Cheers to Dry January and Beyond

CōV and founders of Zero Proof Collective
Co-founders of Zero Proof Collective are changing the Twin Cities non-alcoholic beverage scene.

Every year, millions of Americans and others worldwide participate in Dry January, a month of intentionally abstaining from alcohol after increased consumption around the holidays. It’s a movement that sprung up in the 2010s as the result of a public health initiative by British charity Alcohol Change UK. According to Richard Piper, the CEO of the charity, Dry January is a way to show oneself that alcohol isn’t necessary to have fun, relax or socialize.

In the past two years, this movement has become more popular than ever, as alcohol consumption increased during COVID-19, with a survey conducted by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reporting that participants cited higher stress, more alcohol availability and boredom as driving factors.

But it’s not just due to COVID. Culturally, alcohol is everywhere. Social gatherings so often revolve around alcohol—whether it’s a work happy hour, backyard barbecue, holiday party, milestone celebration or even 5K runs where breweries will hand out free beer to participants. Even movie theaters now offer alcoholic beverages rather than just pop.

So, where does that leave those participating in Dry January—or even those who don’t drink year-round? While more bars and restaurants are offering non-alcoholic (NA) beverages that aren’t just club soda with lime, there’s still a lack of elevated beverage options for those looking to celebrate or enjoy a night out, sans alcohol.

That’s where Zero Proof Collective (ZPC) comes in. Edina resident Cate Faulkner connected with Jen Gilhoi of Minneapolis last March over their shared sobriety. “A matter of complete coincidence, both Cate and I have sobriety dates within three days of each other, eight years ago,” Gilhoi says. They both decided to quit drinking in 2014 for the same reason: Alcohol was getting in the way of their lives. Gilhoi knew Faulkner’s daughter, Callan, through a business networking group, and after hearing about Gilhoi’s passion for the NA beverage industry, she said, “You have to meet my mom!”

You could say the rest is history for the two co-founders of ZPC, who started the company in the spring of 2022—but they’re really just getting started. Their goal? To help people connect over NA drinks through gatherings and events, and to lift up the NA beverage industry to help it grow—one menu at a time. Faulkner’s dream is that every bar, restaurant and event around the Twin Cities would have NA cocktails that are thoughtfully crafted and lower in sugar and calories.

Co-founders of Zero Proof Collective, Cate Faulkner and Jen Gilhoi, at Cōv in Edina.Co-founders of Zero Proof Collective, Cate Faulkner and Jen Gilhoi, at Cōv in Edina.

Through ZPC, they’re working with restaurants and bars to educate on what thoughtfully crafted NA beverages look like on a menu, as well as changing the culture that surrounds NA beverages and choosing not to drink.

The reason they are passionate about both menu options and community? They want people to feel included and welcomed in social spaces without feeling pressured to drink alcohol. “We continue to be asked ‘Why aren’t you drinking?’” Gilhoi says. “This has always felt judgmental and noninclusive. As our drinking culture evolves, we are encouraging everyone to practice acceptance of those choosing not to drink—on occasion or not at all.” She notes that a judgment-free acknowledgement that “it’s okay for anyone, anywhere, for whatever reason to not drink alcohol,” will help normalize not drinking or simply drinking less.

Through ZPC, Gilhoi and Faulkner are also educating sober and sober-curious individuals, as well as business leaders. “We are educating consumers, so they know what they’re looking at on the nonalcoholic menu and can specifically and intelligently ask for more elevated options when they are out in a social setting,” Gilhoi says. “Consumers are an important part of driving change. By making their voices heard, restaurants will respond with better nonalcoholic options and ... [a] culture that feels welcoming to nondrinkers.”

Faulkner agrees. “The most important thing people can do to support the NA movement is to ask for more NA options,” she says.

But part of social acceptance and industry changes requires social spaces to evolve to support consumers’ choice to not drink. This topic is the foundation of Gilhoi’s TEDx Talk, Sober Not Somber: An Enlightening Way to Evolve Drinking Culture, which she gave at the 2022 TEDxEdina.

Bars or restaurants may have a NA beverage menu, but Gilhoi says if servers don’t understand why a person would choose not to drink or don’t offer and serve them with the same enthusiasm as an alcoholic drink, people can feel marginalized or less than. “Educating servers about the growth of the NA beverage industry, why it is important to many of their guests [and] how it fits into the flow of service is essential in order to see revenue and tips from NA beverages,” Gilhoi says.

But Gilhoi and Faulkner don’t expect this change to happen organically. That’s why they’re working alongside bars and restaurants in the Twin Cities—like CōV Edina—to help develop elevated NA drink recipes.

While they are both sober, Gilhoi and Faulkner reiterate that they aren’t anti-alcohol by any means. “At Zero Proof Collective, we are not taking anyone’s alcohol away!” Faulkner says. “We are coming from a place of abundance and simply asking for more thoughtfully crafted nonalcoholic choices at bars, restaurants, events and all social gatherings in the Twin Cities.” However, when it comes to NA drinks, she adds: “We want options!”

Raise a Glass

This past summer, Faulkner attended Sans Bar Academy, put on by Chris Marshall of Sans Bar in Austin, Texas, who opened the first NA bar in the U.S. in 2017. She received training on creating elevated zero-proof cocktails. This lead Faulkner to develop a collection of NA cocktail recipes—including two cocktails for CōV in Edina to help expand its NA drink menu.

Makes one zero-proof cocktail

Berry, Berry CōV

  • 3/4 cup of ice (melts to 3 oz.)
  • 2 oz. Abstinence Cape Citrus premium distilled nonalcoholic spirit
  • 2 oz. pureed fresh strawberries, unsweetened
  • 2 oz. unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 2 tsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. pure maple syrup
  • 2–3 drops of liquid monkfruit or other healthy sweetener
  • 2 oz. carbonated water

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake well. Pour into 12 oz. highball glass and garnish with a sprig of mint and a whole fresh strawberry.

Bright & Windy
Makes one zero-proof cocktail

  • 3/4 cup of ice (melts to 3 oz.)
  • 2 oz. Ritual Gin Alternative
  • 4 oz. ginger beer
  • 2 tsp. fresh lime juice
  • 2.5 oz. carbonated water

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker, and shake well. Pour into 12 oz. highball glass, and garnish with a lime wheel and three juniper berries.

Get Involved

Want to dip your toe into the nonalcoholic community for Dry January and beyond? Zero Proof Collective’s mission is to “promote and create spaces where nonalcoholic beverages are discussed, thoughtfully crafted, served and celebrated with acceptance as they bring community together, educate, evolve culture and increase revenue in the NA industry.” This comes to life in a couple of ways:

ZPC CONNECT is for business leaders and those interested in the NA beverage industry to connect, collaborate and share resources with the intent to advance zero-proof options, experiences and social spaces.

ZPC NA EVENTS includes “ZPC NA Happier Hours” and highlights other NA events around the Twin Cities to expand the community of those who have expressed their desire for more NA options.

ZPC EDUCATE is a workshop for restaurant and event staff illustrating the many aspects of non-alcoholic beverages and how they can increase revenue.

Zero Proof Collective
Facebook: Zero Proof Collective
Instagram: @zeroproofcollective

CōV Edina
3155 Galleria; 952.999.4011
Facebook: CōV Edina
Instagram: @cov_restaurants