We’re somehow already a third of the way through January, and for many of you out there, a third of the way through a Dry January. Our team is approaching 2019’s start as a ‘Mindful January’: a month to reassess habits, routines, and the “whys.” While that includes abstaining from alcohol for a month, it also involves taking a holistic approach to why we do what we do every day, from eating to drinking to exercising to digital diets and our relationships. Our teammate Katie recently sat down with bartender, small business owner, and social media extraordinaire, Beth Cormack, to chat about what it means to drink mindfully, and how to approach a “break” from alcohol.*
*We acknowledge that deciding to take a break from alcohol is a privilege, and for many people, sobriety is a matter of life or death. All comments on Dry January or “sober challenges” are based on our own experiences.
Katie: How did you find out about Sip City?
Beth: I used to work with some clients in Union Kitchen and I saw Sip City worked in there. I never actually met Niki in real life, and then we started talking on Instagram. I tried her product and loved it, so we’ve just been connecting through that. I love learning about different small businesses in the city. As a fellow small business owner it’s cool to see other people take off and follow their passion and what they want to do.
K: You probably know then that our mission at Sip City is not necessarily to negate people from drinking but to be more mindful about drinking in the same way people exercise a lot, people really eat healthy in DC. Now we want people to think about drinking in the same way. What got you motivated to join in on that movement with us?
B: I've been working in the [restaurant] industry for over five years now, and it was definitely when I moved to DC I can see the drinking culture. Being from Boston, which is also a big drinking city like DC, I've noticed it a lot more. Like you said, it's not about negating people from drinking at all, but also incorporating other healthy habits and lifestyles too. Whether it's taking a night off at some points, or drinking more water while you're drinking, just being safe. Also for safety. I think we take a lot of things for granted. We never think something is going to happen to us. You get blackout drunk with your friends , it’s no big deal, and wake up the next morning feeling like s**t, and that's the worst of it. But there are just so many things that could happen that I think we deathly need to be more mindful of, just more aware of what we're putting into our bodies. That we know the risk that we're taking when we’re doing that.
K: As a bartender yourself, but also someone who's on their own mindful journey, what are your personal experiences with struggling with trying to be more mindful with your drinking, or stuff you've noticed being behind the bar with your customers, trying to serve DD’s? Have you noticed any sort of changes?
B: Last year I actually went 90 days completely sober. That opened my eyes to a lot of the big drinking culture here. In general I felt like I had to explain myself and why I wasn't or didn't want to drink. I would go out with friends and just not drink. I'll just do a soda water, or whatever, but the most frustrating thing was feeling the “But, why?” People would push shots in my face, and I just didn’t want to drink. I was tired of coming up with excuses: “I have to drive the car”, or “I have to be up in the morning for a big meeting.” I felt like I was always looking for some excuse not to drink, when there shouldn't have to be. If I want to say no then that should be OK and acceptable. From working behind the bar, people obviously get quite intoxicated on the weekends. I am constantly witnessing it and having to cut people off. Guests get really frustrated, but I'm not doing it because I want to, I'm doing it because I'm looking out for you. You just don't need to take another drink. When you're out with your friends and you notice that behavior happening from one of the people that you're with, you should be supporting the bartender, not trying to sneak them a drink or trying to question the bartender. We know what we're doing. We are the trained ones here. We know what the safest route is for people. Being a good friend means being on board with not letting that happen.
K: When you were doing 90 day sober challenge, when you were going out did you feel less included because of the options available? Did you find a good variety? Did you have a hard time adjusting to that social aspect?
B: I felt bartenders respected it way more than the patrons and people that I was with. Many times I would ask the staff to make me a soda water in a cocktail glass with a lime. There's not really any nonalcoholic beverages offered on the menu besides soda. But I wouldn’t say I felt excluded from everything, mainly because I felt most of the bartenders were supportive. Of course, I tipped them as I normally would, and they don't care. I definitely felt I'd be getting tired at midnight, because I couldn’t keep up! When I went to places I would just let them know about my challenge. They would usually just hand me the menu and tell me to pick something and they could make it without alcohol. They made it fun when you're out. Most bartenders are willing to do those kinds of things for you, and they respect it. I found it was my friends and the people that I was around were like, “Why?”
K: Do you feel if there were options similar to Sip City on menus, a Sip City cocktail, with or without alcohol, dressed up, it would keep people more engaged and keep you out longer?
B: The whole experience is tasting the cocktails, and it can be discouraging when you're like, “Oh well. I want something like that, but I also really don’t want to drink.” It allows you to explore different flavors and cocktails without having to drink. For people it’s also the experience of watching the bartender make it, the presentation. It would definitely be way more inclusive if there were those options.
K: Right, the aesthetic. Not just having a rocks glass. Is there anything else you want to add about mindful drinking in the city, your point of view on this work moving forward? Any trends you’ve seen moving towards a more mindful lifestyle in the bar scene?
B: DC is so interesting because it's so health-conscious. There are all these really cool like small businesses, like Sip City, producing healthy stuff, but at the same time people here exclude drinking. Like it is separate.
K: Have you noticed any trends, maybe an uptick in people trying to dial back more?
B: Oh, for sure. That's what I noticed most when I went out sober. My original plan was to 30 days. Then I was like, I feel absolutely amazing! My head was clear, my anxiety was gone, I was sleeping amazing, my skin cleared up. They talk about all of these positives of not drinking, and I think people really crave that, but it's also such a social thing. What do you do? It’s always grabbing a drink after work, or at the movies, it's always drinking. It is just integrated into the social culture here, and I think we would benefit more from having more inclusive, sober activities at a bar or even just having a mocktail menu- something that people can socialize around that doesn't have to encompass drinking alcohol. It can also be outside the bar- societies, clubs, et cetera. Even with many of the intramural leagues here, drinking is apart of it. You can’t get away from it. I think people are becoming more health-aware of what they put into their bodies, and are learning how to treat their bodies with kindness. Especially working in the [hospitality] industry where we have long hours, are always exposed to alcohol- drinking it or serving it, it’s just always there. It's extra hard when you're constantly surrounded by it. It's also part of the industry culture, as well. I think that's what makes it such a tight-knit community. We see each other at our best and our worst, and we have fun, we know how to have fun, and we know how to drink, and that's great. But what I really love about working here at Franklin Hall is that everybody's well-rounded. We love our jobs, and we work hard, but it's we have our outside goals we work towards.
K: As someone who works behind the bar what do you think We can do you as the industry community to push that education for our customers, and not make it about the sale all the time?
B: I think it comes down to having more conversations with the customers about it. Maybe not a super busy Friday (haha), but asking about their habits in life, and creating more of a conversation around mindfulness. There’s also a stigma about the industry. All we do is drink and party and this and that— which some people do, and that's cool. I’ve definitely partied, but that's not all that were about. I think if more people knew that there would be less of a stigma around it. I know one of the most annoying things about bartending is constantly refilling water, but we need to recognize that people need that, and it’s our responsibility to provide it. That’s why options like Sip City are so great. As a company you can charge a little bit less than a cocktail, but can mimic the style. You can use ingredients like turmeric, which is such a trendy thing right now. Having things like that on your menu is appealing to the eye. People would be more inclined to come in, and maybe if they were planning on drinking water all night, they would try another option and help boost your sales!
RECIPE: Turmeric Tang
1/2 tbsp turmeric
1 whole orange juice
1/2 lemon juice
1 tbsp rosemary needles
2oz district SC
1/2oz maple syrup
Shake and strain. Top with rosemary garnish
**omit gin for ENAB version.