Come January 1, it doesn't matter how much any of us have had to drink—we're all suffering from a holiday hangover. No wonder Dry January, a monthlong commitment to booze-free living, is on the rise.
Dry January kicked off in 2013 with a British organization called Alcohol Change. Their goal was to inspire people to examine their relationships with alcohol by taking a month off of drinking. Every year, more people have taken on the resolution, and it's easy to understand why. Past participants have touted numerous personal benefits: better sleep, weight loss, money saved, decreased anxiety, increased energy! One of the lesser discussed outcomes is how working through one's own triumphs and pitfalls with alcohol can translate to supporting nondrinkers year round.
It's pretty obvious when someone's an old hardcore fogy who's nailed to the "x." ("Straight edge for life!") Not everyone with a temporary or long-term commitment to sobriety is going to tattoo an "x" on their hand—and honestly, it's no one's business why someone's not drinking. Less obvious are recovering alcoholics, individuals wrestling with gray area drinking, people in the early stages of pregnancy or trying to conceive, even folks on certain medications, or that night's designated drivers. In general, alcohol consumption is on the decline nationally. And according to a 2017 study, counties that legalized marijuana (recreationally or medicinally) saw a 12 percent decrease in alcohol sales. All this to say, a lot of Chicagoans will likely be drinking less this year, and not just in January. They need to feel included.
So to stay dry, encourage someone else who's off the sauce, or avoid accidentally outing a person who isn't imbibing and doesn't want to talk about it, have a plan when bar hopping. A sparkling water with lime will always be an option, but for those looking for the ritual and flourish of a mixed drink, nothing beats a mocktail. Here are some great places to enjoy common alcohol-focused outings without the libations.
You won't miss mimosas or Bloody Marys when you brunch at Beatnik. This hip West Town restaurant serves a heavy dose of Instagram-friendly boho chic with no side of pretentiousness. On offer are three "no proof" cocktails: Half Moon Beach, a blend of club soda, black currant soda, and fresh ginger and lemon; Coldcoction, which expertly tops a mix of cold brew and coffee demerara with vegan whipped cream; and El Niño, a perfect marriage of savory and sweet with lime and grapefruit juice, a pepper-and-mint infused agave, and a dash of Tajín.
No Bones Beach Club
1943 W. North Ave.
Come for the tropical-inspired mocktails, stay for the vegan noshes. Wicker Park's No Bones pairs a robust menu of plant-based options with a breezy, beachside vibe. Each drink is outfitted in an eye-popping assortment of trimmings: fresh flowers, thick fruit wedges, Technicolor umbrellas, and salt rims echoing ocean sands (but much tastier). Choose from four booze-free options: Coco-Chill, featuring pineapple, coconut, orange, and nutmeg; the virgin coconut mojito made with fresh coconut milk; Thai iced tea; and Turmeric of Paradise, a fusion of fresh pineapple and turmeric.
Logan Square has no shortage of bars with zero-alcohol options, but Young American sticks out for a few reasons: it's extremely accessible from public transit, the atmosphere is cool but comfortable, the music is great, and you can add CBD to any mocktail. It's a perfect option for just hanging out. Admittedly, their "spirit-free" drinks aren't as visually inspiring as most, but the unique flavors more than make up for it. Right now, they have three options: a combination of melon, ginger, and lime flavors with sparked cinnamon and rooibos and tangerine tea; golden oat milk paired with strawberry, lemon, and mint; and lemon tonic mixed with orange blossom water and pineapple shrub. Trust me, you have not tasted anything like these.
12 S. Michigan Ave.
If you're looking for an after-work refreshment in the Loop, Cindy's makes nondrinkers nearly undetectable. This large rooftop bar sits at the top of the Chicago Athletic Association hotel and offers a lot of room for mingling. It feels professional without being stuffy and boasts an award-winning sit-down menu for those looking to linger longer. There are three mocktails: Lads and Lassies, which mixes Seedlip Spice 94 with mango, lime, and lapsang souchong tea; CB and T, a blend of Fever-Tree tonic water, Kyoto Black cold brew, and cane sugar; and Effective Immediately, which includes Fever-Tree ginger beer, soda water, and Sweet Peach Noir tea mixed with pineapple, lemon, and herbs de provence.
Virtue Restaurant and Bar
1462 E. 53rd St.
Just a stone's throw from the University of Chicago is this upscale southern dining spot. Not only is it a great place for a special night out, but Virtue has some of the most affordable mocktails in the city. Most places charge $7-$10 for mocktails—no doubt for the lengthy lists of ingredients and low-shelf-life garnishes—but at $5 a drink, Virtue delivers all the taste and imagination you'd hope for at a more reasonable price. The Hummingbird introduces basil to bitter lemon, but Virtue's pièce de résistance is the Duke of Earl: Earl Grey Tea, star anise, lemon, and frothy egg white elegantly served up in a champagne glass. v