Fran Zolin was guided by the maxim work hard, play hard (work a lot, play a lot, in free translation). “The habit of drinking a lot was already well ingrained in my life”, he recalls to PÚBLICO. It took covid-19 and a confinement to start questioning his relationship with alcohol and discover the movement. sober curious. In turn, Nadja Baldaconi was already considered a mindful drinker (ie someone who questions and weighs up the pros and cons before consuming alcohol). Together they discovered that the movement to extinguish alcohol from consumption habits is a trend and that, throughout Europe, there are non-alcoholic beverage stores. Hence, founding The Other Bottle, which opens its doors for the first time this Thursday, was a step.
But what is this movement that is at the base of the new store? In 2019, British Ruby Warrington published the book Sober Curious (no Portuguese translation) on the new trend of choosing not to drink to promote well-being. On his way to total sobriety in 2020, during the first confinement, Fran Zolin discovered the book and began researching the movement. He questioned the reasons why he consumed alcohol, even if he did it only socially. “People began to question themselves, like they questioned cigarettes, like they questioned the meat industry”, compares the 39-year-old manager, in a conversation with PÚBLICO.
At that time, she called her friend Nadja Baldaconi, who, like her, lived in London and had plans to move to Portugal. They started talking about it and found that the industry was following the trend and developing “higher and more sophisticated” non-alcoholic beverages. The trend had already exploded in the United States, the United Kingdom and even neighboring Spain, but in Portugal there was no such project, dedicated only to non-alcoholic beverages.
Coincidentally, during the confinement, Nadja, who worked in the field of marketing, had started the practice of mixology. “I’ve always been one to question what I consume, both food and drink, and to do things from the beginning”, explains the 36-year-old Portuguese-Brazilian. “I would like to do my alchemies at home, with herbs and spices”, he says.
“Different tastes, different sensations”
This is how Nadja Baldaconi made what she believes was her most important discovery: “When you consume these drinks [sem álcool], it’s not just a matter of not having a hangover, but you can feel the ingredients, different flavors, different sensations”. “It made me more willing to publicize this and offer it to other people”, he confesses.
And that’s precisely what the two friends did. They sought out small artisan producers to start a project to curate soft drinks. The store — is operating exclusively online until they find a space in Lisbon — offering 48 different drinks, from botanicals to gins, sparkling wines, aperol and beers, with prices ranging from €2.65 to €35. Fran Zolin and Nadja Baldaconi highlight the sparkling wines for the hottest days and the botanist Livener (€32.75).
Until now, they do not sell Portuguese drinks, but they have already challenged several national cider producers to develop an alcohol-free version. As all beverages are imported — even though they prioritize small artisanal producers —, for every purchase made, a tree will be planted, in partnership with the Tree-Nation association. Consumers also have the opportunity to make a donation in order to minimize the environmental footprint of their order.
an inclusive movement
Another of the main goals of the two members is to break the stigma around those who do not drink alcohol. “Usually when you say you’re not going to drink that day, people think you’re either taking medication or you’re pregnant,” laments Nadja Baldaconi. But they also don’t want to impose their lifestyle on anyone, warns, in turn, Fran Zolin: “We’re just giving another option”.
This option is for everyone who, for some reason, is not consuming alcohol, such as pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding, but also for those who are just looking for a healthier lifestyle, who are concerned about their health and are “very much in line trends”, they clarify. This is because the movement is “inclusive”, while “alcohol excludes layers of society”, stresses Fran Zolin.
By consuming non-alcoholic drinks, the two friends guarantee that the experience will be even better, because “what makes us happy is the experience and the ritual”, concludes Nadja Baldconi.