photo credit: The Gunner Mocktail via photopin (license)
Being in this industry can be a bit taxing on your health. Even if you skip the after-shift shot or after-hours drinks with your fellow bartenders, there are a constant flurry of industry events with free drinks and samples sponsored by spirits brands. On the one side, it’s great! Catching up with friends after a hard shift can be a good way to unwind, and industry events are the best way to keep up with what’s new and noteworthy. But sometimes it can just be a bit too much.

What’s Dry January?

It’s not just January in drought-dry California – and to my surprise, it’s not just a “saying”. Formally backed by the “Alcohol Concern” group, a UK charity about alcohol moderation, Dry January has a website, a Twitter usernamehashtag, and a 31 day email challenge.

And it really is a great idea – after the craziness of the holidays, taking a month off from alcohol can be a great way to “reset” your body and start the new year right. (And for bartenders who’ve just survived the most taxing season of all, R&R is very, very necessary!)

Keeping it Interesting…

Thankfully, going without the booze doesn’t mean you have to be antisocial or skip that post-shift visit to the industry bar in your town. And it doesn’t mean you’re relegated to Shirley Temples and sparkling water either. (Though I’m not ashamed to admit that I do like a Shirley Temple from time to time…)

Here are some alcohol-free drink ideas that any bar should be able to make, and that actually taste great.

Non-Alcoholic Options for Dry January

Tonic & Lime

Skip the gin! While rarely consumed on its own in the US, tonic water is delicious on its own. Better yet, it’s almost guaranteed to be behind the bar. So order a tonic water with lime and enjoy!

The Joys of Ginger Beer

Don’t confuse Ginger Beer with Ginger ale – while they are similar, ginger beer has s much stronger ginger flavor and far less sugar. Admittedly, it’s still far closer to a soft drink than a beer, but it’ s more interesting than soda water and far less sugary than other soft drink options.

Go for the Orange Handle

It’s midnight – the last thing you want is to get amped up on a bunch of caffeine. But who’s to say you can’t have a decaf coffee? I’m a huge coffee lover and have used this trick myself when I just wanted something tasty and hot on a cold night. Chances are pretty good the bar’s going to need to brew you a pot – but hey, it’ll be fresh!

Bring on the Grenadine

I’m embarrassed to admit that it was a very long time before I realized that Grenadine is not actually alcoholic. (I know, I know … ) It’s an ingredient that you’ll find in cocktails and “mocktails” alike – and for good reason! Here are a couple options for drinks with Grenadine that won’t end your Dry streak:

  • A “grown up” Shirley Temple: Make it with Ginger beer
  • A “Sunrise” (Tequila Sunrise without the Tequila)
  • The “Suburbs” (a non-alcoholic Cosmo: replace the triple sec with orange juice, remove the vodka and add a splash of Grenadine)

Non-Alcoholic Beer & Wine

Most bars should stock at least one non-alcoholic beer (though expect it to be dusty…)  Your zero-octane wine options are unfortunately likely to be far more limited. But if you just feel like a beer – there’s nothing wrong with ordering the non-alcoholic version and going with it. Do they taste as good? In my opinion – nope. But are they still the closest flavor to a “real” beer / wine? Yep, as far as I know, they are.

One Month of R&R

We work in an industry that’s all about alcohol – let’s be honest. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be smart about how much we drink. Bartending is hard enough on your body – so taking a month off to recuperate from the holidays is not a bad idea at all. Hopefully we’ve given you a few suggestions to keep in your back pocket so you can still go out with your friends and have a great time.

What have I missed? Let me know in the comments what you’re drinking in Dry January (or Sober October for you off-season folks)… I’d love your suggestions!