Above: The explosion of mocktails and other non-alcohol libations started mid-pandemic, says Frank Pagliaro of FranksWine.
By Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald
The New Year signifies a reset; a new start for everyone. For some, that means cutting out something that’s not working. For others, it might mean trying something outside the comfort zone. Enter Dry January. There’s a growing interest in the sober curious/sober sometimes exploration — the practice of abstaining from alcohol consumption for a short- or longer-term period with the goal(s) of improving physical and mental health — and its following is not just in millennial and Gen Z circles.
More people each year take up that mantle by leaning into Dry January, Dryuary, or “Janopause.” Call it what you will, it’s become a legitimate movement that even extends to other months (e.g., Sober October, Dry July). With the rise of low-ABV cocktails, nonalcoholic spirits, and craft mocktails on many establishments’ menus, there are plenty of options to keep Dry January equally cheerful and delicious.
Although this writer doesn’t subscribe to the idea, I know plenty who do for January and beyond. Let’s see what they’ve discovered…
All They Are Saying…Is Give Dry a Chance
Regional musician-comedian Todd Chappelle tried Dry January for the first time in 2022, just to see if he could do it.
“After the first two weeks, I realized that I didn’t miss alcohol at all,” Chappelle says.
He had his first drink on February 5, 2022. Now, he hasn’t had a drink since November 15 (because of a medication regimen) and probably won’t this month, either.
“If I go the last six weeks of 2022 without alcohol, I may as well do Dry January again in 2023,” he says.
But would he make it a regular practice? “It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, so it probably will be something I do every year,” he says. “The older I get, the less tolerance I have for alcohol anyway, so going a month without is definitely good for my overall well-being.”
I have a friend, Kris H. from Pittsburgh, who has been keeping to a Dry January (and February) schedule for about 15 years now. “Before it was ‘a thing’,” she says.
It began when her husband took a break for health and clarity after having an early-age stroke, and she decided to join in his routine.
“For me, it’s a nice ‘reset’ after the overindulgence of the holidays…and the summer…and the weekends,” she laughs.
“In the beginning, the hardest part was having to turn down invites where the temptation would be too great and contending with friends who didn’t quite understand,” she adds. “It can be a bit uncomfortable saying ‘no,’ but I prefer to hibernate during this time and tend to things I’d been neglecting, like home projects or hobbies.”
By now, she notes, their friends are used to it and know they’ll call when she’s ready to get out again.
An unexpected side effect Kris happily found is a greater connection to her spirituality. “I became more reflective of my day, and I dream more at night when my sleep is not dulled by alcohol. Overall, I gain more peace.”
A Dietary Dryuary
Bev Zimmermann of Wilmington will follow a Dry January protocol this year, but “…because of dietary restrictions, not necessarily by choice,” she says. She initially chose to do it to help her keep weight off, but it’s also helped her save money, and she notes that she enjoys the ‘freedom’ from the dreaded headaches and hangovers.
“I actually miss nothing except for drinking with friends,” Zimmermann says. Her best advice for success? “Find other activities to do with them.”
Francine and Matt Stone, also of Wilmington, have consistently stuck to a Whole30 diet for four years now — which they begin each January — and that includes a commitment to Dry January. (The Whole30 dietary program calls for 30 days of abstaining from alcohol and other foods that may cause allergy, inflammation, etc.) Participating in Whole30 along with Dry January, Stone says, allows them to break from unhealthy choices they may have reverted to during the year.
“After the indulgence of summer, fall, and holidays, I like to take a break and hit ‘reset’ on my eating and drinking patterns,” Stone says. “I’m ready [for that] after the holidays, so January is the perfect time — I try to be more introspective and focus on a fresh start in many ways.”
The thing Stone misses most is that glass of wine or cocktail at the end of the day or as a “pat on the back” to celebrate an accomplishment. Well, that and an abbreviated social calendar.
“I tend to dial back dining out and socializing when doing Whole30, because it’s hard to not fall into the usual food/drink patterns when socializing,” she says. “I do hate turning down opportunities to socialize!”
For the Intrigued: What to Know
For those who want to give this journey a try, our veterans offer advice:
“If you want to give it a go, don’t make big plans the first week; allow yourself rest,” Kris H. advises. “Your body will thank you.” She also suggests that if you’re looking to shed a few pounds in the process, fill the void with exercise, not sweets! “I’ve made that mistake before.”
Kris says by the end of January she’s settled in and finding her stride. “I usually go for six to eight weeks to get the most out of it,” she notes. “Then, when it’s time to break the alcoholic fast, ease back into it. You got all year ’til you do it again!”
“Remember it’s just 30 days,” Stone offers. “You can do anything for 30 days. Don’t cheat! You’ll miss your drink, but you’ll also be proud that you found alternatives to reaching for the bottle or can.”
NA Options: Where to Start
As previously noted, there are plenty of non-alcoholic (NA) options available for those who want to dive in. One local establishment that has recognized and embraced sober culture is FranksWine in Trolley Square. Owner Frank Pagliaro found this was a true (pun intended) untapped market, and he’s built a brand around it. FranksWine has over 85 different NA beers, alcohol-free wine and spirits, and craft mocktails that you’d swear are the real thing.
“The explosion of non-alcoholic libations started mid-pandemic, when a lot of people felt they were imbibing just a bit too much,” he says. “Our sales for NA beer quadrupled, and zero-proof wine/bubbly and spirit alternative sales saw a twentyfold increase.”
FranksWine dedicates a large part of their website to NA products, and they host “BarNA” inside the shop. Employee Nicole Alvarez shines as their resident “NON-tender,” serving up her favorite mocktail recipes every Saturday. (This writer has sampled some and, truth be told, they are quite delightful.)
“It [the BarNA concept] really took off two years ago when Nicole decided to do Dry January… and she’s still dry today,” Pagliaro says.
“Many people used alcohol as an escape from the pandemic. I was one of them,” Alvarez recalls. “It got to a point where I didn’t like how I was feeling — my anxiety was horrendous, I physically felt awful, and I realized I needed a break.”
She began her break on February 1, 2021. “I got to the end of the month and decided I wanted to keep going. I gave myself little goals — 60 days, 90 days. Once I got to 90, I decided I didn’t miss how I used to feel, so I just continued.”
Many other companies are in the NA game as well. Ted Stewart, craft manager at Standard Distributing Company, provides several interesting suggestions for those following the dry lifestyle.
Athletic Brewing, founded in 2017 by Bill Shufelt and John Walker, is America’s leading producer of non-alcoholic craft beer. Time magazine named the brewery the 27th biggest craft brewery in America in 2021 in its “100 Most Influential Companies” — “…pretty remarkable for a brewery that makes nothing but non-alcoholic beer,” Stewart says.
Stewart also calls attention to the Lagunitas Hop Refresher from Lagunitas Brewery. It’s a hoppy, sparkling water full of citra, equinox, and centennial hops that packs a surprisingly fruity punch, but without alcohol, carbs, calories, or gluten.
“The Refresher is a great option for Dry January, as it appeals to the craft beer drinker as well as someone who doesn’t enjoy beer,” Stewart says. “It’s a great choice on its own or as a mixer.”
Both Athletic brews and the Lagunitas Hop Refresher can be found at local liquor stores and at bars and restaurants.
Stewart notes a few other options — Heineken 0.0, the best-selling non-alcoholic option in the country, and Lagunitas IPNA, the N/A version of Lagunitas flagship IPA.
Dry January Isn’t for Everyone (and That’s OK)
As I mentioned, I’m not a subscriber to the movement, although I know and respect many who are. There are kindred spirits here who have decided that this journey is just not for them, and we’re all OK with that.
Wilmington resident and pro photographer Alessandra Nicole says that she did try “Drynuary” in 2013 “…and trying to say that made me sound drunker than if I was drinking that month. I didn’t lose weight or save money because fancy mocktails were sugary & pricey!”
Wilmington’s Cindy DelGiorno, an independent wine consultant at Scout and Cellar, let me know that she prefers “…Dry Wines January.” (I’m 100% in on that.)
And fellow Wilmingtonian Lew Indellini reminded me: “My birthday is in January, and I did follow Dry January in 2020…we all know what happened in early March that year. I’ll never do it again.”
Delve into Dryuary at Frankswine
Meet & Taste with Author Meg Geisewite
Saturday, January 7, 11am
Free to attend
Featuring BuzzFree Cocktails, 0.0 Beer & AF Seltzer, Wellness Wine & Bubbly with music by Bruce & Sam.
Geisewite is a mom who began her sober-curious journey
in November 2019. She is changing the narrative on the mommy wine culture, the hustle culture, and pro-drinking culture. Discover her debut book, Intoxicating Lies: One Woman’s Journey to Freedom from Gray-Area Drinking.
Courtesy of Standard Distributing
The Hoppy Cider Cocktail
• 4 oz. Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher
• 2 oz. Apple Cider
• ½ oz. Orange Flavored Non-Alcoholic
(for a zero-proof cocktail) Liqueur
• Juice from ½ Lime
• Cinnamon Sugar and Sea Salt for the rim
• Apple Slices, Rosemary, and Cinnamon Sticks for serving
DIRECTIONS: Mix all that ‘ish over ice, get that garnish game strong, and sip away!