Meet Our Founder, Jesse, As He Shares Our Story
Hello friends, I’m Jesse, founder of The Mocktail Project, a grassroots movement that is focused on helping to create a safer and more inclusive drinking culture. For those of you reading about The Mocktail Project for the first time, I want to welcome you into our mission. Here we are creating a drinking culture where mocktails and cocktails co-exist. If you know me, you know that my dreams are big, but my vision is simple. I want to have the joy of sharing a mocktail with you in any social setting across the country.
If you have been following along for the past two years, I want to thank you for your support. If you know me personally, you probably have a few good (and not so good) stories about me prior to my last drink. As The Mocktail Project turns three this month I took some time to reflect on just how far we’ve come.
In 2017, on my sobriety date, we poured our very first mocktail. It was a moment I shared with a handful of close friends and family members. With that first mocktail poured, The Mocktail Project was officially founded, based on a real story and nothing more than a dream. That story was a tale of a 25-year-old individual in search of a better way to navigate his way through early sobriety after struggling with alcohol for the better part of his life. That story was mine.
I never felt comfortable in my own skin. I could never fully enjoy those special moments in life. I never knew what calm felt like. I used alcohol to cope with my insecurities and help to numb different life events that I experienced as a child. I got tired and worn out. I had given up on the life I thought I wanted for myself. Alcohol was never the problem, it was how I abused alcohol to deal with my own life struggles.
In 2017, I quit my job and went on yearlong sober voyage in a big van that says, “Sober Voyager.” Have you seen it driving around town? I used my voyage to challenge myself to inspire others that if you choose not to imbibe you can still go and try all the things you once felt you couldn’t.
Back then I never believed I could walk back into those same social settings I once enjoyed. I assumed that I would never be able to enjoy another music concert or tailgate at a sporting event. I gave up on the notion that I could ever travel to places like Napa Valley or enjoy a Saturday afternoon on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail with my friends and family.
Somewhere between when I quit my job and typing out this message to you, I had the realization that my story was the same story as the 30% of Americans that continue to make the personal choice not consume alcohol on any given day. I wasn’t alone.
Now, I understand that being (different) isn’t all that different. Many of us share similar stories with plenty of reasons to not imbibe. Maybe you’re sober, sober curious, the designated driver, a mother to be, or simply taking a break from alcohol and would enjoy a healthier alternative when socializing. I wanted to create a movement where those who do and don’t imbibe could share the same great experiences and memories in life, together.
Like so many people I have talked to about The Mocktail Project, many of us feel irritated that when we walk into a social environment and ask for a non-alcoholic drink-we get treated more like a kid than an adult. Trust me, I will happily pay for a great drink. Stop giving us sugar bombs, plastic cups, and drinks for free. I am not different because I don’t imbibe, I just choose not to consume alcohol.
Ok, rant over, but if you have ever shared a similar experience you’ve come to the right place!
This is a big year for me. On April 16, 2019, I am celebrating five years of sobriety! Five incredible years since I made the personal choice to become a non-drinker. That means it’s also going to be a big year for The Mocktail Project. I’ve set some lofty goals for both of us.
In two short years, The Mocktail Project has already crafted and served more than 10,000 mocktails. With your help, I now have a personal goal that I know we can achieve together. I want to craft and serve 1,000,000+ mocktails, spirit free, or zero-proof cocktails in the first ten years of our mission. To accomplish this, I need your help! I want to partner and collaborate with as many great social environments, local charities, bars and restaurants, groups and organizations, and our communities most vibrant events to provide more mocktails for those who don’t imbibe.
To grow our mission, in 2017, with the support of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, we started a community initiative called “Mocktober.” Our goal through this community initiative is to generate awareness around creating a better drinking culture and to empower bars and restaurants, distilleries, and our communities most vibrant social settings to become more socially inclusive. Participants craft one-of-a-king mocktail and non-alcoholic cocktails to help raise awareness and financial support for recovery in our community.
Last year more than 35 bars, restaurants, and distilleries participated in Mocktober, helping to raise $3,775 for local recovery efforts throughout Kentucky. This year, I have a personal goal to have more than 100+ venues participate in our week-long event of crafting and serving one-of-a-kind mocktails.
Elanor Roosevelt once said: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
Two years ago, when I first started The Mocktail Project, it was hard to image that I would one day have the privilege to collaborate with brands like Brown-Forman, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, Copper & Kings, Ale-8-One, Bourbon Barrel Foods, or Mint Julep Tours, just to name a few.
In 2014, just a few weeks into my sobriety, I attended the Kentucky Derby, determined to still try and enjoy the social environments I always enjoyed. I remember leaving the track that day questioning myself if I would ever get to once again experience that euphoric feeling of raising a crafted drink during the playing of “My Old Kentucky Home,” a moment everyone should experience at least once in their life. Five short years later, and just two full years into our mission, The Mocktail Project will have the honor to craft and serve the first ever mocktail at the 145th Kentucky Derby with the support of Brown-Forman and Old Forester.
We know that we can help our community have a healthier relationship with alcohol. We want to provide a platform where you feel comfortable ordering a crafted non-alcoholic option at any bar or restaurant. We want to empower social environments to provide access to high-quality, non-alcoholic options for when you choose not to imbibe.
Through The Mocktail Project, we want to work directly with spirit brands, community leaders on providing safe ride initiatives, help to create delicious non-alcoholic beverage options for charity events, music venues, sporting arenas and our communities most vibrant social settings. In other words, we want to share a mocktail with YOU.
It’s a lot, but I know we can do it!
I’m Jesse, and for today, I am sober. I didn’t create The Mocktail Project just for those who are sober or sober curious. I started The Mocktail Project so that everyone could feel welcomed at the table. You never know who in your life may need or would like to take a break from imbibing. So, let’s make sure that there’s a mocktail on the menu.