially a market for it,” she said, noting it was different from 10 years ago when she bartended at her family’s then-owned live music venue, Ted’s Fun on the River.
According to a 2021 Gallup poll, 60% of Americans drink alcohol, a 5% drop from 2019. Gen Zers are a big driver of the market. Compared to Millennials, they drink 40% less alcohol, data source Numerator reported. It also stated the generation is more cognizant “about alcohol’s impact on their mood, level of alertness, and even their image on social media.”
Hamerski said she looked at NielsenIQ stats while researching a business plan for Mocksie and found in October 2022 that nonalcoholic sales increased by 20% from last year, accounting for a $395-million industry. Non-alcoholic beer made up 85.3% of the sales, while wine and spirits accounted for 13.4% and 1.3%, respectively.
Many nonalcoholic establishments — often referred to as “dry bars” or wellness lounges — are popping up nationwide in larger 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 newest nonalcoholic beverages and products that hit the market.
De Soi is one, co-founded by pop artist Katy Perry. The brand sells non-alcoholic aperitifs and even adds natural adaptogens, like Reishi mushroom, ashwagandha (Ayurvedic herbs), bergamot, L-theanine (amino acid component), to products for added health benefits.
“Their product Champignon Dreams 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 bitter grapefruit notes.
“There’s also a company called Busty Lush; they’ve got some really great beers,” Hamerski said. “I really love She’s Golden.”