After Cecilia Rios Murrieta stopped drinking alcohol, she still wanted to participate in the social ritual of drinking — being able to have a beverage that made her feel excited.
So she created Joie Avec Sans, better known as JAS, an alcohol-free beverage brand. Pre-orders of its Paloma Libre cocktail just launched.
“I really think that this is a category of drinks that has been missing from our lives,” Murrieta said. “I think it has a lot to do with misconceptions of sobriety, and when we see someone who doesn’t drink we think they’re boring, and they’re really not. They’re actually living their best life.”
This isn’t Murrieta’s first dip into the beverage world. The now-student at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business started a mezcal company in 2012.
“I fell in love with mezcal and decided to make it my life,” she said.
In the beginning, it was an avocation — she learned about mezcal and would talk about it with friends. It became a passion for her, she said, and then became her vocation.
“I really love this side of beverages that people identify with — what you drink, what does it say about you?” she said.
Being in the liquor industry involves a lot of going out and drinking, she said, and over time she began to question her relationship with alcohol. On Dec. 5, 2018, she decided to stop drinking.
“I made a very conscious decision to just quit drinking,” she said. “It was a very scary decision, because part of it was my life, my business, my livelihood, but also my life was on the line, in another sense. I was thinking about applying to an MBA, and thinking: How am I going to do all of these things that I want to do — live the way that I actually want to live — if I’m sabotaging myself all the time? And so I decided to cut drinking right there.”
She started devoting more time to herself, doing yoga and learning French, and preparing to apply to grad school while at home in Mexico City. Murrieta also began thinking about who she was as a person.
“I’m very social — I love to go out with my friends, I love to go to restaurants — and part of that life that I had built within the liquor industry was about going out, meeting people, eating and drinking,” she said. “That was my biggest fear of quitting drinking, that I was going to miss out on that.”
When she started going out while sober, Murrieta tried to look for alternative beverages but she wasn’t enthusiastic about the options — the non-alcoholic options available were hard to find, expensive or too sweet.
“I felt like there was something missing for people who just wanted to go into their fridge and grab a drink that made you feel good,” she said.
She said she wanted to feel included, but also excited and empowered about what she was drinking.
“There’s this whole ritual when you’re going to go to the beach, or you’re gonna go to the supermarket and find drinks that excite you — you’re thinking about who you’re going to share them with,” she said. “I was thinking about all these little things, like, ‘How can I recreate that excitement for what I’m going to be drinking, even though I’m not drinking alcohol?’ And that’s when the concept of this ‘joie,’ like the joy of living without alcohol, came.”
Murrieta met up with a friend in New York and for two days they tried different extraction methods. Eventually, they settled on a Paloma Libre flavor — based on the classic Mexican cocktail — and set out to create it.
“We hand batched these little bottles, and I brought them back with me, “ she said. “We did a little tasting with people. And it was good.”
Darden lecturer Damon DeVito pushed her to create a website and start accepting e-commerce pre-orders. She borrowed her classmate’s can seamer to package the first batch.
Now ready to scale, the next batch will be made utilizing a contract packager — who will create a shelf-stable product and a lot more of it.
Pre-orders can be placed at drinkjas.com.