Published on November 7, 2019

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Photography by Heidi's Bridge

With the dawn of the holiday season comes lots of merriment in the form of Friendsgiving, happy hours, hometown reunions, and seemingly endless alcoholic beverages. When you’re trying to cut back on drinking (or stay totally sober), this time of year can make for a challenge—but it doesn’t have to.

For one, nonalcoholic beverages like Kin and Seedlip have gained serious traction in the past year alone (and Whole Foods is convinced they’ll only continue to grow in popularity in 2020). Whether you’re hosting a party or going to someone else’s fete, there’s no lack of options when it comes to low- and no-booze libations to serve. Here’s how three entertaining experts recommend having fun at all those get-togethers when you just don’t want to drink.

Set the Mood

The best way to make sure people at your holiday party feel comfortable, whether they’re drinking or not? Don’t single them out! A little extra planning goes a long way, starting with invites. “If you’re mentioning what drinks you’ll be serving, make sure that you’re not prefacing that the nonalcoholic options are for the pregnant mamas or anything like that,” says Lorelei Bandrovschi, founder of Listen Bar, an alcohol-free bar in Brooklyn. “Instead, say that there will be a really fun drink for everyone to try—anyone will benefit from the invitation to switch between alcoholic drinks and booze-free ones.”

Grab a Drink That’s Just as Flavorful

If you’re at a nice bar, Bandrovschi recommends checking to see if it has Club-Mate, a smoky yerba mate–based drink that’s popular in Germany. “I know a bar takes things very seriously when they have it,” she says. Other than that, she cites a seltzer with bitters as a fail-proof order.

If you’re hosting a party at home, Bandrovschi swears by zero-proof spirit brand Seedlip and ready-made, booze-free cocktail company Curious Elixirs (which offers flavors similar to classic drinks like the Negroni and the Dark and Stormy). “We try not to use the word mocktail because it conjures memories of overly sugary, fruity drinks. I recommend challenging yourself to work with flavors outside of that expectation,” she says. “Something more peppery or earthy—or super-fresh, like cucumber.”

A euphoric is another great alternative—take Kin, a spritz-friendly booze-free spirit that contains adaptogens and nootropics that work to make you feel just a little more relaxed. “When serving Kin at a party, we recommend rethinking how you socialize,” founder and CEO Jen Batchelor says. “Instead of asking guests about work, ask about their hobbies and a topic they are passionate about. And most important, ask a question for every statement you make about yourself.”

Try a Low-Alcohol Option

Cutting down on how much alcohol you’re consuming is all in how you mix your drinks. “Think about how you can re-create what you love most about your favorite cocktails, whether that’s the flavor, smell, or topping. Instead of using hard liquor as a base, for example, try something lighter like Haus and add just a splash of your favorite gin, whiskey, or tequila for a little extra kick,” says Helena Hambrecht, cofounder of the aforementioned new aperitif brand. “Have fun with your garnishes, whether that’s a citrus twist, a cinnamon stick, or a cherry, and use mixers you’d actually want to drink on their own.”

Push Past the Awkward Part

If you’re used to always having a drink in hand at a party, it’s understandable that you might be a little uncomfortable navigating those waters without some liquid courage. But the best way to get over that feeling, says Bandrovschi, is to just ignore it: “One of my rules is that if you’re not having a good enough time, dance harder. If you get to an awkward phase and push right past it, there’s this wild euphoria that’s way more accessible than you think. Sometimes we wait for everything around us to create a magical night—but a funny thing happens when you decide to do something you can control. It lifts your feel-good level internally.”

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