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Whether you are “Sober Curious,” have a boozy holiday hangover, are meeting a New Year’s resolution or just looking to cut some cocktail cals for a bit, the local Downtown scene has expansive options to stay dry this season and beyond.
It’s that “spirited” time of year again… the calendar overflowing with bubbly holiday parties, wine dinners, boozy brunches—a daily deluge of spirits. Enter that familiar holiday hangover—and the inevitable desire to detox and dry out, giving your liver, wallet and waistline a much-needed break.
While detoxes and dry periods are by no means new concepts, especially after the overindulgent holidays—hey, Dry January, which has now been around for almost a decade—what has changed are the spirit-free offerings emerging and expanding throughout the Triangle.
No longer are we stuck in the world of soda water, soft drinks and O’Doul’s (thank God), as local bars and restos have begun embracing alcohol substitutes, like nonalcoholic distilled spirit Seedlip, and incorporating fresh produce, aloe tonic, chai spice tea and the like as tools to devise sober cocktails (aka “mocktails”) that rival their more “spirited” sister sippers.
“I started just messing around with different teas, herbs and spices, and I noticed there was an appreciation for it for people who just wanted to feel included,” says Josh Gagne of Killjoy, a self-dubbed “colorful, comfortable cocktail bar where all drinks are treated with the same exquisite respect.” Adds Gagne, “There was such a bad rap for people who just ordered a soda water or something while they were with a group of people who were ordering drinks. I always want every guest that walks in, no matter what, to feel comfortable.”
That inclusive concept is one you see on the bar menu at Wye Hill as well, which updates seasonally and features sundry delicious zero-proof selects. “This fall we have a really incredible option called What’s Up Doc that our bar manager crafted for us,” says Wye Hill co-owner Sara Abernethy. “It’s a delicious fall treat with fresh carrot, ginger and citrus, and it’s really quite tasty and looks like a carrot. It sounds kind of funny, but the ingredients are just a really nice combination together.”
Abernethy intends to expand the restaurant’s zero-proof options this coming year because, she says, more and more guests are asking for alcohol-free craft cocktails. “I just think there’s been a reckoning with people’s habits and vices,” she adds. “People still want to go out and enjoy a good time, but maybe just want to have a little more flexibility in what’s available to them.”
Beyond Wye Hill, other uberpopular and highly respected watering holes are jumping on the wagon—from Atlantic Lounge’s “Wagon” drinks to Dram and Draught’s highly curated spirit-free cocktail menu. Or simply removing alcohol completely (!), like Carrboro’s Coronato Pizza.
“We have some great products like CBD sparkling waters, craft nonalcoholic beers, bitter Italian sodas and a full list of 0% craft cocktails,” says chef Teddy Diggs of Coronato, who knew he needed to replace alcohol with amazing drinks when he removed it from his menu in September. “We craft our 0% cocktails seasonally, so you can always find produce in our drinks, like our Fizzy Up-Beet, which has juiced local beets, pressed pomegranates and sparkling oolong tea.”
While Coronato is unique in its total elimination of alcohol to create an environment that celebrates zero-proof sips and allows everyone to fully participate in the same experience, the popular pizza spot is clearly not alone in providing sober options—leaving no doubt that drink menus are becoming more inclusive. And to that, we raise our spirit-free ’tails. Cheers!
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