Sipple, Texas' first non-alcoholic bottle shop, opens near Rice Village

Sipple's shelves are stocked with spirits... but no actual alcohol.

Sipple is founded by Helenita and Danny Frounfelkner.

Sipple is founded by Helenita and Danny Frounfelkner.

Therron Francis

One sunny Saturday in "Sober October," Houston welcomed a new bottle shop. But instead of hard spirits like gin and vodka, it serves pours of Chardonnay, mushroom beer and bottled Italian spritzes—all without any actual alcohol included.

Sipple, the first non-alcoholic bottle shop in Texas, opened its doors near Rice Village on Oct. 16, fully stocked with spirited alternatives to beer, wine and liquor.

For Danny Frounfelkner, who founded Sipple alongside his wife, Helenita, it's a shift from the wines, beers and ciders he surrounded himself with during more than 20 years in the beverage industry as a consultant, beverage director for multiple Houston restaurants, and a director at Houston's City Orchard cidery. But even with his vast experience in the industry, Danny cut back his own drinking significantly during the pandemic after seeing alcohol affect his life in ways he aimed to curtail.

"You're tasting stuff all day ... and for me, that became a problem," he said. "I was always working, and then I started going, ‘You know what, I'm not an alcoholic, but I don’t have a good relationship with alcohol.’ And I think a lot of people experienced that during the pandemic."

Sipple's offerings include zero-proof alternatives to beer, wine and liquor. 

Sipple's offerings include zero-proof alternatives to beer, wine and liquor. 

Therron Francis

Danny isn't the only one who has shifted his happy hour to include “zero-proof” drinks. Non-alcoholic bottle shops and bars have been slowly but steadily popping up across the country. At least five new dry stores opened in New York City in the past five years, and the nonalcoholic drink market—from sodas to alcohol alternatives—is estimated to be worth $1.6 trillion worldwide by 2025. While places like Sipple are havens for those who no longer drink, they also serve a purpose for those who want to drink less or quit altogether.

"Our friend Chris Marshall from Sans Bar in Austin said, ‘We like to use the term sober serious,'" Helenita Frounfelkner said. "We say now it's become sober curious, sober sometimes and sober serious. It doesn't matter where you are on your journey. There's something here for you."

Sipple's mission, at least in part, is to make spaces a little more inclusive for the sober community. Beyond its zero-proof bottles, the Frounfelkner’s shop includes a cozy back patio, as well as a tasting area with an iPad of song pairings to go with available drinks where they’ll also host events in the coming months. They are also making plans for subscription boxes and an event they call Sipfest, an alcohol-free music festival.

"It’s something close to me, coming from cutting back drinking myself and then not drinking at all anymore," Danny said. "I really want to give back to not only the sober community but to all communities—the health community, religious communities, athletes, the pregnant community."

Customers are able to purchase drinks in-store to try in the shop's tasting areas. 

Customers are able to purchase drinks in-store to try in the shop's tasting areas. 

Therron Francis

While non-alcoholic cocktails aren't new, Danny noted that trendy "mocktails" are more often sugary afterthoughts on bar and restaurant menus rather than well-crafted pours, which he admits he was guilty of at first. Danny is hoping the growing popularity of zero-proof or "unleaded" drinks and shops will inspire restaurants to expand past that thinking. Local spots including Rosie Cannonball, Better Luck Tomorrow, Nancy’s Hustle and Tiny Champions already offer non-alcoholic cocktails, sans the more juvenile mocktail label. With that, Danny feels Houston is ready to embrace alcohol-free drinks.

"This is here, this is serious," Danny said. "It's not a trend, it's not a fad, this is only the beginning."  

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