I Stopped Drinking And Discovered A New World — Where To Get Booze-Free Drinks In LA


“Let’s grab drinks.”

Those three words are a staple in a culture that largely revolves around imbibing alcohol and social activity. Its pervasiveness is such that it raises questions and eyebrows if you choose not to drink, and it can also feel alienating, like opting out of the dominant culture.

The fact is people choose an alcohol-free lifestyle for many reasons. Addiction, mental health, physical health, pregnancy, religion, lifestyle, and some who simply don’t enjoy the taste.

For me, putting a pause on booze started because I found myself drinking more when I was alone and sad. I committed to an alcohol-free lifestyle for my mental and physical health.
My experience with alcohol

When I turned 21, I fell in love with dive bars, fancy cocktail lounges, and everything in between. It wasn’t just the taste of alcohol. It was the history, the culture, and how alcohol made me feel. It was as if I had opened a portal to a more fun, more courageous version of myself. It took the edge off those big feelings and situations you navigate when coming of age.

For the next 15 years, my drinking was moderate to heavy, always trending upward when hard times hit. To keep myself in check, I’d done Dry January several times to prove I could go a month without drinking. But I’d always go back to drinking more, and the reset never quite stuck.

In January 2020, I realized that my drinking was causing me more harm than good (again). This is where I could regale you with embarrassing stories, but I’ll keep those to myself. All I know is that I couldn’t ignore the destructive cycle I was in anymore.

After several stops and starts, I committed to an alcohol-free lifestyle when dealing with undiagnosed celiac symptoms. I’ve not touched a drop of alcohol in over a year and a half.

Going alcohol-free is a big change. But the non-alcoholic (NA) drinks space is a movement that is hot right now and makes it easier. Whether you identify as sober-curious, sober, alcohol-free, in recovery, or label agnostic, there are many places in L.A. to get booze-free drinks.

There are some things to be aware of, though — first is that booze-free alternatives aren’t automatically more affordable. So, if you’re hoping this will ease the impact on your wallet, think again. Some beverages are on par with what you might spend on alcohol while others are more expensive. It’s a trade-off.

Additionally, if you’re sober and in recovery and mocktails are a trigger for you, avoiding non-alcoholic alternatives can be a good idea. But for many, these non-alcoholic alternatives offer the same robust flavors and social opportunities without the threat of a relapse or hangover.

Here are some places to try out:

Zero proofed

Through a rabbit hole on Instagram, I discovered Zero Proofed. I saw there were non-alcoholic pop-up events in Los Angeles and was intrigued.

Started by sisters Priyanka Kompella and Chirasmita Kompella in August 2022, Zero Proofed aims to bring the sober-curious lifestyle to the masses through curated events.

“Zero Proofed is for everybody, whether they want to join us for a happy hour, a night, a month, or a lifetime,” says Priyanka Kompella.

The inspiration behind starting the booze-free events company goes deeper than that, though.

Growing up, the sisters enjoyed toasts and celebrations with their international family based on their grandma’s homemade non-alcoholic botanicals.

“In an almost uncanny parallel, as two first-generation American elder daughters, we spent so long trying to force ourselves into the mold we thought we needed to fill to be an American in the States,” says Chirasmita Kompella. Now, the sisters are doing things their way.

As part of my exploration, I went to one of their various pop-up experiences — the Zero Proofed Speakeasy on June 11 at the Velvet Lounge at the Culver Hotel. Walking up the stairs toward the lounge, you’re welcomed by a stunning and intimate space. Arriving a half hour after it started, I was pleasantly surprised at how many people were in attendance.

The bar lines were longer than I remember, but the mocktails were worth the wait. To help tide you over, there was also complimentary welcome NA bubbly, which was a nice touch.

The drink menu names were Hollywood-inspired and I got a “Legally Blonde” which caught my eye as soon as I saw the word “lavender.” My favorite though was the “Kill Bill” cocktail, which was similar to a margarita.

Aside from mocktails, there was a DJ spinning. When drinking, I never shied away from being the first on the dance floor. This time around, I felt more subdued. It felt like a different social experience with everyone not drinking, but it was fun to have a “normal” night out without the booze.
The new bar

The New Bar opened along a stretch of Lincoln Boulevard in Venice in July 2022. Brianda Gonzalez, the founder, who grew up on Catalina Island, was inspired to start the non-alcoholic bottle shop to connect with her father after he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and could no longer have alcohol.

The store has an impressive range of non-alcoholic beverage alternatives that also include unique brands, making their products stand on their own. For example, while some products are advertised as “tequila alternatives,” others aren’t trying to mimic the flavor or taste of alcohol.

One of the drinks I picked up was Black Ginger by Tenneyson, "an original combination of non-alcoholic liquid botanicals." It was unlike anything I’ve tasted but still had a nice kick, with the warmth and zest of ginger, that felt refreshing. I also bought a bottle of Pentire Coastal Spritz to have something similar to an Aperol Spritz to sip on. The drink delivered, satiating my desires and dreams of being transported to Italy.

As a bonus, I got Spiritless Jalisco 55, a Tequila alternative for free, thanks to the store having extras from The New Bar’s stint at Coachella (fun fact: The New Bar was Coachella’s first ever non-alcoholic partner). The product has a nice bite that goes well with lime juice and tonic.

The store also has tastings and events and a sidewalk seating area where you can enjoy your drinks.
Soft spirits

Looking to ditch hard spirits? Head to Soft Spirits, a woman-owned non-alcoholic bottle shop that opened in 2021, nestled along Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake. The store has a wide array of non-alcoholic options and hosts pop-up bar events, which you can find out about on Instagram or their newsletter.

Though Soft Spirits was a trend-setter as the first non-alcoholic bottle shop in L.A., it’s now not the only game in town.

What stood out to me was that Soft Spirits had many individual servings of non-alcoholic drinks, which I enjoyed. If you want to experiment, start with individual ready-to-drink options.

I picked up an individual Phony Negroni, Figlia and De Soi’s Purple Lune, both aperitifs, and a bottle of Sparkling Riesling from the brand EINS-ZWEI-ZERO. The Phony Negroni had the bitter kick of Campari without the next-day headache that usually comes with the alcoholic version.

After learning about the founder’s story of losing her father to alcoholism, I was intrigued by the brand Figlia. The drink was a delight and made me feel like the founder was successful with the mission of creating a lovely non-alcoholic alternative.

De Soi had been on my radar as one of the founders is pop star Katy Perry. I found the flavors complex, something I had always enjoyed about cocktails. I’ve had the Sparkling Riesling before and enjoyed it, and I thought it was a solid pick for a refreshing summer drink.

Boisson (pronounced bwah-sahn) is the latest non-alcoholic bottle shop to open in the L.A. area, with two locations — Studio City and Brentwood. The company started in New York and has expanded to L.A., SF, and is soon opening in Miami. Named after the French word for “drink,” the store has tastings and events to help you find exactly what you'll love.

I ventured to the Studio City location and was met with a colorful ambiance and welcoming staff ready to help. The store had the most impressive selection of non-alcoholic bottles I’d seen and the layout was intuitive.

There was a tasting of Noughty Rosé, which tasted like the real thing. I was also interested in a mezcal alternative, so the staff opened a bottle and let me try it, and compare it to a tequila alternative.

After trying both I decided to get the Ritual Tequila, much to my surprise, since when I was drinking, I preferred mezcal. But I felt the Ritual Tequila had an enjoyable smokiness which won out in this case.

I also got Avec’s Yuzu and Lime mixer to make non-alcoholic margaritas at home, which seems to defy science with zero calories and zero sugar while not compromising on taste.
The non-alcoholic movement is just getting started

When I started my sober-curious journey several years ago, I felt alone. Like many, my drinking increased during the pandemic and I knew I had to make a change. Now that I’ve been alcohol-free for over 1.5 years with no plans to go back, I’m discovering a new world. Where we’re at today is no longer a moment but a movement.