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The infamous 21st birthday is something of legend, often thought of as an alcohol-fueled celebration centered around legal drinking status. But turning 21 doesn’t have to come with a hangover — and no one knows this better than your sober best friend. But your zero-proof bestie’s big birthday could leave you with a lingering question: When booze and bar hopping is off the table, what is a good 21st birthday gift?
Let’s get things straight: Your bestie isn’t the only Gen Zer embracing sobriety. In fact, Gen Z is noted for moving away from alcohol, either by consciously consuming brews and spirits or abstaining from them completely.
There aren’t many studies in the United States detailing exactly what percentage of Gen Zers are avoiding alcohol, but one highly cited 2018 study found Gen Z is drinking at least 20% less per capita than millennials did at the same age. According to a UK-based study by the National Health Service survey from 2021, about 35% of men and 42% of women aged 16 to 24 years old didn’t drink alcohol in the past year. Remember that the legal drinking age in the UK is 18, making these stats even more noteworthy.
No matter the reason for your best friend’s aversion to alcohol, she deserves a memorable 21st birthday. When simply buying a boozy gift is a no-go, here are 21 gifts that your newly minted 21-year-old BFF will love.
1. Glossier Birthday Balm Dotcom, $14
A cult-classic beauty product, Glossier’s Balm Dotcom is available in a wide selection of colors, including a birthday-specific option. The Birthday Balm Dotcom is a clear salve with a subtle shimmer in the flavor and scent of vanilla buttercream cake with sprinkles. Yum.
2. Birthdate Co. Candle, $49.99 (Orig. $59.99)
The Birthdate Co. created a unique candle for every single date of the year using astrology, numerology and tarot. The result is the brand’s Birthdate Candle that decodes your bestie’s personality based on her birthday, assigning a carefully selected scent based on her profile.
3. Custom Coffee Order Crewneck Sweatshirt, $50.62 (Orig. $67.49)
Forget alcohol. If your best friend is serious about her coffee order, get her a custom sweatshirt detailing her go-to java. It’s cute and practical.
4. New York Times Custom Birthday Book, $99.95
Your bestie was born and the rest is history. This birthdate coffee table book by the New York Times is proof, featuring front pages from your BFF’s birth year onward, allowing them to reflect on their first 21 years of life.
5. Skin Gym Rose Quartz 3-Piece Facial Set, $75
If your best friend is a skin care lover, gift her a luxurious Skin Gym rose quartz facial set featuring a facial roller, a gua sha tool and the brand’s signature “flowie.” It’ll up her already flawless routine.
6. Birthstone Wishing Ball, $35
What’s a birthstone wishing ball, you ask? Well, your BFF puts a slip of paper in this tiny glass sphere every week for a year, reflecting on a “single wish, accomplishment, or meditation.” Then, on your bestie’s 22nd birthday, she’ll have 52 memories to look back on from her 21st year.
7. The Bouqs Co. Funfetti Flowers and Candle, $84
Got a long-distance BFF? Send her a beautiful bouquet of roses and a rainbow sprinkle candle to brighten her big day.
8. Portland Syrups Gift Set of Soda Syrups, $50
Just because your best friend abstains from alcohol doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a tasty drink. This soda syrup set is a mocktail lover’s dream with 12 exciting flavors like Citrus Passionfruit, Mojito, Mango Habanero, Rose Cordial and Hibiscus Cardamom.
9. Local Eclectic Birth Flower Pendant Necklace, $65
Sure, birthstones are cool, but birth flowers deserve more attention. This 14-Karat gold necklace by Local Eclectic celebrates your bestie’s designated bud in a classic pendant.
10. Brumate Hopsulator Slim, $24.99
Keep your bestie’s seltzer cold with the extremely aesthetic Brumate Hopsulator Slim. If your bestie likes to keep her sober status private, this can cooler koozie can help her blend in at alcohol-fueled gatherings — or just keep her drink cold. (Psst! It also comes in a standard can size for sodas and regular-sized seltzers.)
11. Yellowpop Lucky Eye Neon Sign, $320
Authentic neon signs are a hefty investment, but Yellowpop makes the trend a touch more affordable. With several designs to choose from, you can find the perfect light-up decor that matches her vibe.
12. Collegiate Pouches, $33
If she loves to rep her school, this little pouch will be her new favorite “whatever” bag. It’s perfect for makeup, pens, snacks — the list goes on.
13. Little Words Project “Ride or Die” Bracelet, $25
Celebrate your “ride or die” with this proclamation bracelet in rainbow hues. It’s an elevated version of those BFF friendship bracelets you made in grade school.
14. The Sill Hoya Heart, $48 (Orig. $68)
Give your bestie your heart with this easy-to-care-for succulent. She’ll think of you every time she sees it in her plant collection.
15. The Mindful Drinking Co. Alcohol-Free Pack, $189.99 (Orig. $212.99)
No alcohol? No problem. Help your best friend make her own mocktail bar with this killer pack from The Mindful Drinking Co. The bestselling mix of completely non-alcoholic drinks includes Rum, Rosé, Whiskey and more — all zero proof.
16. Astrology Blanket, $124
Is your BFF all about her star sign? She’ll love cozying up in this 100% cotton woven blanket celebrating her astrological identity. The design for every single sign is beyond gorgeous.
17. Courant MAG:2 Essentials Phone Charger, $100
Keep her devices charged and at the ready with this magnetic charging stand for iPhone 12 and up. It even has a special doc to charge her AirPods at the same time. She can take video calls hands-free thanks to the device’s design — not to mention it just looks cool.
18. Birth Month Geode Wall Art, $180
Awaken her space with a geode art piece inspired by her birthstone. Each piece has real crystals embedded into it, adding good vibes to her sweet home.
19. Fresh Flower Holder Necklace, $58
This necklace with a spring-like charm is actually designed to hold tiny flower clippings for a delicate (and living!) accessory. It’s unique and timeless, going great with a bouquet of flowers.
20. Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Skin Care Gift Set, $67
Pamper her and her skin with some rose-scented favorites from Fresh. This skincare set is pure luxury at a reasonable price, featuring actual rose petals in the toner and face mask.
21. Pinch Provisions Shemergency Kit, $38
Be her savior in an emergency with this handy kit by Pinch Provisions. With everything from tweezers to earring backings to stain remover, this kit comes in clutch every time.
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