Lots to Learn
Who's responsible for the how-to?
When I started my dry year, I was thrilled any time I saw an alcohol-free spirit on a menu or in a bottle shop. I was able to recognize brands that I was learning about through my own research and introductions from the sober curious community. However, I’ve quickly discovered that not all AF spirits are created equally. It's become important to me to understand each brand’s goals as I pare down my alcohol-free staples.
While I still love seeing alcohol-free brands taking up space on store shelves and back bars, I think it is important to make sure that AF brands are taking an extra step in their expansion: education. I’m happy to google a recipe, or to create my own when mixing at home. But, when I go out to a bar or restaurant, I expect an experience. It's no good to me to see an AF spirit on a back bar, but to have the bartender ask me what to do with it.
Education is key to expanding the alcohol-free spirits space. First, we as consumers need to continue educating ourselves on the types of AF brands and their goals. You’ve got those dedicated to replicating existing spirits, those creating their own spirits and some combination therein creating portable options like canned beverages. Some brands focus on being your go-to when making AF cocktails at home, while others focus on the on-premise aspect of dry drinking. When drinking on-premise, (at a bar or restaurant), look for AF brands that you recognize but be aware that not every distributor offers the education needed for every bartender to make you a good AF cocktail. When an educated consumer of alcohol-free spirits asks for an alcohol-free cocktail, bartenders need to be prepared to pour something worth sipping.
So, whose responsibility is it to expand education about the non-alcoholic drinks space? This is a question I ask often, and so far the answer is ALL OF US. If you are here, you are sober curious at a minimum, and likely curious about the alcohol-free drinks space. You may be a bar owner, a distributor, a non-drinker or a spirits creator, and all of those titles play a role in furthering the education of what it means to integrate dry into the drinking scene. Many of us in the sober curious community will tell bar owners/managers that the goal is to find a way to stay sober and social. The sober still want to be served, so making a consistent and reliable AF menu is a great way to create a business worth visiting.