Fashion and Style

Dry for January? New Bars Cater to the ‘Sober Curious’

I stopped drinking six years ago. There are many things I don’t miss: hangovers, empty checking accounts, throwing up on the subway.

Then there are things I do miss: the seedy splendor of a dive, the shallow glamour of a cocktail lounge, and the relative ease with which I could meet new people and make new friends. I also miss the serendipity, spontaneity and eccentric characters that a night spent crawling from bar to bar sometimes offered.

Luckily for me, a new crop of alcohol-free bars, dance parties and “sober curious” events have sprung up in recent years. They cater to the millennials and zoomers who are reportedly drinking less, and are seeking an alternative nightlife that is not centered around alcohol.

In honor of Dry January, I spent a long weekend this month exploring some of New York City’s new mocktail lounges and liquor-free pop-up parties.

The event’s host, Sam Bail, 37, a data engineer by day, welcomed guests in a leather miniskirt and a metal band T-shirt. As she unwrapped soft pretzels and straightened a table of gift bags, she lamented how bright and cheery the place was.

“It’s too nice, it’s too well-lit,” said Ms. Bail, who called herself “an old punk” and added that she was on the lookout for a more “divey” permanent home. “I kind of want terrible bathrooms.”

The well-dressed crowd of young professionals ordered lychee martinis and other bespoke mocktails, posed for photos and occasionally danced to late 2000s hits like Lily Allen’s “Smile” and M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.”

“I wish I had enough money to throw parties like this in my home,” said Mitchel Raudat, 28, an M.B.A. student who lives in Queens with his girlfriend’s parents.

I left Sechèy in time to make last call at Kava Social, an alcohol-free bar that opened in Williamsburg in 2020 and specializes in Kava root tea, made from a South Pacific plant that purportedly has soothing properties.

I ordered a mock sangria, Jeanette had a purple mocktail called a “healer,” and we both got tarot readings from Matthew Collura, 31, who wore a brown peacock print shawl and mascara.

When Mr. Collura turned over the Divine Light card during my reading, he gasped. “Whenever this card comes up, I have to go have a cigarette,” he said.

Sure enough, he dashed out the front door and took several pulls from a vape before returning to the bar to finish the reading. “I don’t know what you’re doing,” he said, pointing at the cards, “but whatever it is, it’s powerful.”

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