For this week’s installment of Reclamining Thirsty Thursday, Katie sat down with DC bartending legend, Donnavon Lalputan, to chat about being behind the bar from a mental health perspective, what it’s like to go out to dinner and not drink in our alcohol fueled city, and why Sip City is a great solution for bartenders to make both non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks.
Katie: Tell us about yourself, how you found us, and why you’re excited about what we’re doing.
Donnavon Lalputan: I’m Donnavon Lalputan and I saw your posting on District Industry- an amazing way for PR. I’ve always wanted the opportunity to work with a non-alcoholic liquor brand and I got the opportunity to work with Katie, which is pretty awesome because I’ve heard about her a lot. I really like [Sip City] because I think that a lot of bartenders struggle with sobriety. I have definitely had close calls with police for drinking and driving over the many years I've been here and I think a lot of people struggle with that. The reason why I'm really passionate about this project is because I think that a lot of bartenders have a lot of psychological issues that are never dealt with, and we rely on drinking in order to do that, so our bodies never really get a chance to readjust and deal with whatever trauma that we face: maybe someone yelling at you for strong drink all night, or being an asshole to you the whole time, or just not having the commonsense to order all their drinks at once. I mean, the list goes on and on and on. So I've been doing this for about 11 years I've worked as a guy carrying bread at my families restaurant, Ben's [Chili bowl], and wondering how to make chili. Wearing nice clothes to bareback, like a dumbass, and learning to actually wear the stuff that I can afford to get dirty.
But back to Sip City, I love the product. We have to believe in what we are doing locally because the culture of the city is gonna be grown organically. One of the main things is everyone's made shrubs before, Sip City does have, from what I know, vinegar in it, as well as a lot of the things to make it super savory, ease indigestion, and it does not have alcoholic content in it like the more popular drink we all know, kombucha. So anyone that's kind of not drinking I think you should encompass it as a whole and not even say like “not drinking.” I actually think [Sip City] tastes a little bit smoother [than kombucha] because even though it is a little bit less effervescent, it has easier drinkability for me personally. I like to use The District version, like we have in our cocktail and mocktail today. I’ve also even tried to cook with it. Add salt, pepper to a steak and whatever else you like so yeah.
Katie: Did it work?
Katie: The mission of this project isn't necessarily to block off the community and have sober versus not sober, it is to connect that community, and not only be like if you're sober this is an option but if you want to just cut back on your drinking or if you want a different option or something to take a break that isn't water or soda— that’s our mission here. In your experience have you seen an uptick in people asking for nonalcoholic beverages or have you seen a movement towards this more sober thing. How do you think we can break down this barrier of somebody coming into the bar, ordering a nonalcoholic, and the bartender being like “ew.”
Donnavon: I think it should be just like a change in mindset that we have moving forward. For myself there are lots of people getting pregnant. I mean I am 31 years of age right now and you know all my friends are getting married and pregnant. Also, I grew up in a Muslim household. I went to private Catholic school, and a lot of people do take time to actually have a personal cleanse with themselves. We’re an active bunch. I was an athlete and at a certain time in my life I’d have to hit goals where honestly you feel better when you don't drink. I mean I don't know how anyone else doesn’t. It takes about 7 to 9 days, but you feel amazing, my sense of anxieties is gone. So coming back to that, today I'm gonna make two different cocktails. I’m going to make one with alcohol and one without alcohol. I think at the end of the day you know in the beverage industry it’s all about how you make somebody feel. I think people that don't tend to drink, they eat a lot of food and then leave a lot quicker. Somebody that has more drinks at your bar, sits down, takes real estate. A lot of times if you add up the people that aren’t drinking as much against those that are-the order price might be right around the same if not more because you're looking to leave right away. Peoples pallets are evolving, they’re changing. When I'm having- I have a meeting for lunch - it can't be one of those three martini lunches because God forbid I get all like super sloshed because it's Tuesday! Maybe on Wednesday! But I really don't feel like drinking today. These drinks show the versatility of the ingredient and understanding of what is in this ingredient and how to use it. So this is where the education comes with you know a rising tide. So the more we elevate the knowledgebase of a bartender, the more that he can make money off of selling those non-alcoholic cocktails. I never have one. I usually have like five because they’re just easy to drink the only downside is I don't know, maybe I pee more. That’s the only downside that I could see.
Katie: When you’re having those nonalcoholic options that aren't bland but they take the time to make them like a craft nonalcoholic does that make you feel more social in the settings? Do you feel like you can hang out a lot longer because you’re not just sipping on water?
Donnavon: I think you absolutely feel that way. I'm not trying to plug any other restaurants, but I went to St. Anselm the other day and they had a great selection of non-alcoholic stuff. So I eat an extra appetizer- ok, an extra three appetizers- while I was there and an entrée, but I was having all these different sodas like lemongrass and you know I mean all these different sodas they have there, it just makes it more approachable because the people around that are not drinking, they notice that stuff. They really really care. They’re actually hypersensitive because you're going against the grain and DC is a town that's built around socializing with alcohol. You can also do that without alcohol at the same time too. I think it's a market that yeah, the market is there. Does it take up space in your menu? Absolutely it does do that, but I just think providing a bartender with the tools that they need in order to provide that option is something that’s a good thing. That's why I think Sip City is a great way to go because you can use it with or without alcohol while having that one base product at your bar.
3oz- ginger camomile turmeric tea syrup
Add ice, quick shake, top with soda
3oz-ginger cam turmeric syrup
Top w/District SC
2oz-Bourbon (Jack Daniels)
2 dashes Peychauds Bitters
“I think Sip City is a great way to go because you can use it with or without alcohol while having that one base product at your bar.”