I had zero expectations of what an alcohol-free Sweden trip would look like.  I’d been to Scandinavia before but was a hearty consumer of beer at the time.  When I visited this fine country, I’d been off the sauce for 10 months. So what does the land of long winters, Vikings, and DIY furniture assembly have to offer the non-drinking minority?

The Alcohol-Free Promised Land

Upon arrival, I was delighted to find that every menu, in every restaurant, in every Swedish city visited, had an extensive non-alcoholic drink section.  Say whaaat?  Non-alcoholic ciders.  Booze-free sparkling wines.  Fun tonics and herbal spritzers.  And they were good, no sickly sweet $9 grape juice here. It was glorious.

I copied this (below) from an upscale wine menu at a restaurant in the Gamla Stan part of Stockholm, but similar choices (and more!) were available everywhere, including the hotel bar.

Alkoholfritt (Alcohol-free)

  • Kivik Svart Vinbär/citronmeliss (Kivik Black Currant/ Lemon Balm)
  • Kivik Päron Ingefära  (Kivik Pear Ginger)
  • Kivik Årets skörd Äpple  (Kivik Harvest of the Year Apple)
  • Rött, Vitt vin eller Rosé Natureo Glas  (Red, Wine, or Rose Wine)

I’m not the only non-drinking traveler to have noticed how Sweden is rocking the alcohol-free scene.  London blogger DryChick observes the following:

Much to my surprise it seemed that every restaurant I went to that weekend in Stockholm had alcohol-free wine or beer on the menu. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. I was able to order alcohol-free red with my steak at Zink Grill and a sparkling white with my sole at Stockholm Fisk. At the Fasching jazz bar, I discovered the 0% San Miguel cerveza that I had read about but hadn’t yet tried, and it was sweet and refreshing [link to full article at DryScene].

Hell yes! I’ve been trying to do some digging as to why Sweden has normalized offering non-alcoholic wines and beers in their restaurants, but haven’t found a satisfactory answer yet.  Sweden, like the rest of Scandinavia, tax alcohol very heavily as part of several initiatives to curb alcohol abuse and addiction.  However, Sweden seems unique in the sheer availability and choice of non-alcoholic drink options.  If anyone knows more, send me a note in the comments.

Can’t get enough of this non-alcoholic European travel advice? Who could blame you?  Read about Amsterdam here!

What is Fika?

One of the best parts of Swedish culture is fika—basically an excuse to have cake and coffee mid-morning.