Go Sober for October: what to drink when you’re not drinking?

As the resident teetotaller at Real Kombucha, I guess it should fall to me to offer tips and advice on how to abstain. However, I never really feel it’s my place to do that, so I’m not going to. Each person has their own reason for not drinking alcohol, and each of those reasons will come with their own set of trials and tribulations. Beyond offering a very genuine “good luck and keep at it”, everything else will sound like a platitude. 

Instead, I’m going to point out the biggest difficulty I had – and many people I know have had – in trying to give up alcohol. And since it has a whole lot to do with my involvement in Real Kombucha, this seems like the right platform to share my tuppence worth.

Put very simply, the biggest problem most people come up against is a lack of choice. Head into most traditional pubs or restaurants in the UK and have a look at the options available to anyone choosing not to drink alcohol. It’s usually poor, to say the least. There are very few non-alcoholic beers that don’t taste like some form of gut-rot, and the volumes of sugar in most soft drinks or fruit juices are hardly what you’d call healthy. (As an example of the latter: did you know that a single bottle of Jamaican Ginger Beer – a typical choice for non-drinkers – will almost double your daily recommended intake of sugar?)

Quite why there is such a lack of choice speaks volumes about the generational divide between those that run the traditional drinking establishments and those that drink in them. The charity, Club Soda – who work to help people trying to change their drinking behaviour – tell us that many pub owners say there is no profit in stocking decent, adult-oriented soft drinks. And yet, Club Soda’s own research suggests that:

  • 66% of pub and bar customers want to see lower-sugar drinks options
  • 57% confirm that the choice of low and no alcohol drinks does influence their decision of which venues to go to
  • 30% of the people in a bar or pub at any given time will not be there to drink alcohol

A similar statistic points to the fact that an extraordinary 30% of Londoners between the ages of 16 and 24 are now teetotal. Once you’ve got your head around that, as well as the coming shift in cultural landscape that it hints at, the disconnect between many bar owners and their customers is obvious.

As someone who has been on this journey for a very long time now, I’d argue that this lack of choice is one of a number of environmental factors that affect people’s attempts to try an alternative way of socialising and stick to it. The other big culprit, of course, is the way in which people of my generation (late 30s/ early 40s) and above respond to non-drinkers. I’ve written about this before, but the sense of being made to feel like a social pariah for ordering something other than a pint has never been very helpful.

Thankfully, I sense real change afoot in overcoming this hurdle, too, especially when speaking to people from the generation below mine – people who have grown up watching their elders stumbling about, bleary-eyed and unhealthy, and decided that a healthier lifestyle is the way forward.

And so I return to the question in the title of this blog post: what do you drink when you’re not drinking? Clearly, I have a drink to sell here, so my suggestion is going to be very closely related to Real Kombucha (OK – it is Real Kombucha), but I think it’s a question you can put to the person behind the bar when you’re next out and about:

“What do you drink when you’re not drinking, Barkeeper? And while you’re thinking about that, what choice are you giving the people coming in here who are starting to demand change?”

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