Somehow, this tendency bled into America's legal drinking happy hour culture, which Simo defined as "trying to get as messed up as fast as possible with as little money as possible." But maybe this is changing. For one thing, younger generations seem less wrapped up in the speed and quantity idea of drinking culture. Bainbridge put it like this: “They're not afraid to question the ways in which we've been doing things, and they're determined to avoid their predecessors' mistakes. Laughing about how f***ed up you got last night? Thinking of it as a badge of honor? Okay, Boomer.”
Perhaps with the rise of non-alcoholic and low-ABV cocktails and beer, legalized cannabis emerging as the recreational mood-altering substance of choice, and newer generations disrupting drinking norms, we are witnessing a turning point. Maybe America is moving on from "happy hour" drinking culture into something more like Europe's aperitivo culture, which is less focused on quantity, and more around smaller amounts of better alcohol, served as a way to whet your appetite before a meal.
Also, and maybe I’m being needlessly optimistic here, but perhaps people will connect better if low/no alcohol socializing becomes the norm. Simo thinks that within five years, every major city will have at least a couple of non-alcoholic bars, which will double as coffee shops during the day, and serve more as social hubs than anything else.
Bainbridge, for her part, believes that, when it comes to non-alcoholic cocktails, this is only the beginning. "Just as vegetarian dishes served in non-vegetarian restaurants have evolved from platters comprised of whatever sides went with the meat entrees, then to mimicking meat, and, finally, to being treated as their own things, people will come to embrace fully the idea of these drinks being nonalcoholic," she said. "I imagine, too, that some forward-thinking bartenders will develop non-alcoholic classics or some kind of templates for other bars and restaurants--ones that might not have the resources to experiment themselves -- to follow."
On that note, Simo gives credit to Julia Momose at Kumiko in Chicago for helping popularize non-alcoholic cocktails, and push this conversation forward. Momose began creating spirit-free cocktails while at Oriole in 2017, and has "likely done more in that space than any other bartender in America," he said.