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Almost everyone I know is rethinking their relationship to alcohol these days. After our lives were upended in 2020, many of us have settled into new drinking routines that, frankly, can be hard to escape. When I finally caved and downloaded TikTok a few months ago, I was met with even more people who were sober curious. I decided it was time to find an alternative happy hour drink for unwinding after work.
“I decided it was time to find an alternative happy hour drink for unwinding after work.”
I’ve known about Curious Elixirs for a few years, ever since the rise of the sober curious lifestyle. The brand was founded in 2015—before I even heard the term “sober curious”—and is on a mission to make the best booze-free cocktails. Curious Elixirs believes these alcohol-free drinks should be “unusually delicious, well-crafted, and good for bodies and souls.” That’s why the ingredients include adaptogens and aphrodisiacs mixed in with other organic ingredients by world-class bartenders and herbalists. (If you’re new to adaptogens, they are nontoxic, body-balancing ingredients that help you cope with physical and mental stress. Yes, please!)
It always sounded a little too good to be true, and I’d often return to the brand’s website with one burning question: would they really taste and feel like a suitable alternative to my favorite happy hour bevvies?
“Would they really taste and feel like a suitable alternative to my favorite happy hour bevvies?”
I decided to go all-in with the 24-drink variety pack, as my partner and I wanted a new beverage in our rotations. When it arrived, I was initially dismayed that the drinks actually came in 12 standard-sized cans and bottles—I thought it couldn’t possibly be nearly enough. But as we started pouring, it was very reasonable to split a can or bottle, especially when you poured it over ice (hence why a 12-pack of bottles is touted as a 24-drink pack). Each bottle comes with a tip on how best to garnish the cocktail, which is way fancier than I can keep up with! But I do keep more lemons on hand nowadays.
The flavors in the variety pack rotate each month based on supply chain availability. Here are the possible flavors you can get, alongside the functions some of their key ingredients have:
- Curious Elixir No. 1 is a Pomegranate Negroni that contains rhodiola as a mood booster and pick-me-up.
- Curious Elixir No. 2 is a Spicy Marg Meets A Dark & Stormy that contains damiana, a Mayan aphrodisiac.
- Curious Elixir No. 3 is a Cucumber Collins that contains ashwagandha to support mood and memory.
- Curious Elixir No. 4 is a Sicilian Spritz that contains rhubarb root for stress relief.
- Curious Elixir No. 5 is a Smoked Cherry Chocolate Old Fashioned that contains shatavari, a body-balancing Ayurvedic aphrodisiac.
- Curious Elixir No. 6 is a Coconut Oatmilk Painkiller that contains lemon balm and nutmeg for mood boosting and stress relief.
- Curious Elixir No. 7 is a Champagne Cocktail that contains Chardonnay grapes, and green tea as a pick-me-up and lavender as a mood booster.
I’ve been subscribed for a few months and have tried every flavor. So far, my favorites have been numbers two and five. Curious Elixir No. 2 is a tasty margarita alternative, and the ginger and ancho chili makes for an extremely flavorful sip—perfect for drinking on the front porch. Curious Elixir No. 5, a smoked cherry chocolate old fashioned, is ideal if your mood is more “sitting in a housecoat in a large old library while a fire crackles nearby.” The ingredients include oak and chicory, and cacao and elderberry.
I will say I didn’t love No. 6, the Coconut Oatmilk Painkiller. I added ice, which I think was a bad move for me personally since watered-down plant-based milk is…just yuck. (No oat milk iced coffees for me!) Although, to be fair, the brand suggests that you can drink the cocktail neat, which I’ll try next time.
“I found myself with a little bit left at the end of the evening and didn’t feel the need to rush through it.”
The first night I tried one (a Cucumber Collins), I sipped on it throughout the evening without wanting to chug the whole thing, which I was worried about since these cocktails can be a bit pricey—the best deal is the monthly cocktail club at $89 for 24 servings.
I found myself with a little bit left at the end of the evening and didn’t feel the need to rush through it. I did tap the brakes for a second since it tasted like a cocktail, and I didn’t want to chug an alcoholic cocktail right before bed. But I reminded myself this was, in fact, the herbs and adaptogens and enjoyed the last bit of it without worrying I’d be groggy in the morning. (The ingredients for this particular cocktail include juniper, ashwagandha, orange blossom, lemon verbena, and angelica).
“And that’s the beauty of these babies—they don’t make me feel icky the next morning.”
And that’s the beauty of these babies—they don’t make me feel icky the next morning. The cocktails are satisfying enough for one a night. While no refined sugars are included in these cocktails, they can get a little sweet thanks to the fruit juices and, in the case of No. 5, the touch of coconut sugar. But that’s why nearly every cocktail is better poured over ice!
I’ve come to see my Curious Elixirs moment as a special occasion to mark my day; I sit out on the patio, and people watch the pedestrians and drivers during their hectic evening commute. I fix myself a glass as beautifully as I can (although I rarely have the “orange twist” garnish) and feel calm and scholarly as I imbibe. My partner joins me regularly and tells everyone about the elixirs; I think he might even like them more than I do.
“Treat it as a self-care moment, whip out your best cocktail glasses and pay close attention to the flavors and to the way the herbs and adaptogens make you feel.”
I do miss the “third place” of my neighborhood brewery, though, and I will admit I still pop out for a brew once a week. (Hey, it’s sober curious for now.)
My biggest recommendation in all this, if you’re hoping to replace a boozy habit, is to make the event actually something special. Treat it as a self-care moment, whip out your best cocktail glasses and pay close attention to the flavors and to the way the herbs and adaptogens make you feel. For me, these cocktails are a wonderful mindfulness tool that I can enjoy slowly and let the swirl of my day come to an end. (Honestly, these would make such a lovely gift and I might bring them along for a housewarming someday.)
“Whether you’re quitting drinking cold turkey, or just exploring another option for weekdays, go easy on yourself.”
While I haven’t fully replaced my favorite Hazy IPAs with Curious Elixirs, I can certainly envision a day where I’ve built even more booze-free habits in my life. And, for those who might wonder, all but No. 3 are safe for drinking during pregnancy, although you should consult your doctor about all of them just in case.
Whether you’re quitting drinking cold turkey, or just exploring another option for weekdays, go easy on yourself. The biggest thing is to examine what self-care means to you, and for me, it doesn’t include craft beer as much as it once did. And Curious Elixirs is a lovely, proactive alternative that never makes me feel headachey—or hungover. And I’ll say cheers to that!
- While Curious Elixirs are more expensive than a 12-pack of beer, you won’t find yourself reaching for one more impulsively and can easily share each bottle with someone (or spin around for seconds, why not!?).
- The adaptogens are calming and gave me a slight buzzy, relaxed feeling.
- The texture of the drinks does have a little sparkle to it, which is nice if you’re swapping out a favorite cocktail! I highly recommend following the garnish recommendations on the bottle.
- Some of the drinks can be a little “thick” thanks to the organic fruit juices, but nothing a good ice cube can’t fix!
Emily McGowan is the Editorial Director at The Good Trade. Born and raised in Indiana, she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her in her colorful Los Angeles apartment journaling, caring for her rabbits and cat, or gaming. Say hi on Instagram!