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Feb 24, 201610:33 AM
Bon Vivant

Design, entertaining and good living with New Orleans Bride and Homes & Lifestyles editor Melanie Warner Spencer

Living in Ab-stentia: Week Two

photos by melanie warner spencer

What a difference a week makes. After going off the sauce for the NOLA.Com #AlcoholFreeFo40 Challenge two weeks ago, I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever see or feel a difference. Week one and most of this past week (week two), I was still trying to get over a bout of laryngitis, which morphed into acute bronchitis. Finally after a trip to the doctor and a few rounds of medicine, I felt that surge of energy my fellow challengers have been reporting on social media and updates on NOLA.Com.

Monday morning was a breeze and my energy was high all day, even through the typical afternoon slump hours. Tuesday, I was up and at it by 6 a.m., as opposed to my usual 7 a.m. wakeup time. Also, normally I crash out by 10 or 11 p.m., but have noticed I’m inching closer to 11:30 or midnight the past few days. This has left even more time for reading — which I dearly love. But staying up until midnight is very unusual for my typical weekday schedule — who am I?

Physically, I have yet to see the skin, eye and weight changes of some of the other participants, but I follow a pretty healthy diet 80 percent of the time (very little processed food, most meals made from scratch with healthy cooking oils, not a lot of eating out, etc.); I have a religiously faithful skincare regime; and I walk and bike more than the average bear, so that’s not surprising. My skin tone might be slightly improved, but I’m having trouble determining if that’s true from my weekly, makeup free, side-by-side photos comparing day one with week one and week two. That said, it has only been two weeks. I anticipate any big changes happening as we get closer to the final weeks and days. 

At the beginning of the project, I committed to keeping my schedule the same as always, with all of the happy hours, events and friend hangs in place, just without alcohol. Most eateries and bars have either non-alcoholic beer (I found O’Doul’s at Fat Harry’s, Buckler’s at Kingpin and Kaliber at Superior Seafood, for example) on hand or will whip up a simple club soda with cranberry juice and lime — which is quite refreshing and not as overly sweet as soda. MoPho in Mid-City recently made a spectacular mocktail for me upon request and the aqua frescas at Araña on Magazine are divine. I enjoyed the strawberry cucumber aqua fresca with tacos al pastor at lunch on Saturday and was only slightly jealous of Mark’s margarita. Speaking of margs, Monday was National Margarita Day, so we popped over to Prytania Bar and Pete, the owner made a virgin margarita for me. It satisfied, sans tequila and triple sec.

As promised, I taste tested the Fre brut sparkling wine over the weekend. It’s a bit sweeter than the dry champagnes I favor, but I have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised by it. Alone, as a fauxmosa or in a mocktail, it was just like having bubbly, without the buzz, of course. Here’s my recipe for the mocktail (pictured at the top of this post):


Orange Pomegranate Fizz

  1. Muddle one orange slice (peel removed), three or four mint leaves, three or four shakes of Angostura Bitters (trace amount of alcohol, but negligible) and combine with three ounces of pomegranate juice.
  2. Strain into glass and top with Fre alcohol removed brut sparkling wine. 
  3. Garnish with orange slice and sprig of mint. 


As mentioned last week, some bitters, the non-alcoholic beer and the Fre alcohol removed wines contain trace amounts of alcohol. I read on a sober-living blog that it amounts to about .550 milliliters of alcohol for the bitters and .5 percent for the Fre (which on its website the company compares to the amount of alcohol produced from leaving orange juice out overnight). For the bitters, I read you’d have to consume about half of a bottle to feel any effects, so the alcohol content from a few shakes of the bottle is negligible. The beers are usually about .5 percent alcohol per bottle as well. Good luck getting remotely tipsy on even large quantities of these products.

Again, I’m finding this pretty easy so far, but I still have to get through a trip to Houston for a good friend’s going away party without a drop of celebratory champagne, as well as St. Patrick’s Day with family in from Kentucky devoid of my favorite Irish beers. Therein lie the real challenges. Wish me luck!



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Bon Vivant

Design, entertaining and good living with New Orleans Bride and Homes & Lifestyles editor Melanie Warner Spencer


Melanie Warner Spencer is a native Kentuckian, but says she got to New Orleans as fast as she could. For more than 16 years, Melanie has covered lifestyle, design and entertainment at various publications, serving as the design columnist at The Austin American-Statesman, a senior staff reporter at the Houston Chronicle and most recently as the editor-in-chief of Houston Brides magazine. Her work also has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Huffington Post and Reuters in the United States and across the globe. In her spare time, Melanie is an award-winning fine art photographer and has been honored by the Texas Press Association for her editorial photography. She also has been honored by the Press Club of New Orleans for its Excellence in Journalism Awards and is currently serving as a media member of the board of directors. Cooking and eating fabulous food and taking road trips with her spouse of 16 years, fellow writer and filmmaker Mark Patrick Spencer however, is at the top of her list of favorite pastimes. Click here to like Spencer's Facebook page and follow her on Twitter @MelanieSpencer. 


You can reach her at melanie@myneworleans.com.




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