A sober look at enjoying the holidays (and life) alcohol-free

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The holidays can be stressful. This year the mix of familial obligations, work holiday parties (in person or virtual), and party invites from friends may be less demanding, but it can still be overwhelming. For an introverted person like me, a little boost of liquid courage would often get me through the night’s festivities. That is until I got sober. 

When I decided for my health and sanity to put down the bottle in January 2019, I had to look at my relationship with alcohol through the holiday season (and life in general). I discovered that I could still enjoy myself, just that things would be different at first.

What helped me keep my focus was planning. If I had to attend something, I learned quick drinks to make or simple ones to ask for at the bar. If I was attending a friend’s gathering, I had no problem purchasing something non-alcoholic to drink, bringing enough to share with others if they wanted to partake too. 

At the same time, 2020 has been, well, a year. We’re in a pandemic, and the social unrest, loss of jobs, quarantine, election, and loss of loved ones have all been hard. As someone who has lost loved ones this year, I don’t take any of this lightly. And while I will share what has worked for me, anytime I talk about being alcohol-free with anyone, I always say it has to be on your timetable. 

Whether you’re sober curious, having your first holiday season sober, been at it a while, or considering cutting back once 2021 rolls around, these are viable NA (non-alcoholic) options to consider. 

NA Wine & Spirits

Photo: @brooklynbrewedsorrel

I love that compared to even a year ago, there are so many more NA drinks options to choose from. One that has caught my interest lately is the non-alcoholic version of sorrel by Brooklyn Brewed. Sorrel is a hibiscus-spiced beverage, wildly popular in the Caribbean American /West Indian communities. While you can sample this all year round in Brooklyn, I think it would make an excellent addition to any holiday gathering. The spices are on point, and this sorrel is made with raw and natural ingredients. I loved the subtlety of the ginger, cloves, and cinnamon enhancing the taste of the sorrel flower, and it’s rich in antioxidants! It’s a winner across the board. 

Seedlip, a plant-based distilled NA spirits company. While you can create something simple on the fly like a Seedlip and soda, their site has plenty of recipes that showcase the range of what you can create with their brand, or you can even make your own!

NA Beer

Photo: Brooklyn Brewery

I was never a huge beer drinker but have dabbled a bit and have enjoyed it mostly. Despite what most will think, there are more options than you realize, from popular brands such as Becks or Heineken to more craft-type breweries, such as Athletics Brewing “Run Wild” IPA and Brooklyn Brewery’s Special Effects. There is even one you can explore from Germany! Trust and believe, if beer is your drink of choice—they’re plenty of variations to appease even the most bougie of beer enthusiasts.  

Mocktails

Photo: Kul Mocks

If you’re into something a little bit fun, try Kul Mocks. I recently sampled all three of their flavors: Strawberry Mock-rita, Mock Mule, and Blackberry Mock-jito. Each flavor is distinct, and at 45-50 calories per serving, it won’t damage your waistline. Strawberry was my favorite and is pretty on point for NA mocktail. I would love to embellish it by adding some fresh fruit, but it’s great on its own too. I think this could be fun to bring to a gathering to see if anyone notices the difference. 

Bars

If enjoying social activities outside the four walls of your abode is what calls you, there are still ways to enjoy days or nights out without alcohol. In Brooklyn, there is a cute and quaint bar, Getaway. The menu is full of decadent alcohol-free options but they since have expanded to include coffee and tea. They have a Peppermint Mocha hot chocolate that is calling my name! 

If they are a little out of your way or you prefer to keep it local, ordering an NA drink isn’t as complex as it used to be. Generally, most places have at least one mocktail available but even if they don’t, you can ask them to make a simple drink like a Shirley Temple or Arnold Palmer. Most bartenders, if you ask (and they’re not slammed) have no problem making something up for you on the spot. I think it gives them something new to do besides pouring the same old thing. 

While there are plenty of choices to consider if you want to pursue alcohol-free for any particular length of time, this may lead you to think about alcohol and what role it plays in your life and whether you like it or not. I know, that’s what happened to me. During this pandemic, I took the time to really explore what I was feeling when feeling restless and wanted to drink to “cut through the noise.” I’ve also learned a little about mixology and have explored different types of drinks to make for myself when I want something new or entertaining. My friends and loved ones have asked me how I keep at it, especially with the holidays. My answer: I try my best to check in with myself and do what feels right to me. Even if it means staying in when I’d rather get out (cabin fever is SO real)—I put what I need first. And that’s something that I didn’t fully understand until I became alcohol-free. 

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