Whether you’re a Dry January veteran or just curious, this month presents a good opportunity to rethink—and, possibly, retool—your relationship with alcohol.
And, no, you don’t need to just sit at home in the dark if you decide to give or limit booze. A variety of local bars and restaurants now offer non-alcoholic, or zero-proof, drinks that are just as creative and delicious as their full-strength counterparts. (Looking for a new, fun zero-proof cocktail to try? Consider Atomic Cowboy‘s Strawberry Basil Spritzer, made with house-made strawberry rhubarb jam, lemon juice, basil simple syrup and soda water, or The Family Jones‘ Optimism, made with Rooibos tea, pink peppercorn, ginger and sage honey, to name a few options.)
For help navigating Dry January, I turned to Alex Jump, an award-winning bartender who founded Focus on Health, a nonprofit that aims to help support the hospitality industry. The organization’s team helps bars and restaurants develop their non-alcoholic offerings, and offers trainings on a variety of topics, including harm reduction, conflict management and overdose prevention.
I chatted with Jump, who serves as director of operations for Focus on Health, about the growing non-alcoholic movement and how to make the most of Dry January—here’s what she had to say.
What are the secrets to success when it comes to crafting a great non-alcoholic drink? And can you share a few recipes you’re loving right now?
Prioritize texture. When you take alcohol out of a cocktail, you lose some of the body and texture you would normally have, so you have to find ingredients that keep the body of the drink intact. For low-abv (alcohol by volume) cocktails, keep in mind the spirits that you’re working with to ensure it’s truly low abv. You can certainly work with a full-proof spirit to achieve low abv, but it’s how you incorporate it—that’s what matters.
2 oz Roots Divino Blanco
0.25 oz elderflower syrup
1 oz soda water
2 oz non-alcoholic sparkling wine such as French Bloom, Noughty, Surely or Leitz.
Add all ingredients to a wine glass, add ice and stir briefly to combine. Garnish with a lemon wheel.
Laurelhurst Park Swizzle
1.5 oz Aplos Arise non-alcoholic spirot
0.75 oz lime juice
0.5 oz pineapple gum syrup
1 dash ATB aromatic bitters
4-5 mint leaves
Add all ingredients to a shaker tin and top with ice. Shake until well chilled and then dump contents into a Collins or Highball glass. Top with more ice and then garnish with a mint bouquet.
How do you feel about Dry January? What kind of opportunities and challenges does it present?
I love it. Not only does it give everyone this moment to reset and assess their relationship with alcohol, but it also brings the craft and creativity of non-alcoholic bartending to light. It’s a great month to honor the inclusivity of non-alcoholic culture and how far it’s come. People participate in Dry January for all different reasons. Sometimes it’s simply for the challenge and, for some people, it’s their first step toward a sober-curious lifestyle.
What’s the status of non-alcoholic drinks right now, from your perspective?
NA culture is here to stay. It’s the most firmly established it’s ever been, but it’s still rapidly growing as consumers become more mindful drinkers and the variety of options beyond a traditional cocktail continues to multiply in all settings—liquor stores, bars, restaurants and so on. The category is becoming increasingly popular year after year as the cocktails themselves, and the bartenders who craft them, are constantly improving in quality.
I think it’s fair to say that general consumers weren’t as comfortable making traditional cocktails at home five to eight years ago, so as consumers become more curious and educated about cocktails in general, the desire for no- and low-abv alternatives is a natural evolution. This shows you how far the category has come in such a short time. This evolution is incredible because it promotes inclusivity. As I like to say, the spirit of the beverage industry doesn’t lie in the spirits themselves, but in the community and moments we create with a great drink in hand.
It’s also great to see the industry realize that every person has a place in a bar and restaurant. Whether you drink often, once a month, or never at all, there should always be options for all types of guests. Our industry has learned the value of creating experiences for every type of guest and the guests have appreciated the variety of options that make them feel welcome, no matter how they show up that day.
Why are you so passionate about providing health and wellness resources to the hospitality industry?
My idea for Focus on Health was shaped by a life-long struggle with anxiety and depression. I exercised to cope with this, but when I developed tendonitis in my wrists, I had to refrain from my favorite types of exercise and eventually, my bar work. I’ve always been open about my struggles, especially within the hospitality industry, which has created a support system for me that I didn’t know existed. Not only that, I didn’t realize the importance and lack of resources for hospitality industry workers. This sparked my life passion for addressing health, wellness and social equity issues in the food and beverage industry.
What else do you want more people to know?
Where the NA sector is headed! Our industry is experimenting with more stirred, spirit-forward recipes to recreate every type of classic cocktail — not just the citrus-forward favorites. We’re branching out from our flavor comfort zone and working towards creating alternatives for every type of imbiber.