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Drinking alcohol mindfully or responsibly is most often associated with drinking less actual alcohol. That can be one way to approach mindful drinking, but there is another as well: drinking the same amount of alcohol while being more responsible in other ways. For example, this could take the form of using healthier mixers or buying products that are ethically sourced. It is into this mindful drinking space that alcoholic takes on coffee and tea are starting to make their presence felt. There have always been an alcoholic version of hot beverages (consider, for example, the Hot Toddy or the Irish Coffee). Alcoholic takes on coffees and teas, though, are changing form.
In beverages in general, a major trend is the long-term shift from sugary carbonated beverages towards healthier options, above all water. In the United States especially, this has resulted in rapid growth in sparkling waters like LaCroix and its various imitators. In the alcoholic drinks space, these same trends have been the fuel for the explosion of hard seltzers. Particularly in the summer of 2019 (the so-called “White Claw Summer”), many consumers started to drink these in place of beer or mixed drinks, viewing them as a healthier option given their low calorie and carbohydrate content.
Sparkling water has not been the only winner from the declines in carbonated soft drinks consumption. Coffee and tea in their cold forms have also captured many of these occasions. It is not surprising then that they are also moving into the alcoholic space much the way White Claw has in order to offer innovative and healthier alcoholic beverage options. Owl’s Brew, for example, sells a line of tea-based mixers (with an owl logo that highlights that these are a wiser choice) and recently expanded into a line of radlers. Jamesons has demoed an Irish Cold Brew that still mixes whiskey and coffee the way that has been done for decades but in a lower-sugar way than before. Most-health focused of all has been the nascent “hard kombucha” segment, which aims to offer an alcoholic drink experience with vitamins and probiotics and generally to be a more responsible choice when out drinking.
Not everything is about adopting a mindful drinking-forward approach though. Some are just using coffee and tea to create interesting new flavour combinations. Many craft breweries, for example, are experimenting with coffee flavourings in their beers (usually porters and stouts, but sometimes even IPAs). Particularly interesting has been the partnership of La Colombe and Grey Goose to produce high-end espresso martinis. As coffee goes premium many in the industry are adopting terms from alcoholic drinks when discussing origins or flavour notes. Using coffees in premium cocktails is a more unusual approach but it certainly makes sense in that it builds the image of certain coffees as premium beverages.
The weakness of many traditional alcoholic drink and mixer categories, the proliferation of cold coffee and tea options available, and the rise of mindful drinking trends are all favouring continued growth in alcoholic coffees and teas. They are hardly in a position to replace any major category of alcoholic beverages but they are well-positioned to offer the mix of indulgence and moderation that increasing numbers of consumers are looking for.
To learn more about this topic, download the report “Alcohol, Coffee, and Tea: Blurring Lines and Mindful Drinking”.