How a Southwest Florida bar is helping people break off alcohol


You may be familiar with Dry January, but what about Sober October?

When the New Year arrives, there is a tendency to give up alcoholic beverages. Now, some people give alcohol during the “scary season”.

It comes during a huge boom in the soft drink industry. According to an Amazon study, sales of these drinks increased by 60%, proving that it may be more than a 30-day challenge.

In Southwest Florida, some companies are more interested in what they call “mindful consumption,” year round.

“Sober October is great, but being completely sober for 30 days can seem like a lot to someone. It can be overwhelming, ”said Amber Cebull, co-owner of the Fort Myers Apothecary.

The Apothecary is a craft alcohol-free cocktail bar located inside Millennial Brewing Company. It started in the aftermath of the pandemic when bars in Florida had to close.

“For Millennial, we couldn’t sell alcohol, so it was kind of like what can we sell? Because closing was not an option for us, ”Cebull said.

They turned to selling Flying Eagle kombucha. Then they started making a CBD drink called Chill Out. Then came the mocktails and the apothecary was born.

It opened in January 2021 inside Millennial. Some of their most popular drinks are “pineapple express” and alcohol-free Moscow mules with zero-proof alcohol.

“We make them with non-alcoholic liquors that embody the herbs and flavor profiles of the liquor,” Cebull said.

The aim is to offer something for everyone.

Even if you’re not doing Sober October, you might want to slow down after drinking a few beers or you’re the designated driver with friends. The Apothecary welcomes both drinkers and non-drinkers.

“It has been a very good response from the community. There are many people who actively choose not to drink. Maybe they’re pregnant in rehab, or they’re a runner getting ready for a run. But there’s also a whole movement of “soberly curious” people, ”Cebull said.

One of those more “sober and curious” people is Alex Wilson, a Fort Myers resident and Apothecary customer.

“I had cut back on my alcohol intake several years ago, but when COVID happened and things got crazy, I started drinking a little more than I had been,” Wilson said. .

Then, in August, Wilson fell ill with COVID.

“I really felt, even during my recovery, that my body needed more care and special attention. I haven’t had the urge to drink since I got sick, so I decided not to, ”Wilson said.

You could say she got a head start on Sober October and is still going strong.

“I still don’t feel the urge to drink, just because my body doesn’t want it,” Wilson said.

Missing out on the buzz isn’t always easy with so many alcohol-centric events.

“I was with my family yesterday and my family love to drink, so being with them I felt like I should have a drink because everyone is having a drink. I felt the urge to just have a drink because it helps you relax a bit, ”Wilson said.

This is where bars like Apothecary can come in.

“It’s so helpful when you’re socializing to have something on hand and have something that you can play with and sip with,” Wilson said.

Now there are also more options for alternatives at home. In another part of Millennial Brewing, Mitra9 makes canned kava and kratom drinks for a different kind of buzz.

“These are botanical and non-alcoholic herbal drinks,” said Dallas Vasquez, CEO of Mitra9.

Vasquez will tell you, it’s okay to fail 30 day challenges. He almost made it through Sober October.

“But I had two martinis last night, to be honest,” he said.

With any new health plan or goal, you could go wrong.

“And I think it’s fine for anyone to have a cheat day here and there with something they love,” Vasquez said.

As for Wilson, she takes her “sober curiosity” day to day, perhaps saving alcohol for special occasions.

“I have enjoyed drinking in the past and it’s not that I don’t like it. I just don’t want to have to put my body back into a state of recovery over and over again, ”Wilson said.

There may be a stigma associated with labeling yourself as someone who doesn’t drink. Cebull said it’s all about making the choice that’s right for you.

“I like to call it conscious consumption. So I’m a conscious drinker who is cutting out more and more alcohol and I find that once you cut back and drink, you notice the effects a lot more, ”Cebull said.

While Apothicary’s goal is to offer something for everyone, Amber recommends that people struggling with or recovering from an alcohol addiction do not go to their bar.

Since there is alcohol in the area, that could be a trigger.


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