Local bartenders give mocktail inspiration for Dry January participants


Image via Stefan Giesbert, Wikimedia Commons

A bartender strains a cocktail into a frozen cocktail glass.

By Maria Scanga, Senior Staff Writer

As the new year commences, so too comes the inevitable conversation about New Year’s resolutions. For many people, this list includes participating in “Dry January,” an initiative for people to stay alcohol-free for the whole month. 

Dry January encourages people to stop reaching for the bottle and spending Sundays feeling hungover. The benefits of abstaining from drinking for a full 31 days include not only saving money — especially in the face of drastically increasing alcohol prices in Pennsylvania — but also the chance to shed extra pounds and feel more energetic. 

This year, as thousands of people across the country participate, Pittsburgh bars prepared for Dry January, providing plenty of mocktail options for customers.

Heide Wortman, a senior health and rehabilitation sciences major, bartends at Sly Fox Brewery located in South Side and Downtown. She said the brewery has a specialized list of mocktails created for Dry January. 

“Our sales for mocktails this month have been on par with our typical monthly sales for cocktails,” Wortman said. “But I know some bars struggle during the month of January because of it.” 

As for her own personal mocktail recommendations, Wortman recommends Sly Fox’s $8 cherry smash. She prefers her alcohol on the sweeter side, so the brewery’s mocktail is her favorite. 

“All you need is black cherry juice, a little bit of honey and lime juice, and then top with ginger beer,” Wortman said. 

If sweet isn’t necessarily your thing, Wortman also recommends the Thai water mocktail, $8, which features some spicy notes. 

“It is super refreshing, with the main ingredient being coconut water, and then it’s shaken with lime juice and jalapeño for a hint of spice,” Wortman said. 

For college campuses specifically, drinking is a huge part of student life and partying culture. As students returned to campus this month from winter break, it might come as a surprise that local bartenders on campus have also noticed a rise in popularity for mocktails and Dry January participants.

Kaeleigh Karetas, a senior double psychology and neuroscience major, bartends at Hemingway’s, located in the heart of campus along Forbes Avenue. Karetas also works at Mad Mex on Atwood Street, a local favorite which recently returned to business in October after being closed for a year due to staffing shortages. She has noticed several sorority girls in the throes of rush week ordering mocktails.

“I have noticed mostly sorority girls [doing Dry January] during rush week,” Karetas said. “The most common mocktail is the Shirley Temple, which is just sprite or ginger ale with grenadine.” 

If classic Shirley Temples, which cost about $3, don’t really float your boat, Karetas also recommends Hemingway’s Forbes Field — a blend of Sprite, sours and strawberry syrup, and Sex on the Beach, which is usually made alcoholic with vodka. 

“You can also just order a Sex on the Beach and we make it with just cranberry and peach juice,” Karetas said. 

Willow Freeman, a sophomore economics and environmental studies double major, bartends during the summer. She actually finds mocktails to be a waste of money because the price doesn’t change based on the presence — or absence — of alcohol in the drinks. 

“When people want a mocktail or a virgin drink, we usually try to talk them out of it because it’s kind of a waste of money,” Freeman said. “You’re spending the same amount as an alcoholic drink for just sour mix and juice.” 

Despite the hefty price for non-alcoholic drinks, Freeman does have a favorite mocktail, which her bar, True Food Kitchen in King of Prussia, calls Garden of Eden. The alcohol free beverage costs $14. 

“It’s a mocktail with seedlip or a non-alcoholic spirit mixed with sour mix and juiced pineapple, cucumber and lemon,” Freeman said. 

With just a couple weeks remaining for Dry January participants, the jury is out for how many people will continue to ditch the drink into February and beyond. 

Wortman said people who participate in Dry January, and even people who choose sobriety don’t have to feel left out during bar outings because of bar’s offering mocktails year-round. 

“I think Dry January can be a good way for people to start out the new year,” Wortman said. “Some people love the way they feel [during Dry January], leading to limiting or cutting out alcohol in the future.”