She couldn’t have been younger than 65. Fit, trim, close-cropped silver hair, loading her third case of wine into her Costco cart. The man next to her laughed and said, “You’re going to ride this out in style, eh?”

She smiled. It was just days before Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued stay-at-home orders.

It seems that she was not alone. Health officials issued warnings about drinking during quarantine, citing the 55 percent increase in alcohol sales in the week ending on March 21. Other reports indicate that online alcohol sales jumped more than 243 percent during the pandemic. Coronavirus-induced drinking memes swept across the internet, showcasing a nation’s coping mechanism for times of crisis.

But the pandemic has also coincided with a growing number of Americans rethinking their relationship with alcohol. Though far less meme-worthy, the “sober curious” movement has taken off recently, prompting people to make intentional choices about what, why, and how often they drink.

Named after the book Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington, it’s gaining popularity among young millennials and older Gen Zers who are looking for a healthier lifestyle. There are now “nonalcoholic spirits” that are soaring in sales, thousands joining groups to promote “sobriety as a lifestyle,” and even bars that offer a wide range of mocktails or cater specifically to people who are sober curious or in recovery.

No longer is sobriety seen as just the last resort for people whose lives are falling apart. Many in the sober curious set would not label themselves as traditional alcoholics, but they do wonder if their drinking is a problem and recognize the benefits of ditching the booze. ...

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