When Chris Marshall opened America’s first sober bar in 2017, there weren’t a lot of options for people who wanted to have a fun yet dry night out. “Back then, it was really Seedlip and O’Doul’s,” the founder of Austin’s Sans Bar recalls. “Today, I can’t keep up with all the products available. I teach virtual courses to help others opening sober bars. The trend is here to stay.” Here are a few of the nation’s best places to pull up a bar stool during Dry January—and beyond.
“On a Friday night, if you closed your eyes in my bar, you’d never know there wasn’t a drop of alcohol,” says Marshall, who got the idea for his East Austin spot from the booze-free gathering places that began appearing in Europe in the early 2000s. “The key to a great sober bar is in the environment: We host comedians, acoustic music, and drag shows. Karaoke has been a huge hit—singing, without the haze of alcohol, brings everyone together and breaks down the walls while building up the community.” Marshall doesn’t overlook the bespoke drinks, either: “Our Como la Flor has dragon fruit, aquafaba, alcohol-free Monday Gin, and Wilderton bittersweet aperitivo,” he says. “It’s a balance of sweet and tart, with a nice foam.”
Dream House Lounge
“I want to be mindful of why people come in here,” says owner David J. Wallace, who opened this dry bar in the Central Business District of America’s wettest city in summer of 2022. “Our 95 percent pure oxygen with aromatic essential oil mixes helps with mood and concentration—but also if you have a hangover. We recognize many customers still enjoy alcohol in other places.” Drink offerings include the Lavender Dreams, a mix of Cut Above Zero Proof Mezcal, Brooklyn Brewed Sorrel, Avec Hibiscus and Pomegranate, and lavender syrup.
With its pressed-tin ceilings, marquee bulbs, vintage collectibles, and Art Deco-inspired decor, this sober speakeasy in Orlando’s hip Ivanhoe Village captures the glitz and glamour of the Roaring ’20s—without the bathtub gin. Tableside performances by magicians give the space a dash of Disney flavor, while the cocktails put teetotaling spins on classics. (Try the Trouble in Paradise, a passion fruit margarita made with Ritual tequila.) An adjoining bottle shop stocks harder-to-find nonalcoholic spirits for those who want to bring the Prohibitionist party home.
Ocean Beach Café
This pleasant Outer Richmond District café pairs sandwiches and other casual bites with nonalcoholic beer, wine, and cocktails. Owner Joshua James even employs a full-time sommelier to help customers with their selections. “There are some really amazing de-alcoholized wines out now, like Prima Pavé sparkling wine from Italy,” he says. “I think it’s really incredible how alcohol is having a moment, in that people are getting away from it but still going out to socialize.”