10/3/2022 | By Kari Smith

Seniors Guide writer Kari Smith examines the growing category of non-alcoholic adult drinks, with a focus on functional beverages that use adaptogens and nootropics to provide other health and wellness benefits.

Wait, what? Doesn’t the term “adult drinks” imply that they contain alcohol?

Color me ignorant, but my not-so-vast knowledge of alcohol-free adult drinks was topped by (and let’s be honest – really only consisted of) the non-alcoholic beer O’Doul’s, which hit the market in 1990. Learning of a non-alcoholic “buzz” led me down a rabbit hole where I discovered a vast number of more current trending non-alcoholic adult drinks, including alternative craft beers, wines, and mock spirits.

Non-alcoholic adult drinks + adaptogenic beverages

You may have heard of virgin drinks or mocktails (cocktails without alcohol), but this is different.

Some alcohol replacements are designed to mimic beer, liquor, or wine in taste and usage. Other social tonics or “functional beverages” use alternative ingredients, including adaptogens, to gently promote positive feelings. They may give you the feeling of a buzz or mellow your mood.

Other functional beverages include nootropics, ingredients that support brain health and boost mental power.

Related: Nootropics to boost brain function

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are botanical (plant) ingredients that are added to food, drinks, capsules, or tinctures to help your body deal with stress or fatigue. In order to qualify for this classification, the natural substance must be non-toxic (in normal doses), help your body respond to stress, and return your body to natural balance called homeostasis.

An adaptogen can help balance cortisol levels – reducing it to manage stress, or increase it to combat fatigue. You may have heard of some adaptogens, such as American or Asian ginseng. There are many others, including ashwagandha, eleuthero, and rhodiola. Other commonly known adaptogens are foods such as turmeric, moringa, raspberry leaf, nettle, and some mushrooms.

Why choose non-alcoholic adult drinks?

Seniors Guide examines non-alcoholic adult drinks, esp. functional beverages using adaptogens and nootropics to provide wellness benefits.

There are many reasons that adults choose not to drink alcohol, in addition to sobriety or recovery. Non-alcoholic adult drinks can provide a positive alternative.

Some people who make this choice are sober curious or want to take a pause from alcohol for personal reasons. Some are concerned with health implications, such as weight gain or sleep issues. People at high risk for cancer may choose to avoid alcohol, which is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a Group 1 carcinogen, along with tobacco and asbestos. Or, it may be as simple as a matter of safety for those who choose not to drink and drive.

As seniors age, their risk for some of many health conditions increases, making an alcohol alternative a welcome change.

Add to these benefits to purported benefits of adaptogens and nootropics, making functional beverages an appealing option.

Related: Non-alcoholic drinks for the holidays

Who makes these drinks?

A few of the key players in the functional beverage market that mimic alcoholic beverages are:

  • Pop star Katy Perry’s De Soi is “zero proof” and marketed for “moments of pleasure and restraint.” This apéritif (a typically dry beverage served as an appetizer before a meal) is made from botanicals and adaptogenic ingredients which claim to mellow the mind.
  • Curious Elixirs founder John Wiseman touts his beverages as “incredibly flavorful and with subtle health benefits.”
  • Kin Euphorics, with adaptogens and nootropics, come in several styles, including an aperitif-style “spirits,” a sparkling cocktail-style spritz, and a fruity rosé-inspired drink.
  • Rasāvāda creates Rasa’s Spirit Restoratives using wild-harvested ingredients offering wellness properties. The three flavors can be mixed with ingredients like sparkling water, bitters, and juices for enjoyable non-alcoholic cocktails.
  • Casamara Club offers sparkling like soft drinks but with complexity of taste and sans the cloying sweetness.
  • If beer is your drink of choice, you might appreciate WellBeing Brewing’s Victory Citrus Wheat. Touted as a “sports brew,” the wheat beer is enhanced with electrolytes, perfect after a workout, sporting activity, or yardwork.

What should I know before consuming adaptogens?

Before imbibing, talk to your doctor about adaptogens. In addition to the FDA not regulating adaptogens, drink labels may not include the amount of the substance, and the potency of the substance can vary widely. Although they are generally well tolerated, they could impair the effectiveness of certain medications for ailments such as depression, diabetes, insomnia, and more. Be sure to provide your doctor with a list of your current medications and health conditions along with the names of adaptogen ingredients you’d like to try.

Is this just a trend?

Clean eating and drinking practices continue to increase as Americans move toward healthier living. According to PR Newswire, the global adaptogens market is on track to grow from $8.95 billion dollars to $9.71 in 2022, and is expected to reach over $13 billion by 2026. That’s right – billion.

Similarly for the non-alcoholic category: the market research firm, Nielsen, reports that sales has more than doubled in the last three years, “despite slowing alcohol trends.”

It is safe to say that this growing trend will be around for a while.

Where do I get them?

The easiest way to purchase this type of drink is currently online. Although these adult beverage pretenders are beginning to pop up on some upscale grocery store shelves and specialty retailers, they are easily accessible on their respective websites, along with helpful information about each brand’s ingredients and production processes. Even a quick Amazon search returns pages of options. Don’t expect to save money over your standby cocktails – quality botanicals and adaptogenic ingredients aren’t cheap!

I know my curiosity is getting the best of me, so it’s off Amazon shopping I go. Cheers!

Kari Smith

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.

Kari Smith