It’s January. That we know to be true. Perhaps you’ve heard of a little thing called “Dry January?” The buzzy trend that’s become a yearly tradition to many, pausing drinking for the time being, a month, at that. As social drinkers ourselves, we tapped a few experts to talk all things non-alcoholic beverages, sober curiosity, dry challenges and beyond. Meet Dawn Maire and Jamie Coulter of Starla Wines—the first and only ultra-premium alcohol removed wine created for wine lovers wishing to nix the spirits but savor the experience. With journalist Hilary Sheinbaum in the mix to shed light on how Dry January started as a bet and turned into an eyeopening life change, this is a conversation you won’t want to miss.
Dawn: During the pandemic, I was already at a point where I was trying to cut back and stop drinking all together. Since I was drinking less, I decided to break up with alcohol. It’s really hard to have a hangover and they’re much more intense the older you get. I really wanted to be more productive and that’s how I got into the non-alcoholic wine world because I adore wine. A lot of people assume if you’re not drinking you’re an alcoholic or if you’re a woman, you’re pregnant. It’s nice to have something you can sip on and still socialize with something other than a soda.
Jamie: I call myself a ‘modern drinker’ which Starla has sort of coined. It just means I don’t not drink alcohol, I just watch what I put in my body. Monday through Thursday I am a mom and I try not to drink that much so I can be more focused and present. I also get rosacea if I drink too much.”
Dawn: “We started Starla during the pandemic. It was a really interesting time to launch a brand. I think it’s always time for wine and there weren’t really products on the market. I saw that as a huge opportunity. To have something in your glass that’s beautiful, that you enjoy, and that’s healthy, is a real win. The way we make the wine is we have amazing high-quality grapes that are grown in California. We make this amazing wine and then ruin it by removing the alcohol. Then there’s the process of building the wine back. Other wine makers are adding sugar, and water, and juice. What you end up doing is getting something that tastes a lot like wine but it’s super high in calories and carbs and all the things that we don’t want. Early on, I started experimenting with botanicals and really wanting to make something—Starla is really made for that female customer. We wanted something that was light, didn’t have the calories, and was floral.
Jamie: I come from luxury goods and when Dawn called me and told me her awesome idea I was all about it because I had initially partied a little too hard in Covid. Dawn put botanicals back in the bottle so that it would stay low calorie instead of sugar or additives to give it a flavor that taste like alcohol.”
“My dry challenge started by accident. It started as a bet. Back in 2016, I was living in New York, in my 20s, dating, I was a red carpet reporter going to all those really fun events and after parties with top-shelf liquor. Even if I wasn’t drinking every night it was certainly available and definitely abundant. Towards the end of that year, I had dinner with my best guy friend and he asked me if I had any new year’s resolutions, to which I said, ‘absolutely not.’ He brought up this new thing called Dry January and I changed the subject because it didn’t fit into my lifestyle. On New Year’s Eve, I texted him with with a glass of champagne in one hand and my phone in the other and something possessed me to ask him if he wanted to have a Dry January bet and so at midnight our bet started. I went the entire month of January 2017 without a drop of alcohol and I felt amazing. So many things changed for me. I won the bet and this amazing perspective—I could still have fun, still hang out with my friends, still live this full, great life in New York without drinking at brunch, without going out for a cocktail after my long-hard day and it really changed things for me.”