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Club Soda lands on London's Drury Lane

Updated: Feb 11

What can I say about the team at Club Soda? Not only are they leaders, nay pioneers in the sober curious movement but they also happen to be some of the nicest people I’ve meet in a long while. I went along to the newly opened Club Soda Tasting Room, Shop & Bar on Drury Lane in London’s bustling Covent Garden to have a look at this brand-new no/low alcohol establishment and tasted just a small sample of their very sizable offering.



Seven years ago Club Soda started from a niggling thought in the back of founder Laura Willoughby’s mind after becoming frustrated with the services, or rather lack thereof, available to people who had taken the choice to re-assess how drinking impacts their life. From there the idea blossomed until now, 10 years into her own sobriety and still driven by the same passion to help people find another way to address their drinking, she and co-founder Dru Jager have launched the UK’s first no/low alcohol venue of its kind.


Small but perfectly formed

Inside the small but perfectly formed venue that sits proudly atop the famous Drury Lane, the warm and inviting vibrant blue and green walls are lined on both sides with shelves stacked full of low and no alcohol beers, wines and spirits with space for more to come.


Like any good host Laura was at the door when I arrived and greeted me with a warm smile and welcoming words before introducing me to two of her team of professional barkeeps Stacey & Noah.


We chatted for a while about the passions and drivers behind the project and Noah explained that the team at Club Soda as well as being mindful drinking specialists, are a mixed collective of people of all ages and backgrounds some of whom still drink on occasion and some who do not, and isn’t that the very crux of being sober curious - regaining the power of choice over alcohol?


He stresses that they are not there to dictate to others as to their own drinking habits but rather to offer a helping hand and to let you know that you’re not the only one who thinks this way about booze.


It's obvious from the way that he talks about the stories behind the wines we taste that Noah is passionate about what they’re doing at Club Soda. In fact the excitement with which he regales me of the history behind one of their favourite brands Oddbird* (created by a family therapist who wanted to show people that they could still have fun with good quality alcohol-free wines so made her own to prove it) reminds me of the same enthusiasm I used to see in my team about alcohol when I was running more traditional cocktail bars.

And why should it be any different? Sober curiosity is not about removing the fun from your social life, on the contrary, it's about ensuring you can have as much fun as you want without damaging other aspects of your life along the way.


Stepping up

I’ve struggled on my search for no/low wines much more so than I have with beers and ciders. Maybe it's the larger alcohol percentage that has been removed from the drink that has impacted the flavour profile so much, but Noah also points out that the beer & cider industry are quite a few steps ahead of the wine companies seeming hesitance when it comes to producing AF options. The good news is that it looks like there’s change on the horizon noting Oddbird*, Lyres*, Scavi & Ray* and Thomson & Scott* as just a few examples of producers who are stepping up to the challenge.

This Oddbird Chardonnay (pictured) was full bodied with fresh orchard fruits, think apples and pears and would pair brilliantly with food.





Bar vibes

It's not just wines though, the shelves of Club Soda are filled with beers, ciders, spirits and meads* too but they’re not just an alcohol-free off licence.

The bar is always set up and ready to go for those passers-by who just want to pop in and chill out with a no/low beverage or who are looking for somewhere different to frequent of an evening. The music was chilled and the team are friendly but not intrusive making this a great space to come together with like minded friends for a drink and a chat or even a workday meeting.






And there's more

Downstairs we head into their event space. Still under development at the time of writing but opening very (very) soon, this space is set to be a host to brands, speakers and trainers who want to spread the word about what low/no drinks can bring to the table. Already lined up is a cocktail masterclass with Noah himself where you get to make and drink four amazing alcohol-free cocktails and a 10% discount on purchases in the shop (tickets £40); a book reading and discussion with writer and broadcaster Adrian Chiles, who was inspired to write his new book The Good Drinker: How I learned to Love Drinking Less* after being prompted by professionals to cut his own drinking down from 100 units a week to the recommended maximum of 14 (tickets £15); and a sustainable cocktail event in the new year with Rebecca Bird an award winning no/low cocktail creator with a passion for local and foraged ingredients (tickets £45).


Here to stay

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Sober Curious is here to stay. The word is spreading, and the people are taking note:


"There’ll always be people who won’t understand it but it just seems like more people than ever are accepting of it and it’s great because it’s touched everyone’s lives in one way or the other, whether that’s somebody that drinks too much and has a problem or is sober […] everybody’s got a link to mindful drinking in some way via themselves, friends or family so I think acceptance is a lot more widespread than it ever has been which is great and thankfully there is better marketing now of non-alcoholic products, we have big brands like Heineken* and Tanqueray* who have billboards of 0% products which is a game changer." - Noah Villeneuve


What's next?

When I asked what was next for Club Soda the team we're understandably playing their cards close to their chest but assured me they had no intention of slowing down!

I for one sincerely hope to see more spaces like this opening up around London and the UK. Cities like New York and Chicago already boast several establishments where the sober curious can meet and make merry without fear of judgment or pressure and it is high time that we caught up.

Well done to the team at Club Soda for leading the revolution, I can't wait to see what you do next!


 

About Club Soda

  • Club Soda Tasting Rooms, Shop & Bar is located at 39 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5RR

  • Open Mondays-Wednesdays 10am - 6:30pm / Thursdays to Saturdays 10am - 10pm / Sundays 12pm - 6pm

  • You can find their full calendar of events here

  • If you’re looking for help with your drinking and wish to either cut down or stop entirely, they offer courses in both mindful drinking and stopping completely.

  • Finally you can listen to the Club Soda podcast with discussions on everything from going alcohol free whilst coping with tragedy to ready-made AF drinks for a sober picnic.



 







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