By Derek Brown
I drank bone-dry bubbly, a “wrong” Negroni, a spicy canned cocktail, and washed them all down with a chocolatey stout followed by a crisp craft pilsner. What reads like a Saturday night at a bar for some people was my Sober October. I created a calendar of 31 non-alcoholic (NA) beers, wines, ready-to-drink cocktails, and spirits that were among my favorites Boisson offered. And I drank them all.
What started as a way to show the diversity of non-alcoholic drinks, confirmed for me that there is something much deeper going on with NA beverages. There is a wellspring of creativity in NA that can only mean better options for people reducing or eliminating drinking alcohol. However, the greatest part of that––not unlike drinks with alcohol––is the ability to share them with others.
Before I share some of my favorite drinking moments during Sober October, it’s fair to say that Sober October is the lesser-known relative of Dry January. Anyone who committed to not drinking alcohol or drinking less alcohol, aka Soberish October, during the month deserves a round of applause. During Dry January there are more drink specials, more bars serving non-alcoholic drinks, and, generally speaking, more support. In a way, celebrating Sober October is like being there in the early career of popular bands––you did it before it was cool.
Speaking of bands, last weekend I went with a lifelong friend to New York to see a straight-edge band at the Brooklyn Monarch (you can learn more about straight-edge hardcore here.) Before going to the show, we drank a Guinness 0 and then, at the venue, drank Brooklyn Special Effects. The bartender was actually psyched to serve non-alcoholic beers, and I was psyched to be able to have adult refreshments while keeping my edge. It’s just more proof that we’ve surpassed the days of substandard NA beers tucked in the back of the cooler or soda water as the only options.
I also enjoyed drinking a little more bubbly during the month. There are so many great non-alcoholic sparkling wines and Sober October provided the perfect excuse to pop a few corks. I drank them with friends, I drank them with my partner, and I drank them with dinner. My favorite remains Surely’s Brut NA sparkling wine because it’s super dry, reminiscent of a brut zero for those who follow Champagne styles, and pairs well with certain dishes––the equivalent of squeezing a lemon on food. I also made bubbly cocktails like the Negroni Sbagliato with Wilfred’s Botanical Spirit and French Bloom “Le Blanc” sparkling NA wine, which is a cocktail that was made popular last year by a meme. Yet, it’s good enough to live beyond the TikTok cycle.
I drank a lot of cocktails in general. With some, I just opened a can and poured them over ice. Maybe my favorite ready-to-drink cocktail, or RTD, is Ghia’s Sumac and Chili. Sumac is a berry that you crush; it’s tart and flavorful. Chili is, well, spicy. The result is a bitter, tart, spicy drink that may not be for everyone but is absolutely for me. I drank it in the unseasonably warm weather while enjoying the breeze on my back deck.
I also made a cocktail from my book, “Mindful Mixology: A Comprehensive Guide to No- & Low-Alcohol Cocktails,” the Downward Tiger with Little Saints St. Ember. They recently changed the name from St. Mezcal, which I think is a good idea. But it consisted of fresh green apple juice, lime, hot sauce, and salt tincture. It might require a little extra effort, but it’s well worth it.
I also had some non-alcoholic wine with food. I drank the Leitz Eins Wien Zero Riesling and Giesen Sauvignon 0 Blanc with dinner and both were phenomenal. The Leitz paired really well with Thai food, especially sweet and spicy dishes. The Giesen was great with nopales tacos, guacamole and chips. I think non-alcoholic wines are far better than they were or, to put it another way, they don’t suck anymore.
How I intend to finish this Sober October is with some more great NA beers, wines, RTDs, and a spooky Halloween cocktail, called Blood Wine. Yes, it’s as much a reference to Klingons as Count Dracula (not sure who is scarier). But I also intend to finish having had an absolutely joyous time drinking my favorite brands, making cocktails, and sharing them with friends.
Sober October is just a month-long, but there’s no reason to stop drinking delicious NA drinks on day 31. Whether you go back to drinking alcohol or not, there are still some great reasons to drink mindfully and incorporate NA drinks into your routine. The least of which is that they taste great and the options are plentiful. Hopefully, my 31-day streak provides a few new options for you.