Boozy office holiday parties are going out of fashion as workers sip mocktails, non-alcoholic wine instead


This year, NFX, a venture capital firm, hosted a holiday party in San Francisco's Bay Area with a gift exchange. The gifts exchanged included books of poetry, luxury hand soaps, and non-alcoholic beverages, setting a different tone from previous years. While some guests enjoyed drinks at the firm's "speakeasy," around half of the attendees opted for non-alcoholic options. 

Data from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas shows a decrease in the number of companies planning to serve alcohol at their holiday parties, with many offering creative non-alcoholic alternatives such as fresh juices, alcohol-free beers, wines, and spirits. Catering companies, like Deborah Miller Catering & Events, have seen an increase in requests for signature mocktails for corporate holiday events. This shift reflects a move away from the traditional boozy holiday parties to more inclusive and diverse celebrations.  

A row of red, icy watermelon coolers in glasses topped with mink leaves
Alcohol-free drinks like this watermelon cooler are becoming more popular at holiday parties. 
Genevieve de Manio Photography/Deborah Miller Catering & Events

To be clear, though — alcohol isn't out of the picture. Companies and individuals are still interested in having booze behind the bar, but are also asking, "'what are the non-alcoholic options?'" Heyman said. 

The rise of holiday parties that cater thoughtfully to both drinkers and non-drinkers comes as younger workers, especially, cut back on alcohol since the pandemic. Among tech workers in San Francisco, at least, there's also a "straight line" between the popularity of Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist whose research highlights the harms of alcohol, and a decline in drinking, Beller said. Across the country, though, more people are replacing the drinks they might have on a weekday night with non-alcoholic alternatives, like a beer from Athletic Brewing Company or a mocktail with a spirit like Seedlip.

"Most of these products are targeting people who drink alcohol. They just don't want to do it all the time and on all occasions," according to Spiros Malandrakis, head of research for the alcoholic drinks division at market research firm Euromonitor. 

People are also increasingly aware that getting buzzed at your office party in front of your colleagues (and bosses, and HR reps) isn't a good look, so are consciously stepping away from the bar. And for workers of all ages, the meaning of the holiday party has also changed as remote and hybrid work blurs the lines between work and life. 

"A lot of the parties are happening in offices, in the afternoons, because people are really used to spending time at home and cooking dinner for their families, so they don't want to be drinking," Heyman said.

For those companies throwing nighttime events where drinking is expected, there's value in having a couple of low or no-alcohol alternatives on hand — especially when things get too wild.  

Serving attendees a non-alcoholic beverage is an easy way to signal that someone has had too much to drink without having to say anything explicitly, Nick Bodkins, founder of specialty non-alcoholic retailer Boisson, told BI.

And for some people, parties are actually more fun when you go completely booze-free. At a holiday get-together that NOFX's Beller attended with other tech workers before their work party, the unusual beverage highlight of the night was… peppermint chocolate bone broth.

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