How to Survive Dry January, According to Bartenders

One way to celebrate the new year is by offering your liver a break. Dry January means no booze (including beer and wine) until February, giving your body a chance to detox from the bottles and bottles of Champagne you poured down your throat on New Year’s Eve. It’s a way to reset after the holidays and to prove to yourself that it’s totally possible to survive a work week without daily happy hours. Of course, many who undertake this resolution may find it challenging to maintain a social life throughout the month, especially since so much of going out involves imbibing.

To help you survive Dry January (and potentially even Dry February if you’re feeling super ambitious in 2018), we’ve enlisted some advice from bartenders on how you can go out without the booze. As it turns out, it’s actually not that hard to go to a bar and not drink alcohol. Just kidding—it’s really difficult. But we commend your efforts. You can do this.

“My go-to Dry January cocktail is a club soda with a splash of lemon juice and bitters. If you're feeling self conscious it puts a drink in your hand, plus it’s three items that all cocktail bars keep handy. And it's damn tasty and refreshing.”
—Jesse Vida, Bar Manager, BlackTail

“I think the biggest thing is to think of it as a challenge rather than a chore. There is something very rewarding in working your first shift, week or month sober. Use being sober as an excuse to be a bit healthier as well. Take the month as an opportunity to do things other than sitting in a bar. Hang out with your best friends and new friends in different social settings, you'd be surprised how much more there is to learn about your closest friends.”
— Jessica Friedman, Assistant General Manager and Bartender, The Dead Rabbit

“If you're pumping the breaks on cocktail consumption during January, that doesn't mean you have to stay home. You can still put on lipstick and take your new outfits out for a spin (and a dance). If you're at a cocktail bar, you're likely in good hands when it comes to spirit-free beverages. Think about what you normally like in a cocktail and let your bartender know you'd like something non-alcoholic, and give her a few descriptors: citrus, tropical, bitter, bubbly, etc. Don't feel uncomfortable. It's not as uncommon a request as you might think—we have lots of fresh juices and tropical syrups at Lost Lake, and happily make lots of delicious, complex 'no tipple tiki' drinks every night. Just be
confident in your Dry January and fun will still be had!”
—Shelby Allison, Co-owner, Lost Lake

“If you don’t want your friends to know you aren’t drinking this month (because they will try to talk you out of it) an easy fool is club soda with lime in a Collins glass. It looks like a Vodka Soda, and the bubbles and lime are more interesting and satisfying than plain water. If you are a beer person, Bitburger’s non-alcoholic beer tastes like the real thing. If you don’t care what your friends think, then go for something that tastes really good. So many bars these days are using fresh fruits, herbs and infusions in their cocktails, so ask the bartender to create something for you—just hold the booze. Liquid Alchemist makes great, organic syrups in several flavors—try the raspberry with some muddled cucumber, mint and soda. Or their grenadine flavor works well with muddled strawberries, lime juice, soda and a dash of pineapple [juice].”
—Brian Landtroop, Bartender, Franklin & Company

“The idea of Dry January should be to reset and get yourself back into a healthier, moderate drinking tone. A negative mindset that you are 'depriving yourself' of alcohol will make you want to have it more and you’ll be more likely to binge-drink come February and ruin all your good work. After all, there’s not much point in abstaining for a month to then celebrate with a big binge. It can be hard to be in the pub or at bars when abstaining around others who aren't, but luckily there are some really cool new products to try. Most interestingly, there is a non-alcoholic distilled spirit called Seedlip. Many bars are now taking on this product as it allows you to make alcohol-free cocktails that aren't just full of lots of sugary fruit juices. It also works great in a non-alcoholic Seedlip and Tonic. My other suggestion would be to throw yourself into something new. Teas and coffee trends have really taken a rise in the last few years and it’s great to try some new, weird and wonderful things instead of sulking over your soda water.”
—Pippa Guy, Senior Bartender, The American Bar

“Dry January doesn’t mean you need to be less exciting when heading out. Every good bar will put an effort into making a non-alcoholic cocktail. Every bar should be able to make a fresh lemonade, which is always delicious and refreshing. One product I’m enjoying using is Seedlip Garden. It provides a good base and still tastes aromatic, (almost) like there is booze. Try 30 ml Seedlip, 15 ml lime juice, 20 ml honey syrup, 75 ml celery juice with a tonic top. Shake it, pour it long, and drink. You can swap out the juice, but celery is my favorite due to its savory side. Don’t be shy, ask the bartender to be creative. They should always try and make something fun and tasty.”
—Emilio di Salvo, Bartender, The Artesian

“I’ve done this so many times now it’s a welcome tradition, but if you’re heading into it for the first time and you feel any trepidation, that’s natural. Especially for us folks in the spirits industry, it can feel daunting. I now actually enjoy it, but I believe you must go into it with a positive attitude. Approach it by thinking how much better you will feel by passing up all those shots, how you will be able to get to that early morning yoga class without feeling like shit. Start out slow: If you’re attending an event with alcohol and you’re worried, give yourself a definite start and end time. ‘The event starts at 6 p.m. so I’ll stay for an hour and drink soda water or sparkling bottled water.’ Try and think about it like you are gaining something not giving something up. I actually believe when you do go awhile without alcohol, you really appreciate a nice cocktail or a glass of whiskey or wine so much more. I’ve actually gone for a lot longer than a month just to see how I felt and in all honesty it’s a great feeling.”
—Kenneth McCoy, Chief Creative Officer, Public House Collective