Alcohol free fun

Austin experts spill tips on staying alcohol free all year long

Austin experts spill tips on staying alcohol free all year long

Bruleed pineapple mocktail launderette
Laundrette's bruleed pineapple mocktail offers all of the fun with none of the booze. Photo courtesy of Launderette

To those coming off a successful Dry January, cheers! Now that you’ve made it this far, maybe you want to experiment with adding another month or the occasional dry week.

Dry January, a tradition now practiced by millions of people across the world, involves individuals pledging to take a month off from alcohol, perhaps after realizing they’ve been drinking too much too often (hello, holidays!) or for benefits such as losing weight, sleeping better, or saving money.

“Dry January is certainly a good thing,” says Mary Velasquez, PhD, an alcohol researcher in The University of Texas School of Social Work. “Problems with alcohol use are rising at alarming rates and as a society we’re becoming more aware of the problems alcohol can create.” A recent study, for example, showed that alcohol-related deaths rose 85 percent in women and 35 percent in men between 1999 to 2017 — and those numbers may be vastly under-reported.

Any period of abstinence, even just a few days or a week, is good to try for those who aren’t happy with the role alcohol plays in their lives, Velasquez adds. Not everyone has to completely stop drinking, she adds. Some people should, of course, but there is middle ground. 

Use technology
People can do all kinds of things to limit their drinking. Websites such as Drinker’s Checkup, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Alcohol and Public Health page and Rethinking Drinking offer tools to help.

These include keeping tracking of how much you drink — with check marks on a kitchen calendar, notes in your phone, or whatever works for you — and knowing the standard sizes so you can count drinks accurately: 12 ounces of regular beer (5 percent alcohol), 5 ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol), or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (40 percent alcohol).  

Avoid "triggers," or people or places that make you drink even when you don't want to, and have a plan to handle urges.

“Initially probably one of the most effective approaches is to avoid people, places, and things that cause you to drink,” Velasquez says. “Maybe don’t meet friends at the bar but to go walking, or to the gym. A lot of people, once they go that whole month, though, probably could go to a bar and order just Topo and lime. That full month gives them the confidence.”

A benefit to its popularity is that as the concept catches on, it becomes easier to say you’re not drinking because Dry January.

Enlist a bartender (seriously)
It also becomes easier to find alternatives, including at traditional bars. For example, during this past Dry January, the Hilton Austin mixed off-the-menu zero-proof cocktails including the Paloma Undercover and Tamed Tiki.

Caitlyn Jackson, bar director at Geraldine’s, cautions that you can’t just ask the bartender to make your favorite cocktail without alcohol, though. For one thing, many cocktails, such as a classic martini or old fashioned for example, are solely spirits. But just about anything with juices, syrups, tonics, sparkling waters, or shrubs can be made sans booze.

“I would recommend discussing your taste preferences with the bartender and allowing them to craft you something special,” Jackson says. “It's next to impossible to ask for the same mocktail at different bars, considering each works with different juices, shrubs, and ingredients. You also have to take seasonality into account.”

For alcohol-free drinking at a bar or at home, Jackson recommends Seedlip, distilled, non-alcoholic spirits infused with herbs and spices. “Their Garden flavor is my personal favorite. You can whip up a beverage as easy as Seedlip, lime, honey, basil and tonic water. It also plays well with cucumber and mint.”

At establishments that don't do craft cocktails, Jackson recommends ordering sparkling water with angostura bitters. “It satiates the urge to have a beverage and staves off fellow social drinkers from inquiring why you aren't imbibing,” she says.

There’s also Sans Bar, billed as the first alcohol-free bar in Texas and open now at 1818 E. 12th St. The specialty bar is open on Fridays from 8 pm to 2 am.

Here’s to being dry whenever and for however long as you want.