Sometimes, I feel like going booze free.
If you were thinking— “isn’t that slightly problematic, considering you work in the booze industry?” well you’d be right—but not as right as you thought…
In the last year alone, there’s been a huge shift in the attitude towards sobriety—be it a temporary hitchhike on the wagon, or a total lifestyle change – 21% of adults are now sober. And whilst I do still get the quizzical eyebrow or the laddish retort of “but you must drink” when I refuse the hooch, it’s much less common than it was.
In my early twenties, I was sober/teetotall/dry as a dessert. I just didn’t like alcohol. Not only did I not like the taste, I saw it as a huge waste of cash, and I viewed casual drinking as utterly pointless if you weren’t going to get obliterated—so I didn’t bother.
That didn’t mean I never partied, though. I danced and raved, and kept up with my gurning friends all night. I’d literally show up to events with 2 litres of Dr Pepper under my arm, and despite being met with near contempt from people who didn’t know me, I never cared, because the beauty was that I’d wake the next day without blackened eyes and exploding migraines. Nowadays it’s a little trickier for me, being a beer expert and all… so I take regular breaks from drinking. I want to stay healthy, avoid the perpetual hangover, and the acceleration of the ageing process as much as possible.
Nearly two decades later, options for people who don’t want to (or can’t) drink are boundless. There is a plethora of alcohol-free beers for the hop-head to peruse. There are alcohol-free bars and communities to support sober-living like Club Soda popping up all over the globe.
A quick Google search reveals articles from so many people chronicling their struggles and successes of doing away with the oldest and most popular social lubricant on the planet. Megan Thomas pens one of the best blogs I have come across: Sober Story. It’s a great guide of the resources that have helped her along the way, such as events to attend and drinks to try out. She also reveals changes to her life that she never expected, and how she deals with normal every day things. It’s a great read.
So if you’re thinking of resting your feet a bit, or taking a long ride on the teetotal-train, here is a list of must-see bars and delectable drinks to try out.
Any sober-ite in London needs to head to one of the legendary Redemption bars in Notting Hill, Covent Garden, or Shoreditch. Not only are they alcohol-free, they’re vegan too!
Their fancy smoothies and delicious meals are what makes Redemption the go-to place for feeding the soul, and keeping your party heart alive!
You’ll find this good-boy bar in two locations: Soho and Bankside.
They serve the innovative Seedlip “spirit.” It’s 0% ABV, but every millilitre of flavour is as charming as the real deal.
This bar did away with alcohol like you do away with ironing when you go to university. Cocktails are inspiringly good, with ticklesome names like Shampagne and Nojita—and with prices as low as £2.95, drinking has never been so affordable; stay hydrated, kids!
They also hold plenty of live music and art performances, with profits supporting those who have suffered from alcohol addiction. I am booking the next train up!
Sobar bills itself as a “creative vibrant space by day and an alternative bar venue by night.” I love Sobar because they support recovery from alcohol and drugs.
Most of their staff is deep in their own sobriety, and they have a warm, welcoming, and serene atmosphere. As a regular host to poetry, live music, and DJ events, you should not miss this stop when planning your next trip to Notts!
This Peruvian restaurant in east London is part of the legendary Ceviche Group, and magically creates some of the best mocktails I’ve ever had. Of course, this was expected because their restaurants are next level IMO. They also juice everything on site.
So. Healthy. Slay. Me.
Their food is second-to-none. Their website says, “Still guided by the seasons, our menu is led by the natural cycle of our garden, using ingredients that are always at their peak.” It makes me want to head down there now and eat anything with wild garlic all over it!
Back to the topic at hand, they have a wide selection of alcohol-free drinks and cocktails—all sourced from local, or small-batch producers.
Kava Lounge, San Fransisco
If you’re like me and you’re thinking “What the hell is Kava? Is it a 0% version of the cheap Champagne rip-off Cava?”—then you’d be wrong.
Kava is a “high vibration elixir” made from a herb that some people use to relieve stress and anxiety, and boost sleep. Drinking it results in a calming euphoric effect that some people compare to alcohol. So technically, I’m not sure how well this fits in with sober-lifestyle—but it’s booze-free!
In any case, this hippie destination is laced with cushions on the floor, amazing art on the walls, and frequent performances.
Listen Bar, NYC
Listen Bar, with its taps of Kombucha, has been a hugely successful popup bar across town—and they’re now crowdfunding for their first permanent location! Until then, you’ll find them throwing a monthly party at VON Bar in The East Village.
If you don’t visit this indie bar, you’re gonna need your head checked!
This 1920s apothecary was charmingly restored as a neighborhood soda fountain, serving up locally made everything. The ice cream is great, but what you really want is a tall handmade soda.
They combine perfectly fizzy seltzer from an actual soda fountain (not a soda gun) with soda syrups boiled in small batches with real fruit and spices.
Fig. 19 is a distinguished speakeasy bar with a semi-secret entrance. Fronted by a decadent modern art gallery, head to the back door and into a barely-lit bar.
Ask the staff for the best of their mocktails, and watch them delight in the challenge.
I love Tiki; you love Tiki; we all love Tiki. The scary glasses, the million alcohols mixed with each cocktail, the sweet and sour explosions in your mouth—it’s heaven in a grass skirt!
A booze-free Tiki bar is something I thought only dreams were made of, but Mother of Pearl proved me wrong. It feels SO good to be SO wrong!
A Caribbean heaven in “Bed-Stuy” with the best homemade ginger beer ever to pass the lips of human kind. Come bury your face in their amazing food, and drown in their thick, sweet, spicy ginger beer.
I dare you.
Saxon + Parole, NOHO, NYC
This talented team of award-winning bartenders will craft an improved, fancy, barrel-aged, or simply-delicious bottled cocktail, and mark it with your name. TAKE ME NOW!
Saxon + Parole make their own whiskey—make cocktails from seasonal fruits, herbs and vegetables—and a tonic you won’t find anywhere else. They’re your 0% ABV/100% decadence destination! They’ll spoil you so rotten, you’ll feel like you’re about to get married!
The Brandy Library is your rich Granddad’s living room. With mahogany furniture, dark walls, and the smell of candles and a selection of brandies from all over the world, this is not the place to go if you’re struggling with drinking.
That being said, they have a fantastic array of mocktails that the bartenders love to whip up. Just ask at the bar and they’ll make you something bespoke, every time.
Voted World’s Best Bar two dang years-in-a-row, you need to rub shoulders with those toffee-nosed bankers and give the Dead Rabbit a punt.
You have to ask at the bar for something hooch-free, but you’re guaranteed to get something beautiful and bespoke—in a tea-cup no less!!!
The Breslin, Flatiron District, NYC
A fancy-as-f gastropub with a modest, but outstanding non-alcoholic cocktail menu.
They often run specials for grotesque puddings and undrinkable cocktails–I mean look at how unappetising this picture is!*
*I lie. I will cry myself to sleep until I get to try this.
Ignore the fact that “Sunday in Brooklyn” is, in fact, located in Williamsburg—this place makes me want to shed the shackles of my exclusively-black wardrobe, and drown myself in these colourful concoctions!
The menu changes with the seasons, but so does my mood, and that’s very much ok. Go for brunch and drink with their perfect pancakes.
Russ and Daughters Café, Lower East Side, NYC
The worst part about not drinking is not drinking at brunch. They have a ridiculously large range of sodas that will make you feel like you’re having mimosas and bagels!
Oh, did I mention they’re kosher?
The world’s first non-alcoholic distilled spirit, Seedlip, is taking the drinks scene by storm. Try their Citrus spirit with notes of blood orange, ginger, lemongrass and peppercorn, mixed with Indian tonic water, and a twist of grapefruit for an alt G&T vibe.
Available at some of London’s best bars, from The American Bar at The Savoy, and to Nightjar, and The Ned. The American Bar serves up a mean Sherwood Forest Cocktail of lemon-infused Seedlip, kefir cultured milk, gooseberry jam, egg white and sorrel. No booze, and you won’t notice.
Inspired by the sunny spirit of South America, Caleño, is a delicious new non-alcoholic spirit that’s making waves in the UK.
The drink offers a zingy, zesty, tropical infusion of juniper, citrus and spice botanicals— and it’s distilled in stainless steel drums. Its key ingredient and signature garnish is the South American Inca berry—sweet, yet tangy with pineapple, mango, and citrus fruit flavours.
Caleño is designed to be enjoyed in a similar way to gin and vodka; bringing bold colour, joy, and fun to not drinking. The signature serve is 50ml Caleño twisted with 200ml of Indian Tonic Water (the ultimate dance partner).
For a near-complete list of all non-alcoholic drinks on offer to you—check out the Club Soda Guide.
They also have some phenomenal mocktail recipes!
For beer, let me give you a pin on the best… and the worst..
It’s my sworn duty to provide impartial reviews. These brands make great beer normally, but they’ve missed the mark by a large margin with these.
All of these beers have one thing in common: they taste like wort (that thick, porridge-like mix of pre-fermented grains and sugars) which no one wants!
So, there you have it. A non preachy, worldwide guide to all the places you can tick off your dry bucket list!
Go forth, conquer, come back and tell me all about it!