I’m not one to jump on the latest diet fads. I tend to stick to the idea of moderation in everything. But after a holiday season that got away from me in terms of the number of celebratory nights out, I thought it was time for a detox of sorts.
I decided to go all in on the “Dry January” trend—meaning no alcohol for the entire month.
But looking ahead at my calendar, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. My January was filled with weddings, the LSU championship game, and a weekend-long visit from an out-of-state friend that would involve a trip to New Orleans.
I knew I could figure it out for social events at friends’ houses and even at wedding receptions. What worried me, weirdly, was asking for a mocktail at a restaurant or bar. Even though we’ve been encouraging readers not to be fearful of asking bartenders for non-alcoholic drinks in recent editions of 225 Dine, I still had that, well … fear myself.
A recent article from Eater talked about the backlash to Dry January—the eye rolls from bartenders and how hard it is to not come off like bragging when you announce that you are, ahem, doing Dry January. When the aforementioned friend came into town and I took her on a culinary tour of the city, that fear of eye rolls or exaggerated sighs from bartenders and servers led me to say “Just water, please” at a number of dinners.
But an early evening meetup with friends at Mid City Beer Garden helped me turn a corner. The bar’s menu thankfully includes a section of mocktails, and I was able to toast with friends without holding up a glass of water. On another night, we stopped in at The Radio Bar, where the bartenders didn’t skip a beat when asked for club sodas with lime.
I suddenly felt a little better about heading to New Orleans for the weekend.
We made reservations at Sylvain, and our server was almost elated to walk me through the mocktail options they were making that night behind the bar. At another French Quarter spot, Good Friends, the bartender politely refused our attempts to pay for club sodas (though we, of course, still tipped him!). The night ended at the Ace Hotel in the Central Business District. When I asked the bartender for something akin to a Moscow Mule sans alcohol, he responded, “So, like, just ginger beer?” The initial confusion aside, my bill was half the price of a normal Moscow Mule.
I’m heading into my last full week of Dry January feeling more confident that this is entirely doable and I don’t have to stay home to avoid temptation. And even in south Louisiana, where drinking and celebrating is such a big part of our culture and social activities—especially with Mardi Gras around the corner—I was surprised at how quickly the mocktail trend has caught on.
As 225 food writer Maggie Heyn Richardson wrote recently, good bartenders are excited by a challenge, and this mixology challenge really isn’t rocket science. Plus, it’s easy on your health and on your wallet.
Cheers to that.
Have you tried a mocktail at a Baton Rouge restaurant or bar recently? Let us know about your experience in the comments!