For many sober curious people, sobriety can feel like you’re skipping out on social traditions. However, that’s not the case anymore. Sober bars are on the rise, boasting impressive mocktails, trendy ambiance, and no judgment for staying alcohol-free.
Non-drinkers can still enjoy the experience of a bar-like environment: mingling with friends, meeting up with a date, or just enjoying a late night over a delicious drink.
Ready to give sober bars a try? Here’s what to order and 3 bars that are worth the trip.
What is a sober bar?
A sober bar, or alcohol-free bar, specializes in serving non-alcoholic beverages. Offerings may range from mocktails with modified recipes of alcoholic cocktails, to innovative concoctions for soda drinkers. Whatever the case, an authentic sober bar doesn’t offer any alcoholic beverages.
What is a non-alcoholic bar called? A non-alcoholic bar is often called a sober bar. Other names include an alcohol-free bar, spirit-free bar, or sober-friendly bar. All of these names reflect alcohol-free space mirroring the experience you’d have at a typical nightclub, but without the booze.
A Brief History of the Sober Curious Movement
According to the history books, people have been interested in sobriety for centuries. It’s not just some new fad.
Here’s what to know about the rich history of the sober curious movement.
British Temperance: The Origins
In 19th century Britain, it was common to find people abstaining from drinking liquor as part of the temperance movement. This social revolution preached the values of drinking in moderation.
As the movement continued, the end goal began to shift from simply avoiding drunkenness to ending alcohol consumption entirely. It even became political, lobbying to ban the sale of alcohol altogether.
While the temperance movement was booming, “teetotalers” went even further with how they cut back. These teetotalers were completely booze-free, skipping not only hard spirits, but also beer and wine.
No one can be entirely sure of where the quirky name comes from, but here are a few theories on the origins of the term teetotaling:
- It’s all in the name. Teetotalers sometimes signed their name with a “T” at the end to denote their sworn oath of temperance.
- Stuttering. Richard “Dicky” Turner, a key advocate of the teetotaling movement, was also well-known for a speech impediment. As the story goes, he announced, “Partial abstinence from intoxicating liquors will not do. We must insist upon tee-tee-tee total abstinence.”
- It’s a party. Teetotalers were usually politically active, attempting to influence alcohol policies in England. Like you might use a “D” for Democrat, Teetotalers would use a “T” for temperance. The name may have spread from this label.
The Recent Rejuvenation of the Sober Curious Movement
In 2018, author Ruby Warrington struck a chord with a more modern crowd, coining the term “sober curious.” The name is the perfect depiction of where many 21st century drinkers find themselves: interested in drinking less, but not ready to swear the teetotaler’s oath.
The goal, according to Warrington, of the sober curious movement is to encourage everyone to re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol. This mindful movement welcomes everyone to abstain, from the weekend drinker to the tequila shot enthusiast to recovering alcoholics.
For those who haven’t dealt with alcohol addiction, there’s no need to swear off drinks forever. Simply cut back, think about why you drink, and consider switching to alcohol-free alternatives (we know a good non-alcoholic wine to start with).
Where We Stand Today
The sober movement is gaining traction, and worldwide, non-drinkers are actually the majority.
The WHO estimates that 58% of the world’s adult population hasn’t had a drink in the past year. If you’re considering sobriety, you’re not alone.
Unfortunately, research is showing that the last year of pandemic and health concerns triggered a spike in heavy drinking.
In the media, many celebrities have made the choice to go abstinent. There are a lot of good reasons to drink less, or not at all:
- Potential weight loss
- Wellness benefits like reduced cancer risk and better immune function
- Resetting your relationship with alcohol, like practicing a Dry January
- Discovering new hobbies and ways to connect
Recent polls find 50% of American adults stating that they’re trying to limit alcohol consumption. The same Nielsen study found that even more millennials — 66% — are sober curious.
3 Sober Bars Worth the Trip
If you’re finding yourself in the almost ⅔ of American adults looking to reduce or renounce their alcohol consumption, the biggest roadblock may be the fear of missing out.
With sober bars, you can experience the other side of nightlife: great tastes and memories, but without drinking regrets.
While some bars are “sober-friendly,” we couldn’t find a great list of bars that are 100% alcohol-free. So, we made one.
Here are our 3 favorite sober bars.
Sans Bar — Austin, TX (and multiple pop-ups)
Sans Bar started as a pop-up business serving “hand crafted zero-proof cocktails” in Austin, Texas. Now, they are a permanent fixture in the trendy city’s nightlife scene.
Founder Chris Marshall saw the need for building alcohol-free community and connection after his work as a counselor at an alcohol treatment center.
Sans Bar even offers alcohol-free party hosting classes, teaching you how to have a great time without the hangover.
With collaborations featuring the best in the zero-proof game, they boast a rotating slate of new options and themed events at their permanent location to keep the party going. If you want sober Christmas in July, DJ-ed dance parties, or alcohol-free karaoke, this is the spot for you.
Bonus: Sans Bar is expanding around the country, with pop-ups everywhere from Alaska to Los Angeles.
Getaway — New York City, NY
Getaway is one of the hottest bars in Brooklyn, even without any alcohol. They’re famous for their social media-friendly aesthetics and their innovative flavor combinations. It also doubles as a coffee shop for your other favorite non-alcoholic beverages.
Offerings range from some of the best non-alcoholic beer around, like Athletic Brewing and Hairless Dog, to sparkling iced teas and intriguing seltzers or club sodas.
Mocktails include Paper Train, a tobacco/orange/vanilla sparkling beverage, and Coconaut, a tropically delicious dessert in a glass. Everything in the building is non-alcoholic.
The Other Side — Crystal Lake, Illinois
The Other Side was ahead of its time. The space opened in 2013 to provide a safe space for those who have gone through addiction treatment. It quickly evolved into a local watering hole for the sober curious on top of their initial noble mission.
Variety is key here. The Other Side boasts options like open mic nights, comedy shows, and dancing.
Unlike the other two options on our list, the primary focus here is connection, not concoctions. If you’re passionate about meeting new friends or educating people on alcohol, this is the spot for you.
Why do people go to sober bars?
People go to sober bars because they are sober curious, recovering from alcohol use disorder, or various other reasons.
In earlier times, sober bars were simply an alternative for those in recovery from substance abuse. These days, sober bars (and bars with wide varieties of mocktails) are trendier, flavor-forward, and focused on authentic conversations and experiences.
Sober bars are on the rise as a place to sip, savor, and even meet new people without worrying about drinking too much, harming their health, or lowering inhibitions. Heading to a sober bar can make your sober curious lifestyle even more fun.
What do you drink at a sober bar?
Most sober bars have tasty options you can drink with tons of non-alcoholic ingredients. Craft mocktails may include homemade syrups or thoughtful flavor combinations. Some popular mocktails even have non-alcoholic spirits for a similar taste without the same effects.
Other spaces serve soda-based drinks, craft non-alcoholic wine and beer, or even concoct seltzers and kombuchas. There’s something for everyone.
What do you order at a bar sober? If you’re at a bar and trying to stay sober, try a Roy Rogers, Shirley Temple, or a virgin mojito. These options have flavor and style without alcohol.
Can you be a sober bartender?
Yes, you can be a sober bartender at home or even apply to one of the sober bars above.
If you’re looking to start up a sober home bar, here are some of our favorite recipes you can craft yourself.
Cutting back on alcohol? Try this.
If you want to cut back on alcohol without cutting down on taste, we understand. The desire for a great alcohol-free wine is what inspired us to create Surely.
We found that some alternatives just tasted like grape juice, and that’s not what any adult wants after hours.
Thankfully, if you’re sober curious, cutting back can still taste great. Our sparkling rosé is an excellent addition to your sober bar at home, a picnic in the park, or your next time you Netflix and chill. We can’t wait for you to fall in love with Surely.