St. Patrick’s Day Is Sobering Up
Abby Ehmann owns two bars across the street from each other on Avenue B in the East Village: Lucky and Hekate Café & Elixir Lounge.
She plans to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at both places this Friday. “I am a sucker for a holiday,” Ms. Ehmann said. “Especially if there is glitter or confetti involved.”
Both bars will be decorated with green décor like sparkling garland and signs that read, “Kiss Me I’m Irish.” On the menu will be corned beef and cabbage and green cookies shaped like shamrocks. Irish folk music will be blaring on the sound system.
There will also be a slew of drinks: Irish car bombs (a shot of Irish cream and Irish whiskey dropped into a glass of stout); Irish coffees (Irish whiskey mixed with coffee); and Guinness.
The only difference is that Hekate Cafe & Elixir Lounge is billed by its owner as a “sober bar,” and the cocktails will be alcohol-free.
Ms. Ehmann found everything she needed to pull it off: “Irish coffees are easy because we have coffee anyway, and we are going to bring in whipped cream.” She also has Guinness 0, the nonalcoholic version of the Irish stout; a recipe for nonalcoholic Baileys; and even nonalcoholic bourbon and whiskey, like Kentucky 74 and Lyre’s.
“It’s a holiday,” she said. “Even people who don’t drink are going to want to socialize. I thought, ‘What can I do to create this sense of community?’”
St. Patrick’s Day, especially in the United States, has often been associated with drinking. “I don’t need to tell you that the holiday in New York City seems like Santacon, except it’s green instead of red,” said Jack McGarry, an owner of Dead Rabbit, an Irish bar that started in the Manhattan’s Financial District and now has locations nationwide.
But this year, due to a higher demand for sober revelry — and new alcohol-free products on the market hoping to meet it — more bars and restaurants are offering ways to celebrate duly.
According to a 2022 consumer report by Drizly, 38 percent of Gen Z-ers and 25 percent of millennials said they drank more nonalcoholic products in 2022 than in 2021. Nielsen, the market research firm, found that sales of nonalcoholic drinks in the U.S. grew 20 percent in 2022 from the prior year.
In Great Falls, Mt., people who wish to avoid the pubs after the St. Patrick’s Day parade can head to Luna Coffee Bar for a holiday-themed trivia night.
In Sonoma, Calif., Good Times Alc Free, a group that throws alcohol-free pop-up parties, is holding a St. Patrick’s Day party at a coffee roaster.
Sober St. Patrick’s Day, a group in New York City that strives to make the holiday about Irish culture and not binge-drinking, will march in the parade down Fifth Avenue this year.
Some bar owners said that one of the reasons they want to throw alcohol-free parties is because they have so many more products with which to get creative. “There are hundreds of spirit-free products now,” Ms. Ehmann said. “Five years ago none of these things existed.”
Guinness 0, for example, was released a year ago. “Last year we had Guinness 0 for St. Patrick’s Day, but only in very low quantities,” said Mark Phillips, who is the U.S. head of beer and hard seltzer for Diageo, which owns Guinness 0, and plans to distribute samples on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Friday after ringing the closing bell.
Those who don’t want to drink appreciate the ability to partake in the festivities.
Lennon Medvick, 29, a bartender in Cleveland, Ohio, went to the hospital with acute pancreatitis on St. Patrick’s Day 2020 “after being a bottle of bourbon a day alcoholic for many years.”
He’s looking forward to this year’s celebration. “I generally find being sober to be easier now than it used to be,” he said. “I always enjoyed the drinks that went with holidays — Guinness for St. Patty’s; Christmas ales and spiked nog over the Christmas holidays; cheap American beer on the Fourth of July — so I have really enjoyed being able to still have those drinks and rituals, just without the alcohol.”
Some say the holiday is not supposed to be about getting drunk, but focused on family, food and culture.
“In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is less centered on a drinking occasion and more of a celebration for the whole family,” said Moira Breslin, the founder of the Irish Whiskey Festival, held last weekend in New York City, where Guinness 0 and Arkay Alcohol-Free Irish Whiskey were served.
Dead Rabbit is taking a similar approach: The bar is serving Irish breakfast all day, alongside lamb stew. And Beoga, a modern folk band, is flying in from Ireland to perform.
Said Mr. McGarry, who hails from Belfast: “The way you guys celebrate Thanksgiving is the way we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.”
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