By now, you’ve probably noticed Washington, D.C. is becoming a more inclusive hospitality hotspot. Our town’s first-ever booze-free bar, Binge Bar, recently opened. Umbrella Dry Drinks, Alexandria’s non-alcoholic bottle shop, just celebrated its one-year anniversary. And now we’re coming off the heels of another successful Mindful Drinking Fest in D.C.
So, what is mindful drinking, you ask? It’s essentially the practice of being aware of why and how much alcohol one drinks. While it’s related to sober curiosity, it’s not the same thing. Mindful drinkers may still drink alcohol, but they usually drink much less and switch off with nonalcoholic beverages.
While everyone’s individual situation has nuance, here are the three basic steps of becoming a mindful drinker.
Three Steps to Becoming a Mindful Drinker
1. Change your mindset. Start asking yourself questions like: Why and how much am I drinking? Do I need to drink to have fun? Is alcohol still serving me? Am I drinking responsibly? What do I like about drinking? Is it the taste and the ritual, or the effect it has on me?
2. Change your habits. Alternate between a boozy drink and a booze-free one. Experiment with drinking alcohol one or two fewer days a week than normal. Plan for a Sunday morning hike where having a hangover might not benefit you.
3. Change your drinks. This is the fun part. Maybe it’s finding a great nonalcoholic beer or wine that you can pair with dinner when you might normally pour something with a higher ABV. It might mean going to Total Wine, Craft Beer Cellar DC or Umbrella Dry Drinks and stocking up on some booze-free bevs to have at home for yourself and fellow mindful drinking friends. Or it could mean transforming full ABV cocktails into low-ABV ones.
Terms to Know
ABV: Alcohol by volume.
Booze-free: Sans alcohol, which can be a self-descriptor for those choosing not to drink.
Dry months: Months like Dry January, Dry July and Sober October where people take a month off of drinking to engage in sober curiosity. These months can be considered a “detox” after a heavy holiday season of partying but can also be ways to see if one’s life improves by not drinking alcohol (improvements can be in sleep, mental health, physical health and more). Can result in longer term sobriety or a more mindful approach to drinking alcohol.
Low + no: Term for beverage movement comprised of low (from 0.5% up to 7% ABV) and no alcohol (0.5% ABV or lower).
Mindful drinking: The practice of being aware of why and how much alcohol you drink, and is related to sober curious, but not the same. Mindful drinkers may still drink alcohol, but they drink less and switch off with non-alcoholic beverages.
Non-alcoholic: Beverages are considered non-alcoholic by the Food and Drug Administration when they are 0.5% ABV or lower.
Recovery: A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives and strive to reach their full potential (samhsa.gov).
Sober: The opposite of drunk, sober is also a term many non-drinkers use to describe themselves. This can be related to recovery but is not mutually exclusive.
Sober curious: Term coined by Ruby Warrington (author of the book “Sober Curious”) questioning why we drink through intentionality and curiosity; can result in trying on sobriety for a period of time.
Sobriety spectrum: All the reasons someone might choose not to drink for the night or the rest of their lives: designated drivers, abstainers for medical or religious reasons, straight-edge/non-drinkers, sober curious, health-conscious, in recovery.
Zero proof: Descriptor for non-alcoholic; can contain 0-0.5% ABV.
Tips from Mindful Drinkers
“The best way to approach mindful drinking is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, stop drinking cold turkey and huddle in a corner at home. Think about how you’d like to feel and write that down. Visualize who you are at the party, the bar, the event. Set goals to be that person. This might mean reducing your drinking and replacing drinks with alcohol with delicious nonalcoholic alternatives. Or it might mean drinking low-alcohol drinks. The key is to go into it knowing what you want out of it, take it slowly, and don’t give up being with people you care about and having fun. It’s not what you give up. It’s leaning into the best parts of life.”
– Derek Brown, co-founder of Mindful Drinking Festival + founder of Positive Damage Inc.
Beauty + functionality
“I love the intersection of beauty and function. I see this in the way I practice mindful consumption. Having access to beautiful beverages that are in alignment with my values and day to day is super important and easier than you’d think. I’m often very privileged to have access to many options and quality ingredients. But even when I don’t, taking a breath before I make the decision to consume something gives me clarity and often appreciation for what is in front of me. It also gives me a moment to decide if it’s what I actually want.”
– Maria Bastasch, creator of Disco Mary + co-founder of Mindful Drinking Festival
“Be cognizant and respectful of those who aren’t drinking alcohol. Continue to invite them to your activities. Offer NA options if you have a get-together or choose a bar or restaurant that has NA offerings beyond water. As with everything in life, be kind and inclusive.”
– Erika Goedrich, Craft Beer Cellar DC + co-founder of Mindful Drinking Festival
A holistic POV
“As a consultant, mindful drinking means planning creative and balanced beverage programs to have options for all bar guests. As a friend and host (if I’m having people over), it means planning drinks based specifically on my guests’ needs. I’m happy to make themed drinks and very specific and curated cocktails because these are people I know well. It’s a fun way to show your friends that you listen to them and love them. For myself, it means living an alcohol-free life.”
– Jon Schott, Riff Raff Drink Co.