Start Dry January Off Right at LA’s Best NA Bottle Shop
Plus, top picks from Boisson owner Nick Bodkins for your sober (or sober-ish) start to 2023
In vitro fertilization is tough, so when Nick Bodkins’s wife Brittany had a serious craving for a Negroni while undergoing IVF, he set off on a quest for a sober dupe for this classic cocktail. That was the unlikely catalyst behind his Boisson, which has since become a major player in the nonalcoholic spirits space. As a marketplace, bottle shop and curator, Bodkins is now uniquely positioned to support a whole cohort of new brands.
Initially starting off as a tiny shop in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, near where the couple live, the brand quickly spread throughout New York, with locations in the West Village, Williamsburg, and the Upper East and West Side. And if the concept of an NA bottle shop was gaining traction in the Big Apple, well, it was all but destined to do well in L.A., too.
“It’s a no-brainer for us to be in California,” Bodkins tells InsideHook. “We didn’t go small when we opened in the L.A. market. Health trends tend to start on the West Coast and migrate east; drink trends tend to come out of London and then hit New York and migrate west. It’s a rarity to see this sort of trend that kind of goes both directions, because it’s a little bit health and a little bit drink.”
The pandemic — and an attendant unwillingness, or inability, to imbibe in shared public spaces like bars and restaurants — saw a huge number of ready-to-drink launches, both alcoholic spirits like canned sake and NA alternatives in all shapes, sizes, flavors and shipping prices. This is exactly where Boisson comes in: It lets customers interact with a wide variety of nonalcoholic aperitifs, spirits and other alternatives without necessarily committing to a big order from just one brand.
“We’ve recognized that there are a number of awesome brands that are nascent — they’re small and they’re trying to get traction,” Bodkins says. “A lot of them came to be during a time when no one was going to bars and restaurants; they all had to start their lives as direct-to-consumers marketers. And we didn’t think that was an efficient way to grow the category. That’s the genesis for our thesis that retail, e-commerce and our on-premise [offerings] will help us grow the NA category. From my perspective, there’s that the visceral moment when something goes from ‘This could be a thing’ to ‘Oh, this is always going to be a thing moving forward.’”
Launched in Los Angeles in July 2022 with an initial location in Brentwood, Boisson rapidly opened two more stores in Studio City and Beverly Hills to expand their reach over the west side, the Valley and Central L.A. With same-day delivery and brand-new partnerships with Drizly and DoorDash — plus a stocked roster of local California brands that offer everything from nonalcoholic wine and botanical spirits to canned and bottled elixirs infused with adaptogens — the store has something for everyone and anyone, whether you’re sober-curious, attempting Dry January or fully off the sauce.
“Could you imagine a friend of yours saying something like ‘What do you mean you don’t smoke?’” Bodkins says. “It’s unimaginable for someone to say that now. An even more simplistic analogy is going into Starbucks at 4 p.m. and ordering a decaf iced coffee, because you want the coffee but you don’t want to be up until 2 a.m. No one rings a bell and screams, ‘We got a decaf drinker here!’ They hand you your coffee, it costs the same and you leave. About 90% of our customers do drink — offering them an alternative is just a different way to calibrate what’s appropriate.”
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For those who are just getting their feet wet in the NA space, Bodkins has tons of suggestions taken straight from the shelves at Boisson. Given the brand’s expansion into California, he’s kept his recommendations to local makers in the state — and it’s also worth noting that there are regular tastings held in all of their stores. Their new Beverly Hills bottle shop is a great place to start if you’re a rookie, but Bodkins has a few other specific suggestions below.
“This is a departure from our typical store — we went with a more funky approach to the layout and high-gloss chartreuse paint on the ceilings. Inherently, they’re not big stores. There’s a gathering space in the center where we do tastings almost every day of the week. We’re between Beverly and Canon, and the intention is to be part of a walking experience in the neighborhood. Our stores aren’t for tourists generally, it’s actually for people in the neighborhood.”
“One of my favorite California brands is Optimist, which makes distilled spirits. They make a Fresh, a Bright and a Smokey — they’re all distilled botanical spirits. The Smokey is a little bit more like a mezcal replacement. The Fresh and the Bright are like different gin expressions.”
“We’re huge fans. They’re more like an aperitif — almost in the amaro category, really. [Founder Melanie Masarin] made a great core beverage in the bottle that can be on your bar, and now what they’ve done is make three expressions of mixing it with other things. There’s the traditional Ghia Le Spritz, the Ghia Ginger Le Spritz and now the Ghia Lime & Salt Le Spritz. For me, that’s my in-the-park or by-the-beach drink, that into-the-cooler moment. You can just grab a four-pack, throw ’em in the cooler with some ice and you’ve got a completely finished ready-to-drink cocktail.”
“Katy Perry’s brand is also based in California. Katy is one of our board advisors and in addition to being a new mom and an amazing artist, she’s also an incredible businesswoman. She worked with Morgan McLachlan, the founder of Amass, and De Soi’s three cocktails are…in their own category. They’re incredibly complex, with some adaptogens and nootropics in there, like reishi mushroom and ashwagandha, and a couple of other really great functional ingredients. Crack the top and throw them in a glass over ice — you have this beautiful cocktail that’s already been built for you.”
Shop all these and more at Boisson.
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