Wine Enthusiast Podcast: It’s No Big Deal if You Don’t Drink

illustration friends with non-alcoholic drinks at bar
Illustration by Rachel Joan Wallis

If you or someone you know isn’t drinking alcohol for any reason at all, you have options. The non-alcoholic drinks space is evolving. Bars dedicated to booze-free hospitality offer creative menus, and there are scores of spirit-free bottles of booze, beer and wine at specialty shops and digital retailers.

In this episode, Associate Managing Editor Emily Saladino explores non-alcoholic drinks culture with John deBary, a semi-retired bartender who is also an author, creator and CEO of Proteau, and cofounder and board president of Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation. They’re joined by Dylan Garret, another semi-retired bartender and senior editor at Wine Enthusiast. 

They discuss how the cocktail lounges of the early aughts and 2010s precipitated the rise of non-alcoholic drinks, and how those of us who do and don’t drink alcohol can’t raise glasses to a more inclusive scene moving forward. 

Want to create your own non-alcoholic concoctions at home? Here are some of our favorite non-alcoholic spirits, beers and wine shops to try and mocktails to make. Learn how bartenders create non-alcoholic drinks here or read Dylan Garret’s tips to make non-alcoholic cocktails at home and on a budget. 

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Episode Transcript

Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting.

Speakers: Lauren Buzzeo, Emily Saladino, John DeBary, Dylan Garret

Lauren Buzzeo 0:08

Hello and welcome to the Wine Enthusiast Podcast, your serving of drinks culture and the people who drive it. I’m Lauren Buzzeo, the executive editor at Wine Enthusiast, and in this episode we’re taking a look at the evolving space around non-alcoholic drinks. If you or someone you know isn’t drinking alcohol for any reason at all right now, it’s important to know that there are a lot of other options out there. Associate Managing Editor Emily Saladino explores non-alcoholic drinks culture with John DeBary, a semi-retired bartender, author, creator and CEO of Proteau and cofounder and board president of Restaurant Workers Community Foundation; and Dylan Garrett, another semi-retired bartender and senior editor at Wine Enthusiast. So grab a glass of whatever suits your palate and listen up to explore this exciting and innovative space in the drinks world.

Emily Saladino 1:03

This is Emily Saladino, the associate Managing Editor of digital at Wine Enthusiast. I’m joined today by John DeBry, a semi-retired bartender, author of the cocktail book Drink What You Want, creator and CEO of Proteau zero-proof botanical drinks company and cofounder and board president of Restaurant Workers Community Foundation. I’m also with Dylan Garrett, senior editor at Wine Enthusiast, and another semi-retired bartender. Thank you both so much for being here.

John DeBary 1:30

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Dylan Garrett 1:32

Same. Also, you’re never really a retired bartender. It’s like the mafia. Once you’re in, you’re always there.

John DeBary 1:37

Yeah, you can never go back. You’re broken forever.

Dylan Garrett 1:37

[My] Instagram still says “recovering bartender” because I feel like that’s just going to be a lifelong condition.

Emily Saladino 1:49

I wanted to talk to you a little bit just about drinking culture, bar culture. So drinking alcohol and also not drinking alcohol. Because you’ve both been in the professional bar scene, and on the other side, I wonder if you can tell me how have you seen non-alcoholic drinks culture change?

John DeBary 2:09

Well, for me, I started bartending at a really fancy bar right off the bat, PDT in 2008. And back then, there were no zero-proof drinks on the menu. Like, if you went into PDT and asked for a non-alcohol cocktail, people might give you a kind of quizzical look and do their best to do something for you. But also, at the same time, people very rarely went through the hassle of going into PDT if they weren’t drinking alcohol, so it’s kind of a self-selecting audience. But you know, even among my professional peers and kind of in like drinking culture, if you didn’t drink, it was kind of, like, a sort of a secret, like a sad story. And everyone was whispering like, “Oh, like, why didn’t you drink? Like, what’s the problem.” The idea of taking, you know, “mocktails,” seriously was still a few years away. I had a couple of back pocket drinks, not on the menu, but you know, off the menu, that I liked to bust out for people when I was working, and that was kind of satisfying. I sort of felt proud of that as like a hospitality measure. And then I also, along the way, I was assisted in developing Food and Wine’s annual cocktail special issue for a few years, and they had a mocktail chapter. And I tried to get bartenders to provide non-alcoholic cocktails to the project and a lot of them are very hesitant to do so—this is probably like 2011-12. And since then, things are very different. I’d say, for sure. I think that the normalization of not drinking has gone a long way. It’s less of a weird, sad story and more of just like a good choice you’re making for yourself. And also is helped by the fact that there’s a lot of people who have economic interest in selling non-alcoholic products, myself included. There’s a huge explosion of non-alcoholic spirits and sodas and beers and wines and all sorts of products that you didn’t have even a year ago. And then, you know, not to mention just the interest in non-alcoholic cocktails, like from a mixology perspective, like Julia Bainbridge’s Good Drinks. And even my own cocktail book has a whole chapter dedicated to to non-alcoholic cocktails, and people love it now. I think there’s a novelty aspect to it, people are just curious about it. But I also think that there are a lot of people who have been left out for a long time and they sort of just were resigned to being left out and now that there’s some attention being paid, I think people are really, really receptive to that and really excited to finally join in on the fun.

Emily Saladino 4:46

I love what you said about that—the hospitality aspect of it, you know, the inclusivity aspect of it. I think that’s really key. You know, you’re speaking about PDT which for those who have not had the pleasure, is a tiny, tiny cocktail bar in Manhattan. And it did, it took a lot of work to get in, right? In my era, it was like 2010s, kind of like late aughts, early 20-teens New York City that I’m thinking of when I say like it would take so much time and effort to get in. So, if you got there, you were probably like, really ready to have one of the very cool drinks on the menu. And you’re right, I almost think it is a bit self-selecting. Why would I do all that if there isn’t something there for me to drink right? Like, you know, if I’m not drinking alcohol tonight, for whatever reason. That’s actually a really interesting perspective. And then it does, it relies on individual bartenders to be able to be like, “Well, I got something for you.”

Dylan Garrett 5:42

Yeah. And I felt like, to what John was saying about, I guess your question about how the culture evolved. I just don’t think there was a culture back then, even in 2008. Like, I mean, PDT is, like I said, like world-renowned, fantastic cocktail bar, which I think actually John was, and tell me if I’m wrong, like gave you the privilege to mess around with concepts like non-alcoholic drinks, almost a little more. If you were working, you know, dive bars on the Lower East Side, it’s, you know, beers and shots, Jack and Cokes. And this was like back at the time when we were still rediscovering what an old fashioned was. So I mean, I think part of it is just the, like I said, the stigma of being the person who’s not drinking at a bar, like the second you order a non-alcoholic drink at a bar, it feels like you’re either conveying, you know, I’m on the wagon, I’m pregnant or there’s like a very small list of judgments that are being created. And overcoming that with bartenders is one thing because like I said, in 2008, I want to say I was at a bar called Madame Geneva on Bleecker Street and we had a bartender who ironically works for the non-alcoholic brand Seedlip now, but she was hiding the fact that she drank vodka sodas, while we were all drinking gin and tonics. Like the dumbest thing that you could judge a coworker over, but she was like, “Don’t you dare tell them it’s vodka,” because, you know, we had to find a reason to look down on everything. But I think, you know, that’s over a decade ago now. It’s definitely evolved to the point both with, you know, personal health, mental health, just the industry itself, and how it beats you down that, you know, bartenders are feeling more comfortable putting energy into non-alcoholic drinks. And honestly, I think there’s just more fun and there’s more of an avenue for creativity. Like at that bar, I started as a barback and one of my tasks was we had housemaid sodas, so like a couple of pony kegs and we would hook them up to the system and make our own sodas for mixers. It’s kind of like a, you know, bespoke cocktail thing. In truth, they were just trying to save money because it was cheaper than buying stuff. But we used to get to have more fun and more creativity making the non-alcoholic mixers which are the highest volume of the drink anyway, than making the actual cocktail at the end of it, where you’re kind of handcuffed to the liquor and basing it around that flavor profile versus just a blank canvas of, there’s more ingredients to mess with when you’re making non-alcoholic drinks, at least in that context.

John DeBary 8:07

Totally. Yeah, I mean, for me, it’s like maybe this is very self serving to say, but it seems like a lot of the exciting kind of innovation, if you will, is happening in non-alcoholic drinks right now. I think it’s for a couple of reasons. One, you know, because there’s no roadmap and there’s no like, framework for like, oh, this is what this—you know, if you want to make a new Bourbon, sure, go ahead. But you have a pretty rigid framework for what Bourbon actually is, you know, let alone any spirit or something, an amaro. There’s this kind of this expectation of what it’s going to be like, but if you’re creating something out of a total, you know, wholecloth brand new, no one’s like trying to hold you to any preconceived notion, unless you’re trying to do a non-alcoholic version of something that already exists, which there’s plenty of products out there that do that. You know, one of my other gigs is I contribute monthly to Food52 and we do cocktail recipes and videos. I did one for dry January, which this month currently is, and it was this jasmine green tea, grapefruit, Champagne cocktail with a non-alcoholic sparkling wine. And I was testing it and, you know, talking to the team there and we were talking about using a full strength wine. And we tried it with a with a regular wine, and it was good, but it wasn’t as good, you know, because the alcohol just sort of blew everything else out of the water even a wine, which is relatively low proof. So the idea that you’re getting alcohol out of the way to make room for other, perhaps more subtle and more complex flavors, I think is something that people don’t normally associate with non-alcoholic drinks. They’re just sort of trying to, like, do a reasonable job of mimicking something else. But actually if you think about alcohol being this like kind of a bully in drinks and being very strongly flavored and having a distinct texture and physiological results and, you know, this kind of heat and spice on the palate, you have to kind of like build up the rest of the flavors in the cocktail in order to get around that in a way. But if you have that out of the way, then you’re actually free to use different kinds of thinking towards building drinks than you would otherwise. So it definitely doesn’t feel like you’re just kind of, sadly trying to trick yourself into thinking you’re drinking a cocktail that has alcohol in it, it’s really a totally new canvas. I think that’s really cool.

Emily Saladino 10:23

I completely agree. And, you know, you mentioned Julia Bainbridge’s Good Drinks, which is a book that I love, and your work as well, John, you both have done a lot. And there’s some people who are in this space are in the non-alcoholic cocktail space, who I think have done a lot, not just in advancing non-alcoholic cocktail-making, but also how cocktails work, you know? I think you both hit on a bit working in New York City bars, there can be a misconception where people think that the point of going to a bar and having a drink is just like booze, put it in my veins. When in reality, like, there’s an entire other aspect of bars and cocktails, and some of it is flavor components and balance, and some of it is hospitality and socializing. And these things are not all divorced from one another.

John DeBary 11:16

Totally.

Dylan Garrett 11:17

And I think you touched on a good point, which is just culturally to get more non-alcoholic drinks and programs on menus, you kind of have to shift that idea that you’re wasting your time going to a bar and not having alcohol and not getting tipsy, you know? And this is something I encountered since lockdown. I have a local bar a block away from my house that’s basically my second living room, as I’m sure many people in New York and other small spaces have, the communal living room.

John DeBary 11:47

Yeah.

Dylan Garrett 11:48

But especially since like the first wave of lockdowns, and that bar is my social circle, I host Thanksgiving there every year we shut down and neighborhood people come out. During the first wave of lockdown when that wasn’t really an avenue anymore after a long day of work. Honestly, like the novelty—I don’t wanna say the novelty of drinking at home—but it really drove home how much the bar was the draw, not the alcohol. And there’s still times when I’m not drinking now, and I still want to go to that bar because I’m going there for the people. I’m going there for the community to hang out with my neighbors. And a lot of times, I am not in the mood to drink that night, but I still need the social release of it. But also, conversely, it’s still a bar, non-alcoholic options are limited. And, you know, obviously, I’m in the industry in some respect, and I support it. But I still, if I go to that bar, and I order a cranberry-soda, I still feel like I’m cheating the bar. And that’s with people I’m friends with. So how does it feel for, you know, regular customers to adopt that? It’s okay to turn bars into spaces revolving around the community and the social aspect, but not necessarily the ABV?

John DeBary 12:59

Totally. Yeah. And I think the economics of it is interesting, and something I’ve explored on my own, you know, in writing and stuff about how, like, when the sticker price of a cocktail, whatever’s in it, you know, less than 20% of that goes towards the ingredients. So everything else is everything else. And so you’re paying for the staff, the space, the rent, the insurance and all this stuff that doesn’t matter whether or not you’re ingesting ethanol or not, you’re still providing the guests the same experience. So you should be expecting to pay somewhere around the same amount. Obviously, there’s variation, you’re not going to charge someone the same as you know, fancy bottle of wine as for a can of beer, but, like, there’s a sort of a baseline where it’s like you can’t really go below a certain number, otherwise your bar doesn’t make sense or your restaurant doesn’t make sense economically. And I think that customers are getting a bit more accepting and kind of savvy to that, especially, I think, now that the pandemic has sort of revealed in excruciating clarity, the economics of the hospitality industry. And I think you’re right with how you said, Dylan, like you were able to serve yourself a drink at home, but it wasn’t the same. I think people are realizing that the thing that they’re paying for when they go out to eat and drink is not the physical thing that they’re ingesting it’s about so much more than that. And that’s whether or not there’s there’s an intoxicating substance in your glass or not.

Emily Saladino 14:20

Right, right. What’s the sociological construct? A third space, right? This this place where you can go that is neither home nor work. And so whether you’re working outside of the home or not right now, like having that having that external place can be really valuable. I’m glad you brought up the economics as well. It’s a great conscientious thing on behalf of consumers to recognize the economics of the venues they visit. We’re talking from such a New Yorkish perspective. Do think in New York and beyond most people do? John, you hit on this a bit with the ways that those conversations are becoming a bit more prevalent now during the pandemic. Do you think that there’s increasing consumer awareness of that?

John DeBary 15:04

Yeah. I mean, outside of New York, it’s hard for me to say, because I haven’t gotten much outside of New York in the last two years. But I’m actually working on a story with some similar subject matter right now. I’m talking to bartenders in Baltimore, in Las Vegas, I’m looking at my own sales for Proteau. We sell online, so I can see who’s buying and where they are. And a lot of people are not in New York, and I think New York and also probably LA and San Francisco and into service in Miami and Chicago have kind of like the the bellwether for a lot of trends. But I think that these communities exist in towns large and small. And I think that big cities get to sort of experience them first, but it doesn’t mean that the people who are going to eventually be the main supporters of your movement, or whatever, aren’t everywhere. And I think that the price of food and drink is also something, I think, you know, beyond just restaurants and bars, like this whole supply chain catastrophe that’s happening in slow motion, I think is sort of helping people to see in a way—not that it’s a great reason why it’s happening—but that these things, you know, the reason reason thing costs money is because they people have to put value into them. And a lot of times the value is provided by human beings who who need to be paid. And whether that’s putting together a bottled drink or making a dish in a restaurant, you can’t just like extract value out of labor without paying for it. You can try, but it’s immoral. So hopefully that is revealing a shift that in people’s consuming habits that every kind of dollar is a vote.

Emily Saladino 16:42

I love the idea that compensating people for their labor is controversial.

John DeBary 16:47

Yes. Bleak.

Emily Saladino 16:50

Shocking developments. No, I you know, I’m laughing but it’s true. There’s an educational process that goes into it. I’m glad that you brought up both the construction of a cocktail in the bar, as well as the packaging, the production of a product, right? I’m so sorry, I’m saying the word product a lot. But you know, if you have a bottle of wine, whether or not it has alcohol in it, someone had to create that recipe, someone has to make that liquid, someone has to bottle it, someone has to ship it. There are all of these steps involved and there are all of these people behind all of that work. And as you said, regardless of whether or not, ingredients aside, there’s a bunch of hands that need to need to make that.

John DeBary 17:37

And actually knock off like wine is more work than regular wine because you have to take wine and then add energy to it to remove the alcohol. So it actually should be more expensive. But alas.

Dylan Garrett 17:51

I always kind of think of it like the push for non-alc outside of major metropolitan areas. I always think of like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers. They cost more money to make and when they first started coming out, you weren’t, I don’t know. I just remember the first time I came back from a hike and stopped by McDonald’s and saw Impossible Burgers on the menu. I’m like, okay, so we’re finally hitting groundswell on this, maybe that’s how it’s finally going to start moving with having more non-alc options in bars and on retail shelves, you know, throughout the rest of the country. Until it just become standard that you expect to see that option. It’s not like a niche category.

Emily Saladino 18:28

That’s true, Dylan. But I think the meatless proteins, the package proteins, I think that’s a really good parallel in a sense that those are things that people like, the more exposure you have to it, the more that meat-free proteins, they stopped seeming quite as foreign to you. And that’s true of anything, right? You know, there’s cuts of meat that just gain popularity. I went to school in New England, and I remember—not a fancy school, it wasn’t like a New Haven thing, guys—and I remember there’s always this lower about how lobsters were once the least expensive thing you could eat and now they’re so pricey. The food and beverage, they’re just trends that go through in terms of production and availability, and availability can change a lot in terms of perception on all sides of the bar, whether we’re at home bars, or you know at our third spaces. I wonder if both of you can speak a little bit from your experience about how you think professional bars, like how can we make those spaces equally welcoming to folks who both do and do not drink alcohol? How can those spaces aid this this inclusive energy?

John DeBary 19:40

I thought about this a lot, you know, from both sides of the of the stick. So beyond working for PDT, my second and only other, second hospitality job is working for Momofuku. I was there for nine years and I was the bar director for the last five of those years. In the last maybe three to three years of my tenure, we got really serious about non-alcoholic drinks. I challenged the bartenders to put equal consideration and creative energy into the non-alcoholic drinks as the other drinks, both as a way to develop things to serve to our guests, but also as a way to develop their talent because it’s so much harder to create an alcoholic cocktail, because your palate’s, your kind of options you have are limited and it’s harder to kind of transmit flavors through water than ethanol. But anyway, so we just did that because I thought that it would be interesting. Some restaurants that were in the group were doing it more than others and we saw that once we started to put more energy into non-alcoholic drinks, we just saw an overall kind of absolute increase in beverage sales. Adding more menu items in one category usually meant that you would like suffer some other area, whereas if we added an alcoholic drinks, they just sort of came out of nowhere. So these are people who are buying maybe a bottle of Pellegrino, or maybe they’re just having tap water, and they kind of like resigned, again, to be left out. They’ve made up their minds already. But when they came in, they could see that they had an option. And people were really excited about that. It wasn’t a huge percentage, it was like maybe mid to high single digits, but it was not nothing. And you know, that adds up. And beyond just adding up, you know, accessibility is not about trying to cater to a majority. It’s about, you know, the one out of 100 people who are is helped by this accessibility measured, that makes it worth it. You know, the one in 1,000. And so, I think it really takes a lot of education on the part of the staff to sort of not make people feel like assholes for not ordering a glass of wine. When I, for whatever reason, if I’m in a bar or restaurant, and I’m not ordering a glass of wine or a cocktail or something, and then someone comes over, and they’re like, “Do you want anything besides water?” And you’re like, “Fuck you.” Like, this snotty thing to say. It’s as if it’s my fault that they don’t have anything that I want. So that kind of the way of framing it in the the server and bartender the staffs mind is like, there’s a lot of very valid choices out there and the reason why someone isn’t picking something from your menu maybe has less to do with them and more to do with your menu. So there’s that. But then also, to talk about the menu, I think if you have a menu that has a well integrated cocktail program, or beverage program, where every sort of option has its own feeling of importance, makes a long way towards making people not feel like they’re ordering off the kids menu. I love the kids menu, just as food and drinks, that’s just like my vibe, but I’m special in that. I think people don’t want to have to ask for a separate menu or like turn it over and have a little like, marginalized box over in the corner that’s like “spirit-free drinks” and it’s like these two things that are kind of uninspiring. My fantasy is that eventually we’ll get to a point where all drinks, you know, are sort of presented on the menu how they’re served. So if it’s beer, if it’s wine, if it’s cocktails or spirits, that’s kind of the genre, you know, breakdown. But if it’s regardless of ABV, they’re kind of in the same spot. I’ve talked to people who’ve run programs who’ve tried that. Granted, this was a few years ago, and it didn’t go well because people just didn’t pick up on it. So they would order a drink thinking it was not alcoholic, and they’d get something with alcohol in it, or vice versa. They wouldn’t feel confident what they were, in fact, getting. So there was definitely a bit of an education gap there in terms of like, making people feel like they’ve made the right choice. And so I think that that may be a sign that was—last time I talked to this person was like 2019, so maybe it’s different now. So I think that it’s a bit more like a back and forth, like knocking over a vending machine. You got to like, do a little bit on your end. And then that feeds into the education of the consumer and the consumer becomes more savvy, and then they come back to the place and then they have a better understanding of what you’re doing. It sort of feeds off itself. And that’s how I want eventually things to be. I’d love to have cocktail books and cocktail menus and drink venues just kind of present all drinks. And whether it has gin or whiskey or an alcoholic version of something that’s just a feature of the drink and not some special, you know, cordoned off portion of the menu that makes people feel like they’re kind of intruding.

Emily Saladino 24:41

Yeah, the vending machine analogy is very, very helpful. For me, who among us hasn’t been like I need those peanut M&Ms?

Dylan Garrett 24:52

Who hasn’t knocked over a vending machine, Emily? Yeah.

Emily Saladino 24:55

Yeah, no, I just I think that’s a really, really useful analogy because you’re right. It’s push and it’s pull. It’s gonna take a minute, right? You don’t push it once and the M&Ms go down. You’re in the long game.

Dylan Garrett 25:07

I totally agree with John. I actually tried that once at a bar I worked out for a while. In my mind, all of these drinks should be on the exact same list, it should just list the ingredients, whether that ingredient has gin or tequila in it, or it just has a list of non-alcoholic ingredients. The same weight should be given to each one. I love that analogy of the kids menu. I’m not immune to it either. I feel that way like you guys do when I go out and I’m not drinking alcohol, like I’m getting somehow cheating the bar. But giving them equal weight, and also I feel like a lot of the conversation we’re kind of dividing people into the camps of people who are drinking or aren’t drinking, either one or the other. I think that there’s a way to target people who are being able to alternate between I’m going to have an alcoholic drink, I’m going to try one of these non-alcoholic cocktails, I’m gonna switch back and forth. Just anecdotally I was at a at a get-together a few months back for the holidays and just being a culture shifts I’ve definitely just noticed more personally of people asking folks to bring non-alcoholic options, even to just get-togethers at a house or Dungeons and Dragons night, but it was more just the alternating of drinks. So we’ll share a bottle of wine then everyone’s going to switch and drink non-alc for the next hour and then we’re going to switch back—A) for pacing yourself, B) I just think for a bar it also increases the longevity of how long you can keep a customer and generate revenue outside of the feel-good of it. Traditionally you would have someone who would have a drink and then if they were going a little too hard they’d switch and have that glass of water. I feel like it’s just good bar business and good for the customer if, instead of switching to a glass of water for a round, you just get them to switch to another delicious still-made-in-house drink that just happens to not have alcohol in it. You can have the kind of best of both worlds in that case instead of just feeling like you have to cater to a sober menu versus a non-sober menu.

Emily Saladino 27:05

Right. And I see that even in the ways that many bars and many environments, I should say, not just bars, also restaurants and private homes. I don’t shun the people who want to drink a cocktail when I want to have a glass of wine. And so I think you know that by the same token to not force people to make explanations is key. You know, I don’t say like, “You’re drinking whiskey? Weird, I’m having tequila.” You know, that’s just it just by the same token, like if I want to have like a delicious Rivington Spritz—I’m name dropping one of John’s cocktails.

John DeBary 27:43

That’s really good.

Dylan Garrett 27:44

It sounds fantastic if someone could tell me the recipe in specific detail.

Emily Saladino 27:49

Or a link to purchase! You know, if I want to have a non alcoholic cocktail for any reason—I don’t drink, I never drank, I used to drink and not anymore, I’m pregnant, whatever the reasons are. You know, if I want to have that I would love for that to have the same reaction as if I’m drinking tequila and someone else is drinking whiskey, you know, there just doesn’t need to be this very divisive angle. You know, John, I liked when you said that when people are like, “Do you want anything other than water?” It feels like this odd slight, like what if we just asked, “Can I get you anything?”

John DeBary 28:24

It’s very accusatory.

Emily Saladino 28:25

Yeah, it puts me on edge. You know, like what is the better—I was trying to think, what’s the vibe like, “Can I get you anything else?” Or, “Is there anything else I can get you?” Like that to me seems fine.

John DeBary 28:37

Yeah. Or like, “Oh, we have like a tea or like we have a bunch of cool sodas.” Like, anything other than that?

Emily Saladino 28:45

Right, right. Yeah, I agree. It puts you, the guests, on almost on the defensive. Like, that’s not hospitable. Dylan, I have anecdotally noticed the same thing as well, where just when I’ve seen people and you know, admittedly, obviously this has all been different in the past two years, but when I’ve seen people for either, you know, distant hangs or in like the brief period of June 2021 when I thought everyone was getting vaccinated, the whole new world—

Dylan Garrett 29:17

You know, we’re all still living in that period in our minds, Emily. Even if it’s not out there, I bask in it as I sit alone in my bedroom at night.

Emily Saladino 29:24

The June 2021 of the mind. I have noticed people being more encouraging and enthusiastic about non-alcoholic options just in my in my social sphere. And just from an analytical perspective, you know, as a digital editor, I spent a lot of time looking at what people do and don’t click on on the Wine Enthusiast website and the stories we’ve run on non-alcoholic drinks, they just slay. And we’re a huge nationwide—you know, John, when you were speaking about seeing Proteau getting orders from across the US, that is very much in line with what I see in terms of who’s reading articles about non-alcoholic drinks.

John DeBary 30:08

Totally. Yeah. And like my Food52 drinks whenever I do non-alcoholic drinks, like the videos always do, like, way better. There’s way more comments and people are like, thank you for this. Like, it’s just a totally different game.

Emily Saladino 30:21

Right. And, you know, on the flip side, you don’t have to feel bad if you’re like, I want Scotch tonight. That’s not—no one’s saying that. You know, I think that’s what’s kind of key to this approach is, just as you said, “Thank you so much for offering this option.” Not, “Thank you so much for not offering Scotch,” right? There’s room for all of us. And I think about it because I’m an omnivore, I eat everything, and many of my friends are pure vegetarian, and then some vegans in the mix. And there are times when we’ll be dining together and I’ll feel this totally internalized pressure to be like, “Sorry,” as I eat charcuterie. You know, my friends aren’t sitting there judging me like all I’ve done that is make it weird. And that’s the same thing here where, you know, you can you can enjoy your big boozy Barolo and you can enjoy a non-alcoholic cocktail. And no one’s saying anyone’s got the moral high ground.

John DeBary 31:17

Right? For sure.

Dylan Garrett 31:19

For the record, Moral Highground is the name of the bar that I always wanted to start someday.

John DeBary 31:23

That’s great. That’s really good.

Emily Saladino 31:25

I would love to drink at Moral Highground. You know, listeners, please send funding to Dylan. We’ll include Venmo info in the show notes. But no, I just, I really do want to thank you both. Because it’s been really interesting to hear these perspectives from you. I’d like to see this on all sides of the bar. And you’re just kind of thinking about the way that drinks culture is evolving, to include more and more people. Thank you both so much for your time. It’s been so great to speak with you about, not just non-alcoholic drinks, but also the future of drinking, the future of cocktails, beer and wine, and what we can all do to be a little bit more hospitable. I appreciate both of your time.

John DeBary 32:09

Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Lauren Buzzeo 32:10

Thanks so much, Emily. It’s good talking to you, John.

John DeBary 32:13

Yeah, you too.

Lauren Buzzeo 32:17

With bars dedicated to booze-free hospitality that offer creative menus and scores of spirit-free bottles of booze, beer and wine, now available at specialty shops and digital retailers. It’s an exciting time to realize how those of us who do and don’t drink alcohol can raise glasses to a more inclusive drink scene moving forward. Subscribe to the Wine Enthusiast podcast on iTunes, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or wherever you find podcasts. If you liked today’s episode, we’d love to read your review and hear what you think. You can also drop us a line at podcast@winemag.com. For more wine reviews, recipes guides, deep dives and stories, visit Wine Enthusiast online at winemag.com and connect with us on Instagram Facebook and Twitter @WineEnthusiast. The Wine Enthusiast podcast is produced by Lauren Buzzeo and Jenny Groza. Until next episode, cheers.

Published on January 19, 2022
Topics: Podcast