In case you missed it, last week’s Zero proof: Uncovering the potential of the booze-free drinking boom at Vibe Coworks was the ultimate #sobernotboring pre-funk to National Mocktail Week.

Finding a grown-up, alcohol-free drink at bars and restaurants shouldn’t be so difficult. Or at least that’s what Vibist Marnie Rae thinks. She’s on a mission to change the conversation about choices in beverages to be one about connection, community, inclusion and taking good care of people. Photo: Saleina Marie Photography

Finding a grown-up, alcohol-free drink at bars and restaurants shouldn’t be so difficult. Or at least that’s what Vibist Marnie Rae thinks. She’s on a mission to change the conversation about choices in beverages to be one about connection, community, inclusion and taking good care of people. Photo: Saleina Marie Photography

Bringing together the most unlikely of voices to talk about something that’s been overlooked for far too long—the utter dearth of delicious, sophisticated drink options sans alcohol—Zero Proof was an open dialogue on the very leadership, innovation and cultural disruption that defines the community and entrepreneurial culture at Vibe.

It all started with Vibe member Marnie Rae, the doggedly determined blogger recently featured by the likes of Forbes, King 5 and the Seattle Times for her work to create National Mocktail Week.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Marnie was the star of the sold-out event—her recipes for soft cocktails are inspiring thousands of people to think of alcohol free (AF) cocktails in a new light; as a welcoming, inclusive, and safe way to celebrate or to enjoy an evening out. Marnie’s personal story as a recovering alcoholic brought home the critical need for attention to zero proof in hospitality.

But don’t be fooled: anyone who came to the event thinking “not drinking” is synonymous with alcoholism or pregnancy undoubtedly left with a drastically different understanding of what beverage industry experts have referred to as “one of the biggest trends in cocktails”.

One of the biggest trends in cocktails last year was zero-proof. As one beverage industry executive said recently: ‘It took us all by storm.’ Some of the people here with us tonight are driving that storm, and we want to really dive into that.
— Alanna Imbach, Vibe Coworks

With ridiculously delicious (and beautiful!) zero proof cocktails in hand provided by Crabtree Kitchen + Bar, panelists Marnie Rae, Dan Hollingsworth of Kitsap CrossFit, Madeline Pratt with Fearless In Training, Peter Crabtree of Crabtree Brands and Malolo Design’s Dan McDougall brought focus and eye-opening information on what booze-free drinking options have to do with wellness, inclusivity, hospitality, market demand and, ultimately, freedom of choice without judgement.

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It’s impossible to capture the power and depth of the panel and ensuing audience dialogue in a few short lines of this blog (better to grab some popcorn and watch the BKAT recording here). But for starters, fellow Vibe member Madeline Pratt talked about the booze culture in the corporate world and in higher education, making us all realize how much people have been pressured into drinking, or left out altogether, by the corporate world’s love of kegs in the kitchens and hard alcohol in the office. Through the simple act of respecting that not everyone wants alcohol and either offering alternatives or eliminating booze in the office altogether, we send an infinitely better message.

Surprisingly for some, bar and liquor store owner Peter Crabtree echoed that sentiment. From the perspective of hospitality, there is a responsibility to knowing when to stop serving someone, and having alternative drink options that still feel “grown up” can ease that awkward situation. Zero proof drinks also help the designated driver, or otherwise dry drinking members of the group, be part of the fun and enjoy something special.

The idea that non-alcoholic drinks need to represent lost revenue to bar and restaurant owners, or that non-alcoholic has to take the form of sugary sweetness, was also put to bed. Instead, they represent a real opportunity for craftsmanship on the part of the bartenders. People spend money when they’re having fun and can enjoy time together with their family, friends and colleagues. Create for experience, and it no longer matters whether that drink is boozy or not.

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In lieu of paid tickets, Zero Proof attendees donated nearly $200 to help people living in some of the world’s poorest communities gain access to safe, clean water through the work of the #1 ranked international nonprofit, WaterAid. As the panel discussion opened the eyes of the audience to possibilities, conversation flowed freely and eagerly about how to consciously incorporate zero proof into our professional and personal lives.

Marnie Rae has brought Vibe Coworks and the greater Kitsap community into the beginning of a worldwide movement. This, then, is our challenge during National Mocktail Week and beyond: how can we create happier, more inclusive hospitality experiences for everyone, at every opportunity?

By Nancy Bos