Even if the storefront wasn’t an eye-catching purple, Soft Spirits would still be a standout along Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake. It’s Los Angeles’ very first nonalcoholic bottle shop.
Its origin story begins with an Instagram account by owner Jillian Barkley, which she used to digitally display her nonalcoholic bottle finds. As her collection grew along with intrigue from her social media audience, she considered, “Maybe this is a service I can provide.”
By April of this year, Barkley was on the road to opening a physical shop.
“It’s very exciting to finally have a home,” she said at Soft Spirit’s grand opening on Oct. 9.
Barkley calls the Eastside home herself, but her decision to set roots in Silver Lake was out of more than convenience. It was all about knowing her intended customer.
“I think that the demographic that really seems to appeal to this type of category tends to be people who are maybe not older, but getting past that phase of wanting to go out all the time,” she explained.
Flanking both walls, 5-row shelves display various nonalcoholic canned beverages, bottles and spirits, with a selection of refrigerated items at the back of the store right by the wood-topped counter.
“There’s a lot of things like that that are botanical extracts that are really simple you can just add this to soda water or tonic and it gives just more of a cocktail feel. You get a bit better flavor profile, it feels maybe a little more elevated,” Barkley said, pointing to a shelf that featured the likes of Bax Botanics and Optimist Botanicals, both booze-free spirits.
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During the process of curating her product lineup, Barkley was surprised by what a premium feel some products offered. She recalled trying non-alcoholic beers early on that she didn’t enjoy as much.
“These have a really nice mouthfeel, they have a nice viscosity. They really hold up the way that you would expect a traditional spirit,” Barkley said.
To celebrate opening day, Soft Spirits welcomed Three Spirit ambassador Silamith Maclean, who guided visitors through a presentation of the company’s social spirits: Livener (vibrant and fruity with natural caffeine found in guayusa), Social Elixir (a bittersweet mood elevator that includes yerba mate and lion’s mane mushroom) and Nightcap (for calming the senses via notes of oak and citrus). She offered a taste of a grapefruit spritzer that featured the Livener.
Three Spirit first hit U.S. shelves in January after its 2018 launch in the United Kingdom. With a mission to create a product that enables connection the way alcoholic drinks have done for so long, their social elixirs are also vegan and gluten-free.
“Our mission is pure pleasure innovation. This is not an imitation of an alcoholic drink. It is something that stands out on its own, enhances cocktails and creates a new option,” co-founder Dash Lilley has previously explained.
In addition to being found in premier bars like Soho House and Nightjar in London, Three Spirit won awards at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
“Three Spirit allows us to leverage the opportunity that exists between alcohol and no-alcohol by using functional ingredients that can subtly affect an individual's state of mind, without the impact of excessive alcohol consumption,” Tristan Stephenson said, who is part of the company’s team of bartenders that assisted in the spirits’ development. “Soon it won’t be enough for a bar to simply offer a non-alcoholic drink that looks and tastes similar to its alcoholic counterpart.”
Soft Spirits is located at 3208 ½ W. Sunset Blvd.
Photography by: Courtesy Soft Spirits