AF Drinks opens New Zealand's first alcohol-free bottle shop in Auckland

The Curious AF Bottle Shop imagery pop-up shop
A Kiwi entrepreneur has now launched Aotearoa's first-ever alcohol-free bottle shop in central Auckland. Photo credit: Supplied

Bidding goodbye to booze is becoming increasingly popular in this day and age, with more and more clear-headed comrades joining the 'sober curious': a movement promoting abstinence from alcohol or a reduced intake, typically for better mental and physical health.

Over the last few years the movement has gathered momentum, largely due to shifts in lifestyle. Society's fixation on health and wellbeing, partly driven by its presence on social media, is encouraging more and more people to ditch the grog and greasy foods in favour of a healthy, balanced diet, little to no alcohol and regular exercise. Lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are also believed to have played a part, spurring people to use the sudden abundance of free time to better themselves and kickstart healthy habits.

According to a study published in the The Lancet, alcohol consumption in New Zealand is lower than it's been in 30 years, with avocado-obsessed millennials - those in the 26 to 40 age bracket - leading the trend.

It's also arguably never been easier for the 'sober curious' or teetotal among us to still enjoy a tasty tipple with friends without the FOMO - better yet, they don't have the pounding headache the next day. Brands such as Seedlip, Lyre's and New Zealand's award-winning AF Drinks have carved out corners in the market for non-alcoholic beverages, spanning alcohol-free spirits, wines, beers, ciders and ready-to-drink options (RTDs). With the likes of non-alcoholic pink gin, whiskey and bourbon now on offer, those braving the doldrums of Dry July can still enjoy their favourite beveragino - but sans the booze.

And in the next big move for our sober curious compadres, a Kiwi entrepreneur has now launched Aotearoa's first-ever alcohol-free bottle shop in central Auckland.

In a bid to combat the social stigmas surrounding sobriety, Lisa King, the founder of Eat My Lunch and AF Drinks, opened the pop-up shop to offer sober curious or teetotal Kiwis a more diverse range of alcohol-free options.

The Curious AF Bottle Shop imagery pop-up shop
Photo credit: Supplied

Officially opening in Ponsonby Central last week, The Curious AF Bottle Shop will exist for a limited time, offering Kiwis the opportunity to experience and sample some of the newest and finest alcohol-free refreshments being served around the globe.

Unlike its somewhat soulless counterparts, The Curious AF Bottle Shop aims to deliver an inviting and aesthetically pleasing experience. Featuring a carefully curated selection of drinks for patrons to see, try and buy, the pop-up offers a modern take on the traditional grog shop - and yes, it's cool AF.

"From rugby games, Friday drinks with the workies to backyard beersies, New Zealand is known for its big drinking culture. Even though positive change is happening, with more Kiwis exploring the sober curious movement and moderating alcohol consumption, there's a much deeper culture associated with drinking alcohol that isn't going to shift overnight," King said. 

"More recently, there's been a growing trend emerging and more people have been embracing better, healthier lifestyles, which has been spurred on by lockdowns across the pandemic.

"While the changes that are happening are encouraging to see, a lot more groundwork needs to be done to help New Zealand's sober curious movement catch up with the rest of the world."

The Curious AF Bottle Shop imagery pop-up shop
Photo credit: Supplied

By launching The Curious AF Bottle Shop, King is hoping to further normalise and destigmatize the subject of sobriety - particularly in a country notorious for its binge-drinking culture.

Patrons heading to the pop-up shop can expect to enjoy a curated path of discovery that introduces them to some of the best alcohol-free pre-mixed drinks, spirits, wines, beers and ciders on the market. Each week, the team will offer visitors a different tasting experience: week one, Bubbles Week, has already passed, but there's still five more on the agenda. 

The Curious AF Bottle Shop sampling schedule:

  • Beer Week: Week 2, June 27 - July 3
  • Wine Week: Week 3, July 4 - July 10
  • Cider Week: Week 4, July 11 - July 17
  • Spirits Week: Week 5, July 18 - July 24
  • Curious Collection Week: Week 6, Monday July 25 - July 31.

More than 34 different drinks will be available to sample or purchase, including bubbles from Italy and Australia, wines from Sweden and South Africa and beers from Canada, the US, the Netherlands, Germany and England - as well as AF Drinks' alcohol-free gin, whiskey, rum and sake-based drinks.

"Flooded in beautiful lighting, curated florals and bottle displays, we're thrilled to be able to take New Zealanders through The Curious AF Bottle Shop and look forward to meeting everyone that visits over the next six weeks," King added.

"We want to show New Zealanders (the whole world for that matter) that adopting a sober-curious lifestyle does not mean 'boring' or that you have to miss out. Ultimately, we want people to leave our shop feeling more open to supporting people choosing not to drink. 

"And should they later choose not to drink on a night out, across July or longer-term, it's really not a biggie. In fact, it's cool AF."