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What are “Functional” Beverages?

It’s official. “Functional” drinks are the next big thing. Although the term has been around for a while to describe any kind of drink with an effect beyond hydration (i.e. energy drinks or vitamin water), it’s steadily becoming synonymous with zero-proof beverages. Today, there are dozens of alcohol-free options on the market that tout adaptogens, botanicals, nootropics, and other “functional” elements as part of their ingredient list. 

That all sounds very cool, but what does it actually mean? Basically, the “functional” label indicates that at least one ingredient within the drink has added benefits that you wouldn’t find in your typical beverage option. The effects of these ingredients vary, from improving digestion to boosting your mood, and it’s all done through the magic of food science. The function comes from incorporating ingredients that have been used for centuries in natural medicine with newer, synthetic ingredients. 

It makes sense that these innovative drinks would take off within the zero-proof space. When people cut back on alcohol, it’s usually because the drawbacks outweigh the benefits. A temporary good time isn’t worth the loss of sleep, the decline in health, or the brutal hangovers that follow a night of drinking. “Functional” drinks take those drawbacks out of the equation and offer better, healthier alternatives. 

If you’re looking to test out these functions yourself, we’ve put together a run-down of some of our favorite “functional” options, and what they can do for you. One important caveat – some ingredients in these types of drinks may come with certain health warnings (for instance, some adaptogens may be advised against if pregnant or nursing). Additionally, if you are in a recovery program, you may wish to discuss these types of beverages with a sponsor or doctor. Read labels and do your research if you have concerns about these types of drinks!

de soi

Founded by Morgan McLachlan and Katy Perry (yes, that Katy Perry), De Soi describes itself as a “range of non-alcoholic apéritifs made with natural adaptogens,” like ashwagandha and reishi mushroom, which boost focus and help ease stress. Inspired by French apéritifs and named after the French expression of “self-control,” these drinks are all about indulging mindfully. De Soi offers a variety of lightly carbonated ready-to-drink beverages that feel complex and sophisticated, perfect for a night of entertaining or any time you want to feel extra fancy. 

parch

Inspired by ancient recipes, rituals, and botanical infusions across Mexico and the Southwestern US, Parch is a non-alcoholic adult beverage inspired by the biodiversity of the Sonoran Desert. Their recipes are created in tandem with a naturopathic doctor, and include a bespoke blend of sustainably sourced and FDA-approved adaptogens such as ashwagandha, L-theanine, American ginseng, and GABA. Altogether, these ingredients are intended to “enhance your body’s ability to manage stress and maintain balance.”

jeng

Jeng is a non-alcoholic, hemp-infused sparkling cocktail inspired by classic flavors, but with a distinctly modern twist. They offer zero-proof takes on Moscow Mules, Palomas, and Gin & Tonics both with CBD – one of the most popular “functional” ingredients right now. CBD is a hemp extract that has been reported to improve sleep, lessen anxiety, and reduce inflammation associated with chronic pain. Jeng also offers their recipes without CBD if you’re just looking for a good old-fashioned mocktail. 

three spirit

Designed by a team of plant scientists and mixologists, Three Spirit botanicals are meant to “enhance your mood, rhythm, and mind throughout the day and into the night.” They have a wide range of products, and each recipe is intended to benefit you in a different way. Livener is made to boost your mood through the bold flavors of guayusa, guava leaf, and schisandra. Nightcap mellows you down with Valerian, hops, and lemon balm. Sharp, one of their wine alternatives, uses electrolytes, amino acids, and vitamin D to invigorate you with each sip. 

little saints

Created by Megan Klein, a former hydroponic farmer turned plant-based foods innovator, Little Saints combines modern food science with the tradition of sacred plant medicine. Their zero-proof “plant magic mocktails” incorporate CBD, reishi mushroom, and botanical terpenes to create a unique, mood-boosting experience.