The term “sober-curious” isn’t new, but over the past few years more Millennials and members of Gen Z are embracing the movement and opting out of the booze on big nights out – and not for the reasons you might think.
“I haven't been drinking for a number of years for no particular reason – like there's no medical reason, there is no anything other than I feel so much better without it,” said Melanie Masarin, the founder of Ghia, a nonalcoholic drink company.
“I was starting to notice that, you know, if I was going to dinner, and I was opting out from drinking, often someone else would decide to follow. And I realized maybe what people need is just this invitation to participate without the alcohol.”
Masarin decided to create that invitation on her own, and in June 2020 she launched Ghia, a nonalcoholic aperitif that she created “with the intention of taking back the word drinking from alcohol.”
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“When I had the idea for Ghia, I asked my parents, and they said, 'Why would people buy it if there's no booze in it?' And then my little brother, who was 22 at the time, said, 'Actually, I'm out all the time, and I don't want to drink,’ and when I realized that maybe he would consume this beverage, I knew I was sort of on to something,” Masarin said.
In terms of taste, Masarin crafted Ghia based on a feeling of nostalgia from her summers in Europe. The drink itself is inspired by Italian amaros and a base of gentian gives the beverage a slightly bitter flavor – but this was all by design.
“What we really wanted to create is not a drink that replaces a specific alcohol in the cocktail but rather a drink that can really easily be just mixed with a little bit of sparkling water and enjoyed on its own, like something that would really make you feel like you have a grown up drink – not a mocktail, not a soda – something that's really complex and that's meant to pair well with good food, good music, good friends.
“Growing up in France, there's this big culture of gathering, which inspired so much of the brand,” Masarain said. “Growing up, I always saw my parents bring people together and cook, and it was not lavish in any way, but we always, like, made extraordinary out of the mundane by bringing people together. And I realized the magic ingredient is not alcohol, it's just the people and the food and this intention of being together.”
That core idea for this young entrepreneur’s business – togetherness over a meal – hasn’t always been easy to achieve during a global pandemic, and while Masarin says the response to Ghia has been “overwhelmingly-positive,” timing-wise, launching her business in 2020 presented its own challenges.
“It's pretty crazy starting a company that sells a drink to restaurants in 2020, so it's been ups and downs for sure,” Masarin said. “It has been a lot of hurdles – especially with the pandemic, the state of the hospitality industry, [and] also this reluctance, you know? We've been conditioned by decades of marketing by alcohol brands to think that we need alcohol to have fun. And I'm really trying to prove that wrong.
“I’m learning so much every day, and the payoff is definitely community, not alcohol, and I feel very lucky that I get to bring parts of my culture here and also adapt it for my friends,” Masarin said. "It's definitely a job that brings a lot of people together, and that’s definitely the intention of Ghia. It’s creating a grown-up drink that’s very intentional of gathering people, and we’ll welcome you with open arms.