You don’t have to read this blog in chronological order, but it helps to read my Sober October rules for context.
Eleven days in. That’s how many days I went before I completely forgot. The concept sounds completely ridiculous. The day started out so great. Thirty minutes of yoga, some solid writing/editing for the blog, and arrived to training for the new job in plenty of time. The day felt a little long, just because I had a lot of information thrown at me. This is typical when training for an opening restaurant/bar: steps of service, new cocktails, beer list, wine list, a new POS system, where is the walk in, where is the keg fridge, guest recovery procedure, voids versus comps, and so many other things I can’t recall at the moment.
I got out of training at about 9pm, and headed home quickly to reorganize myself. It took longer than I thought to get out of the door. That night I was supposed to go to the Gladstone Hotel to see my partner play in a band called Nothing Man. Of course I get there about 30 minutes late, the place is loud and the bartender is busy. Most of the tables were taken, so I grabbed the last free seat at the end of the bar. The bartender can barely hear me over the band, so I order the first thing that comes to mind. A gin and tonic.
As a bartender I personally hate working in loud rooms. It’s hard to hear what people order, and you can’t politely ask follow-up questions for any upselling, or personalized customer service. I know the simpler the order, the faster the bartender can work, the more guests they can serve, and the more money they can make. I always order a gin and tonic in these scenarios.
The bartender quickly assembles it, and I tell him I’m paying by card. He sets the card machine down on the wooden bar top, I pay, tip 15%, say ‘thank you I don’t need my receipt,’ and pull the glass towards me. I squeeze the lime and drop it right into the glass just like I always do. I take a sip, and set it back down onto the black bar napkin.
Oh fuck. I’m drinking.
I’m so mad at myself. How did I not remember that I’m doing Sober October? How did I just forget?
I finish the drink over the course of the rest of the set. The band takes a break. We (my partner, the rest of the band, the band’s friends, and myself) socialize for a few minutes. I immediately start feeling the effects of the alcohol; consciously exhausted, and even slightly nauseous. The weird thing is after that one drink, even with how it made me feel, I really wanted to drink more. After finishing my one gin and tonic I sipped on a glass of water all night. The Gladstone Hotel has a great bar program. Two rooms take over the main floor the cocktail lounge you see on your left when entering the hotel, and The Melody bar to your right. The Melody Bar, which I watched the band play in, had a good number of beers on tap. This included Blood Brothers Paradise Lost Guava, Collective Arts Life in the Clouds Hazy IPA, and Halo Magic Missile Dry Hopped Pale Ale.
These are some of my favourites. Not to mention these dry hopped sours and IPAs are incredibly aromatic. I could smell the beer in the air. Despite my slip up I held strong. I bought my partner a couple of beers, some strange way to live vicariously through him.
All night I felt incredibly frustrated with myself for that one drink. I keep disregarding my friends’ suggestions for drinking more (you started drinking, may as well keep going!) To make up for it I decided to add on a day to my Sober October. No drinks on November first.
Afterwards the band packed up, and dropped off their stuff at their rehearsal space. The last of us stragglers met up at the Pacific Junction Hotel down the street for last call. I didn’t have a drink at all, and watched three people slowly drink some beers. At that point I was ready to go home and sleep. To occupy my brain I thought about what would be my go to Mocktail orders.
Depending on how the bar is stocked it’s easy to throw an alcohol-free option together. I’d want to order something that more worth the bartender’s time than a soda water. Something they can charge me enough money that a 15% will be helpful to them. A lot of bars these days have virgin cocktails on their drink list. Initially, my plan was to ask the bartender to make me something, like I did at Corvo.
This is more difficult in a pub setting, where most of the offerings are highballs, beer and wine. So the options go something like the following. Can they make a virgin mojito? No mint. Can they make a virgin ceasar? Yes there’s clamato. Most bars keep the ingredients for caesars, because these food items are pickled so they keep longer. Fresh herbs on the other hand are incredibly difficult to keep fresh and presentable. If the bar doesn’t have the items for a caesar, then drink a soda water.
Soda water is a last resort, but at least it’s something I can tip the bartender with. I could jazz it up with some fruit juice and a lime garnish. Cranberry, soda and lime. Definitely more worth the bartender’s time at that point. A sober guest might seem annoying for a bartender, but it’s important to have options on hand. A lot more guests walking into my work these days are going alcohol-free. There are a multitude of reasons for this, but all of them are valid. Keep those options open.