Sober Nation

Sexy mocktails, zero-alcohol beer and boozeless bars are everywhere. Why it’s never been cooler (or easier) to go alcohol-free.

BY CAITLIN WALSH MILLER PHOTOGRAPHY BY ASHLEY VAN DER LAAN NON-ALCOHOLIC COCKTAILS MADE AND SHOT AT VELA IN TORONTO

May 21, 2024

It used to be hard to find a decent non-alcoholic drink for grown-ups besides soda and juice. I became acutely aware of this during the summer of 2016, while on my fourth date in Montreal with Jeremy, my now-husband. He had been sober for five years, after a decade of drinking and drugs that culminated in an intervention, two months in rehab and well over 1,000 AA meetings. That night, when he asked about booze-free beverage options, our waiter looked shaken. “Sir,” he said, “this is a bar.” Retail options were no better. Once, before visiting my sisters in Toronto, Jeremy and a very-pregnant me ran around trying to track down non-alcoholic beer. I rejoiced when we finally located a case of Heineken 0.0 at Shoppers Drug Mart. (Of all the ginless joints...). 

The times, they are a-changin’. This spring, Jeremy and I left our two kids with a sitter and set out on a dry pub crawl. We started our evening with zesty non-alcoholic amaro mules at the one-year anniversary party of Apéro à zéro, a booze-free boutique in Montreal’s Hochelaga neighbourhood whose name more or less translates to “mocktail hour.” After making some purchases—including faux-margaritas-in-a-can from the Quebec brand Bluff—we headed to Le Majestique, a spot known for its natural wine list and $23 hot dog, but that should be known for its hibiscus lemonade. We finished at Cicchetti, which had Italian tapas and no fewer than 10 non-alc items on the menu. I chose the Fumigène, a spicy-smoky tequila alternative, while Jeremy ordered the Fritz, a Negroni made with de-alcoholized vermouth. Now, this was a bar.

Jeremy and I aren’t the only ones revelling in the abundance of new zero-proof drinks. More and more Canadians are rethinking their relationships with alcohol, whether taking a night, a week or a month off—or dropping it completely. According to a 2023 poll, a quarter of Canadian respondents aged 18 to 34 abstained from alcohol in the previous month, up from 17 per cent in 2018. Another survey by Tinder found that a third of respondents in the same age range planned to participate in Dry January this year. If you ask Gen Z, binge is cringe.

On the business side, hundreds of low- and no-alcohol products have recently flooded the market. International giants like Tanqueray, Corona and Guinness have released their own zero-proof offerings, but many others are homegrown—and they’re good. Domestic brewers like Libra and Harmon’s make near-beers that approximate the real deal, while Proxies, a hip wine alternative out of Toronto, is set to debut a peppery red later this year. Alcohol-free online marketplaces, bottle shops, menus, bars and social clubs (many with their own merch) have emerged from Whitehorse to Halifax, meaning non-drinkers no longer have to hole up at home with La Croix. Sobriety is having a full-on moment. 

Canada’s always been a pretty boozy country. Around 80 per cent of us drink—a stat that’s remained consistent since the ’80s—and we do so in volumes almost twice the global average. No surprise, then, that the sobriety fad didn’t start here. Ironically, it kicked off in the pub-loving United Kingdom, where, by 2012, alcohol use had dropped by roughly a quarter from an all-time high in the early aughts. The reasons? Stricter laws around sales of booze to minors and rising immigration from majority non-drinking nations. 

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The birth of the modern non-alc market came in 2015, courtesy of Ben Branson, a teetotal marketing executive whose family farmed in the English county of Lincolnshire for centuries. After stumbling upon The Art of Distillation, a 17th-century book that details how apothecaries produced herbal remedies, Branson bought a small copper still and got to tinkering. 

The result was Seedlip, the world’s first non-alcoholic spirit, which Branson launched at Selfridges London. It caught on quickly with upscale bars and restaurants, star chefs like Gordon Ramsay, and spirit colossus Diageo, owner of Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker. Within seven months of its debut, Seedlip became the first zero-proof brand in Diageo’s 200-strong portfolio and 257-year history. (Today, it’s the bestselling boozeless spirit in the U.S.)

Social mores around drinking also evolved throughout the 2010s, the decade when wellness culture—gluten-free diets, CBD-infused everything and meditation apps like Headspace—really took root. Quit Lit, a new book genre best described as “memoir-slash-self-help” and largely written by Gen X women, picked apart our collective obsession with alcohol and our suspicion of abstainers. In the Quit Lit classic This Naked Mind, author Annie Grace describes alcohol as “the only drug on Earth you have to justify not taking.”


DRINK MENU: The no- and low-alcohol market, worth US$13 billion in 2023, is packed with non-alcoholic alternatives for rum, bitters and tequila (above at Bevvy’s bottle shop in Toronto)

At the same time, the very concept of sobriety was shifting from a binary to a full-blown spectrum. Suddenly, there were “mindful drinkers” (who check in with themselves before ordering), “sober-curious” folks (who say no most of the time), the “California sober” (who say no to booze but yes to weed) and “zebra-stripers” (who alternate between mojitos and faux-jitos in a single night). Even the calendar changed: an Australian youth health organization launched Sober October in 2010, followed by Dry January in the U.K. in 2013. Dry Feb arrived in 2016, a creation of the Canadian Cancer Society. 

Keen to cater to all manner of sober orientations, brands, big and small, pumped out new products. By 2019, the global no- and low-alcohol wine, beer and spirits market had surpassed US$8 billion, a fraction of the alcohol market (US$1 trillion), but not bad for a vertical that didn’t meaningfully exist a few years earlier. 

As zero-proof producers like Ritual, Drink Monday and Lyre’s started giving Seedlip some competition, the boozeless buzz infiltrated Canada in the form of Sobrii and Lumette, the country’s first spirit alternatives. Then came another 2019 milestone: Canada’s count of drinkers hit a 25-year low. Disruption was in the air, even before a speed bump shaped like a coronavirus sent our consumption patterns spiralling.

It was always just there. That’s how the people I interviewed for this story described alcohol, as a constant presence whether they were celebrating, commiserating or just existing. Got a new job? Drinks. Lost your job? Drinks! Made it to Thursday? Definitely drinks. (In Quebec, that’s called jeudredi.) On special occasions, like a cottage weekend or even a child’s birthday party, mimosas, Irish coffees and Caesars—a Canadian invention—are normalized if not mandatory. But if there was ever a time to re-evaluate “normal,” the pandemic was it.

In COVID’s first year, 22 per cent of Canadians drank less, mostly due to lack of opportunity. A few more of us (24 per cent) upped our intake. The more stressful, boring or lonely someone found the cataclysm, the more likely they were to imbibe, and boy, those who did, did some damage: enough booze was sold between 2020 and 2021 to serve every citizen of legal age nearly 10 standard drinks every week, or fill 1,272 Olympic swimming pools. Of the Canadians who reported drinking more, more were binging. 

Cameron Penner, an Ottawa-based public and government relations consultant, was among them. In COVID’s early days, he and his wife, Elizabeth, instituted a rule: no drinking from Sunday to Thursday. “But that seemed to justify having a lot on Friday and Saturday,” he says. A couple of martinis to demarcate the end of another remote workweek, then wine with dinner, then beer or scotch—they’d wake up feeling not-so-great on Saturday, but it didn’t feel like a crutch. Just a weekend. 

A switch flipped in the summer of 2022, when Elizabeth caught an instalment of The Huberman Lab, the enormously popular health podcast by Stanford neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, about the effects of alcohol on the human body. In Apple Podcasts’ second-most shared episode of the year, Huberman explains how, as a water- and fat-soluble substance, alcohol permeates all of our cells and tissues. It gets metabolized by the liver, from ethanol to acetaldehyde to acetate, the last of which is harmless and gets excreted. Ethanol and acetaldehyde, however, slip past the blood-brain barrier and disrupt our neural circuitry. Thinking, planning and memory storage dip, while feelings of relaxation and disinhibition increase—until they rebalance. (Hello, morning-after hang-xiety.) What most shocked Penner was how little was needed to wreak havoc. Seven to 14 drinks a week is linked to neurodegeneration, whether spaced out or downed all at once. “We were way over the limit of what was considered healthy,” he says. “That blew my mind.” 

Here are some more neural circuitry–disrupting facts: alcohol causes nearly 7,000 cancer deaths in Canada each year, along with approximately 15,000 preventable deaths and 90,000 preventable hospital admissions. It increases the risk of heart disease—yes, even red wine. (Those “a glass a day keeps coronaries at bay” studies tend to be written by authors funded by Big Booze.) And every time we drink, a few liver cells die, which can eventually lead to life-threatening cirrhosis. Then there are the bar fights, intimate partner violence, sexual assaults and traffic accidents. In 2020, alcohol use cost the country nearly $20 billion in health care, criminal justice enforcement and lost productivity, more than the combined expense of tobacco and other psychoactive substances, including opioids and cannabis. 


WHAT ALES US: The fastest-growing segment of the no-lo market? Beer, the country’s unofficial national drink (pictured above, second and third shelves).

A podcast may have had the biggest influence over the Penners’ decision to cut down—to one or two drinks, and still only on weekends—but policy-wise, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction has the last word on responsible intake. The CCSA, an NGO made up of scientists, policy analysts and addiction specialists, is tasked with communicating the harms of alcohol and other drugs to the public and telling us how much we can safely ingest. From 2011 until last year, the CCSA’s low-risk drinking guidelines capped women and men at 10 and 15 drinks a week, respectively—numbers that seem positively bacchanalian in retrospect. Its report in January of 2023, funded by Health Canada, landed with a boom: no amount of alcohol was safe. If we were going to drink, two should be our weekly max.

The CCSA’s new limit was tough for Canadians to swallow; at first, many of us literally didn’t believe it. More than half of respondents to a March of 2023 Ipsos poll claimed the recommended limit was “fear-mongering” and so low that “it lacked credibility.” (Which stage of grief is denial?) “What do I do after the first half-hour?” asked one commenter on a viral TikTok of a “heartbroken Ontarian man.” He declared the guidelines not feasible—not in this country. Other critics compared the CCSA to a modern-day temperance lobby. 

Still, the report marked a point of no return. Canadians could no longer write off their glasses of red as restorative. We couldn’t unknow the dangers of drinking or say no one warned us. Tim Naimi, director of the University of Victoria’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, or CISUR, helped author the new guidelines.“Alcohol is losing its health halo,” he says. The CCSA’s report also called on Health Canada to suggest serving sizes and slap alcohol products with warning labels, as regulatory changes typically have more sway than doctor-to-patient advice. 

 As part of a 2017 pilot project, CISUR put warning labels on alcohol containers at a liquor store in Whitehorse. Sales of labelled products dropped by almost seven per cent, but the initiative was soon halted due to pushback. “The alcohol industry in Canada is very powerful and very good at lobbying,” Naimi says. In a world of curbside and convenience store pick-up and “buck-a-beer” political platforms (thanks, Doug Ford), if Canadians want to break up with our favourite vice, we’ll have to buck the bureaucracy and do it ourselves. Many of us are already.

I first noticed people talking about going off the sauce in my circle—and on my social feeds—a year and a half ago. I decided to write a short piece about it, but when I poked around for sources, I got three responses. This time, I received more than three dozen. I spoke with a high school friend who’d just quit alcohol and weed and someone who quit after a disastrous booze-fuelled trip with an ex. I spoke to a bunch of nearly everyday drinkers—a former colleague, a friend of a friend, a stranger who found me on LinkedIn—who’d cut down considerably. I even talked to my dad, who drank to excess for most of his life, then stopped abruptly after he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy.

Everyone’s story was different; everyone’s story was the same. Almost no one identified as having an alcohol-use disorder, though some said they might’ve ended up there. Many started with a sober month and just kept going. They had more time and energy (“The gym is open on Sunday mornings—did you know that?”). Some had more cash (“It’s not just the booze; it’s the DoorDash deliveries the next day”). No one wanted to deal with two-day hangovers. And some compared sobriety to a superpower or, weirdly, a drug (“like popping a pill”). 

Ditching drinking in your personal life is one thing. But for sober folks seeking to socialize with a like-minded community, until recently, Alcoholics Anonymous felt like the only game in town. The 12-step program has a lot going for it, namely that it’s free and it’s everywhere. It’s saved countless lives, including my husband’s. But AA hasn’t evolved much since it was founded in 1935: the Big Book, its foundational text, still includes a chapter entitled “To Wives,” because the program was designed by men, for men. There are now queer meetings and women’s groups, but not everyone feels comfortable in “the rooms.” Not everyone feels the need to quell their ego. Plus, it can all be kind of heavy.    

Thankfully, other sober (and sober-curious) socializing opportunities are springing up. Montreal’s Le Sober Club was founded in 2022 by Katherine Caisse-Roy and Simon Charbonneau. The two first met 10 years ago—in a bar, naturally. “I was his bartender and thought he was cute,” says Caisse-Roy. Charbonneau, a social drinker, quit alcohol in 2019 on doctor’s orders after experiencing some abdominal pain. Caisse-Roy’s path to sobriety was less clear-cut. After she was given her first sip of maple whisky at eight, she partied through her teens and 20s before sobering up in the fall of 2020, at the age of 32. Caisse-Roy found Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous useful, but felt out of place after a few meetings. “Some people were just getting out of prison,” she says. “That wasn’t my reality.” 

Caisse-Roy searched for more upbeat sober hangs and found groups like Sober Girl Society in London, No Booze Babes in the U.S. and, here at home, Sober Babes Vancouver. They organized book swaps, boxing classes, pottery nights and drag shows, and their bubblegum branding and relatable social media presences made not drinking look decidedly cool. Inspired, Caisse-Roy and Charbonneau launched Le Sober Club two springs ago. Their first event was a witchy afternoon of meditation in a Montreal park. 

In short order, the club has amassed a couple thousand Instagram followers, an active Discord community where members trade recipes and a monthly discussion group. “It’s a place where we can talk openly about our sobriety,” says Caisse-Roy. “No strict rules, no judgment.” Jeremy and I attended a discussion group one Monday this past spring in an old Montreal garment factory. Eight of us chatted about cravings, hangovers and cocaine, but also kids, dating and A&W sandwiches—over some delicious de-alcoholized sparkling wine. Said one new joiner: “My people! Where have you been?” 

SMART SERVE: Bars across Canada now offer abundant mocktail options, like the Placebo Maid (above), on offer at Vela in Toronto

The answer, aside from “at home,” used to be: white-knuckling it with tonic and lime at bars. Now, that scene is becoming more sober-friendly, too, thanks to some industry mavericks. When Robin Goodfellow, the all-star Toronto bartender and restaurateur behind Ursa and Bar Raval, opened his cocktail joint, PrettyUgly, in October of 2016, he wanted to have a solid non-alcoholic suite. “I have a lot of friends who don’t drink because they’re in recovery or for religious reasons,” he says. “But they have good palates. I didn’t want to just serve them Perrier.” This was pre-Seedlip, so Goodfellow spent months developing bitters, non-alcoholic vermouths and liqueurs from scratch. 

Early in 2017, he launched PrettyUgly’s Placebo Menu; the word “mocktail” was nowhere to be found. “Zero-proof cocktails were already the black sheep of the drinks list,” Goodfellow says. “ ‘Mocktail’ just invites comparison, when these drinks are their own, fully realized things.” At first, would-be customers popped their heads inside, asking, “Is this the sober bar?” in hushed tones. Some fought Goodfellow on his prices—a Diet Coke cost $3, so why was his non-alcoholic martini worth $11? “People complained, like, ‘Why is this so expensive? It doesn’t even get you drunk!’ ” Goodfellow says. “Caviar doesn’t get you full. Neither do oysters or A5 Wagyu beef. The price reflects the preparation—and the deliciousness.” 

PrettyUgly became a hotspot for Toronto’s sober-curious set before it was forced to close during the pandemic, but Goodfellow soon took his concoctions across the city to Vela, the Michelin-recommended restaurant he co-founded in 2021. His current six-placebo lineup is priced between $14 and $16 and includes the Amalfi Spritz, a summery fave made with zero-proof rosé. Goodfellow has noticed that patrons no longer quibble about cost. “I think it’s partly a health-consciousness thing—not healthy like an açai berry, obviously,” he says. “Ultimately, it’s just dollars for a tasty drink.”

The most intriguing customer demographic might be Gen Z, even if roughly a third of them are still underage. If Gen X writers transformed conversations around sobriety, and a bunch of millennials caught on and cut down, Gen Zs are ensuring the global alcohol-free movement moves forward. Nearly 75 per cent of Canadians 15 to 19 years old drank in 2008. By 2019, it dropped to 46 per cent. In Europe, young people are spending less on booze, and in Australia, more are abstaining altogether. Of the Gen Zs I interviewed, most summarized their friends’ reactions to their sobriety as a tolerant “you do you.”

Given that alcohol is an expensive toxin that messes with our insides, the zoomers’ ambivalence toward it makes sense. There are other, more ephemeral reasons. Broadly speaking, members of Gen Z grew up with baseline mental-health literacy, they’re more risk-averse and less financially secure than their predecessors, and they’re the least likely generation to hang out in person, instead leveraging another powerful social lubricant: smartphones. If and when they do go out, this demo could use some new, alcohol-free ways of blowing off steam.

Enter Jacques Martiquet, also known as “The Party Scientist.” Martiquet, a sober 28-year-old UBC alumnus, has been hosting hyperkinetic boozeless gatherings in B.C. since 2015, the final year of his pharmacology degree. Throughout undergrad, Martiquet worked as a medic at campus parties and music festivals, where he witnessed countless examples of overconsumption. “It made me sad that one of the main ways we have fun is by drinking in a loud environment that’s not designed for human connection,” Martiquet says. “I wanted to change that culture.”

So far, Martiquet’s sober outings have included playground hops, beach crawls and raves, which Martiquet organizes via an 1,800-member WhatsApp group. People show up by the hundreds—non-
drinkers, adventure seekers, health nuts and tourists keen to do something different in Vancouver. Though his events are all-ages, and he missed the Gen Z cutoff by just a year, Martiquet believes this cohort, so used to bonding through screens, are prime candidates for new opportunities to socialize without leaning on liquid courage. “Alcohol’s good at reducing some people’s self-consciousness,” he says, “but there are so many other ways to do that.”

Gen Zs aren’t just the vanguard of this brave new non-alcoholic world—they’re also big fans of the merchandise. A 2023 report by the online alcohol marketplace Drizly found that nearly a quarter of zoomer and millennial respondents drank non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits often, compared to six per cent of Gen Xers and one per cent of boomers. With the no- and low-alcohol market valued at US$13 billion as of 2023—and expected to grow by a third by 2026—young Canadians might be the industry’s best hope for continued buyers. And they’re spoiled for choice. 

Small-batch producers initially dominated the market, but now mega-brands are getting in on the alcohol-free action. Surely there’s no greater sign of zero-proof going mass-market than White Claw’s full-circle brand evolution. On January 1, the company that kicked off the hard seltzer craze introduced a non-alcoholic version. (So, a seltzer, you ask? No. It still tastes boozy.) Not ready for the White Claw revolution? There are now non-alc varieties from old standbys like Tanqueray and Captain Morgan’s. Canada got access to Corona Sunbrew in 2022 and Guinness 0.0 last fall.

As chain retailers were figuring out where to put all that new non-alc product—which stores did it belong in? Which aisle?—online marketplaces flourished. When Quebec’s Upside Drinks launched in early 2022, it was fulfilling orders from one of the founders’ basements; they’ve since upgraded to a 4,000-square-foot warehouse. Upside is now easily the largest online non-alc retailer in the country, but there’s no shortage of smaller digital storefronts: Soft Crush, Sansorium, Dry Variety and Designated Drinks have all opened since 2021. 

TOP SHELF: Bevvy's, a booze-free bottle shop, opened earlier this year in Toronto's Kensington Market neighbourhood. The shop's shelves are stocked with non-alcoholic options of all sorts: fancy sparkling waters, adaptogen-infused drinks, non-alcoholic wines and more.

For those who still prefer real-life retail, booze-free bottle shops are proliferating, like Bevvy’s, near Toronto’s Kensington Market, and Sobr Market in Winnipeg (and Toronto). In Vancouver, Drive Canteen, an elevated convenience store concept, has doubled its non-alcoholic shelf space since opening during the pandemic. This past March, an alcohol-free liquor store called Mocktails opened right across the street. 

Perhaps the most promising way for Canada to go from non-alcoholic market laggard to leader is by focusing on what we drink best: beer, the fastest-growing segment of the no-lo market. Brewers like Coors and Becks had been selling booze-free beers since the ’90s, but they weren’t great. (For years, production involved brewing regular beer, then boiling off or filtering out the ethanol—along with the flavour, aroma and general beeriness.) In 2018, Athletic, a craft brewery in Connecticut, turned the market on its not-so-foamy head with a new proprietary method, resulting in a fully fermented, very beery drink that just happened to be incredibly low in alcohol.

Bockale was the first Canadian NA craft beer to hit shelves in 2016, and other competitors are popping up­—including one from Steve Abrams, co-founder of Mill Street Brewery. Abrams spent decades steeped in beer, but he was well aware of its health impacts, especially on brewers themselves. “It’s not a great sign when a 20-year-old has gout,” he says. Abrams did the odd abstinence stint, scratching the itch with available near-beers. But it wasn’t until a 2019 family trip to San Diego that Abrams discovered the thriving non-alcoholic craft scene down south. To his surprise, booze-free beer was big business in Spain and Germany, too. “Canadians are risk-averse, always a little late to the table,” says Abrams. Non-alc beer, eh? “A little lightbulb went off,” he says.

Back at home, Abrams enlisted Rob Doyle, Mill Street’s former head brewer, to help him experiment with different strains of yeast. They met once a month at “the boardroom”—a Toys R Us parking lot in Etobicoke, Ontario—for tasting sessions. Growler by growler, they edged closer to a product that captured the essence of a beer they’d actually want to drink. Six months in: jackpot. Or rather, Jack Pine, a citrusy pale ale. By November of 2021, they’d added a hazy IPA and a light lager to the lineup and were ready to sell their products as Harmon’s, Abrams’s mom’s maiden name. 

The first year of operations was slow going. Abrams says bars and restaurants were still skeptical, but Harmon’s found a toehold in health food stores—a boon, even if he thought buying beer where you get your granola was an unnatural fit. Everything changed in the fall of 2022 with Sober October, which was going mainstream in Canada. “The press really made hay,” Abrams remembers. “We gave a lot of interviews.” Suddenly, bars and restaurants were reaching out to them

These days, Harmon’s is stocked at Toronto hotspots like Canoe and the Horseshoe Tavern, as well as 500 grocery stores and food and drink establishments across the country. In January, Abrams invited more than a dozen other breweries to join the inaugural No-Lo Beerfest, the first of its kind in the city. The event skewed a little older—people who like beer and grew up drinking it, with little kids and babies in tow—but the venue was over capacity. “It felt like a proof of concept,” Abrams says. If enough brews and entrepreneurs enter the scene, Abrams speculates that booze-free beer could one day represent five to 10 per cent of all domestic beverage sales. For now, he’s encouraged by the shows of support for the non-alc community—some of them quintessentially Canadian. For Beerfest, he says, “Three hundred people came out in minus-12-degree weather.”

It will be interesting to see if another world-altering event—another pandemic, another Trump term, or maybe something positive—will fully pry Canadians’ hands from their beer and wine glasses for good, and whether Gen Z will kill public drinking the way millennials killed top sheets. Whatever happens, I’m optimistic that my kids, now three and five, will see that it’s possible for adults to get together without alcohol, at inviting, actually cool sober spaces. 

Canadians like Gail Lynch are working on it. During the summer of 2020, Lynch, a mixologist who’s been sober for a decade, started slinging booze-free cocktails for friends and neighbours at a makeshift bar in her Toronto backyard. She doubted that her sober startup could ever become a full-time business—like Goodfellow, she had to DIY everything, which was a time- and resource-sink. But the non-alcoholic market is nothing if not dynamic. Within a year, Lynch launched Zero Cocktail Bar, an alcohol-free pop-up and weekend bottle shop in the city’s east end. 

At her first event, Lynch served more than 1,000 drinks made with ingredients like makrut lime, guayusa and cinnamon—flavours from her childhood in the Caribbean. Soon, Zero will have a permanent address in the city’s Regent Park area, subsidized by the Daniels Community Commercial Program for community-benefiting businesses. “Equity is important in everything we do, even what we eat and what we drink,” Lynch says. “And now I have 50 non-alcoholic gins to choose from.”

The choice of it all is what I’m most optimistic about. The rise of bars like Zero (and Sobar and Bevees out in B.C.) ensure that drinking might not be our default outing activity for much longer. This, I’m certain, will lead to more interesting dates. Back in my swiping days, so many men suggested the same Montreal bar—literally called Bar Plan-B—that it was astronomically exciting when Jeremy said he wanted to take me to the planetarium. 

One of my sober contacts concurred. After she added the s-word to her dating profile, she got fewer but more compatible matches, who proposed more creative outings, like crazy golf or bowling, rather than the typical “let’s grab a drink.” Other swipers are catching on: according to Tinder, the No. 1 date activity in Canada last year was hiking. It’s not exploring the galaxy in one afternoon—or faux-margs-in-a-can—but it’s their idea of a good time. I’ll drink to that.


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This story appears in the June issue of Maclean’s. You can buy the issue here or subscribe to the magazine here.

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