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One week into a 100-day alcohol-free challenge, my husband and I decided to stay sober for good.
That was back in June 2018, and we haven’t reconsidered since.
Being from Wisconsin—the land of cheese, the Green Bay Packers, and alcohol, the allure of drinking started at a young age for me. While most of us in the United States see the glamorization of booze and beer on a regular basis, it’s heavily amplified in the upper Midwest.
According to USA Today, 10 of the top-20 “Drunkest Cities” in the US are located in Wisconsin where alcohol is simply a primary textile fiber in the cultural fabric.
My husband and I met in college where most socializing included heavy drinking. Maybe this is the norm in all college towns, though: socializing and drinking, partying, and being hungover. The constant cycle of going to classes, working, studying, binge-drinking, and booting and rallying to do it all again the next day.
Starting our first out-of-college jobs, we regularly attended after-work happy hours with coworkers. Business casual attire, outdoor patio seating under large umbrellas, and big ass 32 oz blueberry ale tap beer were all enjoyed as a loyalty member.
The average weekends included weddings with open-bar, sporting events, or concerts where alcohol was front and center.
Then, we leaned hard into the new-parent wine and beer culture, an encouraging way to take the edge off since momming and dadding (no less with a special needs child) are much more challenging than one had anticipated. Our local Whole Foods even had a taproom, making a quick family stop for groceries an opportunity for socialized drinking.
Looking back, aside from the nine months when I was pregnant with my son, there was quite literally not a single social event I attended from the age of 16 to 33 where a drink wasn’t in my hand, either during or prior to the event. Social lubrication and liquid courage had depleted my self-esteem to the point where I felt naked and exposed to the sheer idea of having to be myself without it.
Five days into our 100-day experiment, we attended a California reggae concert headlined by the Dirty Heads, with bottles of water in our hands and feelings of incredible anxiousness and awkwardness on our minds.
“Will we look like total squares for not drinking?”
“How will I enjoy myself?”
“How will I move my body to the music?”
“I’m going to feel completely out of place and like an idiot.”
Experiencing a concert sober, by choice and not as the designated driver, was riveting. As opposed to feeling let down by my lack of buzz, I was truly alive with the music while being completely present. We were floored and hooked. Being sober was our vibe, and we weren’t going back.
Giving up the booze was a monumental decision for our mental and physical health. We’ve become bigger water drinkers than ever before; however, we found ourselves missing the ritual of fun beverages after work, on special occasions, or while enjoying a picnic or meal outdoors.
Since moving from Wisconsin to Colorado two years ago, we’ve discovered an abundance of options and are happy to share our tried and true favorites.
These are all available to purchase within the United States either locally or online:
1. Sparkling water with a splash of kombucha.
While I enjoy both sparkling water and kombucha on their own, combining the two is my preference. A little kombucha goes a long way for me. I find the fermented flavor to be a little intense, but I absolutely love the flavor it brings to sometimes boring sparkling water.
With the incredibly abundant options available for both sparkling water and kombucha, the fusions are limitless. My current favorite combos are lime sparkling water with apple kombucha, blueberry sparkling water with any berry-flavored kombucha, and strawberry sparkling water with watermelon kombucha.
2, 3, and 4. Dram Apothecary.
I’m a huge fan of this local to Colorado small business. Their cocktail bitters, pine syrup, and CBD sparkling water made with plant extracts are a constant in our non-liquor cabinet.
My personal favorites are mixing the wild mountain sage bitters with sparkling water and a lemon wedge, the limited edition pine syrup with lime and sparkling water (remiss of a killer N/A gin and tonic), and all their adaptogenic CBD sparkling waters which are a true “relaxation in a can.” They are all sold locally in Colorado or shipped nationwide.
While no mixing is needed and always so close to the real thing, I feel the need to double-check the label. They are sold in quite a few states as well as their online shop.
This is a delicious, hoppy, and bubbly craft beer without the alcohol, calories or gluten. We’ve tried all the varieties, love them equally, and find they pair especially well with a football or soccer game. Hoplark is sold locally in Colorado or can be purchased on their website.
These beverages promote good gut health and hit like no other on a hot summer day. All flavors are great, but if you’re going for a mocktail, the mojito lime mint coconut, strawberry acai coconut, and pomegranate won’t disappoint you, especially when they are served over ice in a wine glass.
KeVita products are sold nationwide and their website has a convenient store locator to find their specific products as well.
It seems that the zero-proof trend is growing with more and more options popping up every month. Arguments of taste preference, as opposed to buzzed preference, will be left dead in the water eventually.
I, for one, will be celebrating when someone cracks the code on a killer California Red, sans alcohol.