ONE EVENING THIS SPRING AFTER A long workday, I called my friend Maggie and asked a question she’d heard a hundred times: “Want to grab a drink?” She let out an exasperated sigh. Yes, she did, but no, she couldn’t, because (as I well know) she’s pregnant. “I got you!” I said.

I excitedly informed her that a few new nonalcoholic bars—a mocktail lounge, a tea bar, and a kombuchary—had opened in Albuquerque’s greater Old Town area, and we were going on a bar crawl.

That three of these so-called sober bars have sprouted up around Old Town likely has to do with the ongoing revitalization of the neighborhood into a vibrant food and drink destination. The fact that they’ve all launched in just the last year, however, speaks to broader national trends. The number of sober bars, alcohol-free spirits brands, and nonalcoholic menu options at traditional bars and restaurants has increased exponentially in the last four years. After an initial upswing in alcohol consumption at the beginning of the pandemic, studies show that many Americans are now drinking less, with improved health cited as the top factor. According to one poll, a record 21 percent of U.S. adults said they abstained from alcohol for Dry January in 2024, which has given rise to new creative and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Luxe Lounge owners Isabella Owens, left, and Tayler Silva serve up nonalcoholic fun.

“We debuted a hop water [carbonated water steeped with hops] during Dry January this year,” says Chris Frigon, co-owner of Gravity Bound Brewing Co., in downtown Albuquerque. “It was so popular, we’re planning on adding more nonalcoholic options.”

As Maggie and I start our crawl at Luxe Lounge, a chic two-month-old mocktail parlor tucked on the west side of Old Town Plaza, I’m pleased to find that the bar looks like, well, a bar. Well-dressed patrons lounge on a green velvet sofa and at cocktail tables. The black and navy walls feature gold accents and pink neon signs. In the back, a blue beehive fireplace provides ambience, and a dormant DJ booth suggests dancing later that evening.

We grab two seats and survey the drink menu, which also resembles that of a traditional cocktail lounge. There are mojitos, martinis, and a whiskey sour, all with one major distinction—the liquors are “zero proof,” aka nonalcoholic.

Isabella Owens shakes things up at Luxe Lounge.

Since she’s drinking for two, Maggie opts for one of Luxe’s more decadent concoctions, A Lil’ Fruity (house-made clarified milk punch flavored with Froot Loops, fresh pineapple juice, almond syrup, and alcohol-free vodka). I go with The Hype Up, a chilled “whiskey,” espresso, and cream drink that arrives in a coupé glass looking and tasting very much like the frothy espresso martinis I know and love—nicely balanced and not overly sweet. “We don’t just replace booze with tons of sugar here,” says our bartender, Isabella Owens. “And we don’t make Shirley Temples.”

Owens co-owns Luxe with her business partner, Tayler Silva. Both age 22, they claim to be the youngest bar proprietors in New Mexico. The entrepreneurs belong to a generation that recent consumer research studies suggest is drinking 20 percent less than millennials, who are also drinking less than older generations. In part, Owens and Silva say they opened Luxe Lounge because they saw a lack of inclusive spaces to socialize without alcohol.

When Luxe hosts events like bridal showers, burlesque shows, and karaoke nights, Silva says, their customers clearly don’t need booze to let loose. “They act drunk but they’re not,” she chuckles. “People think if there’s no alcohol, there’s no fun, but we want to change that misconception.”

Owner Ryan Brown and Lost Cultures Tea Bar offer a community-minded space.

For the next stop on our non-booze cruise, Maggie and I land in the Sawmill District, where Lost Cultures Tea Bar began serving tea and tea-based mixed drinks last fall. The warm and sunny space has a coffee-shop-meets-brewery vibe with floor-to-ceiling windows, a kids’ play area, copious wood tables, colorful local art, a DJ station, and a large wraparound bar. There, someone has just ordered a beverage that’s on fire. “I’ll have what they’re having,” I say.

When my Ancient Fashioned arrives, the glass has a wood lid with a tiny piece of oak coated with cinnamon on top—which the bartender proceeds to torch. The smoke then enters the tumbler through a small hole, infusing the iced pu’erh tea, sugar, and orange bitters below. Wisps of the aromatic smoke escape as I lift the cover and take a sip. The beverage has an essence of whiskey, thanks to the woodsmoke and some bitter notes from the tea, but it’s lighter, more refreshing, and has a complex flavor profile all its own. Maggie, meanwhile, has ordered the frothy Smokey Rose, a pastel-pink blend of Lapsang souchong tea, grapefruit, lemon, rose simple syrup, and foaming bitters, served with a dried rosebud on top. Her eyes light up as its citrus and subtle rose flavors hit her tongue. She declares it “the perfect summer mocktail.”

“I don’t really use the word ‘mocktail,’ ” Lost Cultures owner Ryan Brown tells me later. The longtime bartender explains that his drink menu is less about providing nonalcoholic versions of classic cocktails and more about creating something new, with tea acting as the central component. “I love teahouses, but they can be formal and expensive,” he says. “I wanted to create a teahouse that was fun and casual, like a coffee shop, but could also be open late.”

Urbanmama505’s kombucha flight lets you try a little of everything.

Sober bars are popular, Brown says, because “there’s a lot more focus on people taking care of themselves—physically, mentally, interpersonally.” Having been sober for several years, he knows how frustrating it can be finding community and activities that don’t involve alcohol. “At least twice a week someone will come in and thank me for providing a completely nonalcoholic space,” he says. “There are people in recovery who can’t be around it, but they still want to hang out with their friends past 3 p.m.”

As we prepare to make a final stop at a kombucha and elixir bar west of downtown, Maggie decides she’s too exhausted to go on. Her departure may be for the best, since she would have had to order something besides a kombucha—fermented tea may have trace amounts of alcohol and is not generally recommended for pregnant people.

I have a little trouble finding Urbanmama505, located in an inconspicuous cement-block building on Central Avenue. But after I walk through a hallway and a pair of wood-engraved doors, I discover a bright and cheery taproom with high ceilings, an airy patio space, and an incredible custom-made live-edge wood countertop.

Urbanmama’s enthusiastic co-proprietor Julie Morrell greets me like we’re old friends and hands me a menu. When my kombucha flight arrives, each of the six samples contains unique flavors ranging from lime to lavender to rose hips. My favorite is the slightly bitter Black Guatemalan, a collaboration with the local Slow Burn Coffee shop that infuses organic black tea with a hint of cold-brew java.

Urbanmama505’s owners Ted Archuleta (who built the bar top) and Julie Morrell.

Morrell says the secret to her kombuchas are their base: Kangen alkaline water. “It’s six times more hydrating than regular water,” she claims, offering me a complimentary glass. In addition to ionized hydrogen water, Morrell is a big fan of adaptogens—herbs, roots, and other plant medicines that are said to boost relaxation, create euphoria, or give you a slight buzz.

At Urbanmama, Lost Cultures, and Luxe Lounge, you can dose drinks with substances like ashwagandha, reishi mushroom, maca, peppermint, and CBD, depending on the bar. “They take what the drink is already doing and raises the vibration higher,” Morrell says.

Since starting Urbanmama505 as a wholesale business 10 years ago, Morrell and her partner, Ted Archuleta, say they’ve embraced a healthier lifestyle. After opening their taproom last year, they’ve also noticed just how many other folks are also cutting back on booze. “Our culture is always saying, ‘What you drinkin’?’ ” says Morrell. “We want people to know that that doesn’t always have to mean alcohol.”

With my crawl at a close, I’m excited to take some inspiration from these new establishments. I’m kicking off summer patio season at home with these light, refreshing, and hangover-free drink recipes.

Read more: From Belén to Santa Fe, these innovators are redefining what it means to take produce from farm to table.

Zero-proof liquors are typically made using a process called fractional distillation, in which the alcohol is distilled out of a spirit but leaves behind its flavor and mouthfeel. Luxe Lounge co-owner Isabella Owens says she likes Ritual’s alcohol-free gin because the brand “makes it with juniper berries and botanicals, so it tastes like the real thing.”

  • ½ ounce egg white
  • ½ ounce orange simple syrup*
  • 1 drop nonalcoholic orange bitters
  • Ice
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • 1½ ounces Ritual Zero Proof Gin Alternative (or another zero-proof brand)
  • 2 ounces elderflower tonic water
  • Dried blood orange slice, for garnish

*If you can’t find orange simple syrup, make your own by combining 1 part fresh-squeezed orange juice, 1 part water, and 1 part sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool and store in the refrigerator.

  1. Add egg white, orange syrup, and bitters to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously.
  2. Add lime and gin. Shake.
  3. Strain liquid into a glass filled with ice, top off with elderflower tonic, and garnish with dried blood orange.

This twist on a tequila sour adds fruity flavor with fresh raspberries and pomegranate grenadine. “We only use fresh fruit and fresh-squeezed juices,” says Luxe Lounge co-owner Tayler Silva. “Many of our customers don’t drink alcohol for dietary reasons, so we try to keep our drinks as low-calorie and healthy as possible.”

  • ½ ounce egg white
  • ½ ounce fresh raspberries, muddled into a purée
  • ½ ounce lemon juice,
  • fresh-squeezed
  • Ice
  • ½ ounce Sugar Moon Syrups Grenadine
  • 1½ ounces Ritual Zero Proof Tequila Alternative
  • 3 whole raspberries, for
  • garnish
  1. Add egg white, raspberry purée, and lemon to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously.
  2. Add grenadine and tequila; shake.
  3. Strain into a glass and garnish with fresh raspberries.

This paloma-meets–Arnold Palmer–style cocktail is a new addition to Lost Cultures’ drink menu. It debuts this summer during a special pop-up dinner with chef David Ruiz featuring tea-cocktail pairings by Ryan Brown.

  • 3 ounces chamomile tea, cooled
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1 ounce agave syrup
  • Ice
  • Grapefruit soda
  • Salt or Tajín, for garnish
  1. Add tea, lime, and agave to a cocktail shaker filled with ice; shake.
  2. Strain into a salt- or Tajín- rimmed glass with ice. Top with grapefruit soda.