Nonalcoholic cocktails and liquor are eating up a ton of market share throughout the country, and the Bay Area is doing more than its fair share of that work. Whether it be the nonalcoholic nanobar at Valencia Street’s Hawkerfare or any of the litany of bars in San Francisco with nonalcoholic options, the region has tons to offer those who prefer to stay sober. New York-based nonalcoholic bottle shop Boisson took note, and on or around September 26 will open its first San Francisco shop at 333 Hayes Street. The location is across the street from Bill Graham Auditorium and up the block from Civic Center’s vegetarian restaurant Ananda Fuara. And while Los Gatos has its own nonalcoholic bottle shop, and the Outer Richmond may well get a nonalcoholic speakeasy to pair with sober hangout Ocean Beach Cafe, Boisson marks the first dedicated nonalcoholic bottle shop and wine outlet in San Francisco.
The online retailer launched in New York in 2021 and, after opening five shops there and three in Los Angeles, it has set its eyes on San Francisco. “Outside of the first two core markets, San Francisco was obvious for us,” says Nick Bodkins, Boisson co-founder and CEO. “We had hundreds and hundreds of emails asking when we were coming to San Francisco.” (Though the business may be angling to attract the athleisure-sporting denizens of Hayes Valley, the shop is right off of Market Street and cuspy with Hayes Valley at best.)
The company says they’ve increased sales seven-and-a-half times over in 2022, which is probably in part due to the fact that about half of millennials report reducing their drinking habits in recent years. The nonalcoholic trends and products coming out of Napa and Sonoma are specifically interesting to Bodkins; the former French Laundry couple running All The Bitters are making primo alcohol-free bitters, for example. He’d like Boisson to be the neighborhood store that carries these sometimes hard-to-find products.
For him, proximity to California producers making alcohol-free wine is a huge part of the motivation for coming to the Bay. “It’s actually not just grape juice,” Bodkins says. “It started as full-strength wine, and this dealcoholization process is not new.” Bodkin says many people don’t realize nonalcoholic wine is actually conventionally-made wine with the alcohol removed. The process has been around for a long time, he points out, likely because of an arcane tax on wines with more than 14 percent alcohol content, which has given winemakers cause to artificially lower wine’s alcohol content — way before it was cool. Proxies is one such nonalcoholic wine he loves, alongside Blurred Vines and distilled hemp spirit the Pathfinder.
Tastings, three to five times a week, will be a part of the weekly life at the shop, and Bodkins wants to invite regional and national producers to show their drinks, though local delivery will be an option, too. He says he’d like to get a series of local restaurant and bar partnerships on the docket; the company’s partnership with Rosewood Sand Hill, through which Boisson stocked the luxury hotel in Menlo Park with nonalcoholic beverages, is one example of what Boisson will look to expand. These relationships are well-established with New York stockists Eleven Madison Park and Jose Andres’s new restaurant at the Ritz Carlton. He’s also proud of the all-electric, carbon-offset vehicles the company will use for deliveries.
As for the inspiration behind these choices, Bodkins cites being a father to an 11-month-old daughter. “My daughter wakes up at the same time whether I’ve been drinking or not,” Bodkins says.
Boisson (333 Hayes Street in San Francisco) will open the week of September 26. Hours of operation will be noon to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday.