Hi! Do you like to socially drink liquids but find yourself, for some reason, unable to consume alcohol? Are you temporarily pregnant (an accurate statement!), taking medicine that doesn’t play well with alcohol, or just engaging in a “dry” month? Do you still want to take part in the social activity of “going to a bar to hang out”?? WELL, I’VE GOT NEWS FOR YOU! You can still get tasty, thoughtful drinks crafted by your favorite mixologists! You just have to know when, where, and how to order a mocktail (your alcohol-free concoctions, for newbs). Fortunately, this pregnant liquor-aficionado has figured it out and is here to show you the way.
It’s not terribly difficult, but you may still run into some awkward moments or less-than-amazing results. That’s okay! You have to remember that you are now in the 1% of people who is going for something beyond a club soda + lime or cranberry + soda at a bar but still can’t have alcohol. It’s a rough business, but — if you’ll pardon the pun — the juice is worth the squeeze.
So never fear, and don’t feel self-conscious, just follow these tips and you’ll be ordering and sipping teetotaler-friendly drankz in no time!
When: Slow Times
This one should seem relatively obvious, but a sports bar during playoffs is a TERRIBLE time to try and get the bartender to do you a solid. “But it’s their job to make me a drink!,” you may whine, to which I encourage you to remember their job is to show up and sling brews and make sure no one leaves in too bad of shape while being yelled at by mostly awful people, so remember to tip well.
AND THEN I encourage you to not try this at any busy bar, ever. If you have to wait more than about 30 seconds to get the bartender/mixologist’s attention, just ask for a Topo Chico or a soda water with lime and step away from the bar. Or give up and drink water if you’re really not feeling the herd of boozers crowding the good bartender.
TL;DR: Crowd at the bar? Teetotalers stay far. (Sure.)
Where: Spirit- and Craft-focused Bars
More accurately, this should read: Where? Not at the afore-mentioned, beer-slinging sports bars or rowdy college dives. Or any “dive”, come to think of it. They’re less likely to have both the means and the patience to thoughtfully concoct a charming little mocktail for you. (Not that they wouldn’t be into it — I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush! But let’s face it, that’s not what they’re expecting from clientele and it’s probably just not a good fit.)
That being said, you should go ahead and feel comfortable engaging with your bartender in a mocktail-curious conversation at a craft or spirit-focused cocktail establishment, or at a swankier restaurant (read: NOT CHAINS) bar during a slow time. These places are way more likely to have house-made mixers (think: sour, grenadine, orgeat) or bitters that could be blended together in interesting ways to tickle your alcohol-free palate. In fact, some of these places may even have a set of alcohol-free “cocktails” that they serve during lunches — never hurts to ask! (Well, except if you decide to ask during a super busy time or in wholly the wrong kind of establishment.)
TL;DR: If neon signs are blinking, it’s not a great place for mocktail-drinking.
How: Patience, kindness, and a little self-deprecation
This really should be the easiest and most obvious one of all: be the person you’d want to make a special drink for in your own home. Yes, the golden rule comes into play here, too! Remember that these good folks behind the bar probably make about the same 12 – 20 drinks all day, every day they’re on the clock, and you may be asking them to step outside of that routine and reflex and put on their thinking caps. It requires some patience and sweetness on your part, but if you’ve got the right place, time, and person, it should be well worth it.
There’s also a wrong and a better way (there’s no one single right way!) to start the conversation. Instead of saying, “Hi, I’m obviously pregnant and can’t drink. What can you make for me that doesn’t have alcohol in it but feels fancy?” maybe try, “Hey there. These are some really beautiful concoctions you’re putting together! Do you have a minute to put together something without alcohol in it for me? I like bright drinks with a lot of citrus flavors and I’m not afraid of a little spice.” Ya gotta give the dog a bone to work with here — start them out with a few directions that they could take the drink then be ready to answer a few questions. Here are some other flavor “starter” concepts that you could drop, depending on what you’re into:
- I like lightly fruity flavors and herbal notes. (Ding ding! They know it’s cool to muddle some berries and mint/basil/tarragon/whatever they use in their other fancy drinks together in a glass for you and top with soda water.)
- I like sweeter drinks with bubbles in them. (Rad — juices and grenadine and maybe their fancy infused house simple syrup plus sparkling water and you’re set.)
- I typically like bitter flavors and neat drinks. (No ice! House bitters and a little simple and flat water and that’s a wrap.)
- I typically like tiki drinks/sours but I’m avoiding alcohol/alcohol and raw egg. (This signals that they should use typical ingredients in each of these drink categories — orgeat, fruit juices, etc. and lemon juice and simple syrup, respectively — but just remove the spirits.)
Maybe you weren’t a seasoned pro at talking about what drinks you liked before you stopped imbibing the hard stuff, but I promise you this is a great way to start getting comfortable with it. Talking about cocktails shouldn’t be as intimidating as talking about beer or wine — really! It’s just like cooking, except without the stress of burning stuff! But it is still a flavors and ingredients game and everyone has their preferences and it’s a big wide continuum to work and play in.
And, of course, don’t be afraid, as you are chatting with your new friend bartender, to apologize and thank them for helping your special case. They will (hopefully) be gracious about it, and maybe even appreciate the challenge, but you are still being a snowflake and it’s good to call attention to that and own it and the inconvenience it creates like the un-entitled grown-up you are.
Now get out there and see what the folks behind the bar can scheme up for ya!