Cheers to a fresh start: How to kickstart your year with Dry January

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The new year always comes with resolutions, but partaking in Dry January, a month of not drinking, is a personal challenge rising in popularity.

This month-long challenge helps people cut down on their alcohol consumption and explore the growing trend of non-alcoholic beverages.

A glass of pomegranate juice mocktail with rosemary sprigs.
Pomegranate grapefruit mocktail. Photo credit: YayImages.

If you’re planning to participate in Dry January, you might be wondering how you can make it through the month without sipping on a glass of wine or drinking a cocktail.

However, not drinking alcohol for 31 days isn’t as hard as it sounds — it can even be quite enjoyable.

“Why Dry January? To show myself that I’m stronger than any habit. Alcohol doesn’t define my fun. My social life didn’t suffer and I can thrive without drinking. The experience felt like a detox for the body and mind.”

— Jessica Haggard, Primal Edge Health

What is Dry January?

Observed from January 1 to January 31, Dry January is a public health campaign encouraging people to refrain from drinking for a month as an abbreviated new year’s resolution.

Participants try the challenge for a number of reasons, including:

  • Resetting after a busy holiday season or summer
  • Starting the year on a fresh note
  • Practicing mindful drinking
  • Saving money on buying alcohol
  • Trying out a new year’s resolution
  • Solidarity with a friend starting or kicking a habit

Benefits of Dry January

Giving up alcohol is said to have a number of health benefits, including weight loss, mental acuity, better sleep and healthier skin, as well as reduced risk of certain cancers, strokes and heart disease.

Beyond that, Dry January is a window into the sober curious movement for participants to discover how to enjoy life without alcohol.

For some, the goal is to detox or enjoy alcohol in moderation. For others, participating is a step toward eliminating alcohol for good.

“Dry January is uncomfortable but super rewarding. You learn different ways to have fun at social gatherings, different habits you may keep when it’s done, more about yourself and coping mechanisms. The health benefits, energy and clarity that come with it are rewarding, too.”

— Shelby Stover, Fit as a Mama Bear
Two glasses of mocktails with lemon slices and mint leaves.
Lemon mojito mocktail. Photo credit: YayImages.

The downside of Dry January

Though the behavior modification learned during Dry January and its health benefits help many, the challenge isn’t for everyone.

Some will experience symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol. For those with a serious drinking problem, one risk is the rebound effect in which some may feel inclined to binge drink at the conclusion.

Discuss with your doctor to see if this challenge is right for you.

Is Dry January hard?

The sober movement is gaining popularity, so Dry January is an excellent way to dip your toes in the realm of non-alcoholic beverages.

There are more mocktail recipes than just Shirley Temple drinks. With more non-alcoholic choices than ever, sober-curious social drinkers have nothing to worry about.

Many bars and restaurants now offer non-alcoholic drinks on their menus year-round. You can even find bars dedicated to zero-proof drinks all over the world.

Plus there are non-alcoholic brands on the shelves at grocery stores, specialty shops and big name stores like CVS and Wal-Mart. Because no alcohol is included, zero-proof ingredients can also be ordered and shipped.

Non-alcoholic options

For non-drinkers, there are myriad choices beyond flavored water, soda and iced tea: non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits.

These have limited shelf lives in comparison to bottled alcohol, so be sure to store them properly.

“I do dry January every year. It’s always tough at first because over the festive season you tend to drink more alcohol. The first weekend is always the worst, so I make myself non-alcoholic cocktails so that I feel like I’m being rewarded, just without the alcohol.”

— Mandy Applegate, Splash of Taste
Man pouring rose wine into a glass.
Photo credit: YayImages.

Zero-proof beer and wine

Non-alcoholic beer and wine have been on the shelves for years, but finding good-tasting brands could prove difficult.

With the rise of the zero-proof movement, imbibing without alcohol is getting easier.

Brands like Athletic Brewing Company and Fre Non-Alcoholic Wines sell quality zero-proof beer and wine, respectively.

Zero-proof spirits

Zero-proof spirits are another way to enjoy drinks without alcohol.

Relatively new to the market, these are mixers that mimic the flavor of alcohol but without the alcohol content. Some top brands to try include:

  • Monday, Ritual and Spiritless: These three brands’ products are non-alcoholic versions of spirits, such as whiskey and rum, that are a one-to-one replacement for alcohol. For example, non-alcoholic tequila instead of regular makes a virgin margarita.
  • Lyre’s: Lyre’s takes the one-to-one idea further with zero-proof versions of liqueurs like bitter apéritifs and coffee liqueur.
  • Seedlip: Unlike the others, Seedlip doesn’t mimic specific alcohols. Instead, spiced and herbal infusions bring complex flavor to drinks.

Non-alcoholic spirits work well with cocktail mixers such as tonic water and ginger beer.

Also available are canned and bottled mocktails, which are similar to their cocktail counterparts, that have seen increased availability in recent years.

Bottles of bitters on a wet bar.
Bitters. Photo credit: Unsplash.

Non-alcoholic bitters

Even cocktail bitters, which traditionally contain trace amounts of alcohol, can be non-alcoholic.

All the Bitter produces both classic and creative flavors, such as aromatic, chocolate mole and lavender, allowing customers to season their favorite drinks without any hint of alcohol at all.

Tips for Dry January

Like quitting anything, going cold turkey is hard. Here are some tips for taking it in stride:

Plan ahead. If you know before New Year’s Eve that you plan to take on the challenge, try limiting your alcohol intake whenever possible throughout the months prior so that the transition isn’t as harsh.

Do it your way. If not drinking for a whole month sounds tough, take it at your own pace and simply drink less without giving it up altogether. Try limiting yourself to a certain number of drinks per week or choose low-ABV (alcohol by volume) drinks, which contain less alcohol.

Enjoy the process. For some, the pleasure of drinking is the act of preparing a drink. Try preparing a mocktail, like a virgin Moscow mule, or a glass of zero-proof beer instead.

Accountability. Ask a friend or your partner to join you. Check in to see how the month is going and encourage each other.

Make it easy. Keep the ingredients for your favorite non-alcoholic drinks stocked at all times. When thirst strikes, you’ll be ready with a refreshing drink you love that still satisfies.

Based in Charlotte, N.C., Susannah Brinkley Henry is the cocktail content creator behind the blog Feast + West. Her work has been featured in Southern Living, Oprah Daily, Buzzfeed, and more. In 2019, her website was a finalist in the Saveur Blog Awards for Best Entertaining Blog. As a professional graphic designer, photographer, writer, and recipe developer, Susannah helps home bartenders and drink enthusiasts level up their cocktail skills.

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