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The Dry Spell

In the booze biz, it's pretty common for people to take sabbaticals from drinking alcohol. I know dozens of writers, PR people, liquor store workers, distributor sales reps, and bartenders who've taken anywhere from two weeks to six months off from the sauce.

Finally, it was my turn. I just finished a two-week break from booze. I liked it.


It is hard for me to schedule breaks like this because my typical work week involves no less than three drinking engagements, but usually a lot more. Heck, many days I have three booze-related events back-to-back. So when I saw that I had almost no events on my calendar for the weeks of Christmas and New Year's I knew it would be perfect. 

A break from booze allows you to detox, confirm that you're not an alcoholic, consume a few less calories, and just step off the party train to collect your thoughts.

So here are my thoughts.

  • It wasn't nearly as hard as I had imagined. I didn't tell too many people (or blog) that I was taking a break because I was afraid I would fall off the wagon. Luckily that wasn't even close to happening.
  • My biggest concern with alcohol is that I have sleep issues, and with a buzz on I can fall asleep without a problem. Without one, my mind won't stop racing. So on this break I'd typically stay up until 3AM instead of midnight, just waiting to fall asleep for the last three hours of the day. That was annoying.
  • I think I am going to institute a policy that a nightcap doesn't count as a drink.
  • You can totally get a hangover without booze. I think it's salt late at night that does it for me. I made a lot of soft pretzels (one of three things I can bake) and the next mornings my head would hurt. 
  • A lot of time I wanted festive drinks- not an alcohol substitute, but something a bit more nuanced and food-like than water. I drank gallons and gallons of soda water (thanks, sodaclub!).
  • Angostura Orange makes the best bitters-and-soda. I know because I tried them all.
  • Regular Angostura bitters and a splash of agave syrup makes a lovely hot water drink
  • Come to think of it, I was cold a lot. Weird.
  • I missed the refreshing aspects of drinking the most; the "ahhhh" of the first sip of a cold Martini. I missed beer just as much as hard alcohol for the same reason. That's a bit odd because I don't often drink beer at home.
  • I most crave drinks as little celebrations- the end of the workday, arriving home from an event, getting good news or a check in the mail. As these things happen all the time, I may try to replace a few of them with celebratory non-alcoholic drinks instead. It's not about the booze, it's about the celebration.
  • By the end of the break I wasn't sick of not drinking, I was sick of not having a drink when I wanted one.

So, now that the Dry Spell is over, what shall I have to celebrate?

*Update* I advanced blogged this so I already had my celebratory drink: The Saratoga Cocktail (Saratoga Cocktail recipe). I can't say that it tasted better than it usually does. Luckily, it usually tastes pretty darn delicious.


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Matt Robold

I had a bit of a forced wagon ride in October after a gall stone cause acute pancreatitis. When I was discharged from the hospital I was given orders to avoid alcohol for a month.

I missed the same things you mentioned. I missed the nuance in drinks while only drinking water and coffee. I didn't really care about going out. The only time I wanted to have a drink "out" was after taking BarSmarts (doing BarSmarts on forced booze sabbatical was interesting).

The other thing that I missed, oddly enough, was MAKING drinks. I started inviting people over about 2 weeks in just so that I could have an excuse to MAKE a Manhattan or Mai Tai. I didn't realize how much I really enjoy making drinks until I couldn't just make them for myself.

I know, I'm weird.

Camper English

I know what you mean about missing making drinks- though it didn't occur to me until the last day. I realized that if I could make nonalcoholic drinks in the shaker it would give me a lot of the satisfaction of making and consuming the drink, without the booze.



We just got the SodaClub Penguin, and I think it may cause us to drink less booze for exactly the reason you mention. Then again, maybe not. Who can say.

Camper English

Naturally you went for the fanciest one! In a great act of coincidence, I ran out of my CO2 cartridge the last day of my fast. That was lucky, as I may have cracked without it.


Well we received a wealth of gift certificates for Williams-Sonoma for Christmas, so we could go full Cadillac.

Ken Moorhead

Glad I'm not the only one who regularly takes a break. Most assume I'm hitting the sauce hard and frequently, which couldn't be farther from the truth!

Happy to hear about your experiments with bitters and soda. That's something I plan to get into this year once I've ordered some more bitters.

blair frodelius

So, in a regular week, how many drinks do you typically consume? 20+, 30+, 40+?

If you're trying out new cocktails at a new bar do you do a taste and spit, or consume the whole thing?

Me, I tend to go in phases of beer one week, wine another week, and cocktails the other two weeks. During the day, I generally go for tonic water.


Ahem, doesn't Angostura contain alcohol? ;) Love the text though. I did several sabbaticas with the help of non-alcoholic beer. Sort of works...

David D

I'm definitely one who takes breaks (and I get ridiculed as unprofessional by my co-workers!) and I also do not count nightcaps as a drink. A good way to stop your mind from racing at night is to read for a while before you go to sleep. I had the same problem and that's how I fixed it. Great article. So many truths.

Camper English

I think it's best not to count them...

I never spit out cocktails, but if I'm drinking through the menu or judging a contest I'll have just a couple sips of each.

Camper English

Well I didn't want to be fanatical about it...

Kara Newman

Congrats on surviving your detox! My go-to non-booze drink is ginger ale and Angostura bitters. Though yesterday I had a good mocktail @ Cantina, called the Apricot Arnold Palmer: iced tea, lemonade, apricot puree, and a bit of muddled mint. Though I have to admit that a splash of bourbon would have really pushed it over the top for me!

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