My Sober October: Five Years of Being Curious

Posted by John Wiseman on
JW Wiseman

Five years ago, I was petrified.

Five years ago, I pressed a button and my whole world changed.

Five years ago this week, Curious Elixirs launched on Kickstarter. That simple act was the culmination of years of kitchen-tinkering, ingredient-seeking, adaptogen research, and endless questioning about what life could be like with less alcohol.

Back then, there were no booze-free craft cocktails like Curious. There were no “non-alcoholic alternatives,” no “sober-curious” movement. Mentions of Sober October and Dry January were met with blank stares, eye rolls.

Many bartenders openly mocked anyone who requested a mocktail. Even now, my auto-correct changed “mocktail” to “cocktail” three times. I guess even our software has a pro-alcohol bias, like nearly every aspect of social culture. That's starting to change.

Our mission at Curious is to transform how we drink socially by making the world’s best non-alcoholic drinks. It was just a glimmer of an idea back then when our Kickstarter backers helped us start producing 500 bottles a week in a commercial kitchen on Main Street in Beacon, New York.

Curious Questions

How did we end up creating booze-free craft cocktails infused with adaptogens and help jump-start the non-alcoholic and alcohol alternatives industry?

By asking questions and watching our minds shift, questions turn to ideas, some of which gain unstoppable momentum.

A small change in mindset can sometimes end up changing our culture. Indeed it has always been so. Take the past century's social progress or any of the marvels of our technological age. All of them began with a "what if" moment.

We seek to encourage these questions and more inquiry into how we want life to be. That’s why we’re called Curious.

After a years-long love affair with high-octane cocktails and intriguing flavors, I became curious about how life with less booze would feel. 

It felt great, but my mouth wanted more. More than what it found out in the world when it came to sophisticated adult drinks.

Then another question came:

  • What could we create that was delicious and new, yet curiously reminiscent of our favorite craft cocktails? 

From that idea sprouted even more questions:

  • What if they could have no refined sugar and all real ingredients, as organic as possible?
  • What if we could infuse them with the power of different herbs and adaptogens to boost the body and soothe the mind without alcohol?
  • What if they were shipped straight to your house? Or available at our favorite bar, restaurant, concert venue, or comedy club? (Suggest your favorite spot here, thanks!)

All these questions were followed by experiments, learning, tinkering, testing.  Five years later, we still have more questions than answers. But we're making progress =)


What a difference five years makes!  

Fast forward to today, the first day of Sober October, and over a million Curious Elixirs have been served at homes, offices, weddings, nightclubs (House of Yes!), and some of the world’s best restaurants (Cote, Daniel, The French Laundry).  

We've started having member events at Club Curious, our sober speakeasy in Brooklyn and our latest elixir, Curious No. 6 is nearly finished.

Massive Consumer Shifts, Industry Adapts

More and more restaurants are including non-alcoholic sections on their drink menus—serving customers better and making more money because of it—and even the grumpiest barkeeps are changing their tunes.

Millions of people are re-evaluating their relationship with alcohol. Many are waking up to tangible benefits of drinking less or not at all. Many are seeing that life can be even more fun, more unexpected, with less or no booze.

The main reason for these seismic changes in drinking culture has little to do with Curious Elixirs themselves. We were just the first to tap into a new idea that was just under the surface—a deep desire to enjoy life with less booze and more options.

So thank you, each and every person who has bought some Curious, pointed us in the right direction, given feedback, or helped spread the word. Thanks to everyone above and the too-many-to-count friends, customers, and colleagues who’ve made all things Curious happen! 

Five years later--and we hope many more to come--the lesson here is simple: ask questions, and together we can shift the world… one sip at a time.
  • JW aka Curious Agent No. 1

  • P.S. Just like every team call with our small but mighty Curious team, we want to give some specific shout-outs: 

    • Every single person on the Curious team, from the farmers to bottlers to warehouse to our customers, we <3 you.
    • Martha Stewart for letting me borrow her confidence. (That story for another post.)
    • Jason + Chic Schuler
    • Leiti Hsu
    • Ashley Simon
    • Rachel Drori
    • Amanda Schutzbank
    • Kat Eller
    • Laura Thomas
    • Ruby Warrington
    • Meghan Kelleher
    • Julia Bainbridge
    • Courtney Boyd Myers
    • Katie Nelson
    • Christina Nalval
    • Trevor Williams
    • Kevin Denton
    • Holly Whitaker
    • Wes Haddon
    • Timothy Philipps
    • Kiran Malhotra
    • Pamela Spiegel + Shari Bayer
    • Refinery 29, Thrillist, NY Times, WSJ, Esquire, Well & Good, countless others
    • Shark Tank, Summit (CBM et all!), Lightning Society, Flow & Tell
    • All our restaurant, event and venue partners
    • Special final shoutout for the countless other sober activists and enthusiasts. You all make it possible for everyone to see how life can be with more choice and intention!
    • All of you who are reading this… and doing the work.

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