Douglas Watters opened Spirited Away, a dry store on the Lower East Side, last November. The summer before, he’d started researching his drinking habits and health, he said, and started experimenting with non-alcoholic cocktails. He liked the results. “I loved keeping the ritual and celebrating the end of the workday or an achievement, but without feeling bad the next day.”
Recently, Mr. Watters, 39, quit his job at Bank of America Merrill Lynch to work full-time on his business. Spirited Away is considered the first dry-food retailer in New York City and started with 70 products and now offers 140. Prices range from $7.50 for an individual can of Kin Euphorics, caffeinated flavored spritzes, to $75 for a bottle of Rasasvada, a high-end, plant-based “mind restorative.”
He has already outgrown his 200 square meter store. Next month, he’s moving into a store twice the size in NoLIta.
The liquor-free cocktail movement seems to be following the evolution of craft cocktails. “People are sophisticated drinkers; they want different combinations of complex and interesting flavors,” said Mr Watters. “Product diversity has increased. Technology has that too. Now there are vapor or vacuum distillation and new techniques,” he continues. “That helped open up the market.”
Minus Moonshine, a self-proclaimed “dry drinks + potions shop” in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, opened in June. In addition to selling their wares, the co-founders, Apryl Electra Storms and Melissa Irisarri, both 41, host monthly gatherings for groups such as down-to-earth curious parents and down-to-earth singles.
“Non-drinkers, like me, were ignored for so long,” Mx said. Storms, who identifies as non-binary. “As a former chef, I have a passion for beverages. I just knew this was something I had to do with my life next.”