Black Joy

Your Booze-free January doesn’t have to be a Snooze Fest

There’s no better time than the start of the new year to detox from unhealthy vices. From eating red meat to sugar, giving our bodies a break from the things we consume in excess is never a bad idea.

One of the more common challenges folks take on in the new year is Dry January, in which they spend the month avoiding consumption of alcoholic beverages. The origins of Dry January date back to 2011when U.K. runner Emily Robinson abstained from alcohol for a month to prepare for a marathon. After seeing the physical and mental benefits, she joined forces with Alcohol Change UK to launch the Dry January campaign.

In the U.S., Dry January is increasing in popularity. According to CGA, a consumer research firm, participation in the U.S. grew to 35% in 2022, a significant increase from 2019. This may be in part due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A study conducted by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health found that from March to September 2020 liquor store sales increased by two percent compared the same period in 2019. Additionally, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that alcohol related deaths increased 26% from 2019 to 2020. This suggests that the isolation and stress of the pandemic may have caused people to drink more than usual.

Nonetheless, alcohol also often acts as a social buffer among friends, co-workers, or at networking events. It is an intricate facet of American culture, and choosing to abstain from alcohol, even temporarily, can be socially isolating. Luckily, mocktails have become more commonplace, with many bars providing several different options for non-drinkers.

The question that may be worth exploring, however is, how are bartenders feeling about Dry January?

From an economic standpoint, one might assume bartenders see it as bad for business. However, that’s not always necessarily the case.

Speaking with DJ, a bartender at Franklin Social in Jersey City, he has no qualms with the trend.

“Generally, we don’t expect a lot of business during the first few weeks [of the new year] due to resolutions, people trying to save money and, yeah, folx [are] setting their livers back to zero. . . If you’re a person in this industry and you turn your nose up at [it], then you’ve convinced me that you are not good at your craft or your job. People come to the bar for an experience, and let’s say out of every 5 cocktails, one mocktail is requested. It won’t kill you to make one. We’ve come a long way from just syrupy creations.”

Joseph Stinchcomb, the owner of Bar Muse in Oxford, Mississippi, also supports folks who either don’t drink or want to take a break from it for a while.

“I think the stigma about not drinking has kind of been lifted and it’s okay to say that ‘I don’t need to drink all the time to have a good time.’ And it’s kind of cool to see it growing, with a lot more non-alcoholic spirits coming onto the market, non-alcoholic beers, non-alcoholic wines, even a new sparkling non-alcoholic wine that just came out earlier this year.”

As Stinchcomb alludes to, there are more opportunities for bartenders to get creative with their offerings to ensure that everyone feels included whether they drink or not.

Tiffanie “The Drinking Coach” Barriere, an award-winning independent bartender and bar consultant, echoes that sentiment in her perspective.

“There’s so much room to have a just as lucrative dry January as you did a boozy December, and just creating great flavors. You can actually replay everything you [made] during the holidays and do it [non-alcoholic]. There’s space for it because people are more understanding about not drinking and saving money, or just giving their body a break. . . But dry January has always brought some drama [and pressure] around this time of year.”

The consensus among all three of these bartenders emphasizes openness and creativity. But this is a two-way street: As a consumer, taking a break from alcohol or even drinking more moderately than you did in 2022, doesn’t mean you have to avoid bars altogether. This is a great time to expand your taste pallet and enjoy delicious booze-free concoctions alongside your drinking friends. It might make abstaining a lot easier and fun!

To give you a head start, check out these fun and easy-to-make mocktails that’ll get your taste buds jumping while allowing you to honor your dry period.

The Drinking Coach’s Favorite Mocktail

I’m a fan of fresh lime juice and ginger beer. It’s tart, it’s spicy, and it’s bubbly. And that’s how I want to feel. Just a squeeze of lime (whole or half) on ice with ginger beer.

DJ’s “A Tea and a Prayer”

1oz Earl Grey tea

.5 oz Chamomile syrup

.75 oz Lemongrass syrup

.25 oz lime juice

Muddled blackberry

Shake all contents in tin with pebble ice, dump all into a punch glass, swizzle stick, top off with soda to perfection.

Danielle Buckingham

Danielle Buckingham

Danielle Buckingham (she/her), affectionately known as Dani Bee, is Reckon’s Black Joy Reporter, and a Chicago-born, Mississippi-raised writer based in Oxford, Mississippi. A 2021 Lambda Literary fellow, her work has been published in MadameNoire, Midnight & Indigo Literary Magazine, Raising Mothers, and elsewhere.

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