Welcome, Drinkers, To Dry January. Your Non-Drinking Friends Have A Few Requests

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A cherry limeade at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Every year, the pattern repeats itself. People have a rip-roaring time on New Year’s Eve.

Then, once their hangovers clear, they launch into a Dry January, vowing to detox at the start of the new year.

I’ve been through something similar. Two years ago, I gave up drinking during Lent. Last year, I wrote about what I experienced when everyone else was drinking, and I wasn’t.

What’s interesting is that I didn’t go back to drinking, at least the way I had before my own abstinence. In the months since I’ve discovered a new fellowship of non-drinkers and people who only drink on rare occasions.

They might take a sip “wet the baby’s head,” as the British say at a christening, or to toast the memory of a loved one after a funeral.

I’m not a complete teetotaler, but giving up alcohol for 45 days pretty much made me lose a taste for it.

I certainly don’t mind if anyone else drinks, and I like a good glass of champagne. These days, though, I’m far more likely to order sparkling water than a cocktail these days.

It turns out I am far from alone. You might think that every woman reaches for a bottle of wine as soon as she comes in the door, and that every guy belts them back at his favorite bar after work. But, you’d be wrong.

There are lots of minimal and non-drinkers — some in recovery, some who never got a taste for alcohol, some who gave it up for health reasons.

Last year, public radio’s The Takeaway conducted a spirited conversation on the air about alcohol after the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.

More recently, the show’s co-host, Tanzina Vega, convened a days-long discussion on Twitter about what non-drinkers encounter in a drinking world.

For one thing, “sober shaming” is alive and well, and those of us who eschew alcohol have felt it. That’s the teasing, resentment and derision aimed at us for not matching our drinking friends glass for glass.

Clearly, if you go around hassling your friends for imbibing, or take all the fun out of social occasions with your tut-tuts, people aren’t going to like it.

But some of us wish that our drinking friends could do a few things to make us feel a little more comfortable. Here’s a list that I compiled from Tanzina’s conversations, and you’re welcome to add more.

Suggest some place besides a bar. “Let’s go for a drink,” a friend often says in her emails. “We’ll meet for a drink and talk about it,” says a public relations professional. “I’m ready for an adult beverage,” declares a business contact.

Instead of inviting a minimal drinker to a place they can’t really enjoy, why not go for coffee? Almost any city of any size now has interesting coffee bars with hand-crafted drinks. Lacking them, there’s almost always Starbucks.

There also are tea shops, gelato places, ice cream parlors, bakeries, cafes that specialize in pie like Hoosier Mama in Chicago.

The food website Eater is a great resource for spots like this. And, it’s likely that many people have secretly been dying to try a pastry shop, but might have felt awkward about suggesting a meeting there.

Get out of dark spots and into ones with windows. And don’t just go for the booze. Go for a good conversation.

Hold meetings and conventions that don’t involve alcohol. It seems like whenever a company or a group puts on a conference, happy hours are ubiquitous.

The meetings end around 5 pm, and everyone gathers for cocktails before going on to dinner, where there is likely to be more imbibing.

What about high tea instead? How about a juice or refresher bar? Perhaps a chocolate tasting, if people need a caffeine and sugar jolt. Or even an ice cream social.

I’ve been to conference where there were cooking classes, not just for the partners, but for the participants.

I’ve seen activities where people build little terrariums. And group runs, for those who want more exercise than lifting a glass.

If you play a role in planning events, bring up the idea of something beyond happy hour. You might be surprised at the response.

Stay away from driving if you’re going to drink. I got my first car right around the time that Mothers Against Drunk Driving was building awareness of the dangers of getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.

You’d like to think that by now, people know better than to drive themselves after a few drinks. But they don’t.

I’ve been in numerous situations where friends have have six, seven, or eight glasses or cocktails and insist they’re fine driving home.

I’ve diverted their attention, cajoled them into letting me drive and just plain refused to ride with them.

Look, if you have to leave your car on the street and risk a ticket, or pay to park longer than you expected, it’s worth it. This is your life, your health, your safety, and that of other people.

Make a decision before you head out to drink. Take Uber or Lyft, get someone to drive you, or call a taxi. You’ll save yourself and someone else.

Offer some non-alcoholic alternatives. In the United States, it’s common for people to bring a bottle of wine or some craft beer to a party as a gift to the party giver.

But, you can also bring non-alcoholic alternatives, too. Who wouldn’t welcome the unexpected gift of a case of sparkling water? Twelve bottles cost about the same as a bottle of decent wine, although it’s not quite as easy to get the box into a gift bag.

I always try to have multiple bottles of sparkling water on hand at parties, and smile to see them vanish in a snap. I often come into the kitchen to find people sharing a big bottle, and see others ask for a pour once they spot it.

The restaurant industry is definitely catching onto the fact that there’s an audience for zero alcohol concoctions.

Last month, I wrote that interesting non-alcoholic drinks will be a bar trend for 2019.

You can find them everywhere from restaurants owned by the Fox group in Phoenix, to Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, Mich., to outlets of Blaze Pizza and your local Latino markets.

I also was delighted to find the latest episode of The Food Programme podcast from the BBC, which focuses on zero alcohol and low-alcohol drinks.

In all these requests, I want to make one thing clear: nobody expects you to give up drinking, unless you want to do so.

We just want you to make us feel just as much at home with our zero alcohol choice as you are with your drink.

Who knows, someday you might find a house made limeade more appealing than a French 75. And that cup of keemun tea can relax you just as much as three glasses of chardonnay.

Good luck with your Dry January! We’ll be happy to share a bottle of Pellegrino, any time.

Micheline Maynard is an author and journalist who tweets @mickimaynard

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Journalist. Author. The Check blog on Forbes.com. NPR and NYT alum

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