How Restaurants Can Keep the Drinks Flowing During Dry January
While it may sound like the weather forecast, which some parts of the country would be forever grateful for, Dry January is, as many in the restaurant industry know, the month of abstinence. It’s time to put aside alcoholic beverages and recover from the last six weeks of parties, family gatherings, and holiday celebrations.
In theory, it’s a great idea. Excessive drinking is, after all, one of the leading causes of preventable death, according to the CDC. Unfortunately, it’s bad timing for restaurants, with January typically being a slower month, thanks to the joie de vivre attitude that precedes the recovery from overindulgence in appetite and spending.
There is, however, a way to support those looking to improve their health and save their livers. Now’s the time to get creative with those mocktails you’ve been meaning to put on the menu.
Let’s explore how we got to this unique month and the drinks that can help your customers successfully navigate a month without wine with dinner or a craft cocktail or beer during the games.
The First Dry January Was Over a Decade Ago
Time goes by fast, doesn’t it? Dry January launched in 2013 in the U.K. If it’s hard to imagine a Dry January in the U.S., it’s harder to conceive of one in the U.K., the land of pubs and a drinking culture that extends back to medieval times.
In the U.S., about 15% of U.S. adults, or 260 million Americans, took part in Dry January in 2023, according to TIME. The younger, health-conscious generations are more likely to join in this popular trend, with social media a significant influence.
A CivicScience survey found that 75% of those aged 21 to 24 are somewhat likely to participate, while the participation rate for those over 55 falls to 31%. If you’re a TikTok aficionado, your chances of participation go to 73%.
So, how can you appeal to and support these Dry January participants? Provide unique beverages that include and go beyond the mocktail. You may find they remain on the popular list long after we’ve left this desolate month behind.
Adding Unique Elements to Beverages
Today’s mocktails focus on much more than their lack of alcohol. Unique and healthy ingredients may take center stage, incorporating herbal and floral elements as well as plants used in traditional medicine, such as yucca.
Some of the popular botanical ingredients include passionfruit, elderflower, and hibiscus. Also growing in popularity is the addition of adaptogenic herbs. These herbs help your body deal with fatigue, stress, and anxiety, returning the body back into balance and enhancing overall well-being. Some herbs to consider including in your spirit-free drinks include Tulsi leaf, Rhodiola root, and ashwagandha.
Restaurants Embracing Spirit-Free Cocktails in 2024
Almost every restaurant is embracing mocktails in 2024. One that recently made the news is Uno Pizzeria & Grill, the Chicago icon that’s now a national and international restaurant chain.
They partnered with Ritual Zero Proof, the best-selling non-alcoholic spirit brand, to offer customers the in-demand spirit-free cocktail. As of January 6, some non-alcoholic drinks include margaritas, hurricanes, peach mules, and the old fashioned. Currently, you can find these in select locations. Nationwide implementation is expected by the end of the year.
In some restaurants, these non-alcoholic alternatives are priced similar to the spirits-based option they replace.
A Few Recipes to Consider
The Washington Post gathered some great recipes from restaurants and writers. Here are a few to consider as a base while experimenting with your own adaptations.
Use Your Illusion from the Barnacle in Seattle
- ¾ oz Rosemary Shrub
- 6 to 8 oz of a high-quality ginger beer or spicy ginger soda
The shrub is made by combining 1 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 cup of clover honey, 1 cup of hot water, and 6 stems of rosemary. Refrigerate for 24 hours before discarding the herb and mixing the shrub with the ginger beer. When serving drinks with rosemary, consider briefly lighting a sprig on fire for extra flair and then placing the smoldering stem into the drink.
This classic cocktail found a place in the spirit-free world by replacing the Islay whisky with lapsang souchong black tea. It was created by M. Carrie Allan, the Washington Post’s Spirits column writer.
- 3 TBS loose-leaf lapsang souchong tea steeped in 3 cups of boiling water and then strained
- 3 tsp fresh minced ginger
- 1 cup honey
- 8 oz fresh lemon juice
Once you have your tea, add the ginger and honey, letting it infuse for about 20 minutes before straining the ginger. Add the lemon juice to taste and serve over ice with candied ginger as a garnish.
As you can imagine, there are limitless opportunities in the growing trend known as mocktails. Get creative and help your customers make Dry January one of their favorite months.