Mocksie Leads the Way in the Local NA Movement

28 Feb 2023

A discovery of alcohol-free choices now available at many establishments in Wilmington

By Fanny Slater  »  Photos by G. Frank Hart

If you had told my twenty-five-year-old self that in 2023 I’d be spending a Saturday night intentionally sipping booze-free beverages to celebrate two full years of sobriety, I would have politely said, “Go home, you. You’re drunk.”

But as I sat in Mocksie’s quaint second-floor Tasting Room last weekend relishing exactly that, I remembered that my fifteen-year-old self had chosen to have her birthday party at an Applebee’s—so some things do change with age.

Whether you’ve decided to reduce or entirely cut out alcohol from your life, as Mocksie’s Founder & CEO, Carter Jewell says, “people choose not to drink for many different, deeply personal reasons.” And she’s right. My emancipation from alcohol’s toxic grip in 2021 was not just for the purpose of retiring as a party girl, but a way to get my life back. Fortunately for me, there was a spark lit under the non-alcoholic (NA) beverage industry around that very same time. The world had admittedly self-indulged to cope with the Coronavirus and the shock waves that came during the pandemic. Following that phase came folks wanting to let go of those harmful substances and get their health back on track. The term sober-curious was born as an open-ended way to explore cutting back on drinking without the full commitment. With that: the expansion of an entirely novel category of libations that look, taste and smell like the real deal without the hangover on the other side.

“We do want to open a larger bar later this year,” Jewell says, “but for now, Mocksie is a spot where you can come try these beverages, buy something to take home and bring a few friends. It’s perfect for book clubs or small groups, and we’re going to use it for some really fun tastings. We’re growing much faster than I’d anticipated and it’s purely because of the love from this community and the clear need for wonderful non-alcoholic options in Wilmington.”

You know the expression “nobody drinks because they like the taste of alcohol?” Call me crazy, but I’d say that Mocksie’s existence (and thriving evolution) proves that theory wrong. I personally felt that my sober FOMO would lie in longing for a citrusy IPA, a bold red to pair with my pasta or a rocks glass of complex, leathery bourbon over ice. I knew that if I could find satisfying substitutions, I could still find enjoyment in social environments without the poor decisions that led to sweeping Front Street the following day for my debit card.

Nowadays, what I’ve found myself combing Wilmington for is better choices when it comes to alcohol-free (AF) drinks. It was frustrating that water and the occasional kombucha were the only options at many of my favorite breweries. At my go-to dive bars, it was a flat seltzer from a dirty soda gun or an O’Doul’s if I was lucky. NA wine seemed to be out of the question, while a “mocktail” at a nice restaurant usually signified simple syrup and Sprite.

Carter’s mission stemmed from similar discouragement over not being able to easily track down quality alternatives in the area. Mocksie may have only launched in 2022, but through the weekly newsletter, social media, bartending gigs, pop-ups and canned to-go drinks with a permanent home at the Bash Pad on Castle Street, Carter has already sprouted a powerful community that can’t get enough. To no surprise, her rapid success rate is an exact parallel to the booming NA beverage industry (which jumped from $8 to $11 billion in just four years).

No matter what flavor profile you’re after, Mocksie’s selection is abundant, and the tastings allow you to try before you buy. There’s “choose your mood” elixirs like Free Spirit whose Nightcap product is a woody mix made with tree saps, aromatic plants and ancient remedies that promote a calm, dreamy feeling. There’s bright, effervescent wines (some of which come in a handy canned form, so you don’t have to ditch the whole bottle if you don’t dig it) like Sovi’s Sparkling Rosé with dry notes of grapefruit. There’s ready to drink (RTD) options like Ghia’s spicy ginger aperitif-style sipper that screams happy hour. As for the brews, she carries companies like Untitled Art who crush crisp, hoppy, full-bodied Italian Pilsners and tropical West Coast IPAs.

As far as spirits go, no longer does mocktail simply mean “minus the liquor.” With brands like Spiritless, Ritual, Drink Monday and Seedlip (to name a few) dominating the zero-proof scene, you can enjoy everything from a multi-dimensional “gin” and tonic to herbal Manhattans to “margaritas” that yield the peppery punch of true tequila. Not to mention the full lines of fully AF bitters. Mocksie offers all of the above plus so much more. Partake in one of her events and she’ll even show you how to shake or stir to perfection. At the tasting I attended, we savored sours, threw back a blue-hued “mertail” ripe with electrolytes and bowed down to a bourbon-reminiscent rendition of an old fashioned garnished with copper fennel and a dried orange wheel.

Needless to say, spending my two-year sobriety anniversary with Mocksie was intoxicating in the best possible way.

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