Sober holidays USA part 4: Visiting New York’s first non-alcoholic bottle shop


Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to visit one of America’s only booze-free bottle shops “Spirited Away” located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, NYC. Needless to say that I felt like a kid in a candy store.


This place is really impressive! - and as you walk in, it’s hard to believe that everything you see on the shelves and in the fridges is non-alcoholic. A true wonderland of inclusion.


Here are some facts about Spirited Away:


  • Opened in 2020.

  • Owner Douglas Watters had come up with the idea of opening a non-alcoholic bottle shop. Passionate about non-boozy drinks but with no prior experience in the beverage- or retail industry, he had plenty of time during the pandemic to walk around his neighbourhood to look for rental spaces.

  • The set-up/décor is very simple. Watters really lets the product speak for itself.

  • The shop is small and the location easy to miss so, in the beginning, the shop relied heavily on sidewalk tastings to grab attention.

  • The shop now holds tastings of different brands several times a month.

  • Spirited Away carries over 70 different aperitifs, ready-to-drink beverages, mixes and liquor substitutes.

  • According to Watters, the clientele of Spirited Away falls into two categories: Those looking for alcohol substitutes and those exploring entirely new flavours.

My son Simon and I bought a bottle of bitter from the Portland based family company called “For Bitter For Worse” (who held a tasting session when we visited) and a couple of cans of Crisp & Crude sodas. So delicious.

The bottle of bitter got confiscated at the Billy Joel concert we went to that night and we watched the guards throw the brand new, unopened bottle in the bin at Madison Square Garden. There was nothing we could do. Except search the bin when the concert ended. Yes we did that :-) Desperate not to let it go to waste - and it was all worth it.


Watters says that the growing alcohol-free space is a welcoming and collaborative community. Exactly the feeling you get when you walk into Spirited Away. More of these places please! And do drop by if you're in NYC!


Ps. We washed the bottle of bitter thoroughly before consuming.





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