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How To Do Drynuary In A Drinking Town

By Stephen Gossett in Food on Jan 5, 2017 3:50PM

Photo: Justin Sullivan

Fun fact: Chicago’s very first elections took place inside a bar, at the Sauganash Tavern in the present-day Loop, in 1833. Flash forward 184 years, and (perhaps not coincidentally) the city is a bastion of craft beer and a bellwether of cocktail culture. To put it plainly, Chicago is a deeply, unapologetically boozy city—the kind of tipplin’ town that doesn’t exactly bend over backwards to accommodate those looking to quit or cut back the sauce for an extended length of time.

But if you, like so many, are either putting down the bottle as long-term New Year’s resolution or just a health- (or willpower-) conscious stab at so-called Drynuary, we’re here to help navigate the ways of the teetotaler in among the most non-teetotaler cities on the map.

(Photo Courtesy of Lettuce Entertain You)

Make With The Mocktails

Just because you might be taking part in Drynuary—the month-long abstention from booze during January that graduated from service industry secret to full-blown trend over the last several years—doesn’t mean your drinking buddies necessarily are. One of the best safety hatches available if you find yourself being pulled to the bar are so-called mocktails. You know that no-booze faux cocktails are legit not just because the fates would never allow such a perfect portmanteau on a broken concept, but also because some of the city’s greatest cocktail bars serve up outstanding mock options. Violet Hour and Three Dots and a Dash were particular standouts in the game when we went exploring for booze-less creations at the city’s most acclaimed craft-cocktails temples. If your mixologist is a wiz with the hard stuff, he or she is probably also with all soft; so when friends want to hit the town, a specialty spot might paradoxically be the best route.

Some more standouts, per Chicagoist's Food Editor: Lost Lake tiki bar, in Logan Square; The Dawson, on the Near West Side; and Cindy's Rooftop Bar, which sports an extensive mock and tisane menu, located at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.

Space Jam Pinball / Emporium Arcade Bar Venue / Facebook

Level Up At The Arcade Bar

If you’re pushy pals favor beer over mixed drinks, lobby hard for one Chicago’s numerous arcade bars, which happily seem to be multiplying in real time. Catnip for analog nostalgists with penchants for brew, the genius bar-full-of-old-arcade-games concept quickly went from why-didn’t-I-think-of-that cause for self-reproach to widespread acceptance and embrace. As the spouse of a confirmed non-drinker, I can attest to the good-time distractibility of a 16-bit game machine while your party drunkenly blathers on. From Skee-Ball at Slippery Slope to vector wizardry at Logan Arcade to pinball classics at Emporium or a dozen more between, the options are manifold. And there’ always even older-school options like board games at Guthrie's Tavern or ping pong at Happy Village.

Photo: Tyler LaRiviere

Move Your Feet, Literally And Politically

Despite the escape hatches provided by mocktails and arcade bars, the best way to stay dry is probably to—stay with me here—avoid bars. The timeout will afford you lots of extra time to get further active, both politically and physically. With Trump-ageddon looming at month’s end, the temptation for drink-y distraction will be compelling but so too should the promise of razor-sharp lucidity. Reach out to one of the many (read: many) organizations that support under-attack rights and benefits, and feel reassured that your time and effort is being put to good use. Similarly, “self-care” the idea is as important as the phrase is buzzily irritating, so rather than supplanting one crutch with another, expand your resolution to incorporate plenty of helpfully diversionary exercise and fitness options.

"Water's fine" = bandz / Getty Images / Photo: Alex Wong

Join The Savemoney Crew

Here’s one that pops up fairly regularly in discussions about Drynuary and no-drink resolutions—and with good reason. It’s astonishing how much money can be saved by suspending drinking, if only for a month. Think about all those bar markups, all those tips (because you do tip well, right?), all those weekend (and—hey, it’s Chicago—weekday) six packs. Whenever the going gets rough, check back in on your checking account and the nice little surplus provided. You'll be able to finance a nice little congratulatory treat if you desire. Maybe a night of mocktails?