By Hayley Meisel
It’s always hurricane season in New Orleans.
No, not just the tropical storms – the New Orleans hurricane is a staple drink across the city that, no matter the time of year, people flock down south to try. From these trademark hurricane drinks to the bar-lined Bourbon Street to a city-wide open container law, drinking is not only everywhere in New Orleans but encouraged. Perhaps you’ve heard of the month-long hiatus that’s growing in popularity around the world. So, what happens when Dry January finally makes its way to New Orleans?
In 2013, the group Alcohol Concern UK created Dry January; A new kind of New Year’s Resolution. We’ve all been there – sitting on the couch at the end of December casually brainstorming New Year’s resolutions to better our minds, bodies, and overall health in hopes of a fresh start come the new year. But many resolutions are more than just goals; they’re lifestyle changes. And more often than not, lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight making resolutions nothing more than temporary feats. That’s where Dry January comes in.
Dry January begins on the morning of New Year’s Day and lasts throughout the month of January. In an effort to encourage people to step back and recognize how much they drink and how reliant on alcohol they are, Alcohol Concern UK is challenging everyone over the legal drinking age to put down the glass. The group’s end goal is for participants to feel more comfortable drinking less on a daily and weekly basis once the sober month is over.
But how do the social pressures of going dry weigh on New Orleans community members? Located in the middle of Bourbon Street, the Bell Époque Absinthe Lounge had multiple members of their staff participate in what is also referred to as “Drynuary.” Bar manager and New Orleans native Laura Bellucci decided against participating for the month but produced a non-alcoholic cocktail menu for anyone who may be opting out of drinking.
“I think more people are interested in what you can provide them in a non-alcoholic drink,” said Laura when asked how Dry January may be impacting the drinking culture in New Orleans. Many bars do not offer the option of a non-alcoholic mixed drink, reserving waters and sodas for thirsty customers who don’t or aren’t drinking alcohol. Laura is hoping her non-alcoholic options will give people the opportunity to still have a drink in their hand without conforming to the standard that they should be drinking alcohol when they go out. “I think it’s a great way to have support in your community and find a way to socialize and new ways to connect with your people without needing to be drunk or having to rely on alcohol,” said Laura. Abstaining from alcohol anywhere can be tough, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the best of it right here in New Orleans.
Freelance bartender in New Orleans, Gabi Nisenboim, made a similar observation about the month of January from her perspective behind the bar. “I definitely noticed a lot more people asking me to make non-alcoholic drinks,” she said. “I’ve heard of Dry January before, but I didn’t think I’d ever see it reach New Orleans.”
Alcohol awareness is not the only advantage to hitting the pause button on drinking for one month. Other enticing benefits include weight loss and saving money. The average pint of beer is about as nutritious for you as a slice of pizza. Cutting out one month of beers is saving your wallet and waistline from keeping your local Italian restaurant in business.
New Orleans’ reputation for excessive drinking and partying does not exactly lend itself to abstinence. But with places like Époque Absinthe Lounge coming out with alcohol-alternatives, it looks like Dry January might be here to stay.