How to Celebrate an Alcohol-Free Valentines

If you’re one of a growing movement of people joining the sober curious trend, or simply don’t want to drink alcohol during the work week anymore, you’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day with an alcohol-free drink in hand.

“The number of people choosing not to drink alcohol, or limiting alcohol is on the rise. The sober curious movement, which is where people are drinking less alcohol or none at all, has led to a global culture shift of people preferring to drink mocktails or non-alcoholic beverages,” says Ayanda Mvandaba, CEO Of Drink Nil, an online retailer specialising in alcohol-free wines, gins, spirits, beers, and ciders.

In the US, 61% of Gen Z and 49% of Millenials are trying to drink less in 2024 and in the UK, a recent Mintel report shows that a significant number of Gen Z are shifting their focus away from drinking alcohol, both inside and outside the home, and opting instead for sober socialising.

“People are realising that you can do everything without alcohol that you can do with it, and that celebrating special occasions sober can be just as fun and fulfilling as with alcohol,” says Mvandaba. “To me, the most important part of Valentine’s Day is the connection you have with the person you’re celebrating with, not the alcohol or the food, so it’s worth putting thought into an experience that is creative and unique, and will help you bond with your partner or have a great first date.”

Here are some Valentine’s Day ideas that don’t involve alcohol:

Create a special setting

If you’re planning a romantic dinner for two at home, make the magic of a balmy summer evening work for you. String up fairy lights for a feeling of enchantment, place comfortable chairs outside and kick the evening off by watching the sunset together. Have a throw at the ready in case the night gets chilly, and a lantern to create a cosy glow as the light fades.

If you have a pool, float dozens of tealight candles in the pool for a dreamy effect. Set out a blanket and piles of cushions and serve up exotic mocktails for a resort getaway vibe. If you don’t have a pool, but have a garden or a balcony, deck the space out with candles in different colours, shapes and sizes.

Serve refreshing mocktails

Everyone deserves to sip on a pretty drink on Valentine’s Day. Alcohol-free mocktails are light and refreshing, and there are hundreds of easy recipes online to try your hand at. Serve them in fancy glassware and have fun decorating with garnishes like sliced mango, lime, or mint.

“There are such delicious alcohol-free drinks out there that making a bespoke Valentine’s drink will be a breeze,” says Mvandaba. “For example, Origiin Damascus Rose Gin with tonic and sliced strawberries added to it will make a perfectly pretty drink. And Darling Cellars’ de-alcoholised Sparkling Rosé, which has aromas of ripe strawberries and sweet plum and a salmon pink colour, will look stunning served in a chilled flute.”

A significant advantage of celebrating sober is that it allows you to be fully present with your loved one, adding even more depth to your existing bond, adds Mvandaba. And, alcohol-free drinks are great if you’re celebrating the day with your children, or nieces and nephews. Add to the fun of the moment by asking them to help you mix the ingredients together.

Go for a walk
Get home early from work and take a leisurely summer evening walk in a park or along a beach – it’s a great way to connect and have meaningful conversations.  If you have Valentine’s Day off, spend the day together being a tourist in your own town, visiting art galleries, trying out new restaurants, or simply strolling around and discovering hidden gems. You could also look for local workshops or classes that interest you both, such as cooking or art classes, or dance lessons. It’s a fun way to learn something new together and bond over shared experiences.

Plan a movie marathon or games night
Pick out a selection of movies or TV shows that you both love or have been wanting to watch. Snuggle up on the couch with popcorn for a fun night in. Or dust off your favorite board games or card games and have a friendly competition. You can even create your own games or challenges for added fun.

Go crazy with ice cream

Have an old-fashioned ice cream date! Find a place near you where you can sit down and order ice cream, and go crazy getting lots of toppings and flavors. It’s a delicious and inexpensive way to celebrate.

Volunteer together

Spread love and kindness by volunteering together at a local charity or organisation. Whether it’s serving meals at a shelter, cleaning up a park, or visiting a nursing home, giving back can be a meaningful way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Look up!

Did you know that astro tourism, which is the act of traveling with the aim of catching sight of astronomical phenomena like meteor showers, is a fast growing trend? South Africa has beautiful spots to stargaze, where you can spend nights enjoying uninterrupted star vistas, but it does require driving to remote areas to escape light pollution. Going away for a night or two where you can spend time gazing upwards at the stars is a very romantic thing to do, so if the stars in your part of the world aren’t clearly visible, celebrate Valentine’s at the weekend, and book a night as far away from city lights as possible.

Remember that the most important thing is to spend quality time together and show your love and appreciation for each other, concludes Mvandaba. ”For most of us it’s so rare to have the chance to spend quality time together, so give your partner your full attention without being distracted by your phone, or work, or the kids. That, in itself, will boost your connection, so focus on each other and the activity you do together. Enjoy your alcohol-free Valentine’s Day celebration!”