Alcoholic beverages have been around for a long time—nearly as long as humans have. In fact, one of the oldest examples of an alcoholic drink was found in the Henan province of northern China, and was reportedly a “mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey, and fruit.” While that does sound similar to a modern home-brewed mead or sake recipe, it’s safe to say our tastes for alcoholic drinks have changed a lot since 7000 BC. 

Today’s alcohol sales reflect a wide range of inspiration and creativity—in fact, some of the biggest trending alcoholic beverages barely have any alcohol in them at all. Keep reading to dive into the biggest 2021 alcohol trends, and get ideas on how to boost alcohol sales on DoorDash

Low ABV raises the bar

One of the most surprising alcohol trends to come about in recent years focuses on low- or no-ABV drinks. As moderation grows in popularity, many consumers across the globe are embracing no-alcohol and low-alcohol beverages. This is largely tied to health—a recent study from IWSR shows that people mainly choose no/low beverages to “avoid the effects of drinking alcohol,” and 58% of consumers will drink no/low-alcohol and full-strength alcohol on the same occasion.

Even low-alcohol beer is emerging as a 2021 drinking trend. Vox reports that Ballast Point Brewing Company, based in San Diego, was seeing a growing demand for lighter options and that lower-ABV beers were tending to sell better.

Low ABV drinks are especially relevant as the sober curious movement grows. Many people, especially Millennials, are embracing a new relationship with drinking where they either mindfully reduce their intake or periodically take breaks from alcohol altogether. Periodic abstinence from drinking could even have health benefits.

Make the most of this trend by planning your marketing around some of the year’s biggest drinking holidays, including Fourth of July, Game Day, and more, and plan to offer a variety of low- and no-ABV beverages that appeal to a wide range of customers.

Hard seltzer expands

Hard seltzer brands are rapidly growing in popularity, with fun fruity flavors from Black Cherry to Spicy Pineapple. While hard seltzer sales don’t show any signs of slowing, expect to see demand grow for a greater variety of non-traditional hard drinks in 2021.

“We’ve seen hard seltzer move into hard everything else,” said Kara Nielsen, director of food and drink forecasting at WGSN, in a recent Wine Enthusiast article. Watch for new spiked beverages such as hard kombucha, hard iced tea, and more. The trend shows no sign of slowing down: if it’s a drinkable liquid, expect a hard version of it on shelves soon.

Adaptogens go mainstream

Piggybacking on the health trend, more and more consumers are interested in trying beverages with supplements that support their mental health too, driving sales of beverages with adaptogens. So what’s an adaptogen, exactly? Adaptogens are herbal pharmaceuticals—roots and herbs from Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions that are supposed to help your body handle and process stress, according to Time Magazine. Think of them as a massage for your brain and immune system.

Common adaptogenic ingredients include ashwagandha, lavender, ginseng, tulsi, and reishi. While the scientific evidence of their effectiveness is somewhat limited, that doesn’t seem to be stopping consumers from buying them. As journalist Amy Glynn wrote in Paste Magazine about the recent wave of adaptogenic beverages, “It’s impossible to guarantee they will make you smarter, faster, calmer, or thinner, but they’re definitely poised to make you less hungover.” That might be reason enough to drive sales: they’re a good enough alternative to—or in addition to—drinking alcohol.

More wine, naturally

With unique tastes that can range from tasty to flat-out funky, natural wines are wines that have been made with organic ingredients, no additives, and have had little intervention in their fermentation. Essentially, it’s exactly how wine was made thousands of years ago.

Natural wines have been growing in popularity in the last couple years—ever since Institute for Origins and Quality (INAO), the French Ministry for Agriculture and the French Fraud Control Office agreed on a definition of “natural wine.” In fact, organic wine sales are forecasted to reach 87.5m cases globally by 2022.

Whether you’re a restaurant or retailer, having a handful of natural wine brands within your offerings is a good way to appeal to an adventurous customer who’s not afraid to drink off the beaten path.

Cocktails go to-go

Getting to-go cocktails has also become the standard—both for retailers and restaurants. On the retail side, ready-to-drink beverages like canned margaritas are one of the fastest growing alcohol categories, jumping nearly 80% between April 2019 and April 2020. For many restaurants, selling to-go cocktail kits began as a way to keep sales going during the pandemic, and local governments are considering making this legal long-term.

The shared characteristic between these two types of to-go cocktails is convenience and portability, allowing customers to enjoy their beverages off-premise with either pickup or delivery. One of the biggest alcohol trends of 2021, expect to see this portable category go places.

Alcohol delivery grows

In the wake of the pandemic, alcohol delivery sales are on the rise—and experts expect this trend to hold. Whether it’s due to safety concerns or just convenience, more and more customers are enjoying getting their drinks delivered—and restaurants are finding that it helps boost profit margins, among other 2021 restaurant industry trends.

Tap into this movement by signing up for Alcohol Delivery with DoorDash, which makes it easy for retailers to grow alcohol sales while maintaining compliance with local alcohol delivery laws and regulations. Businesses can choose to partner with Dashers for quick delivery: DoorDash’s average delivery time is in 35 minutes or less.


What will be popular next?

While we can’t say for certain what alcohol trends will emerge next—it’s safe to say that humans will continue to enjoy drinking it, given that alcohol has been around for nearly 10,000 years at this point. As you expand your alcohol offerings, take note of what customers in your area are particularly drawn to, and curate your stock or menu based on that. It’s time for us all to get into the spirit, and embrace the new. Cheers!

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Ali Cottong
Ali is a freelance content marketer with a wide range of experience crafting content and strategy for brands that include a world-renowned design agency, a men's artisan boot company, that app you use to request money on your phone, and more. Ali originally earned her nerd cred as a world-class Quidditch player and has competed in the Quidditch World Cup twice. She currently lives in Oakland where she's traded her broomstick in for a bike.