'Sober Curious' push brings more alcohol-free options to central Ohio

Zero proof drinks make waves in central Ohio (10TV)
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COLUMBUS, OHIO -- Food and wine experts are calling attention to a new beverage movement that combines all the savory flavors of cocktails but contains no alcohol. Trendy locations throughout Columbus now include "zero-proof" or "alcohol-free" sections on menus.

"There are many reasons people come in wanting a zero-proof drink. Sometimes it is a customer on a business trip who wants to keep her wits about her, sometimes it is a person who doesn't like the flavor of alcohol or a host of other reasons," said Sidebar Manager Chris Spinato.

"I have been very happy to see the evolution in Columbus," said Columbus foodie and writer of the local "Zero Proof Bookclub" Shelley Mann. "Sober Curious is a movement and a common hashtag and now it has a home here in Columbus."

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"Drinking wasn't allowing me to lead the life I wanted to live or felt like I could live," said Mann. She decided her life was better uncomplicated by alcohol and its after-effects four years ago but said she often missed the artful appearance and flavors of a mixed cocktail. "Now there are more people who are becoming more curious about taking alcohol out of their life for whatever reason and I think it is positive for them and helpful to the many people like me who want more options. Now there are restaurants who are offering special sections on their menus that are filled with specialty non-alcoholic drinks."

Bartenders are quick to make clear the difference between zero-proof drinks and "mocktails."

"Before, if you wanted something free of alcohol it was going to be heavy on sugar. Mocktails were sugar bombs. These drinks are not," said Spinato, as he lit a plank of cedar wood with a blow torch and held a glass above the board to allow particles to bond with the glass. "This drink will be complex and flavorful but not sweet."

"By adding these zero-proof drinks to the menu it gives many people like me a discreet way to order these types of drinks without pointing out that I'm not drinking alcohol," said Mann. "If you can just point at a menu and say 'I'll have this drink', someone might not even notice that it doesn't have alcohol in it. You're not calling attention to the fact that you don't drink."

The National Institute of Health found in its Monitoring the Future survey that overall, teens' use of illegal drugs continues to decrease and is now the lowest in the history of the survey. Researchers talked with more than 43,000 teens across the U.S. in grades 8, 10, and 12.