Some people just don’t get this whole dry thing, which I didn’t expect.
Intending to watch the Six Nations rugby final, I arranged to meet a friend at a pub that was just my style: copper ceiling tiles, white taper candles and long communal wooden tables, with comfy couches instead of hard benches. I almost skipped my way to the bar, with visions of frosty pints of Beck’s Blue dancing in my head.
When I asked the bartender if he had any alcohol-free beer, he smiled widely — then burst into laughter.
My face fell.
It took a full minute for him to realize I wasn’t laughing along with him. I cocked my head, narrowed my eyes and asked, “Why is that funny?” He managed to compose himself and apologized. Defeated, I ordered a diet Coke. In the skinny glass with lime. Which lasted all of 5 minutes, so I had to order another.
I was now on a mission.
I decided to start testing bars and restaurants to see which ones were dry friendly. Let’s just say I got the proverbial door slammed in my face a few times. (Yes, in some of the crustier pubs I should’ve known better than to ask, they thought I was taking the piss.) But I was pleasantly surprised by others, and they deserve to be celebrated.
Sushi Samba at the top of the Heron Tower was my first real coup. It’s a little bit of Vegas in London – a glass elevator swooshes you up to the 38th floor where you walk out onto a patio to find a huge orange tree growing out of the outdoor bar, amid striking views of the Gherkin and the Thames. They’re known for their carefully crafted cocktails which can be pricey, but it’s an experience just ordering them.
So I panicked when I skimmed the menu and realized that none of their lovely cocktails were alcohol-free. (Of course, I had been there several times before as a drinker and hadn’t noticed.) Meekly, I asked the bartender if it was possible to make one of them without alcohol. I assured him I would still pay full price for it, as I was with work colleagues and didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that I’m “not drinking”.
Instead, he did me one better: he offered to make me his signature Spicy Virgin Mojito and even charged me a few quid less than the cocktail price. I was thrilled.
One small step for me, one giant step for the Drys!
Emboldened, I tried another fancy place near my office where I’d recently taken a client to lunch and enjoyed homemade lemonade out of a mason jar. The attention to detail and an alcohol-free offering gave me hope. Now, I had noticed there was an extensive wine list and cocktail menu, but I was distracted by the large bar area which I thought would be perfect for a DryScene event. I flagged down a manager and enthusiastically explained that I was starting a social group that would like to meet there regularly but we don’t drink, so could he offer us some mocktails?
HIM: Silence and puzzled look.
ME: “It can even be cocktails already on your menu that you don’t add alcohol to.”
HIM: More puzzlement.
ME: “And, er, we could come on a Monday or Tuesday night, or whatever night you’re not that busy.”
HIM: A bit irritated now. “Umm, ok, soooo….you’d want to eat as well, right?”
You see, bars make money on booze, it’s that simple. So the thought of 10 or more people crowding the bar who don’t drink alcohol isn’t exactly a good night for them.
They just don’t get that we would gladly pay a premium to drink at their bar if they offered something that would make us forget there’s no alcohol in it. Like my spicy virgin mojito – which I ordered three of that night. I’d be happy to pay full price for a decent glass of low-or-no alcohol wine or bubbly. Heck, I’ll even pay a corking fee if you let me bring my own!
That’s why I make a habit of asking every bar or restaurant I visit which non-alcoholic offers they may have. If enough of us do it, they’ll realize there are customers out there who want it, and will keep coming back if they get it — or go elsewhere if they don’t.
Together, we can move markets.
DryChick lives in London. She started DryScene to show people that they can have fun without alcohol. She wants to promote a healthy lifestyle and connect like-minded people through her events, where the focus is on the fun and not what’s in your glass. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: alcohol-free, Bavaria, Becks Blue, booze, Drinkers, Dry, Sushi Samba, virgin mojito, wine
Categorised in: Blog