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A Mindful Drinker's Tips and Tricks to Socializing in New York City

By Veronica Shei
Posted: April 26, 2022

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As a recent transplant to New York City, I was excited to live my best Gay Life in the city that never sleeps. dd

Unfortunately I soon came to realize that a lot of the NYC social scene involved alcohol - whether it was checking out the new brunch spot in the Lower East Side (bottomless mimosas anyone?), to a Thirsty Thursday Gaga party at House of Yes (shots, shots, shots!), to a casual movie night with friends (can’t forget the White Claw!), alcohol seemed to be an accepted part of any social activity. 

Though I loved the new connections I was forming in NYC, I knew I wanted alcohol to have less of a presence in my life. I was starting to see how so much of our culture innocuously promotes drinking as the reward for a long week of work. 

From the drag queens at the bars encouraging attendees to ‘drink heavy and drink hard’ to all of my friends asking ‘when I was going to get a drink’ or ‘I’m so excited to see what you’re like drunk!’ - there seemed to be an uncomfortable association between drinking and being seen as fun

In order for my new friendships to flourish I knew I needed to find a balance that I was comfortable with, of maintaining my social life without having to imbibe more than I wanted to. After all, who doesn't want to avoid a hangover, right? After a few months of observing behaviors that worked for me, I’m excited to share my tips and tricks to be a mindful drinker in NYC!

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1) Practice Radical Honesty

My new friendships weren’t going to do well unless I could be honest about my desire to drink less. Having a frank and honest conversation not only helped me challenge a lot of their assumptions about drinking culture, but it led to a new level of closeness with all my friends. 

I felt much more energetic and authentic around my friends after the conversation. I didn’t necessarily have to sit them down for a serious “talk” either. Bringing the topic up during a casual dinner was a great way to ease into the conversation. 

After communicating my feelings about alcohol to my friends, it felt like such a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders. It also reaffirmed that my friends didn’t view me as less ‘fun’ simply because I didn’t drink as much. 

2) Be Proactive About Your Plans

One thing I realized a few weeks into moving to the Big Apple was that I was letting the whims of my new friend group dictate what I was doing with my time. 

More often than not that seemed to involve going out for drinks- and usually a lot of drinks, on Fridays and Saturdays. I realized my new friends were more than amenable to other plans - the main issue was that no one had taken the initiative to plan them (and going out for drinks is a low barrier thing to do). 

Since I was fairly new to New York City, this was the perfect way to involve my friends in other activities. Whether it was going to parks, trying new restaurants, checking out Broadway shows, or exploring the many different museums in the city - the new influx of different plans not only helped me balance my drinking allotment but it allowed me to see my friends in a new light

I never would’ve learned that one of my friends was in the top team for building Railroad Tycoon amusement parks if not for these new activities! 

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3) More Power to the Mocktail or Lower ABV Beverages

Just because I was mixing up my activities, didn’t mean I wasn’t drinking at all. Especially when mingling with new folks at bars or clubs, there was still a big focus on drinking. However I found a good mindful drinking pattern for myself when going out:

  • Start off with a cocktail (or whatever your drink of choice is) and nurse it for an hour. 
  • Drink water or a mocktail next. 
  • Rotate between the two throughout the night
  • Opt for some lower alcoholic drink options instead

I find this pattern helpful because if I already have a drink in hand, most people ask fewer questions and are less likely to pressure you into another round.

And even if mocktails aren’t on the menu, bartenders are usually more than happy to whip up something for you. If I want to drink a little more, I might ask for another cocktail but one with less alcohol. 

A lot of bars carry low and no alcohol options these days, especially with the proliferation of non alcoholic brands like Ritual, Curious Elixirs, Seedlip Garden, and more. It’s becoming easier and easier to get a delicious mocktail. You can also suggest going to a bar that you know has good non-alcoholic drink options.

Some of my favorite places for non-alcoholic drinks in NYC are:

Getaway Bar: Getaway Bar is not only aesthetically pleasing (marble bar, muted gray, pink color scheme), they are a completely alcohol free bar! This spot is a great way to continue the Friday night bar outing ritual while still maintaining a mindful drinking lifestyle. All the cocktails are genuinely delicious and give you that craft cocktail feeling~ I especially love the ‘A Trip to Ikea’ and the ‘That’s Just My Face’!

Location: Greenpoint

Ambrosia Elixirs: Founded by Valeria de la Plava, who comes from a family of traditional Colombian healers, the mission of Ambrosia Elixirs is to create ‘a sanctuary and feast for the senses’. They craft artisanal botanical elixirs via their knowledge of folk medicines alongside high quality, ethically sourced vegan food. Ambrosia not only helps me achieve my mindful drinking goals but is also such a calming, healing space to experience. 

Location: Bushwick

Listen Bar: Some days I just want to be a homebody. This is when Listen Bar has me covered! Their events are completely virtual, meaning I can sit in my pyjamas while learning to craft delicious alcohol free beverages. Listen Bar also has a great selection of alcohol free beverages directly from their bar shop!

Location: Virtual

Kimika: Craving Japanese AND Italian food? Kimika is the perfect place to get both from their rice cake lasagna with sweet Italian sausage to the eggplant katsu with caponata. I love coming here whenever I’m craving both cuisines. Pair your dinner with their selection of mocktails (like the Sage Advice) and I’d call that a pretty great night out. 

Location: East Village

Threes Brewing: Ever worried about going to a brewery with friends on a sober night out? Threes Brewing not only has delicious beers on tap, they also have a great selection of non alcoholic beers and delicious food from either the Meat Hook or Greenpoint Fish Lobster & Co (depending on which location you’re at) so everyone can find  something for themselves. 

Location: Gowanus and Greenpoint

Another fun thing to do is to check out a booze-free bar with your friends. This is a great way to expand my friend’s assumptions about what a ‘bar experience’ means and the necessity of alcohol in a social situation. The lack of a hangover the next day is a nice plus.  

Sunnyside customers cutback on their drinking by an average of 29% in the first month!

4) Parlay the Cost Savings Towards a New Hobby

One of my biggest incentives to drink less is the cost savings. I love cooking and trying new restaurants and oftentimes my thought process is should I order an appetizer or get this cocktail with my dinner? 

More often than not, the appetizer wins out. Whether it’s a bigger budget to spend on fancy food items, or extra funds to devote to a new hobby (currently I’ve been interested in Krav Maga) - I find that the cost savings aspect automatically helps me keep my drinking in check. 

Socializing in New York While Being Mindful is Possible

These four tips are what I’ve found to be the most effective things in leading a mindful drinking lifestyle as a new New Yorker. From practicing honesty around my drinking habits, to taking control of my plans, I learned it was more than possible to have a social life in NYC that’s not centered around alcohol. 

I hope these tips and tricks help you on your mindful drinking journey and who knows - maybe I’ll see you at the next booze-free bar in the city. 

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Veronica Shei

Veronica Shei is a Software Engineer at Sunnyside. She loves her work on the growth team where she develops beautiful UI experiences, tests out new ideas to grow the company, and builds a better end product to help users achieve their mindful drinking lifestyle! In her free time, she loves to cook for friends, explore new restaurants, and go surfing.

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