St. Patrick’s Day for the “Sober-Curious” – How to Put the “Fun” in Functional

From Dublin to Chicago and countless other places around the world, St. Patrick’s Day is a time filled with parades, shamrocks, seas of people dressed in emerald green, and of course…drinking…lot’s of drinking.

While shamrock shakes, dying rivers green, and t-shirts with pots of gold might be more novel traditions, associating the feast day of Ireland’s patron saint with boozy frivolity is not.

Describing the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations of 300 years ago, famed Irish folklorist Kevin Danaher (Caoimhín Ó Danachair) says, “In most parts of Ireland, the men repaired to the local tavern after church to drink the “pota Pádraig” or “St Patrick’s pot”. Seldom did the drinking stop at one pot.


In fact, despite the March 17th holiday falling during the yearly Catholic period of Lent, a forty-day period of fasting from certain food and drink in preparation for Easter, these restrictions are lifted for this one day for the Irish to throw parties in commemoration of St. Patrick’s death.

However, as consumers continue to become more health-conscious and the “sober-curious” lifestyle grows in popularity, this and future St. Paddy’s Days might start looking a little bit different.

Fueled mainly by social media and younger demographics, this fits into the larger trend of fostering a lifestyle of healthy habits to benefit one’s mental and physical health. Extending these habits to alcohol is leading many to limit, if not give up, drinking altogether.

Still, this desire for a healthier lifestyle does not come at the expense of a social life.

This is especially true when celebrating special occasions like St. Patrick’s Day, where alternative beverages could be a way to put the “fun” in functional.

A Sobering Trend

Coined by author Ruby Warrington in her 2018 book by the same name, the overarching “sober curious” movement looks to achieve the following aims:

  • Challenge norms and drinking culture
  • Improve health and well-being
  • Support people to create sustainable alcohol habits.

In the US, the movement is led predominantly by Gen Z, which now spends 40% less on alcohol than Millenials.

This could help explain why sales of NA (non-alcoholic) beverages in the US increased by 20.6% year over year to reach USD 395 million in 2022 alone.


On the other hand, in the UK, millennials make up the highest percentage of buyers for the no/low alcohol category, worth £255m in 2022 [1], with a predicted growth of 7% YOY.

This seems to be striking a chord with consumers worldwide regardless of age. In Innova’s Health & Nutrition Survey 2023, 37% of consumers globally said they had avoided/cut down on alcohol to improve their health in the past 12 months.

Some in the hospitality industry are taking notice. In an ironic twist, several prohibition-era-style “speakeasies” are opening up in cities like New York. But instead of selling bootleg booze, their libations are liquor-free.

Whether it’s a hand-crafted mocktail from a swanky sober speakeasy or a bottled beverage from the corner shop, it still needs to deliver on taste and maybe something more.

The Fun Part of Functional – Even Better than Just “Not Hungover”


Just over half (53%) of global consumers say taste has the most influence over their NA alternative beverage purchases. Unsurprisingly, nearly 1 in 4 said “health aspects” play a role in their purchases [2].

Incorporating functional ingredients into these beverages creates the perfect opportunity to help people feel great about more than just hangover-free mornings.

Beverages containing ingredients such as pre/probiotics, adaptogens, functional mushrooms, CBD, and nootropics are already gaining popularity. As Jessa Friedrich, Edlong’s Director of Marketing, says, they could be the perfect addition to alternative beverages.

“I know for myself; when looking over a wine menu the other day, I found myself weighing if the glass of wine was worth cancelling out the effects of the probiotics and active measures, I’d taken earlier in the day to stay hydrated.

As functional beverages go mainstream and more health-benefiting ingredients are introduced to the marketplace, there is definitely some added incentive to choose a functional mocktail with probiotics and brain-boosting botanicals over alcohol and its negative impacts on health.”

Many beverages coming onto the market have special botanical blends or ingredients that work in synergy. Often, these botanicals, herbs, roots, and spices, such as mushrooms, have earthy tastes. This can make finding the right balance of acid and sweetness challenging for these developments.


Though these drinks may lean towards fruity profiles, dairy and dairy-type flavours could be what your beverages are missing.

Our masking agents, sweet flavours, and specific dairy notes can help balance or take the edge off some flavours, especially when paired with fruits and other fragrant ingredients.

Think of possible combinations ranging from an orange creamsicle to creamy tropical creations showcasing exotic fruits like papaya, guava, or pineapple.

At the core of this trend is finding a healthier way to unwind, asking, “How can we reimagine ways to celebrate, connect, and relax?”

Blending our flavour innovation with functional ingredients can offer alcohol alternatives that don’t compromise on health, enjoyment & taste.

With Edlong, your consumers won’t need the luck of the Irish to have a great (tasting) time and feel even better.

To help you get the buzz without the banging head the next day, try our functional and plant-based take on a St. Patrick’s Day Classic.


About the Author: Emily Sheehan, Applications Manager, EMEA

Hi! I’m Emily Sheehan. I’m the Applications Manager, EMEA at Edlong, and my job is rooted in creating exciting new possibilities for our people and processes. It’s inspiring to reflect on how much Edlong has achieved and even more amazing to be involved in such thoughtful innovation. We enjoy pushing boundaries in food and flavour, and we welcome everyone in the food industry to join us. If you’re in need of expertise or inspiration, I’d love to collaborate and help you design flavour solutions that resonate with consumers!

[1] Mintel

[2] Innova Market Insights

Topics: Better For YouBeveragesFunctional Foods
Resource Type: Article
Resource Region: EULATAMUS


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