NEW JERSEY — Every January for the past three years, Shivam Patel voluntarily trades in a beer for a bottled water at his favorite Jersey dive bar. Patel is one of many who participate in Drynuary, or Dry January, abstaining from alcohol for the entire month in an effort to be healthier.
Originating in the UK as an advocacy campaign, the wellness trend started with just 4,000 people during its first run in 2013. Now, more than 4 million people have accepted the challenge, according to Alcohol Change UK.
While some are convinced that a month without wine is nearly impossible, others find it easier than expected. As a self-proclaimed “medium drinker,” Patel said, “For me, going without alcohol isn’t too difficult. Sure, I see my friends sharing a few drinks, but I remind myself that this doesn’t last forever and there are ways to make it more endurable.”
Steven Nichols, a bartender who works in Downtown Jersey City, is very familiar with Drynauary. With more people avoiding alcohol this time of year, Nichols tends to get an influx of mocktail orders.
When it comes to making spirit-free drinks, Nichols views it as a fun experiment to make something delicious without the ingredients one would normally use.
“My big thing is flavors,” he explained, “so removing alcohol doesn’t help or hurt me in any way. Making sure everyone is happy with whatever type of drink they receive from me — booze or no booze—is always the goal.”
From a bar perspective, most establishments aren’t too damaged by the widespread alcohol-free month. Paige Stewart, head bartender at Mohawk House in Sparta, finds that there is a brief period where things are a bit quieter than usual. Following all of the indulgent dinners and countless Christmas cookies, most people want to detox.
“You always see a decrease in volume right after the holidays,” she noted, “but after about two weeks, the regulars start crawling back.”
Stewart emphasized that mocktails are not just juice. If you head to Mohawk House and want to order a mocktail, here’s the process: First you will be asked what flavors you like. Whether tangy, spicy or sweet, the Sparta restaurant has a large variety of seasonal syrups, shrubs, herbal teas and bitters to choose from. This becomes the base for the drink. From there, they can add ginger, peppers, mint, fresh-squeezed juices, or muddled fruits and voilà: tasty and booze-free!
Oftentimes one’s taste is influenced by the season. Stewart recalled that, in the fall, it was all about pumpkin spice martinis. Later on, every glass rim was garnished with a candy cane and whipped cream.
“It’s as if once January hits, a switch goes off and dessert cocktails are a thing in the past,” she said. “Customers start leaning toward healthier options like wine, or ask for a better-for-you cocktail option.” (Some people choose not to completely remove alcohol from their diet, and instead settle for a dry-ish January.)
For low-cal requests, Nichols said the Skinny Margarita is one of his favorites. Nichols will use a little more triple sec and a dash of orange juice to sweeten the cocktail instead of sugar or simple syrup, and then adds a splash of club soda for effervescence.
Below, Nichols shares one of his favorite mocktail recipes to try at home.
6 mint leaves
3 oz. green tea
1 oz. ginger syrup
1 oz. lime juice
Muddle the mint leaves in tin. Then pour in the green tea, ginger syrup and lime juice. Add ice and shake vigorously. Double strain into a tall glass over ice. Top it off with club soda.
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