I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had this conversation:
Me: I’m a dry person. What do you have for someone who doesn’t drink alcohol?
Server: Well, we have Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite…
Me: I said I don’t drink alcohol; I didn’t say I was 12.
OK, I don’t actually say that last part out loud. But I sure do think it.
This is a common challenge with restaurants of all shapes and sizes, star levels and prestige. In fact I was at a 3-star Michelin restaurant (someone else was paying 😁) where the staff was completely dumbfounded that one of their guests wouldn’t be drinking wine.
It certainly doesn’t make me feel welcome. It’s bad business as the number of sober curious individuals continues to grow, especially for the younger generations (who apparently looked at the rest of us and said “I want no part of that!") I choose restaurants based on the drink options they have for me.
I gave up booze. I didn’t give up flavor, going out with friends, or enjoying nice dinners. You don’t need the former to enjoy any of the latter.
Putting forth good non-alcoholic options is not a high bar to clear.
For starters, carry a good non-alcoholic beer like Athletic Brewing. If a restaurant’s only option is O’Douls or similar they’re sending a clear message they don’t care about customers who choose to avoid alcohol. Or at the very least, a complex soda aimed at adults like Dry is a fantastic option.
Create a few good non-alcoholic drinks. It’s not that difficult, and requires no additional ingredients! If the only option is a combination of juices, we’re back to the sober person not being 12. Instead, try virgin mules - just combine ginger beer with a squeeze of lime or another juice. Take the vodka based cocktail on the menu and swap out the spirit for soda water. Lemonade, soda water and a small bit of a high quality hot sauce makes for a wonderful combination. Muddle some cucumber and basil or mint, topped with soda water, and you’ve got a refreshing summer drink.
That’s really all it takes! With very little effort any bar can have a solid half-dozen or more interesting non-alcoholic drinks. It encourages designated drivers who now don’t have to choose between a flavorful drink or potentially being unable to drive safely. And, more importantly, makes all guests feel welcome!