After all the flowing punch bowls, lavish cheese boards, and popped Champagne corks of the holidays, January can feel like a monthlong hangover. Unless you’re doing dry January, in which case hangovers are no longer on your list of concerns.

They’re no longer on a growing number of American’s concerns, in fact. People are drinking less, and younger people are showing the steepest decreases. According to a recent Gallup poll, almost 40% of adults under 35 say they don’t drink at all, up from about 30% two decades ago. Public health messaging is reinforcing the drive towards abstention, with health organizations and governments around the world issuing increasingly zealous anti-alcohol pronouncements.

Whether you call it the new temperance movement, sober-curious, or neo-Prohibitionism, the trend has caused some hand-wringing in the drinks world. Craft distillers sell alcoholic beverages, after all. If people want fewer alcoholic beverages, that could spell bad news for revenue. Anti-alcohol sentiment among government and public health officials also won’t ease the path for the legislative wins the industry needs.

Still, consumers who drink less don’t have to spell disaster for distillers — especially craft distillers, who have always offered much more than ethanol. In this issue, Max Garrone highlights producers who are finding success (and new ways to build relationships with bartenders) by making lower-ABV products like vermouths, liqueurs, and amari that are essential for cocktails and satisfy drinkers’ desire for full flavor with less alcohol.

Other trends among younger drinkers are giving cause for optimism, like their abiding love of RTDs and embrace of bold flavors. Just don’t buy any old cans, as Scott Thomas Anderson reveals in his reporting on packaging failures and innovations in the RTD space.

Millennial and Gen Z drinkers also care about the community and social aspects of the businesses they support, which means finding ways to connect meaningfully with your customers is more important than ever before. Need some ideas? Longtime brand ambassador Sailor Guevara shares how a small budget doesn’t have to be a barrier to forging authentic relationships with your fans — no matter what generation they belong to.

Wishing you an inspired, connected, and prosperous 2024,

Margarett Waterbury

Previous articleNew Release Roundup December 2023
Next articleCompass Box Duality Combines Craft and Legacy Whiskies
Margarett Waterbury is the editor of Distiller Magazine. Based in Portland, Oregon, she covers drinks, food, and culture for national and international press. She is the former managing editor of Edible Portland, as well as the cofounder and former managing editor of The Whiskey Wash, an award-winning whiskey website twice recognized as Website of the Year by the International Whisky Competition. In 2017, Margarett won the Alan Lodge Young Drinks Writer of the Year award from the Spirits Journal. She received fellowships for the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers in 2017 and 2019. Her first book, Scotch: A Complete Introduction to Scotland’s Whiskies (Sterling), came out in 2020.