On a recent Monday morning my friend Ashlyn texted me to say she had quit Dry January. I didn’t even know she had started Dry January, but 10 a.m. on a Monday in early January seemed like a fitting time to start drinking again.
I’ve done slightly better, clocking 13 days without booze as of this writing. It’s a welcome respite from the sauce, but I find myself looking forward to the year ahead in drinking. I’m not talking about my personal year — yes, I will probably, per tradition, drink too many daiquiris before a summer concert at The Wharf and spend the whole show asleep on someone’s shoulder. I’m talking about the local bar openings and national trends that are poised to shape our consumption in 2020.
There’s plenty of bar news in Mobile. First up, Bob Baumhower is opening a Cuban-inspired speakeasy and piano bar in the basement of the RSA Trustmark Building. Las Floriditas (lasfloriditas.com) will specialize in mojitos and daiquiris and start slinging rum inside a converted bank vault in the coming weeks. In February, Braided River Brewing Co. (braidedriverbrewing.com), the newest addition to the craft beer scene, will officially open its taproom doors inside the Wheeler Lofts building downtown.
Sometime this winter, BrewHounds Brew Pub + Dog Park will open a dog park-meets-craft beer and wine garden in the city. And just last week the Planning Commission approved an expansion of The Haberdasher; the owners plan on opening up the bar’s second floor, more than doubling their total capacity, topping out at 256, at some point in the near future.
On the national front, Big Hard Seltzer is only growing more powerful. Last year, sales of hard seltzer hit $1 billion, according to IWSR, a market research firm for the alcohol market. The firm says demand is so high — crediting this to “health-conscious” consumers — sales volume is predicted to triple by 2023.
Corona has announced plans to release a hard seltzer line in the spring. It will come in four flavors: Tropical Lime, Mango, Cherry and Blackberry Lime. Each can will have 90 calories, 4.5 percent ABV and zero grams of carbs or sugar. Truly (owned by The Boston Beer Company) is now available on draft and the company will soon release new flavors such as Lemonade and Watermelon Kiwi.
The dubiously dubbed health-conscious alcohol consumer is shaping the market in other ways as well. Boozy “wellness” drinks are on the rise, which include cocktails spiked with anti-inflammatory turmeric, antioxidant-rich matcha, pre- and probiotics, toxin-sucking (and dangerous!) activated charcoal and chilling CBD, although that ingredient has been banned in bars around the country on a state-by-state basis.
Nielsen, the data firm, predicts beverage companies will veer more into promoting their nonalcoholic options, as more consumers seek out low- to no-alcohol alternatives. Athletic Brewing Co. (athleticbrewing.com) out of Connecticut only brews nonalcoholic beer, including flavor-packed options like IPAs. Heineken’s version, 0.0, actually tastes pretty good. Alcohol-adjacent drinks like canned HopTea (hoptea.com), which is a tea brewed like a craft beer, with hops, is hitting shelves. And even national chains like Buffalo Wild Wings are paying attention; it serves “hand-shaken” booze-free drinks like “Passionfruit Nojitos.”
But the biggest story of the year is poised to be the president’s proposed 100 percent tariff on European goods such as wine and whisk(e)y. This tariff threatens the future of the entire wine industry, not just because the price hike on bottles of Bordeaux, Jameson and Aperol would get passed along to U.S. consumers, but because the EU could and would pass retaliatory measures, crushing U.S. domestic wine and spirits producers, exporters, grape and grain growers and all of their employees.
The tariff could be implemented as early as February. If it passes, I would need to consult my bank account for whether or not I need to stretch Dry January into Dry February. Kidding, of course. My bank account balance would require me to stretch it into Dry 2021.
Alyson Sheppard is Lagniappe’s resident hangover specialist and Boozie’s most unreliable Baldwin County spy. Find her on Twitter: @amshep.
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