For quite a long time, I associated alcohol with having fun. In high school, it meant hanging with older kids. In college, it was a way to decompress while making new friends. In my late twenties, it became part of my livelihood and I was delighted at the opportunity to pair extraordinary wines with extraordinary cheeses both on and off the clock. So, what happened? Why did I “give up” alcohol?
The short answer is something just clicked. It wasn’t planned and it wasn’t the result of something horrible that I’d done under the influence. It was quite recent, the beginning of Covid actually. The world was totally uncertain and terrified of what was going to happen next. I was driving home and passed the Richfield Liquor Store. Cars overflowed the parking lot onto the street. I snapped a picture, laughed, and quickly headed to Total Wine. What if all my favorite wines run out!? I pulled into a spot and it hit me, alcohol wasn’t a casual thing in my life, and it wasn’t casual for all the people around me either. At that moment, dozens of past partial thoughts and inklings formed a serious question:
What was I really getting out of this?
I went into the store, rounded Spain and Portugal (six bottles in the cart) and just needed to swing by New Zealand now to pick up my favorite sustainable Sauv Blanc and I’ll be set. Then I walked by a worker wearing a hazmat suit and asked, “Do you have any nonalcoholic wines?” And so my alcohol free journey began (the next day) after I drank my favorite Sauv Blanc.
The First 30 Days
This period of time was definitely the hardest. Suddenly, I noticed alcohol everywhere, especially on TV which had become my new social group. My new friends drank scotch after a funeral, champagne at a wedding, beer watching the game, and to celebrate shots, Shots, SHOTS.
Around this time I also found Annie Grace’s podcast This Naked Mind, and it was life changing. Annie is a former marketing CEO turned alcohol fact checker. Now over 300 episodes strong, her show created a community that is excited to be curious – without labels or judgement.
Like Annie, I’ve not sworn myself to a lifetime of sobriety, but just rounding the 7 month mark I don’t feel like I’ve given anything up. I’ll have another alcoholic drink whenever I want to!
The Search for the Best Alcohol Free Beverage
Whether you are cleansing for dry January, curious about life on the other side, or just want to know what to serve your non-drinking friends at parties (10 or less + 6 feet apart), below are some of my favorites!
Best Alcohol Free Beers:
Nah by Bauhaus \ Created with German malt and hops, this Munich style Helles is bright and refreshing.
Oatmeal Stout by Bravus Brewing \ Smooth full bodied beer with notes of chocolate and caramel.
Raspberry Gose by Bravus Brewing \ Light wheat beer with salty tart raspberry notes that goes-uh really well with some fresh Chevre.
Grapefruit by Clausthaler \ Bright citrus notes with this blended beer.
Best Alcohol Free Wines:
Sparkling Brut by Fre \ Effervescent bubbles with notes of green apple and ripe pear, and a clean dry finish.
Nosecco by St Regis \ Crisp structured bubbles with citrus, white flower, and nutmeg notes.
Wonderful white by Almost Zero \ Delicate notes of apple, citrus, and tropical fruit. Long crisp finish.
(I’m still on the hunt for a red wine I’d recommend)
Alcohol Free Cocktails:
Alcohol Free Mimosa
I love things that are simple. If you’re hosting brunch, there’s already enough things going on. Grab a large pitcher and fill it half full with ice cubes. Pour a bottle of Nosecco or sparkling brut in and add half as much orange juice. I once added mango juice instead, and everyone loved it!
1 bottle Nosecco or sparkling brut
12 ounces Orange, mango, or any fun citrus juice
Soda with a Splash of Cranberry and Lime
This is one of the simplest cocktails and can likely be made at any bar. Crisp and refreshing, you can play around with what portions you prefer. I’m generous with the cranberry and lime. If you are feeling fancy, cut a lime wedge and throw some sugared cranberries on a toothpick.
4 ounces Soda
2 ounces Cranberry juice
Splash of fresh lime juice
Alcohol Free Old Fashioned
This one’s a little more complicated! Order some barley tea online or check out your local grocery. Steep two bags in 4 oz of just boiled water with a peppercorn and orange peel for 40 minutes. Feel free to add additional peppercorns or extra orange peels if you like a little more bite and bitters taste. Then chill. In a low ball glass, add one large ice cube, 4 ounces of chilled barley tea, and a splash of simple syrup.
4 ounces Barley tea concoction
Splash of simple syrup or add sugar cube
Orange peel garnish
Alcohol Free Gin and Tonic
Infuse 8 oz of water with a handful of juniper berries (can be found on Amazon) and lime peel overnight. In a separate vessel make tonic syrup accordingly as to how many drinks you plan to make. In an 8 ounce glass add a couple ice cubes, 4 ounces gin infusion, 2 ounces tonic syrup, and a pinch of baking soda to give fizz with light stir.
4 ounces Gin infusion
2 ounces Tonic syrup
A pinch of baking soda