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Enough With the Seltzer: The Booze-Free Cocktail Has Arrived

Douglas Watters opened Spirited Away, a dry store on the Lower East Side, last November. The summer before, he had begun to examine his drinking habits and health, he said, and started experimenting with booze-free cocktails. He liked the results. “I loved retaining the ritual and celebrating the end of the work day or an achievement but without feeling bad the next day.”

Recently, Mr. Watters, 39, left his job at Bank of America Merrill Lynch to work full time on his business. Considered the first dry retailer in New York City, Spirited Away started with 70 products and now offers 140. Prices range from $7.50 for an individual can of Kin Euphorics, caffeinated flavored spritzes, to $75 for a bottle of Rasasvada, a high-end, plant-based “spirit restorative.”

He has already outgrown his 200-square-foot shop. Next month, he will move to a store twice the size in NoLIta.

The booze-free cocktail movement seems to be following the evolution of craft cocktails. “People are sophisticated drinkers; they want different combinations of complex and interesting tastes,” Mr. Watters said. “Diversity of product has increased. Technology has, as well. Now there are vapor or vacuum distillation and new techniques,” he continued. “That’s helped to open the market.”

Minus Moonshine, a self-described “dry drinks + potions shop” in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, opened in June. In addition to selling their wares, the co-founders, Apryl Electra Storms and Melissa Irisarri, both 41, host monthly meet-ups for groups like sober-curious parents and sober singles.

“Nondrinkers, like myself, were ignored for so long,” said Mx. Storms, who identifies as nonbinary. “As a former chef, I have a passion for beverages. I just knew this was something I was supposed to do next with my life.”