Big buzz about no-buzz drinking After finding the availability of low- and no-alcohol beverages lacking, Winnipeg couple launched the Søbr Market

Whether it be Dry January, Dry February, Sober October or just a desire for better health and a break from booze, there are plenty of reasons to consider reducing one’s alcohol intake.

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Whether it be Dry January, Dry February, Sober October or just a desire for better health and a break from booze, there are plenty of reasons to consider reducing one’s alcohol intake.

Add in the fact that studies have been indicating millennials are drinking less than older generations, and there’s never been more need for alcohol-free alternatives to wine, beer and spirits that aren’t coffee, pop, water or juice.

Enter the Søbr Market, a Winnipeg-based online one-stop shop for non-alcoholic drinks. Run by the husband-and-wife team of Shane and Jessie Halliburton, the store offers a range of zero/low-alcohol (0.5 per cent by volume or less) beverages from all corners of the globe — and, unlike most options currently available locally, they are both interesting and quite tasty.

Shane Halliburton stopped drinking alcohol 16 months ago, but found the non-alcoholic options available here were lacking. “I started looking all over, ordering from far away, from the U.S. and Europe, paying way too much,” he explains, laughing. “And eventually, that led to the idea of starting a business — because there are probably other people looking for this kind of stuff too.”

That idea led Halliburton, who had been in project management in construction, to start the Søbr Market in June 2022. Wife Jessie helped out while on maternity leave from her job as an administrative officer with the WRHA; rather than return to work at the beginning of 2023, she’s now working alongside Shane full time on the business.

When it comes to sourcing products, it’s all about how good the Halliburtons think the product tastes.

“We search online, find out who’s making what where, order it and taste it and then decide what we’re actually going to pursue and bring in,” Shane says. The Søbr Market now features more than 300 products for sale at, including non-alcoholic wine, beer and spirits, as well as other alcohol-free beverages.

Since starting up, the pair have been busy pouring at various markets, pop-ups and trade shows, allowing people try before they buy — which, in a market still new to the many developments in the zero/low-alcohol market, has been key.

Pouring for the public also offers the chance to connect with others who have stopped drinking, never drank alcohol, are sober-curious or are taking a break. “People see a big Søbr Market sign, and they feel comfortable to come up and start talking about their story, why they’re not consuming,” Jessie says. “I feel for the parents who have talked to us about their 18-year-old daughters who are like, ‘I don’t want to drink alcohol’ — but the pressure is there.”

On a purely visual level, many of the Søbr Market’s non-alcoholic beers and pre-mixed cocktails could easily be mistaken for the “real” (read: alcoholic) deal, which is helpful in these kinds of situations. “No one really is going to be the wiser, because they look the part. And a lot of them even taste the part,” says Jessie. “It’s just been great to meet people and have these conversations about destigmatizing the choice to not consume alcohol.”

While some of the wine, beer and spirits replacements taste pretty darn close to their boozier counterparts, others have been made to simply be their own thing — a delcious and often healthier alternative to alcoholic drinks. “I think the biggest thing we like to tell people is try and come in with an open mind — don’t come up with an expectation that it is going to taste exactly like what you were consuming,” says Jessie.

In addition to selling from their website, in early January The Søbr Market locked in deals with Cottontail Cannabis Co. on Corydon Avenue, Wolseley Kombucha on Wall Street and Black Market Provisions on Osborne Street to carry a curated selection of their products.

They also recently collaborated on a zero-alcohol cocktail workshop with One Sixteen, the tap room for Good Neighbour Brewing Co., who also make their own non-alcoholic sparkling hop water. The event quickly sold out, proving there’s a thirst to learn more about making thoughtful, booze-free cocktails beyond the simple virgin margarita or Shirley Temple.

So far there have been no runaway bestsellers, but a number of categories have been performing well. “Wine was really big over the holidays,” Jessie says, adding they were filling about 50 customer orders a week in December. “Otherwise it’s been pretty even across the board. You get people who are just looking for products that have premium ingredients in them — no sugars or no added sugars, things like that. Then you find people that are looking for the spirit alternatives, wine alternatives… As far as spirits go, it’s often about whisky, and whether we have something that can replace it.” Shane adds that the pre-mixed cocktails have also been selling briskly.

While the selection of zero-alcohol products at private wine stores has been improving over the last couple of years, options available at big grocery stores and Liquor Marts are less inspiring. “They’re kind of going to do what they’re gonna do — and that’s completely fine,” Jessie says. “With Shane doing a lot of our sourcing and importing himself, he’s looking for those products that are new, are unique and have great reviews.”

Beyond selling to Winnipeggers, The Søbr Market offers shipping across Canada and into the U.S., as they’re not restricted by the same regulations that govern the movement of alcohol. “We have stock of items that you can’t get in the States right now; especially some of the wines, which aren’t in the U.S. market yet,” Jessie says, adding that shipping low- or no-alcohol drinks can be tricky because they freeze easier than regular wine, beer or spirits.

For 2023, the big project for The Søbr Market will be opening their own bricks-and-mortar storefront in Winnipeg — an endeavour they’re close to finalizing and announcing. “It seems like Winnipeggers really want a place to see stuff in person,” says Shane. “We’ve had a lot of other people in the industry say we should just stay online — it’s the easiest thing to do. But it seems Winnipeg has a strong desire to physically hold things.”

With both the Halliburtons now working full time at The Søbr Market, they’re also hoping they can expand into wholesale distribution, supplying more products to other local retailers. “December was crazy busy for customer orders; since January started we’ve had a lot more wholesale inquiries,” Shane says.

“The one thing we can say about the Winnipeg community is that everyone has been extremely supportive,” adds Jessie. “We’ve had lots of businesses reach out and say, ‘Thank you, we love what you’re doing — here’s a shelf in my store, come stock it for me.’”

Twitter: @bensigurdson


No booze? No problem

All products listed below are available from The Søbr Market (except where noted).


Athletic Brewing Co. Superfood Swell non-alcoholic IPA (Stratford, Conn. — $3.49/355ml can)

Features organic Vienna malt, mango and pineapple puree, wheat, hops, yeast and malted barley; pale gold and hazy, with big tropical fruit aromas with underlying hoppiness. Mainly dry, light-plus bodied, big tropical flavours with nice bitterness from the hops. Delicious.

One for the Road Brewing Co. Got Hops? IPA (Calgary — $3.99/473ml can)

Pale gold in colour and frothy, with grassy and subtle citrus aromas from the hops, as well as the underlying malt note. The citrus is prominent on the dry, light-bodied palate, with the bite from the hops persisting throughout, delivering some zip to go with the malty flavour. Crisp and clean.



Mavrik Storm & Spice (Winchester, U.K. — $6.99/250ml can)

This take on the dark and stormy brings citrus, molasses and ginger aromas. The latter brings spicy flavours along with citrus notes and lively effervescence that make for an intense, delicious drink. Serve this excellent drink over ice with a slice of lime.

Crisp & Crude Gold Fashioned (Austin, Texas — $34/4x250ml cans)

This non-alcoholic cocktail “with botanical terpenes” brings wood barrel and orange peel aromas like a real-deal old fashioned. There’s almost an iced tea component that comes through on the palate, with just a hint of sweetness and a long, spicy finish. Tasty.

Parch Spirits Spiced Piñarita (Tucson, Ariz. – $6.49/250ml can)

A non-alcoholic agave cocktail “infused with desert botanicals and adaptogens” as well as cayenne pepper, roasted pineapple and lime, the Parch delivers loads of pineapple and spice aromas. It’s light-bodied, modestly carbonated and medium-sweet, with intense pineapple flavours coming with a hit of cayenne and a long, spicy finish. Well done.



Lautus Sauvignon Blanc (South Africa — $20-25, private wine stores and The Søbr Market)

Crisp green apple and some citrus come through aromatically here, with a hint of grassiness that’s textbook Sauvignon Blanc. There’s a touch of sweetness on the light-bodied palate and it doesn’t bring quite as much intense tartness of most Sauv Blancs, but it’s decent.

Leitz Eins Zwei Zero Sparkling Riesling (around $6/250ml can, private wine stores)

Subtle lemon zest and tart apple notes come with a floral touch on the nose of this sparkling German wine. It’s medium-sweet and brings fun fizz, with juicy apple and lemon notes and some decent acidity that comes with the bubbles.

Thomson & Scott Noughty Syrah (South Africa — $23-28, private wine stores and The Søbr Market)

Ripe cherry and earth notes show well aromatically here, with hints of iron and red licorice coming through as well. It’s medium-plus bodied, chewy and with some sweetness, bringing ripe cherry, licorice and a touch of smoke with a hint of tannin. Better than most non-alcoholic reds.



Feragaia (Scotland — $47.99/500ml bottle)

A blend of “land and sea botanicals” made in the Scottish lowlands, it brings lovely pear, spice and melon flavours. And while the product isn’t meant to mimic whisky, there’s almost a hint of peatiness here as well that adds complexity. Very good.

Free Spirits — The Spirit of Bourbon (Marin County, Calif. — $54.99/750ml bottle)

There’s all manner of caramel and vanilla that comes through on this non-alcoholic tribute to bourbon, with a peppery finish that stands in for the long, warm burn of booze on the finish. Not for solo sipping, but more for making mocktails.

Crossip Blazing Pineapple (U.K. — $41.99/500ml bottle)

The Crossip line was crafted by a U.K. bartender, and the Blazing Pineapple is a perfect addition to tiki-type faux-cocktails, with loads of big tropical fruit flavours and lingering spice that brings some serious heat and adds complexity.

Monday Zero Alcohol Gin (Calif. — $54.99/750ml bottle)

Gin is perhaps the easiest booze to mimic, what with many of the flavours coming from botanicals in the first place. The Monday delivers them in spades, with lovely floral and spice notes that linger as well. Your faux gin and tonic is sorted.

Ben Sigurdson

Ben Sigurdson
Literary editor, drinks writer

Ben Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.


Updated on Saturday, January 14, 2023 11:01 AM CST: Fixes typo

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