A new pop-up to drink at when you’re not drinking (and the modern-day temperance movement)

zero proof
A new sober speakeasy has popped up in the backroom of Handcraft Kitchen & Cocktails in Gramercy serving spirit-free cocktails like this Old Fashioned.
Photo ET Rodriguez

Past the cheeky florescent-pink “I’d tap that” sign, across the sprawling dining room floor and behind a sliding bookshelf, sits the newest sober speakeasy in NYC.

Zero Proof serves up “handcrafted mocktails” and “elevated elixirs” alongside tasty bites with total jazz lounge vibes.

Nestled in the backroom of Handcraft Kitchen & Cocktails in Gramercy, you can either sit at the five-seat bar in the corner providing an intimate drinking experience or at one of the six, wooden tables punctuated by the soft glow of low-light lamps. A navy, cushioned banquet lines the royal blue wall, making the space feel cool and like the perfect spot for a secret rendez-vous. Drinks range from a non-alcoholic Aperol Spritz to a no-booze Old Fashioned. The latter uses Ritual whiskey, a spirit substitute that contains capsicum (the same ingredient found in spicy peppers) to replicate that signature burn a spirit-forward cocktail often leaves.

“We figured, let’s try to do something and try to get a different clientele and put people into the mix,” said Chad Gaudet, owner of the nearly decade-old Handcraft Kitchen and mastermind behind the new pop-up bar at 367 Third Ave.

Other alcohol-free cocktails at Zero Proof are the Espresso Brewtinis.Photo ET Rodriguez
Zero Proof is a new sober speakeasy nestled in the back room of Handcraft Kitchen and Cocktails at 367 Third Ave. in Gramercy.Photo ET Rodriguez

Drinking is undoubtedly a big part of social life in the U.S., but over the last decade, Gen Z-ers and Millenials (21 to 43-year-olds) have been trending towards a teetotaler lifestyle and thus, driving the non-alcoholic beverage market.

A study by Statista predicts that this year, non-alcoholic beverage consumption at bars and restaurants will total $18.2 billion dollars in global revenue. According to data from NC Solutions, 61% of Gen Zers and 49% of Millenials in the U.S. are trying to drink less, with a majority of them citing a push to improve their physical health. Adversely, a recent national survey found that people today are using marijuana more than they are alcohol. And others attribute this sober movement to a lack of time.  

“For a generation spending seven-plus hours per day on their mobile devices alone, there is just less time to be social, let alone drink,” Andrew Roth told amNY Metro, founder and CEO of DCDX, a company that studies Gen Z data and trends.

Roth quoted a study published in a 2023 issue of “Population Health” that states Gen Z’ers are spending nearly 100 fewer minute per day with friends than they were 20 years ago. 

Whatever the reason, there is a clear push towards drinking less alcohol.

At Hekate — the first sober bar in NYC — an array of non-alcoholic beers sit on display.Photo ET Rodriguez

Named after the Greek goddess of magic and witchcraft, the hybrid café and “elixir lounge” Hekate opened in Alphabet City in 2022. The space is quaint with a theme of the occult and revolves around being a “convivial community space.” Their bestseller, The Healer, made with blue matcha, lavender syrup, lemonade, sparkling water and garnished with a sprig of rosemary is as fun to look at as it is to drink. And guests come from all walks of life.

“I’ve met people that don’t drink just because of religious reasons,” said Gene Almonte, bartender at Hekate who has been there practically since day one. “And then there are people that got dragged in by their friend that’s doing dry January and they’re like, ‘You know what? Maybe I should also cut back.”

Since Hekate, several spots have been popping up all over the city, much like Zero Proof. The bar offers guests a sober space offering late-night ambiance to a demographic that normally gets left out of NYC nightlife.

The pop-up allows adults 18 and over and will run through Sep. 2. More information can be found by contacting Handcraft Kitchen and Cocktails or through their Instagram page @zeroproof_popup.