Replacements for Alcohol

So you want to cut down on or quit your drinking. Great! But what do you replace it with?

People drink for a lot of reasons — they like the taste, they enjoy the social aspects of drinking, they want the effects of alcohol on their mind and body, they have an alcohol use disorder, they’re bored … the list goes on and on. So it makes sense that when someone decides they want to try cutting back on their drinking or quitting drinking entirely, they are left with gaps that alcohol used to fill.

Let’s talk about some of the replacements for alcohol, for whatever reason you were drinking it:

Replacements for alcohol as a beverage

A lot of people drink alcohol because they just like it as a beverage or (or component of a mixed drink). Reducing or eliminating alcohol can feel like a bit of a letdown for these people — like they’re stuck with water or soda as their only options. But there are so many more options than that! As a bonus, having a glass in your hand will usually stop others from offering you a drink.

  • Zero proof spirits. There has been a major increase in the variety and availability of zero proof spirits in recent years. There are alcohol-free versions of traditional spirits, like gin, rum, and whiskey. They don’t have the bite or burn of alcohol, but they aim to provide a similar mouthfeel, complexity, and flavor. Many mixologists also like the unique, zero proof botanical spirits that are infused with botanicals like herbs, spices, and mushrooms. Check out the recording of our recent mocktail mixer to see some of these spirits in action. If you’re cutting back on alcohol, you can alternate drinks made from zero proof spirits with your regular alcoholic drink to keep your alcohol consumption within bounds. Or if you’re cutting out alcohol altogether, you can sip a glass of zero proof spirits or a mocktail in place of anything with alcohol.

Replacements for alcohol as a source of relaxation

For some, the appeal of alcohol isn’t the taste but the effect. They like the impact of alcohol on their brain chemistry, and the way it can make them feel relaxed. In the US, there is a pervasive belief that the way to destress after any difficult situation — from little ones like making it through the workweek to big ones like overcoming a significant obstacle — is with an alcoholic beverage. This can be hurtful, because alcohol is not the best coping method even for people who don’t have an alcohol use disorder. There are plenty of ways to decompress and cope with stress that won’t give you a hangover.

  • Meditation. There’s a reason this is such a commonly recommended method of calming the mind and emotions! It’s because millions of people all over the world have found better emotional balance and peace of mind by meditating. If you’re new to meditation, there are a lot of guided meditations available, or you could try mindful, meditative activity.

Replacements for alcohol as a social activity

In some social circles, it seems like every get-together is centered around alcohol. For many of these, it’s no problem to attend as usual, but drink something non-alcoholic. This is especially true if you feel comfortable being sober around intoxicated people. But if you will feel singled out or uncomfortable, there are options for spending time with your friends and loved ones without drinking.

  • Coffee. There’s a coffee shop on every corner in some cities, and getting coffee is an accepted, alcohol-free hangout. Note that you don’t have to actually get coffee just because you’re in a coffee shop. “Getting coffee” can also include tea or hot chocolate, among others.

No matter what you’re getting out of alcohol, there are alternatives that can help you cut down or quit. And if you find yourself struggling to stick to that “less alcohol” or “no alcohol” goal, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

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