Interview Series: Zero Proofed

Meet Chirasmita and Priyanka, two sisters who redefined what it means to have a fun night out. After exploring their own sober-curious journeys, they wanted to share how good it felt to have a fun and lively time, almost replicating the carefree chaos of an afternoon-into-evening Saturday at your favorite bar, but sans the alcohol and hangxiety on Sunday. Although Zero Proofed, their company, is not a replication of a night out, it’s so much more than that. 

The Zero Proofed team curates experiences and hosts pop-up events nationally for anyone to mingle with intention, socialize with non-alcoholic drinks in hand, and join a community that supports each other. Chirasmita and Priyanka aim to create epic memories for everyone who loves a good time and de-stigmatize going out and not drinking. Making the sober-curious lifestyle more accessible allows people to show up authentically on a night out without the pressure of needing a drink to still have a fun time. 

We spoke with Chirasmita and Priyanka to learn more about what inspired them to create Zero Proofed and their journey thus far. 

What began your journey to drinking less?

Chirasmita and I actually grew up drinking out of fancy glasses at a young age, as our family always included us in every celebration (with kid drinks). So much to our surprise, when we grew up and found out that most fancy glasses had ethanol in them, it threw us for a loop! 

To us, beverages symbolized commemorating a moment in community, whether it was a celebration, a breath, or a loss. It quickly grew important to us that we could drink with others without feeling the effects of alcohol on our physical, mental, and emotional health. After college, we became corporate women who had to do business over drinks, but when we realized there were alternatives to working through a hangover, we embraced them! 

Why did you start Zero Proofed?

When Priyanka graduated in 2018, we naturally got to spend more time together, and making fun non-alcoholic drinks was one of our favorite ways to share happy moments. Soon enough, we were discussing her idea of opening an alcohol-free bar and even started looking at commercial leases in Seattle to open a brick-and-mortar spot. 

After hosting too many parties in college with seven other dancers, scraping by and graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and experiencing the vicious spiral of depression, anxiety, and alcohol, Priyanka realized she wanted to bring non-alcoholic socialization to the masses! But the world wasn't ready for it yet. 
Only a couple of non-alcoholic (N.A.) products were available, and very few people believed in the idea of a bar without alcohol. After several "h*ll nos," we tabled the idea. Priyanka moved on to get a "real job," and I went to get an engineering degree. 

When we discovered that the N.A. category had exploded in 2022, our passion was reignited. We felt like the category was starting to get the attention it deserved, and we were excited to dive in, explore mixology, and build N.A. cocktails.
Zero Proofed was actually born on a weekend I was visiting Priyanka. We were heading to a pool party at Priyanka's coworker's house and decided to pick up some N.A. options, including Kin and Ghia. We had a blast, went to bed around midnight, and woke up early the next morning, ready to head to the farmers' market. We had such a great night and realized we wanted to share that feeling with others. 

To us, the best way to create that atmosphere was through creating pop-ups designed to produce the experience of typically booze-y events but completely alcohol-free. We wanted to build the fun, carefree, and sometimes chaotic nature that your favorite bar possesses. 

With the industry still beginning its explosive growth, we knew it was the right time to jump in. The next day, we started Zero Proofed, and three weeks later, we hosted our first pop-up. 

Where did the inspiration come for your tagline, "Get Your Sundays Back?"

For most working professionals, Sundays have become a day to recover from the prior week and to manage anxiety for the week ahead rather than time off to enjoy themselves. We wanted to challenge this. 

Instead of treating Sunday as a recovery period, we wanted to unlock Sundays to be a magical 24 hours where you felt wonderful and could spend the day for yourself, indulging in self-care. We strived to host Zero Proofed events that allowed us and our community to soak in the high of social life without crashing down with the typical lows the following day. This unlocked so much time for us to make the most of our morning after a night out. We got our Sundays back— and that's how our tagline was born! 

Over time, we realized that the alcohol-free lifestyle improved our physical and mental well-being. Far fewer Sundays needed to be recovery days, and more of our Sundays have become days for celebrating ourselves. 

What is the impact of hosting fun and lively events without alcohol?

One of our guests recently told us that she "didn't realize how much [she] missed socializing until [we] started throwing these events." Through these events, we've allowed the community to remove the emphasis on alcohol from social life and have completely redefined what it means to go out and have a great time. 

Hosting events where the mission is to be present, have a great time, and connect over a sophisticated alcohol-free cocktail has allowed us to bring back the connection and authenticity of in-person events. Our events are catered to anyone looking to have a fun night out. 

To us, it isn't about the alcohol; it's about creating an atmosphere where our guests can feel free to come as they are. Not only has hosting these events been transformative to our sober-curious journeys, but countless attendees have given us feedback that our events have been a highlight in their journeys and have allowed them to find a community that supports them. 

What are the biggest challenges you have had to face as entrepreneurs?

Our biggest challenge has been bootstrapping the company financially. But using our small, self-funded budget has opened up so many doors for us. It's allowed us to maintain our authentic creativity, remain scrappy and resourceful, and grow a very engaged community. However, it can be very challenging when we're up against venture and sponsor-backed alcohol programs! 

What is your current relationship with alcohol?

We're both non-drinkers and don't feel drawn to drink alcohol again. We're really fortunate to say that we didn't ditch the booze out of necessity or recovery but out of a wish to create healthy lifestyles and live more authentically. Taking such a dramatic stance to remove alcohol from our lives made us redefine how we socialized and definitely challenged some of our friendships. Despite the hardships, we couldn't have imagined just how much fulfillment and abundance this lifestyle change would bring us. 

What words of encouragement would you give to people looking to explore sober curiosity?

Chirasmita: Surround yourself with people who understand your desire to be sober curious and will support you no matter what's in your cup. Even though sobriety is growing de-stigmatized, many are still trying to wrap their heads around the idea that you can be sober curious without struggling with alcoholism. Be patient with them, but also realize that you might need space while you are rediscovering your relationship with alcohol and your social life since they're still very much intertwined together. 

Carry bitters or alcohol replacements in your purse or car trunk so you can whip them out whenever the fancy glasses come out and there are no N.A. options! 

Priyanka: Personally, owning my sobriety came with some difficult conversations and shook up some friendships, but in the end, it's allowed me to grow into my most authentic and happy self. The sober-curious journey is magical! 

What's your favorite zero-proof cocktail?
Chirasmita: I may be *slightly* biased, but our Pear Ginger Mule is my favorite zero-proofed cocktail. I love the balance of texture and spice and that it is customizable to your preferred sweetness and tanginess. 

Priyanka: I love the Maple Tequila Espresso Martini. It's beautiful, familiar, and yet has a kick. It will power you to go big on the dance floor and be the life of the party. If you find yourself at a bar without 0% ABV options, it's often one of the easier drinks for bartenders to mix up without alcohol. 

Interview by: Elena Rogers

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