When you decide to give up alcohol for Lent, suddenly everyone wants to go to happy hour and boozy birthday parties abound. At least, that was my experience the first weekend of the Eat Fit Alcohol Free for 40 Challenge. It ended up being pretty easy to navigate however, as our friends allowed me to pick the bar and I planned ahead for the party. Also, I’m still recovering from Mardi Gras and have yet to actually crave a drink. Thank god!
Friday night, we landed at Cure on Freret Street. I had done a little footwork and learned via a piece on Eater ( “14 New Orleans Restaurants and Bars Serving Excellent No-Proof Drinks”) that if you ask the bartender there to make a non-alcoholic beverage for you, they will craft one according to your flavor preferences. Hallelujah! The words French 75 never came out of my mouth (my preferences were “not too sweet, maybe fizzy, the drier the better”), and yet, the server delivered a lovely, booze-free take on my favorite drink. To which I asked: “What witchcraft is this?” Magical indeed, but as a rule, any time you are in a place with a solid bar program and talented bartenders, they are probably going to be able to whip up something fun for you — just ask.
Saturday night, we attended our friend Rachel’s birthday party. Rachel and her husband love entertaining at home and always roll out a hearty spread of food (hello, Philly cheesesteak bruschetta!), accompanied by free-flowing beer, wine and bourbon, as well as flavorful, high-octane batched cocktails. Earlier in the week, I prepped by grabbing Perrier and cantaloupe at the grocery to pair with the bottle of Big Easy Bucha Melon Magic kombucha given out to attendees at the Alcohol Free for 40 kickoff event on Feb. 26. I mixed up several mocktails for myself at the party and ended up sharing a few with friends who were also taking the challenge. I’m not going to lie; it feels a lot more festive to have a fizzy drink in hand at a gathering as opposed to a glass or bottle of water. I only wish I had brought additional supplies, as we quickly ran through my cache. Here’s the recipe:
Big Easy Bucha Melon Magic Mocktail
- 4 ounces Big Easy Bucha Melon Magic
- 4 ounces soda water or sparkling water
Pour over ice and garnish with melon (and a sprig of mint if you want to really jazz it up)
My takeaways for success and fun at happy hour and parties are: Do your homework and plan ahead. I find that I always fare better when I know what to expect. Going into happy hour secure in the knowledge that I could order a sparkly mocktail with ease made the experience more enjoyable. Bringing my own supplies to the party was a similar experience. On a side note: In the future, I’ll probably also have a late afternoon or early evening coffee when I know I might be out later than usual. This won’t work for those who are kept awake all night by caffeine, but for those of us who are able to drink it late and still sleep, it’s a good way to curb the drowsiness and yawns that rear up when you don’t have alcohol to fuel your late night shenanigans.
Which brings me to going out for crawfish on Tuesday night. Our friend Jenelle’s sister was in town from Minnesota and we had dinner on the books. With it being crawfish season, we thought it would be fun to introduce her to a boil. Remembering from my 2016 Alcohol Free for 40 adventure that crawfish is more fun with something beer flavored, I messaged the restaurant to ask if they carried non-alcoholic beers. (Here’s a handy list from totalwine.com if you want to do some taste testing.) They didn’t, but very sweetly said if we were discreet, we could bring something in with us. (I’m using my reporter’s privilege here and not divulging my source, because I’m pretty certain they’d rather keep it off the record that they allowed me to bring in my own drinks, non-alcoholic or not. I did not however tell them I was a reporter and ask for special treatment, because that’s a no-no.) So, I planned ahead and purchased a six pack of non-alcoholic O’Doul’s Amber at Winn-Dixie. Jenelle is also doing the challenge. We each enjoyed a cold one with our crawfish and didn’t feel left during the pre-head sucking, tail-pinching clinking of the beers. Cheers to that!
Check back next week when Ashley will offer up her updates, reviews, mocktail recipes and more.
If you want to take the challenge, go ahead and get started now — better late than never! It runs until Easter (April 12). Sign up for free on Ochsner’s #AlcoholFreeFor40 page. If you decide to participate, use the hashtag #AlcoholFreeFor40 and share your progress in the comments. For questions about the program, email Kimball at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @mollykimballrd.
Follow Melanie’s stone cold sober bon vivanting on Instagram at @melaniewarnerspencer.
Follow Ashley’s NOLA sober swizzle trip through mocktails and more at @taraashleymclellan on Instagram.