The Sober October concept began when the Australian youth health organization Life Education raised money with its “Ocsober” fundraiser in 2010. The United Kingdom- based cancer charity Macmillan Cancer Support went on to dub it Sober October.
Since then, a plethora of non-alcoholic (NA) spirit companies have mushroomed across the globe, with the UK being ground zero for many of them, like Seedlip, which can be found in most bars throughout Los Angeles.
We recently caught up with Spencer Matthews, the British entrepreneur and television personality who is the founder of CleanCo, a non-alcoholic spirits company that includes non-alcoholic gin, rum, tequila and vodka alternatives that are sugar-free and vegan with fewer calories. The liquids were created to replicate the mouth-feel sensation and flavor of their alcoholic counterparts.
He shared his non-preachy sober curious journey with L.A. Weekly:
“When I was in my 20s, I held a number of jobs that essentially required me to drink alcohol whilst entertaining. It wasn’t really necessary, just quite normal, as part of my job as a broker and later a reality television star. It was just a very social life and I began to realize in my late 20s that my relationship with alcohol became unsustainable. I suppose the fear of not giving myself the opportunity to live up to my full potential frightened me.
“I’ve always been quite an ambitious person and had high expectations of myself, and I had slowly over time slipped into the bad habit of drinking to excess quite regularly and noticed it was slowing me down. When I met who was later to become my wife, who drinks very little, it became even more apparent. I started spending more time with her than my other colleagues and drinking buddies.
“Before the birth of our first son, I became sober curious and wanted to experiment with sobriety. A lot of people I admired and looked up to at the time were sober. I wondered what I could make of myself, if I stopped drinking alcohol.
“I gave it a go and it was like taking the hand brake off a fast car, the difference was so palpable. It completely changed my life. Look, I’m not anti-alcohol at all. I’m aware that most people drink and, in fact, CleanCo’s message is one of moderation, not total abstinence. I try not to be preachy about alcohol consumption. But for me, just cutting it out made my life so much better. Everything seemed easier, better, faster, brighter. I became more creative, more responsive, more driven.
“But I didn’t want my social life to suffer, and that’s a big misconception in the world, that you should be drinking alcohol to have fun. I mean being drunk is hardly ever fun. Few people wake up the next morning wishing they had drunk more the night before with the hope of feeling more hungover. Two or three drinks can be fun, but then alcohol can also really ruin a night, but you really don’t need to drink a high level of alcohol to have fun.
“I noticed that my social life took a bit of a hit, when you go out and order sparkling water. I didn’t fit in and sort of stuck out negatively for making a positive position. Not drinking in a bar leads to confusion, just like it was tough in the beginning being a vegan 15 years ago.
“The average person in the UK spends about 252 hours hungover each year. I think people want to be more health conscious if it’s easy to do so. People don’t like changing their habits, but you can have an incredible cocktail without any real compromise on taste or social experience.
“It didn’t take long for people I knew to comment on my physical appearance. Even a couple of weeks in, friends said that I looked different. More awake and alive. It was easier to run and lift weights. I got back time. It became a life less-wasted.”
Growing up on Catalina Island, drinking alcohol was among the most common ways to socialize with friends and family for Brianda Gonzalez. A turning point came in her life recently when a debilitating autoimmune disease nearly took her father’s life and she re-evaluated her relationship with alcohol.
She opened The New Bar in Venice, an in-person store and online marketplace that offers a wide range of NA beverages including CleanCo spirits, tools, products and information to help find what fits best with personal preferences for a sober lifestyle.
If you’re sober curious, looking for some local activities, the New Bar is open for a fun, dry challenge:
Brand-led tastings at The New Bar:
Oct. 14 – Figlia Friday, come have a spritz, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Oct. 16 – Acid League Proxies, come try the wine alternative that reaches way beyond the vineyard, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Meet the Author Of The Dry Challenge, Hilary Sheinbaum
Complimentary NA drinks and bites to toast the end of Sober October
When: Oct. 27, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: 1821 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, CA, 90291
NA Wine & Cheese Pairing Class with Hilary Kinzler (Food Network producer and local cheesemonger)
When:Oct. 20, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Where: 1821 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, CA, 90291
Tickets are $75/pp and available on TheNewBar.com
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