in: Featured, Food & Drink, Living

• Last updated: September 26, 2021

Guide to Drinking for the Teetotaler

Vintage bar crowded with people.

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Mike Hagan, AoM’s resident bartender. Mike last tackled the 5 classic cocktails every man should know. Today, he gives the non-drinkers among us tips on how to wet their whistles when they’re out at a bar.

Lots of folks like to go out to the bar from time to time, regardless of whether they drink or not. The bar can be a great place to socialize, meet new friends, catch up with old ones, or even meet that special someone. But what if you don’t drink? Must you avoid this integral part of the male social experience? Absolutely not! With our Guide to Drinking for the Teetotaler, you’ll be able to enjoy the experience of the bar without drinking yourself into buffoonery or resorting to Virgin Strawberry Daquiris.

There are multiple reasons you might not be drinking while you’re out at the bar: 1) you’re not a true teetotaler and DO in fact drink, but you’re the designated driver for the night. The designated driver is an under-used part of the bar experience, but very important. 2) You also may like to enjoy a drink or two, but not to get drunk, be it for having to work early the next day or to not end up with a woman of loose morals and questionable attractiveness lying next to you in the morning. 3) Finally, you may just choose not to drink, but like the atmosphere and camaraderie of the bar.

If you’re on the wagon, be it for life or for the night, here are some tips, broken into two sections:

When You Want People to Think You’re Drinking

There are many reasons why you may want to mask the fact that you’re not drinking. Everyone has that one friend, the “get them all another one!” guy who tries to make sure that the whole group is drinking and getting as wasted as he is. There’s nothing wrong with this guy; he’s usually a good time and just wants to have fun, but he needs to slow it down sometimes. Also, you may not want someone to buy you a drink. Groups of people buy rounds and may get you one if you’re ready. If you always have a full one in front of you, you can politely decline. And as unfortunate as it is, we all have friends that will ridicule you for not drinking. By hiding that you’re not drinking, you can avoid this problem while looking for new friends!

Soda Water, Tonic Water, Seltzer, or Citrus Soda

These can be easily poured in a highball glass and served with a citrus wedge to fool anyone into thinking you’re drinking a clear liquor with a clear mixer. A vodka tonic looks exactly like plain tonic water in the same glass side by side. If you’re going to be drinking a lot of these, however, I’d choose soda water because of the lack of calories. Tonic water and citrus soda (7Up, Sprite) have a lot of calories and sugar, and instead of a beer gut, you could get diabetes.

Non-Alcoholic Beer

Most people’s experience with non-alcoholic (NA) beer is O’Doul’s, from Anheuser-Busch. They try one, and their experiment with NA beers comes to a quick and disappointing end. It doesn’t really taste like beer, and that’s the point, right? But it works great for hiding that you’re not drinking, because in a glass it looks just like any other light lager. Your bartender will be more than happy to pour it in a glass for you before he puts it in front of you. There are a slew of non-alcoholic beers that taste better than the one everyone knows about. Heineken makes one called Buckler, and Guinness makes one called Kaliber. On the domestic side, Coors NA, Busch NA, Sharp’s from Miller, and Old Milwaukee NA are all available. In my experience, most old-school domestic beer drinkers like Busch NA because they say, of all the ones they’ve tried, it tastes the most like beer. Personally, of all I’ve tried, I liked Kaliber the best.

Apple Juice, Grape Juice, Sparkling Grape Juice

What if you want to look like you’re drinking wine? Apple juice in a wine glass looks like a Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay to the untrained eye. Grape juice can look like a lot of red wine if no one is paying attention. Sparkling white grape juice looks like champagne, and mixed with peach puree or orange juice can stand in for a Bellini or Mimosa, respectively. I don’t know how many times I’ve poured one of these for women who are pregnant but not telling anyone the news yet (it’s amazing what people will tell a bartender that they won’t tell their own friends…).

Iced Tea, Cola, Red Bull

Iced tea, on the rocks, can look like whiskey or a light scotch. A lot of people mix their dark liquors with cola, so having only cola in your glass will fool anyone. And if you need a pick-me-up, drink a Red Bull on the rocks.

Bloody Marys, Martinis, Other Cocktails

If you like Bloody Marys, get one sans vodka. You’ll still get all the fun garnishes, so you can get something to eat as well as something to quench your thirst. And if you like dirty martinis, a mix of olive juice and water in your cocktail glass can suffice. Especially if you’re someone who loves olive juice. A mix of cranberry juice and lime juice can look like a Cosmopolitan. Have a Mojito made with everything but the booze, and you’re in for a treat.

You Don’t Care If People Know You’re Not Drinking

Ok, here’s the fun part! You have a great group of friends who know you don’t drink and like your company anyway. Or, you do drink, but you love your friends so much, you’re driving them around for the night. Have fun with your bartender and ask him to come up with something for you, or you can order these drinks:

Shirley Temple, Roy Rogers, Arnold Palmer

A Shirley Temple, or Kiddie Cocktail, is citrus soda and grenadine. A Roy Rogers is cola and grenadine. An Arnold Palmer is lemonade and iced tea.

Craft Sodas

Some bars you go to may have a selection of craft sodas, root beers, or ginger ales. Try them! They usually taste better than the standard Coke or Pepsi. The bar I work in has a selection of both Jones and Sprecher sodas. If you have a favorite and you frequent an establishment, don’t be afraid to ask them to carry it. If they can get it, more than likely they’ll buy a case and see how many they sell. If they sell well, they may get a whole slew of different flavors and varieties for you to try.

Fruit Punches

Most bars have a variety of juices and alcohol free mixers available. Ask your bartender to create something for you. I make soda water with a splash of cranberry juice and a lime wedge for a woman who frequents my bar constantly. If you like what they make and order it enough, they’ll remember and may even name it after you!

Just as there are endless combinations when mixing alcohol drinks, and the same goes for non-alcoholic drinks. Try a few things out and find your favorite. Your bartender will be more than happy to help you out. They don’t care what they’re making, just as long as you tip!

Here’s a couple of my favorites that you can make at home, and two family punch recipes.

Brown Pelican

  • 2 parts Apple Cider
  • 1 part Ginger Beer
  • Over ice

Faux Orangina

  • 2 parts Citrus Soda
  • 1 part Orange juice (Medium Pulp)
  • Over ice, stirred

Lime Sherbert Punch

In a large punch bowl, empty the contents of a gallon of lime sherbert, preferably intact. You can soak the gallon bucket in a sink of warm water first to loosen up the sides, allowing the sherbert to slide out into the punch bowl. Also, if you don’t plan on using the bucket again, carefully tap a hole in the bottom with a knife to let air in and make the sliding process easier.

Cover the sherbert with citrus soda and let it sit for a few minutes. Serve. Add more citrus soda as needed until the sherbert is gone or fully melted into the liquid.

Five Alive Frozen Punch

If you did save that gallon bucket from your sherbert in the recipe above, use it here.

Mix Five Alive concentrate as the directions indicate. Five Alive works best, but is increasingly unavailable in some areas. Any citrus punch will do.

Add a small jar of maraschino cherries, juice and all. Stir and cover. Stick in the freezer, making sure there is enough room in the bucket for expansion of the liquid as it freezes.

An hour before serving, remove from the freezer. About 15 minutes before serving, pour citrus soda over the chunk of frozen goodness, using a fork to help break up the ice, turning it into slush. Transfer to a punch bowl or serve from the bucket. Enjoy!

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