Virginia beverage entrepreneur creates non-alcoholic cocktail

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — After Cecilia Rios Murrieta stopped drinking alcohol, she still wanted to participate in the social ritual of drinking — to be able to have a drink that made her excited.

So she created Joie Avec Sans, better known as JAS, a soft drink brand. Pre-orders for the Paloma Libre cocktail have just started.

“I really think this is a category of drink that has been missing from our lives,” Murrieta said. “I think it has a lot to do with misconceptions about sobriety and when we see someone who doesn’t drink we think they’re boring and they really aren’t. They are actually living their best life.”


This isn’t Murrieta’s first foray into the beverage world. Now a student at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, he founded a mezcal company in 2012.

“I fell in love with mezcal and decided to make it my life,” she said.

It started out as a side hustle—learning about mezcal and talking about it with friends. It became her passion, she said, and then her calling.

“I love that side of drinks that people identify with — what are you drinking, what does it say about you?” she said.

Being in the liquor industry means going out and drinking a lot, she said, and over time she began to question her relationship with alcohol. On December 5, 2018, she decided to quit drinking.

“I made a very conscious decision to just stop drinking,” she said. “It was a very scary decision because part of it was my life, my business, my livelihood, but in another sense my life was also at stake. I was thinking about applying for an MBA and I thought: how am I supposed to do all these things I want to do – live the way I really want to live – if I’m sabotaging myself all the time? And so I decided to quit drinking right there.”

She began to devote more time to herself, doing yoga, learning French, and at home in Mexico City preparing to apply to graduate school. Murrieta also began to think about who she was as a person.

“I’m very sociable – I like going out with my friends, I like going out to restaurants – and part of this life that I’ve built in the spirits industry has been going out, meeting people, eating and drinking” , said she said. “That was my biggest fear about quitting drinking, that I would miss out on that.”

When she first started going out sober, Murrieta tried exploring alternative drinks, but she wasn’t thrilled with the options — the non-alcoholic options available were hard to find, expensive, or too sweet.

“I felt like something was missing for people who just wanted to go into their fridge and get a drink that made them feel good,” she said.

She said she wants to feel included, but also excited and empowered by what she’s drinking.

“There’s this whole ritual when you go to the beach or you go to the supermarket and you find drinks that excite you — you think about who you’re going to share them with,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about all these little things, like, ‘How can I feel this excitement for what I’m going to drink even though I don’t drink alcohol?’ And that’s where the concept of this ‘joie’ came from, like the joy of living without alcohol.”

Murrieta met up with a friend in New York and spent two days trying out different extraction methods. Eventually, they settled on a Paloma Libre flavor — based on the classic Mexican cocktail — and set about creating it.

“We hand-stacked these little bottles, and I brought them,” she said. “We did a little tasting with people. And it was good.”

Darden lecturer Damon DeVito urged them to create a website and start taking e-commerce pre-orders. She borrowed her classmate’s can seamer to wrap the first batch.

The next batch is now ready to scale and will be made by a contract packer who will make a shelf stable product and then some.

Pre-orders can be placed at drinkjas.com.

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