How do I host non-drinkers without making them feel excluded?

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handpainted drink sign
My in-laws recently decided to stop drinking, and they’re healthy and happy with the choice. And for my part, I love it when people make choices that make them feel good.

However, I’m in a spot when it comes to an upcoming family party: I’ve never hosted non-drinkers. How do I gracefully support their choice without making them feel excluded or singled out?

Any tips for simultaneously hosting folks who drink and folks who don’t? -smac

My first piece of advice is to peruse Offbeat Bride’s awesome post on mocktails. That way you can serve alcohol-free drinks that are just as fun as the booze-y drinks.

You could also use this trick: Set out a big bowl, or beverage dispenser, of non-spiked punch and let your guests spike their own drinks.

Or set up a drinks station with beverage dispensers full of pre-made drinks that are both non-alcoholic and booze-soaked. But make sure to label them really well — you don’t want anyone getting tipsy by accident.

Homies, what are your tips for hosting non-drinkers in your drink-enjoying homes?

Comments on How do I host non-drinkers without making them feel excluded?

  1. Not a big deal. Whenever we have a party we put out wine, beer, a pitcher of mixed drinks (if we’re having) and cans of soda/juice/sparkling water. People just choose what they want. Lots of “drinkers” have at least one of the non-alcoholic drinks too. Unless you specifically save the non-alcoholic drinks aside or make a big deal out of the not drinking no one will notice.

    • Agreed! As a seldom drinker, I usually bring my own sparkling water or Italian soda to get-togethers, but I also really appreciate it when the host has something non-boozy available. I don’t see it as a big deal – I throw my soda or tea in the cooler with the beer to share and party on 🙂

    • Not to mention don’t they recommend that anyone drinking do one for one with non alcoholic drinks. You’re not really supposed to drink and drink and have nothing to rehydrate yourself. I’d look at any party that had only alcohol as being strange just on that account.

      But I second, third and million everyone who says “Don’t make a big deal of it,” and “intervene on behalf of guests that are being hassled about what’s in the glass, or ‘why don’t you drink?'”

      Also please keep an eye on the friendly jokers who might think it’s fun to spike things that are labelled non alcoholic.

  2. I like to have the semi-specialty sodas available, like Jones soda, or something similar. That way its not just a 2 liter of coke. You actually took some time and put thought into the selection of drinks.
    My family does something similar when a group family friends come over, one has had alcohol problems, so in support our get togethers are dry. We get specialty sodas, perhaps a liter of the semi-sweetened flavored sparkling water, and perhaps a punch/cider like drink for everyone.
    Here in Germany, non-alcoholic but still malty drinks are rather popular, and aren’t as sweet as sodas (Fassbrause: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fassbrause). My guy and I love them.

    • Also, just don’t point it out or make a big deal about it? Have the non-alcoholic drinks available and visible. Who really asks ‘what’s in your cup?’

      • People definitely ask this. But they aren’t being mean about it. I’ve been asked this loads of times because as a non-drinker, I’m often drinking iced tea or something else that looks different from the other options. I think people ask because they think I’m drinking something interesting (and alcoholic?) that they hadn’t thought of or known was available, or they just ask because it’s something to say and they can’t obviously tell what I have. It isn’t a big deal, but you might not realize how often people do in fact ask out of casual conversation.

        • Oh true, I hadn’t thought of it that way. I would just hope in that circumstance that people wouldn’t judge someone for their drink choice.. ..

    • Wait, you can get Jones Soda in Germany? I’ve been meaning to try that stuff forever! I don’t drink, so I like to try any specialty soda I can get my hands on.

      • oh nonono, sorry. I was trying to give a American based example. Here, I would get Fritz Soda (Africola is also pretty good, and I’m not a cola drinker) or the new(?) Schweppes Limonade variants, and any Fassbrause I can find. 🙂 Also, Karamalz (Vitamalz isn’t as good…).

        • That’s a shame, because of course I’ve tried most of these already. If you’re looking for something new, I’d also recommend Club-Mate (a sparkling iced mate tea, very refreshing, not so sweet and visually almost indistinguishable from champagne), Wostok (they have three different flavors by now, but I prefer the original – “Tannenwald” – which contains some pine needle oil, which makes for rather an interesting flavor) and Proviant (especially their rhubarb lemonade, which my very-much-drinking friend told me was “the best thing she ever had”). Oh, and Fritz also make a coffee-flavored cola, which I love. Completely agree on Karamalz, though, especially since the glass bottles tend to come with really cool movie-tie-in bottlecaps 😉

          • I think a good option in Europe is all the San Pellegrino ones – they do limonata, aranciata, and so on. They are tasty and look kind of fancy, and comes in tons of flavours! (But they’re not actually expensive.)

          • Sadly, i don’t think Wostock is available here in Stuttgart (Almost every brewery here in Germany is kind of only local… uh, except Paulaner, Bitburger, and I guess Becks). I haven’t tried Club-Mate yet, I’ll have to give it a shot!
            I have a whole jar of Karamalz movie bottlecaps 🙂
            Edit: I can get Wostock, at a small place somewhere in Stuttgart. I stand corrected

    • In Israel (and larger Jewish metropolitan areas of the US), there’s Malt Star aka Nesher Malt aka Birra Schora. It’s the non-alcoholic, malty cousin to a classic Israeli lager.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nesher_Malt

      Interesting that such drinks are not so popular in the US. I wonder why?

      • Puerto Ricans are familiar with a drink called Malta. I can find it pretty easily here in mainland-US. I’m not a fan of it though, it tastes very heavy.

    • I drink alcohol only a few times a year, but when everyone else is chilling with a cider or a wine, I like like to feel as though I’m having a special treat of my own. Making a mocktail with good quality mixers (ie, ginger beer, lime cordial, and a bit of mint) makes me feel a lot more a part of the night’s festivities than just drinking water, juice or soft drink.

      I suggest setting out a mixer table with soda waters, good quality cordials (not the fluro-coloured syrups that cater to children), ginger beer, and a few condiments like lime wedges and mint leaves, alongside alcoholic beverages. That way, everyone can mix their drink to taste.

      Also, consider fancifying your water. Add some slices of lime, lemon and mint to a jug of plain water, and it immediately looks more desirable and delicious. That way, no one is going to consider water to be a “boring” alternative to alcohol.

  3. While everyone should be respectful of your in-laws’ choice, unfortunately we live in a world where people can be negative about the smallest changes in others lives, especially concerning family. You probably already know which toxic family members are most likely to harass your in-laws about “not having fun” or “being downers”, so make sure to steer conversations with them away from the recent change to more pleasant topics.

    If they insist on talking about your in-laws choice in a rude fashion, inform your negative family members in a firm but polite way that you support your in-laws choice and that this is a choice that has no effect on anyone but your in-laws.

    Also, let your in-laws know you support them if you haven’t already. Too many people are unaware of how much support and love they have in their lives simply because we assume they know already.

    Sorry for the lack of actual party tips!

    • Yes! As someone who just has eight months sobriety herself I was surprised at all the negative comments and the asking of me “Surely you can have one drink?!” I can’t. I didn’t quit drinking so I could judge others which sadly people seem to think but at a gathering like a party or wedding I don’t want to explain I quit drinking because I can’t have just one drink and was tired of blacking out to the point I was waking up not knowing where I was half the time or in the ER. Now I just say I’m allergic 🙂

      • I think people get worried that the one sober in the person will be judging all their drunken shenanigans. I think my friends are used to me not drinking by now and realize that I don’t care, but I’m still kind of wary of it. I sometimes try to explain that I’m *already* an impulsive idiot, so drinking just brings them down to my level 😉

      • I agree with Alex but I’ve also gotten the impression that some people genuinely struggle to wrap their head around the idea that an adult wouldn’t ever drink any alcohol at all. They can understand not going out to the pub or drinking on a normal night at home, but the idea of never having any alcohol at all, even on special occasions is confusing.

        I guess some people don’t have much experience with either people who simply choose not to drink alcohol or those who can’t for whatever reason and it’s so ingrained in our culture that everyone who is old enough drinks at least on certain occasions (heh, to the point I don’t even need to specify that I mean ‘drinks alcohol’) that unless you have that experience to the contrary it’s not something you’d ever think about.

        • My dad doesn’t drink. He tried it ONCE, and didn’t like feeling out of control. He also doesn’t like the taste of beer, wine, or liquor. Nor does he like the overly sugary drinks that mask the taste of alcohol. He always politely declines, doesn’t mind when people are drinking around him, and it isn’t a big deal. I can see how it would be different if he formerly had a problem, though.

      • As a rule, I never drink in public. When people ask why, I just explain that if I were drinking, I would already be half naked and trying to sleep with them. That usually makes people laugh and back off.

      • Congrats on 8 months! My partner just hit 9 years. When I first started bringing him around my friends, he got a few questions about it (he also used the “I’m allergic” line pretty frequently), but pretty soon he was everyone’s favorite DD.

        We also have hosted events with a good proportion of drinkers and non-drinkers, and one thing that helps is definitely having something “special” for the non-drinkers — even better if it looks like something the drinkers are drinking. My partner is super comfortable about his not drinking and about being around drinkers, but even so, he always gets a soda and lime or virgin Manhattan or similar at weddings/bars just to avoid the fatigue of always answering the “why don’t you drink” question. No one can tell it’s non-alcoholic, so no one bothers to ask 🙂

  4. Definitely support the drink dispenser idea! At our wedding reception we had lots of non-drinkers and TONS of children. We had drink dispensers with lemonade, iced tea, and water, and then had out bottles of flavored vodka and rum next to each dispenser so that people could mix their own drinks, or pour shots if they really wanted! I printed a sign for the drinks table that said none of the drink dispensers had alcohol, and then suggested combinations for cocktails. It went over really well!

    I think something similar will work for your party.

  5. It’s not that big of a deal. I’ve always been a non-drinker, and I don’t care about looking like I’m drinking something alcoholic, and mocktails seem silly to me. I don’t need anyone to cater to me, but I love it when there’s something there that I can have besides water. Be it a specialty soda, a lemonade, etc. I’d go ahead and assume that the rest of your party guests won’t make a big deal out of it (and if they do – WHY?), so everyone should be fine.

    • I meant to add – I was just at a bridal shower where there was a mimosa “station”. There were a few juice drinks in dispensers, champagne on the side, and different berries to mix in, so it was like “make your own drink”. I loved it. The people who wanted a real mimosa could have one, and the people who didn’t could just mix juices or add whatever berries they wanted. I thought it was a great idea. Maybe you could do the same with a lemonade?

  6. My husband quit drinking 2 years ago. While I wouldn’t call him an alcoholic, he had no off button when it came to booze. He made the choice to quit and, not that I was ever more than an occasional social drinker, I decided to cut back as well to support him and also because booze really didn’t have a big place in my life anyways.
    My biggest piece of advice is DON’T MAKE A BIG DEAL ABOUT IT! Bless our friends but they will go out of the way to detail every non-alcoholic option they have and make a production about it. Just buy a good juice, a good sparkling water, some pop, and some water. If you’re having a serve yourself party, just leave it on the counter/in the cooler. If not, say “I have pop, water, sparking juice…what’s your pleasure?” More often than not we will show up with our own drinks because a) it’s nice to bring something to a party , and b) then there is no question about what we will drink. Don’t make a production out of it, because it really is no big thing. And hey, if you have nothing except booze, we’ll drink water… we can all do with drinking more water anyways!

  7. Great tips already for how I would do a relaxed party. If your event includes a family dinner with wine, it will be more obvious who is drinking and who is not. When you lay the table, you could try to not put out wine glassess for your inlaws, but instead put a nice long drink glass or something similar next to their water glass (so they have amount of glasses as everybody else). And buy something to drink that you know your inlaws will like and that goes with the dinner.
    I like to drink indian tonic before/during dinners.Tonic creates an appetite. Or you could make lemon water / mint water as a nicer alternative for just water with the dinner.
    Drinks to avoid: anything with a low pH, like orange juice or coke. These drinks have strong tastes that will inhibit other tastes (i.e. the dinner!).
    Alcohol-free wine exists, but you might have to look for it (no idea where you could buy it in the states, here I can buy it in the liquor store (wine shop), as strange as it may be ;)). Plus, the taste is really inferior to actual wine with alcohol, so if your inlaws are used to nice wines and have quit drinking for health reasons, it might not be a great match. I drank it in my pregnancy, but was not impressed. Alcohol-free beer (malt beer) can be really nice though.

    • At my family’s sit-down dinners (like for holidays) we usually have water glasses on the table and then people grab their own drink and bring it to the table if also they want wine, pop, etc. Getting the wine bottles off of the table might help avoid the “passing the bottle around” or “guy next to you fills your glass for you” kind of scenarios if these particular non-drinkers would feel awkward declining.

    • My inlaws who don’t drink usually buy those fancy sparkling juices that come in wine-like bottles as well as a bottle of wine, so kids/nondrinkers can have the schmancy-juice and drinkers can have the wine (and everyone gets a wine glass regardless, so that’s easy.)

    • Alcohol-free wine is getting easier to find in the US. In the Midwest we have Meijer stores, and the main brand they carry is called Fre. It’s actually pretty delicious.
      I would also suggest looking at World Market’s selection of carbonated juices. I love the apple juice, but they also have pear and orange juices. They look just like champagne or beer when poured in a glass, so none of those awkward “are you drinking booze?” queries.

    • My sister had a dry wedding, but it still had a “table wine” style setup. Everyone had wine glasses, but instead of wine on the table, they had elderflower water (specifically she used Bottlegreen’s, which came in a pretty fancy looking bottles, and they have a lot of different flavors available). They referred to it as their faux white wine, and it had a decent taste that went well with the food. I don’t think it’d be too out of place to have a bottle of that at the table alongside the wine.

      My brother’s wedding did have booze, but they also had kids around, so at the tables they had sparkling juices, and then if you wanted alcohol, you had to go over to a station at the side that had it. This could be a better system if you have more rambunctious pro-alcohol people involved, or if the non-alcoholers would do better without the alcohol right in front of them.

      For myself, as a non-drinker, both systems feel perfectly okay for me. The only thing I really need to not feel left out is for there to be something other than water available for me to drink.

  8. I often host gatherings with a mix of drinkers, non-drinkers, and sometimes-drinkers. As others have mentioned, have good nonalcoholic options (not just water) easily available. That could be fancy sodas, pop, sparkling water, tea, cocoa, coffee, lemonade, punch, juice, virgin margaritas… whatever fits the occasion. I’ll also make sure to have sparkling grape juice for events like New Year’s where there’s a champagne toast.

    And then it’s just about helping people feel comfortable picking whatever drink they choose. I try to make it equally easy to find/access the nonalcoholic and alcoholic drinks by keeping them close together. And when I offer someone a drink, I give a full rundown of the options and where to find them: “We have beer, pop, and sparkling water all right there in the cooler. What can I get you?” Each option is given equal legitimacy for every person who walks in. For instance, if I’m serving a round of champagne/sparkling juice, I’ll ask each person which one they want rather than assuming they want champagne and then forcing people to “opt in” to the nonalcoholic version.

    I never assume that someone will want a particular option and I never press a drink into their hand the moment they walk in the door or need a refill. They can choose for themselves when and what to drink.

    Part of it, too, is your social circle. In my circles it is very acceptable to drink and very acceptable not to drink, whether for the day or for forever. People have many different reasons why they may choose not to drink, and no one really cares. It’s not something that is noticed, questioned, or judged.

    If your gatherings tend to get really boozy and people will harass the non-drinkers a bit, would it help to lower the overall booze consumption a bit? For instance, could you serve only beer and wine (no liquor) or stick to lighter beers, which might keep the crowd from getting too drunk and starting to bug the teetotalers?

    You could also ask your in-laws what beverages they’d like you to have stocked and how to help them feel comfortable. Since they’re happy with their choice, they’re probably very comfortable answering questions and fending off any harassment.

  9. This, reminds me I just saw non-alcoholic margarita and piña colada Popsicles at the grocery store.

  10. I don’t drink and honestly, I’m used to it, it’s no biggie. It’s nice if there’s something besides tap-water-out-of-the-faucet and sickly-sweet soda, and I kinda love mocktails even if they are silly, but I don’t expect people to go out of their way (especially since most of my friends’ parties are the “bottle of cheap wine and a few six packs of beer” kind of affairs, not so much with the cocktails.) I’ll never say no to a good sparkling lemonade or ginger beer (just keep in mind that sometimes those also have a touch of alcohol in them- that 0.5% alcohol from natural fermentation doesn’t mean anything to drinkers, but it’s enough to get me drunk at this point!)

  11. I usually just offer up what I have juice, tea, coffee, wine, beer etc and let people choose. Some people start with one type (booze or alcohol free) then swap to the other later on. No pressure either way I just don’t want you going thirsty. Buffet style/help your self layouts usually let people feel less awkward IMHO. I second the suggestion offer all options to everyone.

  12. I want to italicize and bold and put in 20 point font:

    DON’T POINT IT OUT

    Non-drinkers can read beverage containers and labels just as well as drinkers, so they’re grown up enough to get their own drinks. Just set it all out like a wedding with adults and kids in attendance, and it’ll work out.

    I have a harder problem concerning non-drinkers:
    My Dad is twenty years sober, but he gets REALLY uncomfortable around alcohol and its paraphernalia – beer cans, liquor bottles, wine glasses, even mocktails. Not to mention the discomfort of being around people who are drinking. My first wedding was dry for my parents’ and ex-husband’s sakes, but my fiance and I are social drinkers that want just a champagne toast at our small reception. I’ve seen my father walk out of weddings when the champagne was being passed around – he even did it at my first wedding when we poured sparkling apple juice for the toast. So, the balancing of respect for my father and our wish for a special, rare toast is a dilemma.

    Oh, by the way, are your in-laws uncomfortable being around alcohol and other drinkers like my father is? You may need to take that into consideration, too.

    • In the same vein, if your guests are not drinking for religious reasons, even touching containers that touched alcohol could be a faux pas. I find it’s best to speak with these guests long before the party starts (perhaps when they accept the invitation?) to clearly find out what is OK for their religion or not. Then I would just set something aside, like, for a non-booze example, if my friend was vegan and couldn’t eat cheese sandwiches, so I made sandwiches without cheese .

  13. I’m on board with most of the comments up-thread. I’m an occasional drinker, and I come from a family where booze is around but not necessarily all the time consumed.

    There’s usually just options out all together. If you’re concerned about judgement from others on the in-laws’ life choices, you could always have people bring their own liquor/wine/beer and just do the non-alcoholic stuff. Things that could be mixers, and other “stand alone” beverages.

    When all else fails, ask them what they’ve taken to and how they’ve come to prefer the beverage situation to be handled when liquor will be at the event they’re attending. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with showing concern and taking a pre-emptive ask for accommodation — even if it’s just a drink preference.

  14. As a nondrinker, I agree with the comments above. Having more than one non-alcoholic option available and not making a big deal out of it are really the only two things I’m looking for at a gathering. Having 5 different kinds of alcoholic drinks and 1 non-alcoholic option “that you bought specially for me” is the quickest way to make me feel awkward and singled out. And labels are important! If I have to ask, “Does this have alcohol in it?” then I’ll be drawing unwanted attention to myself. (All of the above goes for being vegetarian as well — I’d love to have more than one clearly labeled option so I don’t need to guess what has meat mixed in.)

  15. I love flavored waters — ice water with something like fresh citrus, berries, cucumbers, mint (not all at once, pick one!) in it. It’s really refreshing for anyone, good as a ‘water round’ for booze drinkers too, & can look really pretty at a party or dinner. This is a healthy option for those watching calorie intake as well, since sodas & store-bought juices have tons of sugar.

    • Similarly, one could make herbal iced teas. Hibiscus and rose hip tea is very easy to find, and it’s delicious served cold! (And is also caffeine free, for those who are sensitive to it.)

    • My friend who stopped drinking due to pregnancy found it so frustrating to try and find special occasion drinks that weren’t super high in sugar, aspartame, or some other not so good for you thing. So I think it is good to offer fruity waters ( like raspberry or watermelon and mint) so it is a special but not bad for you in some way option.

  16. For my birthday party this year I didn’t want to play bartender all night, and I had a mix of people coming (some drinkers, some non-drinkers, some pregnant). I didn’t want a million different options and then be stuck with all the leftovers. What I did was I bought a bunch of mason jam jars, made fresh lemonade, filled the jars up about halfway with the lemonade and muddled some blueberries and basil in each jar, put the lids on and put them in the fridge. On the counter I had a bowl of ice, sparkling water, and rum with instructions to mix your own. Since all the jars looked the same I had masking tape and pens so you could write your name. There was a big jug of lemonade in the fridge so people could just top themselves off all night. It worked out well. Everyone was holding the same jars so you wouldn’t even know who was drinking alcohol unless you watched them mix it, and it was getting away from the whole beer and soda thing. Totally stole this idea from this site: http://www.yummly.com/recipe/external/Spiked-Blueberry-Basil-Lemonade-379515

    BTW, the party itself was a make-your-own-grilled-cheese-party in which we swapped out our burners for griddles and everyone brought their favorite ingredients for fancy grilled cheese. It was so much fun 🙂

  17. I am also a non-drinker and usually don’t have a problem. I also often bring fancy lemonade or sparkling water to parties if appropriate, so I’ll be sure to have something other than water or orange juice (it’s happened!). Usually whatever I bring disappears really quickly.

    I was recently at a daytime work party where children/families were invited. Wanting to be family-friendly, I guess, all the non-alcoholic drinks were placed at child height. I honestly would have appreciated some of the non-alcoholic drinks at adult height too. And once I started drinking one of the fancy sodas extracted from among the juice boxes, the other (drinking) party goers were like, “hey, what’s that?” and had one too. It does make sense to have a kid drink station, but it’s a little off-putting for non-drinkers to be relegated to that kid corner too. A few sodas placed near the beer wouldn’t have hurt.

  18. Use this line when offering: Can I get you something to drink? (Example of non-alcoholic drink)? (Example of alcoholic drink)? ex: Can I get you something to drink? Lemonade? Margarita? Love, a lifelong non-drinker.

  19. I have had a lot of pregnant women in my life lately. So I have been serving a lot of caffeine-free, alcohol-free, sweetener-free drinks for various parties.
    It’s pretty easy to find caffeine-free instant iced tea, and I’ve also done iced herbal teas that have gone over very well. A flavored sparkling water and lemonade are also party favorites, served with little wedges of lemon and lime.
    I’m also the kind of person to drink non-alcoholic beer and wine. I like the flavor but don’t always want the alcohol. My pick for non-alcoholic beer is Paulaner because it’s an unfiltered weissbier with a lot of flavor, and for non-alcoholic wine I like the Fre wines.

  20. Is it weird that I don’t think I’ve ever been to a party where there were no non-alcoholic drink options?

    It might have been a bit limited sometimes (like water or coke) but usually the alcoholic options were equally limited (cheap vodka to combine with the coke or cheap beer). Maybe I’ve just never noticed but I don’t drink much and I don’t like getting drunk at all so I’ll usually switch between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and I don’t remember ever being stuck without a non-alcoholic option.

    It might also be that I seem to know a lot of people who don’t drink, for a whole variety of reasons from religion to bad past experiences, current struggles or just not liking alcohol and so parties I attend are more likely to cater to that.

    But I agree that the main thing is just not to make a big deal of it. Going out of your way to make something special and setting it off to one side as the clearly designated non-alcoholic option is more likely to make the situation more awkward by calling attention to it.

    It could be a good idea to find out what they like – do they prefer soda or juice or non-alcoholic beer or just water – and making sure you have that as an option, but just keep it alongside everything else and let people have what they want.

  21. I have about one alcoholic drink a week, but my friends are still more surprised to see me drinking than seeing me not-drinking (probably because I went straight from not drinking at all to having an occasional, single drink, and have never been drunk, so there wasn’t a phase where it was obvious that I drank). I don’t drink when I’m away from home without a D.D. unless I know I’m going to be at that location for several hours, I’m having the drink at the beginning of the evening, *and* I’ve had that exact drink before so I know how strong it is (at the exact restaurant/bar, in the case of mixed drinks). I don’t drink beer or wine. I like cider, Mike’s-type-fruity bottled drinks, and some mixed drinks, preferably rum based, so if the only options are beer and/or wine, I won’t be drinking no matter what. So in general, I spend a lot more time not drinking than drinking.

    I’ve never been to a party where this was a problem. If nothing else, don’t people usually have some sodas around for people who want to mix them with their liquor? I can’t remember ever being in a situation where my only options were water or alcohol. Sure, mocktails can be fun sometimes- half the reason why I do occasionally drink is that I like the fanciness of mixed drinks, the other half being that the drinks that I do like taste good- and for a situation that “normally” calls for champagne like a wedding toast or New Year’s Eve, it can be fun to have some sparkling cider or grape juice at hand for people who don’t drink or those of us who just hate the taste of champagne. (There used to be a company that sold bottled sparkling white jasmine tea, which was amazing, but I suspect they’re out of business because I haven’t been able to find it in years. I think it had “star” in the name.) But I’ve never felt left out because I was drinking Sprite when everybody else was drinking beer or wine, and the only time I’ve been asked “what are you drinking?” by somebody who wasn’t about to offer me a refill was at a restaurant where my Italian soda was prettier than some of the alcoholic beverages.

    The only times I’ve ever felt uncomfortable at a party where I was the only one not drinking, it was because I was surrounded by a bunch of people who were getting drunk and rowdy, and that was on them, not on the beverages available to me. I don’t really think this is a situation that’s a problem as long as there’s a reasonable selection of beverages available.

  22. It’s really nice that you’re so sensitive to the comfort of us nondrinkers! It’s a little awkward sometimes- I knee jerk away from alcohol due to some bad family stuff, and it’s honestly uncomfortable for me to be around people who are verging on impaired because of it. So please, please, please listen if your nondrinking guests express discomfort. If they’re the only nondrinkers in attendance, consider going easy on the booze yourself if you were planning on drinking and you know the rest of your partygoers will be drinking to get drunk. There is (at least for my already shy self) no circle of social inferno quite like being the only sober person in a room.

    That said, it is super important not to call attention to it. Some people really do see my choice not to drink as some form of judgment on them. It isn’t- even my discomfort with drunk people isn’t; it just tends to bring back not so great memories that don’t lend themselves to a lot of fun, both for me and with me. I’m incessantly grateful when a host mentions all of the options in the same breath, or, if they’re familiar with me, just lists the nonalcoholic options like they’re no big deal. I’m a big fan of fancy cream sodas, root beer, juice blends, and lemonade to make it feel like my options are still kind of special to having a party. Plus, my drinking friends will tell you, it’s nice to have an alternative later on if they’re tired of alcohol or need to limit their consumption for whatever reason.

  23. I usually make a large no fruit jungle juice (punch or tea and booze in a large 3 gallon dispenser that stands on a high base) I mark it such as “rum punch” or “vodka sweet tea” and then we have other mixers like soda pop, a pot of coffee, a gallon jug of ice tea, juice and if there are kids coming and/or the event starts early I make another non alcoholic punch in a 1 gallon dispenser that sits on a different lower counter (it doesn’t have the extra base so kids can reach it) and I ALWAYS make it a different color from the booze punch and label it No Booze/kid friendly.
    A really good cheap mix is berry blue koolaid and a can of tropical punch with coconut and pineapple juice to make it look less like koolaid. (Or blue raspberry lemonade with 16 oz of pineapple juice)
    Funny thing is kids and adults drink it and some adults will use it as mixer later in the night.

  24. Agreed, it shouldn’t generally be a big deal. But, as one of lifes unenthusiastic drinkers (Cocktails because they’re tasty and pretty, and the odd cider), I have only one suggestion. Its nice if the non-alcoholic option can also be cold?

    In my experience, work gatherings seem to be the main offender for this – beers/ciders/wine will be bought pre-chilled and kept in ice, but the soft-drink/juice will be room temp (putting ice in isn’t the same! lol). Its frustrating when the nice, cool refreshing drinks aren’t for you.

    • ALL MY YES to this comment. So often I’ve been to events where the non-alcoholic drinks were limited to a case of canned sodas sitting out on a table near the rest of the drinks, with a directive that “there’s ice in the freezer.”
      Ice is NOT THE SAME as a cooled beverage.
      These days my mother-in-law gets around that conundrum at big events by having a kiddie pool and a large ice chest full of ice on the table, with ALL the drinks in them. Typically the “grownup” drinks will be higher up in their own ice bath, due to the sheer number of kids and grandkids that are at her events. It works nicely, and if you want a mixed drink you can either help yourself to her stash atop the fridge or ask her to make you one.

  25. I am a non-drinker, never tried any kind of alcohol (it’s my personal choice, not religious beliefs or any issues). My husband used to drink socially but decided to quit it completely eight years ago. In my experience, practically every event or party (except two) had non-alcoholic options, more than one.
    There is no need to make any special mocktails. Juice, sparkling water, soda, iced tea, lemonade will do. Personally, I do not drink non-alcoholic wine or beer. If you have drinks in jars or something like that, it will be great if you label them (contains alcohol/no alcohol).
    Harassment/rudeness. I got those only when I was a teen in the company of other teens. Sometimes people ask out of curiosity but they are not rude or pushing or judging most of the times. I imitate alcoholic drinks only when group photos are taken (some weddings) and I am asked to do so. Any other time I drink what I like and I don’t care what people might say or think – they rarely do.

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