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Boozy office holiday parties are going out of fashion as workers sip mocktails, non-alcoholic wine instead

Lakshmi Varanasi   

Boozy office holiday parties are going out of fashion as workers sip mocktails, non-alcoholic wine instead
  • Companies and workers are cutting back on the alcohol at holiday parties.
  • Instead, they're swapping in booze-free options like mocktails and no-alcohol beers and wines.

This year, venture capital firm NFX kicked off its holiday party in San Francisco's Bay Area with a gift exchange. Attendees brought books of poetry, luxury hand soaps, and bottles of non-alcoholic beverages. These booze-free gifts seemed to set the tone for the evening, at least according to the firm's general partner Morgan Beller.

While some guests went on to prepare themselves drinks at the firm's built-in "speakeasy" (repurposed office closet), around half of the attendees decided to forgo alcohol, she said. It was a significant departure from the firm's get-together last year.

"It feels almost out of vogue to drink," she said.

It's a far cry from the stereotypyical boozy holiday parties of the past. The number of companies which were planning to serve alcohol at their holiday parties has seen a notable drop since last year, according to data from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Firms are also catering more creatively to those choosing not to drink. Instead of just soft drinks and seltzer, they're serving fresh juices and no-alcohol beers, wines, and spirits. It's also not uncommon for companies to request a signature mocktail for their holiday events, according to Emmanuelle Heyman, marketing manager for Deborah Miller Catering & Events, a catering company for corporate and social events across the metro New York area. (Business Insider's holiday party even had two mocktail choices).

To be clear, though — alcohol isn't out of the picture. Companies and individuals are still interested in having booze behind the bar, but are also asking, "'what are the non-alcoholic options?'" Heyman said.

The rise of holiday parties that cater thoughtfully to both drinkers and non-drinkers comes as younger workers, especially, cut back on alcohol since the pandemic. Among tech workers in San Francisco, at least, there's also a "straight line" between the popularity of Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist whose research highlights the harms of alcohol, and a decline in drinking, Beller said. Across the country, though, more people are replacing the drinks they might have on a weekday night with non-alcoholic alternatives, like a beer from Athletic Brewing Company or a mocktail with a spirit like Seedlip.

"Most of these products are targeting people who drink alcohol. They just don't want to do it all the time and at all occasions," according to Spiros Malandrakis, head of research for the alcoholic drinks division at market research firm Euromonitor.

People are also increasingly aware that getting buzzed at your office party in front of your colleagues (and bosses, and HR reps) isn't a good look, so are consciously stepping away from the bar. And for workers of all ages, the meaning of the holiday party has also changed as remote and hybrid work blur the lines between work and life.

"A lot of the parties are happening in offices, in the afternoons, because people are really used to spending time at home and cooking dinner for their families, so they don't want to be drinking," Heyman said.

For those companies throwing nighttime events where drinking is expected, there's value in having a couple of low or no alcohol alternatives on hand — especially when things get too wild.

Serving attendees a non-alcoholic beverage is an easy way to signal that someone has had too much to drink without having to say anything explicitly, Nick Bodkins, founder of specialty non-alcoholic retailer Boisson, told BI.

And for some people, parties are actually more fun when you go completely booze-free. At a holiday get-together that NFX's Beller attended with other tech workers before their work party, the unusual beverage highlight of the night was… peppermint chocolate bone broth.

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