5 NYC spots to keep you on track this dry January
The holidays are over and we’ve settled into the long month of January. With the sun setting early and the days cold and blustery, it can be hard to keep up with your healthy resolutions of exercising and eating healthy — sitting on a cozy couch and a glass of red wine is so tempting. But, if you’ve decided to partake in dry January (a month free of alcohol), there are a number of spots around New York City that can make it fun. With mocktails and non-alcoholic spirits becoming more and more popular, you don’t have to stay in on Friday and Saturday nights drinking green juice and water! Here are five bars and “liquor” stores serving up alcohol-free libations to keep your January fun and healthy.
Photo courtesy of Spirited Away
1. Spirited Away
177 Mott Street, Nolita
Billed as “America’s first booze-free bottle shop,” Spirited Away is a haven for dry January (or any time of year). Its shelves are stocked with enticing bottles of non-alcoholic wine, beer, and spirits. Not only is it a great inventory, but it also gives customers that experience of browsing a store for inspiring mocktail ingredients. Douglas Watters opened the store in 2020 during the pandemic after he and his wife began relying more and more on drinking alcohol as an after-work ritual, he explains on the site.
“I have nothing against alcohol, it simply no longer serves me and my priorities. As I focus on my relationships with family and friends, my nutrition and fitness and growing my businesses, the consumption of alcohol just doesn’t advance or benefit any of those priorities,” he said.
Watters said he feels dry January is a good way for people to dip their toe into a sober lifestyle, but the vast majority of his customers are not sober. “Our community is people who want to go out and party with friends and feel amazing at tomorrow morning’s yoga class,” he said.
That being said, he hopes to impact society’s — or at least NYC’s — views on alcohol. “I’m focused on normalizing and de-mystifying adult non-alc 365 days a year. Dry January is fantastic because new people that I haven’t yet reached begin to question alcohol’s ubiquity in culture and society as well as reconsider its role in their lives. The mindful drinking movement is much bigger than just an annual one-month challenge,” he said.
Watters also started Dry Atlas, a database of over 700 non-alcoholic spirits, wines, and beers where people can explore and rate products.
Photo courtesy of Lauren Cassot
2. Absence of Proof
632 Hudson Street, West Village
Absence of Proof is an alcohol-free pop-up bar experience catering to those who want to have a chic night out without booze. Upcoming dry January “Speakeasy” events are happening on January 13, 20, and 27.
“I love dry January. I think it’s a great opportunity for people to take a break from drinking and allow their bodies to reset for the new year,” founder Elizabeth Gascoigne said. “It’s an opportunity to get more intentional about when you choose to drink, and to learn to have fun without alcohol. It’s also a great time to try all of the new amazing non-alcoholic brands.”
In fact, she stopped drinking herself last January. “I was tired all the time, physically unhealthy, and my anxiety was extremely high. I decided to remove alcohol from my life to focus on my health and happiness. It worked! I almost immediately started to feel better and have more energy (not to mention having my weekend mornings back),” Gascoigne said.
“When I removed alcohol, however, I noticed that my nightlife and social activities suddenly felt very limited. I decided to create Absence of Proof to provide fun social options for anyone choosing not to drink.”
When she first started the concept, Gascoigne said she was worried her business model would only appeal to people living a completely sober lifestyle. But, she has found that’s not the case. “Most of my customers are somewhere on the sober-curious spectrum, meaning they aren’t completely sober but are interested in becoming more intentional with their drinking or, to not drink as often,” she said.
Recently, Absence of Proof hosted a Friendsgiving event and “Sober October” nights out.
Photo courtesy of Hekate
167 Avenue B, East Village
Owner Abby Ehmann describes Hekate as “a casual café, tea room, and sober bar fueled by feminine energy.” It was recently profiled by Food & Wine as NYC’s first sober dive bar.
“It has all the hallmarks of a good dive: eclectic vintage accents, tattooed patrons, and a straightforward drink menu. The menu, however, is entirely booze free — all the cocktails, which include classics like piña coladas and jalapeño margs as well as more unusual elixirs, feature non-alcoholic spirits, sodas, and aperitifs. There’s also coffee, “witchy teas,” and a nice selection of NA beers,” the magazine wrote.
The non-alcoholic bar was inspired by a “for rent” sign Ehmann saw through the window of her other bar, Lucky, which does serve alcohol. Not wanting to directly compete with herself, Ehmann tried to think of a different concept for the space.
“There are so many options for people who drink alcohol and very few for those who don’t,” she said. Though she does not live an alcohol-free lifestyle herself, Ehmann said she is an avid supporter of those who do, and as a business owner, she’s loving dry January.
“It’s usually the worst month of the year for the hospitality industry but we’re been experiencing record-setting sales so far! I had heard about dry January as a way for people to ‘dry out’ after the debauchery of the holiday season but now, as part of the sober and sober-curious community, I’m more acquainted with it,” she said.
“Sober October was huge for us, so I am excited to embrace dry January.”
Photo courtesy of Minus Moonshine
4. Minus Moonshine
433 Sterling Place, Prospect Heights
Another non-alcoholic “liquor” store to check out is Minus Moonshine in Prospect Heights. The shop is stocked with non-alcoholic beers, wines, spirits, and canned cocktails along with mixers, alcohol-free bitters, and syrups. It also hosts tastings, happy hours, and monthly events. Recently, Minus Moonshine held a Queer Sober Social as well as a Sober Singles event. Founder and owner Aqxyl Storms started thinking about their relationship with alcohol 20 years ago, and eventually quit for good after a “round of dry January that never ended.”
“I would quit drinking for a few years at a time for health benefits and then start up again for social reasons. When I finally discovered [non-alcoholic] spirits, I knew I could quit for good,” they said. “When I was making mocktails in my kitchen at home 15 years ago I never thought the options we have now could be so abundant that I’d start a business like this.”
Storms is a fan of dry January and says many of their customers are people dabbling in a break from alcohol. “Dry January is an awesome opportunity to reset and reconnect with goals. We can accomplish so much when we’re not nursing a hangover…Because of this new world of non-alc adult beverages, one doesn’t have to feel like they’re ‘giving up’ or ‘missing out’ on something. The ritual of unwinding or celebrating with a drink can still be there, minus the negative side effects,” they said.
Storms added: “I speak to people every day who tell me things like, ‘I’m so glad it’s okay for me to take a break now’ or ‘It’s finally cool to not drink all the time.’… Once they realize that most of the fun they had while drinking was because of the people they were with and not the alcohol, it’s easier to see why this lifestyle is so enticing.”
Photo courtesy of Kava Social
5. Kava Social
120 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg
Established in 2020, Kava Social is a sober bar right in the heart of Williamsburg that’s “connecting people and plants with alternative by nature beverages,” said founder and CEO Alexandra Sienkiewicz. “Our menu is [composed] of kava and kratom core ingredients and crafted into plant-based mocktails that help with focus, energy, calm and relaxation.” She was inspired to open the cafe by her own experience with kava.
“I found drinking kava increased my productivity levels, helped improve my sleep and the desire for alcohol consumption naturally decreased. It was such a positive experience that I wanted to share this with everyone. So the mission for Kava Social began and a space for people to gather and connect on a meaningful level was created,” she said.
Kava has been having somewhat of a moment for a few years now. It’s a root found in the South Pacific that can produce feelings of relaxation and even euphoria (it’s meant to be consumed in small quantities as it can have some negative effects if you drink too much).
The menu includes “elixirs” like a hot toddy with blueberry rooibos, honey and lemon ginger brew, a kava or kratom pumpkin spice oat milk latte and “Blushing Bubbles,” a gold kratom papaya sparkling rose mimosa.
Sienkiewicz is a believer of dry January, but said she feels stronger about complete lifestyle changes. “A new year brings renewed energy and is always a great kick-starter for change! Personally, I find restraint or abstinence from anything you’re ‘doing too much of’ can be beneficial and often is a needed reset, however, a more sustainable approach is moderation; making adaptations that naturally become part of better habits for the long-haul,” she said.
“It’s really about living a well-balanced life; one of moderation and listening to your body and mind.”