The excessive festivities of Christmas and Boxing Day lead a lot of people to attempt a dry January. But it can be hard to keep it up whilst out socialising with friends, so we have compiled a handy guilt-free guide to some great venues for meeting friends, without the temptation of a quick drink or three..
Be a bar-fly without the hangover
It may surprise you to know that there are actually bars out there which don’t serve alcohol, making it easy to enjoy the atmosphere of a bar without having to stick to a coke (whilst your friends are knocking back the beer and wine).
Redemption boasts two venues in London, both offering a place to socialise without temptation. With an alcohol-free bar and modern healthy restaurant food, Redemption will probably tick most of those post-Christmas boxes. There’s a decent cocktail menu with apple mockjitos and pious pina coladas, as well as beer, wine, tea and coffee, all alcohol-free of course.
Café Sobar in Nottingham aims to provide a convivial atmosphere with an artsy vibe. They have mocktails, sophisticated cordials, smoothies, ice cream shakes, coffee and hot chocolate all on the menu, along with social events, live music, poetry and the like.
Similarly in Liverpool, The Brink offers a cool welcoming community hang-out, where local artists and musicians help provide the entertainment. There’s a decent-sized range of cordials and cocktails, as well as pizza and homemade cake for sustenance.
Dodging the drink isn’t a new thing, and once upon a time temperance bars were just the ticket. Why not take a trip to Mr Fitzpatrick’s, Britain’s last original temperance bar? Found in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, this little gem has been serving up soft drinks for over 100 years.
There are other options to a completely dry bar, and many venues are stepping up to the Dry January challenge by offering a wider selection of alternatives for the New Year. The Book Club in Shoreditch has launched a zero-proof cocktail menu designed to give customers the full cocktail flavour experience minus ‘the sauce’. Drinks include a Beetroot Espresso Martini, Lavender Lemonade, and a Seedlip Spice with Grapefruit and Rosemary Tonic. Sit back and relax with a drink or join in with one of The Book Club’s SuperCulture events, which include events such as life drawing, feminist talks and artist lock-ins.
Join the cafe society
Why not slow things down a bit and chill out with a few lazy hours in a cafe? We’ve picked out a few that caught our eye.
Quillam Brothers’ Teahouse not only serves an extensive range of loose leaf teas and food including hot stotties, but it also has its own cinema and stays open most days until midnight.
For a spot of refinement with a vintage vibe, try Sugar Junction in Manchester. They have a whole menu for tea, as well as mocktails and milkshakes, which should help wash down one of their cake platters.
For delicious cakes, innovative soft drinks, decent Sunday lunches and full on feasts, The Ethicurean in Bristol hits the spot. And its produce comes from its own garden or from local producers, so you can feel good about your gluttony.
Quaff the caffeine
If you fancy getting seriously into the cafe culture, then it’s time to take your caffeine habit to another level. The rise of venues that are fanatical about their coffee means you can now be really nerdy about your brew.
Try a triple filtered cold brew in a beer glass instead of er… beer, at Brew Lab’s speciality coffee bar in Edinburgh, or check out independent late night coffee and cake joint Cafephilia in Moseley, Birmingham, where they promise to make your coffee exactly how you like it. Atkinsons Coffee Roasters in Lancaster have branched out to two locations in Lancaster and one in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, bringing their traditional roasting and superb flavours to even more coffee-addicts.
No swigs doesn’t mean no gigs
And what about a little bit of late night entertainment?
Comedy nights can all too often be a time for getting tanked-up, but this month Dry Humour at Cardiff’s The Gate will be offering an evening of sober stand-up and an alcohol-free bar.
The Union Chapel in Islington is one of the more atmospheric venues for live music. It serves refreshments to the gig-goers but not beer. So why not grab a hot chocolate and take a pew?
Alternatively, why not try a Bollywood night at London’s Mango Tree restaurant? Enjoy an evening of entertainment with a DJ and Bollywood dancing, a three-course meal and a Mango Lassi drink on arrival.
Take the time to try something new
So hanging out in the local pub might be a no-no for January, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun socialising. Take a group of friends and try something a bit different for a change. There are a whole host of quirky activities you can fill your evenings with, from a spot of urban axe throwing to some truly crazy golf.
Perhaps not your first thought for a night out, but Flip Out has venues across the country and holds after dark sessions with DJs, so you can spend a few hours bouncing around with your mates.
Or you could try some Urban Axe Throwing, in London, Birmingham or Manchester, courtesy of Whistle Punks. Once you’ve got the hang of this unusual sporting activity, you’ll be thrown into a full-on tournament.
And if its quirky sporting activities that you like, then Junkyard Golf Club could be right up your street. Head to one of their courses in Oxford, London or Manchester and negotiate your way around some eclectic holes, made up of junk and random stuff.
Escape the room games have been around for a little while now, but if you’ve yet to venture to one then now is a great time. The perfect group activity for the rubbish weather and it’ll take your mind off that lack of drinking. Try Breakout in Liverpool or Manchester.
If those kind of games are too energetic for you, why not settle down at a gaming cafe and try out some unusual board games? Thirsty Meeples in Oxford has more than 2,000 board games to choose from, it does a decent selection of tea, coffee, posh pops, smoothies and shakes, as well as snacks… and it stays open late.
Don’t let the kids have all the fun
Sometimes you forget those simple childhood delights, such as ice cream. Now you’re an adult, it doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in a little bit of sweet stuff.
You could go old school and take a trip to Nardinis, an institution in Scotland. Go mad and have a freak shake, which is more of a full on dessert than a shake.
Get the guys round for some (non-alcoholic) beers
It’s all very well going out with your mates to socialise, but it is January and many of us are a bit cash-strapped after Christmas. So, if you’re just looking to have a few mates round and need an alternative to the beers you normally get in, try a few of Nirvana Brewery‘s range of alcohol free beers.
If you’re into Prosecco, we hear that Scavi & Ray do an alcohol-free version.
And beyond January…
If you are considering taking the booze-free lifestyle beyond the New Year, or would just like to enjoy the odd night out without the beers, then it might be worth checking out some of these…
If you can’t live without the live music scene but want a bit of space from the lagered-up crowds, then check out some of the small alternative venues that hold regular gigs. Make some noise in the local library with Get It Loud In Libraries or investigate some of the hidden venues such as the The Band Room in Yorkshire.
Milk Bars used to be all the rage back in the 1950s, offering the cool kids a place to hang out whilst avoiding the smoky old boozers. Mary’s Milk Bar in Edinburgh tries to recreate that era with its formica tables, pleasant service and freshly made ice cream. Yum.
Eating out? Try looking for Indian and Thai restaurants with decent selections of traditional style drinks such as the lassi. Mumtaz in Bradford and Leeds has a large soft drinks menu with everything from mocktails and sparkling fruit drinks, to milkshakes and lassi to accompany meals.