Most of us have been there: You’re still in bed and halfway through a chicken biscuit that you paid triple for just to have delivered. You didn’t sleep great and fuzzy memories of last night flicker in and out. “Oh God,” you think. “Did I dance?” Your knees say yes. You spend the next few hours with a bottle of electrolytes, Advil, sweatpants and reality TV … or maybe just some hair of the dog. Lather, rinse, repeat.
No judgement from this corner; this described many a morning for me. Knocking on the door of 40 with two kids, I leaned hard into the justification that since my days were spent working full time, chauffeuring, cooking, cleaning and stepping on Legos, that I deserved a few evenings of shirking responsibility and slipping into a haze.
Last year, outside influences like a freaking pandemic, school closures, an economic downturn, and social and political unrest kicked my anxiety into high gear. Along with a great majority of the country, I no longer cared to feel feelings and contributed to 2020’s 20-percent increase in alcohol sales in the U.S. So, in the spirit of un-spiriting, and giving my liver a spa day, I took a break from booze and am now months into being “sober curious,” as the kids say.
As someone who appreciates the social lubricative quality of alcohol, my biggest fear was relearning how to be comfortable in groups without an excuse for saying something stupid or dancing poorly, or dancing at all. I have found that holding something helps, and to be honest, sipping something that resembles and tastes like a real drink adds to the fun. If you’ve been toying with the idea of a dry month (week, day, year, whatever) here are a few of my go-to booze-free favorites:
(Note: Nearly all N/A offerings are actually around 0.5% ABV)
My Booze-Free Favorites
Any beer from Athletic Brewing Co. In a blind taste test, these N/A craft beers could fool any beer snob. My favorite thus far has been the All Out Stout, but Athletic has a pretty wide selection that includes a few IPAs, a Golden Ale, a Cerveza and more, and most are under 100 calories a can. You can find a few at Triangle Wine but check ABC’s website for their full line of craft NA beer.
A close second would be Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher — and the name pretty much describes it perfectly. This one’s super light and slightly fruity, but not sweet, and the perfect amount of hoppiness to bring you happiness. Did I mention zero calories? This one, too, you can find at Triangle Wine.
N/A wines are really tricky and unless you’re already a fan of sweet wines, you’re probably going to steer clear of most of them. But I came across one brand that won’t give you a sugar rush: Ariel Cabernet and Chardonnay.
They church them up and call them “de-alcoholized wines,” but these blends are significantly drier than most other NA wines I’ve found. Tip: Break out the trusty cocktail smoker and let a glass of the Cab bathe in it. A 4 oz. glass will only cost you about 19-37 calories. Find it at, you guessed it, Triangle Wine.
In general, obviously you can’t expect the soothing and signature burn, but for taste, there are a few brands that deliver:
Spiritless Kentucky 74 NA Bourbon. I waited 8 weeks for this popular Bourbon alternative to arrive. After some good initial press, this woman-owned, Kentucky-based distillery ran out of their first batch quickly. This bottle was worth the wait and has given me a way to feed my smoked old-fashioned craving. At only 15 calories per 2 oz., you can afford to feed your pizza craving too. Order from their website.
Ritual Zero Proof: Ritual offers a Gin, Tequila, Rum and Whiskey alternative and overall, I found some of these satisfying with the right mixers, read: Don’t use cheap tonic in your G&Ts. The Gin has a great flowery and herby flavor and the Whiskey is pretty pleasant, but remember, these weren’t made to sip sans mixers. You only rack up 0-10 calories per serving with little to no sugar in each. Find Ritual at Triangle Wine or on their website.
Sadly, you won’t find many, or any, of these in your favorite pubs (should I start a petition?), but most can make a killer mocktail with the right direction. Now drink up sober Sallies, and enjoy your hangover-free weekends.
This piece was contributed by a Sway reader. Want to write your own? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.