As someone who has had to quit drinking because of too many nights I couldn’t quite piece together (long story short), it is hard for me to be in a bar setting and be okay with just drinking water. But I have found that there are restaurants and bars that cater to people that don’t drink alcohol alongside the average patron, and I think that is pretty awesome. Not only does it make someone who can’t consume alcohol feel more accepted in a special way, but it also highlights the fact that there are a lot of people around that just don’t drink. And we’re not (all) aliens.
It’s not always because of substance abuse issues; there are many medical conditions that require someone to lay off the booze. When you are faced with that reality, it can be hard to re-acclimate to a society where hanging out is always prefaced by “let’s grab a drink” and happy hours are part of a usual work week. I’ve hit up a few spaces in my neighborhood that make venturing into a bar not so daunting, and not so unappealing with their mocktail options (let it be known that even as I type mocktail, it is being continuously auto corrected to cocktail – seriously?!).
Actually, fellow teetotaler, you don’t have to just drink water or soda. There’s some other cool shit out there that people can make for you, and it’s not something to be ashamed of to ask for. It is a big step to be sober, for whatever reason you have decided to be and there are some pretty yummy concoctions that can mimic the allure of drinking without all of the negative side effects.
Here are just a few options in my neighborhood in Manhattan:
15 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
Try the “Black Bear” with blackberries, ginger syrup, lime and soda water. It is the perfect amount of sweetness paired with crisp refreshment. Other options include the raspberry lemonade, if you want an ultra sweet flashback into childhood. The Green Machine pairs apple juice with green tea, lime and cucumber.
8 Stuyvesant St, New York, NY 10003
With a seasonally evolving menu, the cozy, hidden Angel’s Share provides 2-3 mocktails. I ventured here when it was a far sunnier and warmer time and enjoyed a refreshing, bittersweet mix of grapefruit, egg white and sparkling water. I’m excited to see what they come up with for winter.
37 Union Square W, New York, NY 10003
I was surprised to find that one of my favorite take-out restaurants has plenty to choose from when it comes to sans-alcohol beverages. The ambiance is loud bustling but it can be fun to meet a friend here right in Union Square. Try the asian basil lemonade with lemon, lime, asian basil & sugar. For coconut lovers looking for a bit of a heavier drink, the coconut lime cooler with fresh lemonade, coconut cream and lime and the pineapple coconut cooler featuring pineapple juice, orange juice, lime and coconut cream are right down your alley. All of these are just five bucks. They also offer Vietnamese iced coffee and a varied bunch of iced or hot teas.
37 W 19th St, New York, NY 10011
I love the feel of this place; old New York nestled in Flat Iron. I had to ask the wait staff for the mocktail menu as it’s not part of the regular one. The drinks were spicier and had a lot more layers to discover, served in short glasses and not just juice over ice. We had a drink that was like a Pimm’s Cup without the alcohol.
Mother of Pearl
95 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009
The presentation of drinks at this place is phenomenal and they are well known on Instagram for their drink that is served in a shark glass with grenadine spilling out. They have five mocktails available. I love guava, which is served in the Eastern Spice with cinnamon, lime, black pepper syrup and soda water.
72 University Place, New York, NY 10003
This acclaimed vegan joint offers three house-made sodas: plum & five spice, blackberry & juniper and mango & paprika.
I encourage all restaurants and bars to have other options for sober patrons besides water and soda, and to arm their bartenders and staff on how to answer the question, “Do you serve mocktails here?” It’s a valid question, and an important one. More often than not, the person doesn’t now how to answer and is taken aback that I have come into a bar or restaurant and I’m not ready to drink. Some people can simply not drink safely, and are enduring a daily battle of not picking up. Only being offered water or soda can be irritating and often times alienating. Coming back into life and socializing as someone who doesn’t get drunk anymore, at age 24 nonetheless, has been the hardest thing I have ever done. I smile a little bit more when I am able to order a drink alongside a friend who is ordering theirs. It may seem like an insignificant thing, but it touches on a much larger issue. Cheers to all, drinkers and non-drinkers alike. Lets make being sober more fun and inclusive. I think offering mocktails is a step in this direction, and a step that could, frankly, save a lot of people.