An In-Depth Look: Why Low ABV Drinks are Growing in Popularity

crowded bar with low abv drinks

If you’ve been to a bar or restaurant lately, you’ve likely noticed the steady growth of low ABV drinks on the beverage menu. From light beers and wines with only a low percentage of alcohol to creative cocktails like spritzes and sours, it’s clear that low ABV drinks have arrived.

But what is behind this trend of low proof anything? Why are these lower alcohol beverages becoming more popular? In this blog post we’ll take an in-depth look at why low ABV drinks are gaining traction, as well as show some examples of delicious low ABV choices.

Introducing the Rise of Low ABV Drinks

Low ABV drinks and the “mindful drinking” movement are becoming increasingly popular in bars and restaurants because they offer a low-risk, lower alcohol option for those who want to stay within their limits but still enjoy a delicious drink.

ABV stands for alcohol by volume, in other words, the concentration of alcohol in a particular beverage. Low ABV beverages typically have an alcohol content of 4.5 percent or less alcohol by volume. This means that you can still enjoy the flavor and experience of drinking without consuming as much alcohol as a classic cocktail or traditional alcoholic beverages.

Reasons why low alcohol drinks are becoming more popular among millennials

There are a few reasons why lower ABV drinks are becoming so popular among millennials. First, the rise of health-conscious diets and lifestyles has led many young people to opt for lower alcohol beverages. Low abv drinks offer a way to enjoy a beverage without overdoing it on calories or alcohol content.

Elder millennials are getting older, and with age comes less tolerance for consuming too much alcohol. Aka, hangovers might get worse for some people. Though, there is debate about this. Metabolism is tricky, and seems to vary based on many different factors.

This study suggests hangover severity declines with age, but pain sensitivity could be a factor. While this study tested rats and found a slower metabolism of acetaldehyde (the toxin enzymes turn alcohol into) in the older group.

Younger millennials likely have more Gen Z friends who just so happen to drink less than any recent generations, according to this 2021 Gallup Poll.

What does this mean for your favorite cocktails and beers?

The trend of cocktails with less alcohol has opened up a whole world of possibilities for bartenders and brewers alike. To capitalize on this growing market, many bars are now offering light beer options, as well as creative cocktails that feature lower alcohol content.

For example, you might not only see a “session” IPA on the menu, but some with even lower ABVs than usual, like 3-4%, and maybe even a craft non-alcoholic beer or two.

Cocktail recipes are getting a refresh, because there is more demand for light and refreshing drinks. So you’ll see more highball type beverages. 

Is there a correlation between the natural wine trend and low ABV drinks?

Natural wine is a fast-growing microcosm of the wine industry. The term “natural” is generally synonymous with the idea of low-intervention winemaking, but that’s a whole other subject.

Interestingly, a lot of natural wine has lower alcohol content than some more traditional styles. This is because many natural wines are made with minimal or no added sulfites and sugar, which allows the wine to retain more of its natural acidity and a lower ABV.

A Healthier Alternative – Why Cutting Back on Alcohol is a Smart Choice

It’s no secret that too much alcohol can be bad for your health. Cutting back on alcohol has been linked to improved mental clarity, better sleep patterns, and general improved well-being. Low ABV drinks allow you to enjoy a beverage while still knowing that you are making a healthier choice.

From weight loss to improved cognitive functions, there are many reasons to cut back on alcohol consumption. Low ABV drinks also offer a way to enjoy a beverage without feeling like you are missing out.

The negative effects of frequent long term alcohol consumption are plenty. Drinking low ABV beverages are often a first step for someone looking to cut back before making any drastic changes. 

How to Find the Best Drinks with the Lowest Alcohol Content

Low alcohol beverages have been popular for a while, which means you can find them many places. Many craft breweries and taprooms feature a selection of low ABV beers, from light lagers to fruity sours. Your local liquor store or bottle shop will likely have a variety of wines with low to no alcohol content as well.

If you’re looking for cocktails with fewer calories and less alcohol, many bars offer creative drinks that use ingredients like club soda, fruit juice, herbs, shrubs (a vinegar based concoction) and even non-alcoholic spirits like Seedlip.

Below are a few of our favorite ingredients and how to find low alcohol drinks. Links are to our reviews of them, how to use them, and where to buy them.

Alcohol Free Drinks

First, check out the article on the best ready-to-drink NA beverages, so you don’t have to spend time mixing. But if you’re feeling crafty, try Monday Gin, Seedlip Garden, and Ritual Tequila.

In the world of non-alcoholic wine, sparkling wine is best, and non-alcoholic red wine hasn’t really impressed yet.

Crafted under controlled fermentation to never create alcohol, some non-alcoholic beers are really impressive. Try Athletic Brewing if you’re new to NA beer. 

Low ABV Drinks

If you’re more interested in enjoying a low alcohol drink rather than a no-alcohol drink, you’ve got some decent options. Craft breweries usually have a low alcohol beer and ciders are an easy choice. 

Popular cocktails can also be made with less alcohol in various ways. If you’re at a bar, look for drinks that only have bitters and vermouth, and none of the high-proof spirits like gin, vodka, rum, or whiskey. Drinks that are highball style or mixed with a high volume of club soda are generally lower that cocktails that are spirit heavy. 

In the low ABV spirit category, everything is relative. Aside from non-alcoholic spirits, the lowest ABV spirits are generally Vermouth, Sake and Soju, but it really varies by product. 

Experiencing More Flavor with Low ABV Cocktails – Mixology Tips and Tricks

Once you’ve found a few ingredients to work with, it’s time to start experimenting with different flavors. Low ABV cocktails can be created with unique flavor combinations. Some classic recipes call for higher-alcohol spirits, but if you’re looking for something lighter and lower in alcohol, there are still options. 

Low ABV is technically relative. What’s your purpose? Are you trying to avoid your usual Negroni? Switch to a classic, the Americano – sweet vermouth and Campari, topped up with club soda. It’s a really great aperitif that has less alcohol than a Negroni.

There are lots of ways to lower your alcohol consumption, even when mixing drinks. Here are just a few:

  1. Use non-alcoholic spirits. You can either go half and half with alcoholic and non-alcoholic spirits in classic cocktails to reduce the ABV, or simply use the NA substitute spirits. Check out this list of classic cocktail recipes with non-alcoholic spirits.
  2. Craving a beer? Replace your usual with a non-alcoholic beer or a low ABV beer. NA craft beer is here to stay, and there are lots of great options. 
  3. Try a non-alcoholic sparkling wine. The best part? You can drink it anytime, like with your lunch salad on a work day!
  4. Dress up sparkling water, club soda and tonic water. Have fun with herbs, garnish, and fruit, and bitters like orange bitters. Ginger beer is a fun base too. 

FAQ

What is low ABV?

Low ABV stands for low alcohol by volume, which means a drink contains 4.5% or less alcohol by volume. The full range of ABVs varies, and all depends on your goals and what you consider to be “low.”

What drinks are low ABV?

Low ABV drinks can include session beers(3-5%), ciders, wines with low alcohol content (12-13%), craft non-alcoholic beers (0.5%) and mocktails made with non-alcoholic spirits (0.5%) or no spirits at all. 

Which liquor has the lowest ABV?

Spirits such as vodka, gin, whiskey, and tequila tend to have higher ABVs, usually ranging from 40-50%. Of course, there are exceptions to these numbers and some liquors may have much higher or lower ABV.

Some examples of low ABV spirits include Vermouth (14-20%) and Sake (15-17%) and Soju (13-50%). Ultimately, when choosing a liquor, it is important to check the label for the exact ABV content.

What cocktail has the lowest alcohol content?

ABV in a cocktail is dependent on how it’s made, how much spirit you put in, etc.

Spritzes and highballs are lower in alcohol content because sparkling wine and soda water dilute the booze without more alcoholic bitters being used. Of the classic cocktails, the Bloody Mary is probably one of the lowest ABV drinks, simply because of the ratio of tomato juice to vodka.

Conclusion

Low ABV drinks are becoming increasingly popular for a variety of reasons. From health-conscious diets to hangover prevention, there’s no denying the rise in popularity of low ABV drinks. If you’re looking for a lighter beverage, the options are endless – from craft beers and ciders to non-alcoholic spirits and creative cocktails. 

The best part? There are excellent choices for non-alcoholic spirits to help you cut back on the alcohol, whether it be for a drink, a day, or long term. 

Angela T.
Hi, I’m Angela! Ever since alternative beverages made their debut, I’ve been on a mission to find the best. As someone who loves wine and making craft cocktails, I approach each new beverage with curiosity and a healthy dose of skepticism. I hope these honest reviews will help you learn which non-alcoholic drinks are best for you.