Living Sober: A Trend That's Sweeping the Nation

Reading: Living Sober: A Trend That’s Sweeping the Nation

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Living Sober: A Trend That’s Sweeping the Nation

Why more and more Americans are choosing to bust the booze, plus a mocktail recipe for your holiday parties

By Harriet Riley

Are you sober curious? Seeking nonalcoholic ideas for your holiday parties? Going dry for January? Or abstaining from alcohol completely? You are not alone in your desire for more mindful drinking. Many people are thinking about cutting back on the booze this year, and beginning a new phase of living sober.

The sober curious movement is definitely sweeping the country, says Melanie Warner Spencer, founder of Drink Fit Club. “Currently, this movement has reached a fever pitch with so many people not being comfortable with their over-drinking during the pandemic.”

“I would define the sober curious movement as the cultural shift to begin digging into our relationship with alcohol and its effects on the mind and body, exploring societal and personal reasons for drinking, and experimenting with living alcohol free for short and long periods,” Spencer explains. She adds that the term “sober curious” was coined by author Ruby Warrington, who wrote a 2018 book by the same name.

Living Sober Trend: It’s a Thing
Not only are restaurants and bars adding nonalcoholic (N.A.) drink options to their menus, but entrepreneurs like David J. Wallace, EdD, started his own alcohol-free bar in New Orleans a year ago. His venture, Dream House Lounge, is a wellness oasis in the middle of New Orleans cocktail culture. “More and more people are exploring alcohol free social options,” said Wallace, a former graduate education school dean. He now makes it his mission to educate about sober lifestyles.

In addition to “conscious cocktails,” his lounge offers an oxygen bar, wellness programming and events, and a bottle shop. He has a large selection of nonalcoholic wines, beers, spirits, and premixed cocktails.

Menus around the country are devoting space to temperance drinks and zero proof cocktails. Bartender Scott Hicks at the award-winning cocktail bar Cure in New Orleans said they are definitely seeing more guests interested in low- and no-alcohol drinks lately and have continued to build their N.A. offerings. Hicks said that bars can still be a great time even if you’re not looking to imbibe.

There are incredible resources like Better Without, an app that helps you find restaurants and bars in proximity that serve N.A. drinks, and online retailers such as Better Rhodes that have a variety of N.A. options for every taste.  

And if you’re looking for ways to host more sober holiday parties, or at least bring some nonalcoholic offerings to the table, there’s plenty of fun options. Hilary Sheinbaum, author of The Dry Challenge, shared some of her favorites, including Free Spirits (in flavors such as gin, bourbon, milano, tequila), FLUÈRE (gin, raspberry gin, mezcal, bitter, rum), Damrak (gin), Mionetto alcohol-removed and Freixenet alcohol-removed (sparkling wines), and Twisted Alchemy cold pressed juices (and cocktail kits) to make amazing mocktails. 

Living Sober: How They Did It
Everyone has a different story, but these women experts were all inspired by sober challenges that lead to great insight and major lifestyle changes.

Spencer, a journalist and yoga teacher, had taken alcohol breaks before, but in 2020 during a Lent Challenge she started paying attention to how much she had been drinking and she decided to learn other coping mechanisms. Meditation, walking, and reading all became substitutes for alcohol. After Easter that year, she moderated her drinking for a few months and quit completely after doing a dry month that July. 

“I felt physically and mentally so much better.”

That’s when she started Drink Fit Club, a resource for tips, motivation, and information, to share her experiences and encourage others to try a different lifestyle. She has since collaborated as executive editor of a book, Craft: The Eat Fit Guide to Zero Proof Cocktails with registered dietitian Molly Kimball and bar expert Ethan Skaggs, published in November 2022.

(Check out the recipe below for a holiday mocktail, French 75, that your guests are sure to love. As described in Craft: “The French 75 was named after the French 75-millimeter field gun celebrated for its rapid-fire power. The original, made with cognac — and even its lighter gin-based sister — is a wickedly powerful concoction. This zero proof version maintains the respect of the original’s potency without knocking you out.”)

Sheinbaum, an author and motivational speaker, tried Dry January on a dare and was such a convert that she ended up writing her book.

“I was definitely one of those people that would not shut up about Dry January and the benefits of abstaining from alcohol for one month. With that, instead of talking everyone’s ears off and also fielding the same questions night after night, I decided writing a nonjudgmental guide would be a good idea!”

Since her book was published in 2020, Sheinbaum has consulted on nonalcoholic options on bar and restaurant menus and she has moderated workshops and sponsored events. 

“Now — more than ever — it’s hard to ignore that alcohol has negative consequences ranging from fatality, accidents, health issues, and beyond. Most people, especially younger generations, are fully aware of the bad stuff, but now there are so many other options to relieve stress, network, and ways to date/things to do (rather than drink!).”

Maddy Eagle, 34, who grew up in a family culture where high alcohol consumption felt normal, was so inspired by her Sober October experience that she decided to create her own kombucha brand. She launched Flying Eagle five years ago at farmers markets in the Ft. Myers area and now has 70 retail partners in Florida. She also sponsors “sober socials” on the beaches near her home where she creates Booch Mocktails for her guests.

“Research shows that kombucha, with its live probiotics, helps create good bacteria in your gut microbiome that can completely uplift your mood,” she explains. She, and now her siblings too, are more mindful of their alcohol consumption… “We want to remember the holidays.”

Tips for Staying (Moderately) Sober this Holiday Season
Spencer, who has been completely sober since 2020, shares her advice on moderating your drinking during or after the holidays:

Tip 1: Be kind to yourself. “Even if you don’t have a misuse of alcohol problem, alcohol is designed to make you want more.” Think about your health and your lifestyle, and take the time to take care of your body and mind. But understand that going sober can take time.

Tip 2: Plan ahead. Look at your social calendar and plan “rest times” into your schedule. The holidays can be stressful. Allow yourself to say No when you need to. Trying not to drink can make you drink. Understand your limits and what triggers will make abstinence hard for you. “Don’t depend on willpower.” And bring nonalcoholic options with you whenever you can. 

Tip 3: Have an exit plan already figured out. Be ready to leave a holiday party early if you need to. If you end up drinking when you didn’t plan to, go back to tip 1, and be kind to yourself. Don’t hit the fuck it button, just try again the next day. (And get home safely.)

Warner (who encourages, “There are amazing spirits, creative craft beers, and really good wines that have no alcohol. Try them!”) suggests starting your sober curiosity with a book: This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life. She explains that every time she thinks about drinking, she remembers what she learned in this book about the harmful effects of alcohol. 

New Orleans bartender Allegra Ridgeway agrees: “That book changed my life and relationship with alcohol and gave me the courage to try abstaining.”   

Ridgeway adds, “Many bartenders are heavy drinkers, and the same is true with many of my friends. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there was even a name to describe this phase for me. Sober Curious is even offered as an option on Tinder!”

The truth is, “You don’t have to be all or none,” says Warner. “[However,] you should not only take breaks but also tap into how you feel during that break. You will sleep better, have a clearer, brighter mind. Think about why you drink and what your relationship is with alcohol.”

“Any break from booze is a good break,” Warner continues. “If you can stick it out to 100 days, then the magic happens.” She said you have moments of clarity that are quite simply amazing.

And, you’ll actually remember the holidays. That’s a good thing, right?

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