Why Cocktail Bars Suck for Sober People

London's new underground "BYOC" juice bar is yet another slap in the face for teetotalers.

Would I want to drink a "mocktail" in this dungeon? Hell no! (Photo via BBC)

Would I want to drink a "mocktail" in this dungeon? Hell no! (Photo via BBC)

Three cheers for great cocktail resurgence. Pageantry, of course, is part and parcel of a terrific night’s entertainment, and if one is to get sloshed, why not do it in the good hands of a mustachioed expert? Especially one who works in a mysterious, small bar tucked away from the riff raff.

I’ve been sober for seven years. In that time, vodka fell out of favor while gin and tequila rose to prominence on back bars. More so than in my days as a lush, drinkers now intellectualize their behaviors, finding solace in a culture of swilling that doesn’t have laddish connotations or the pulsating back beat of a Vegas superclub. Niche leanings, from an outsider’s perspective, seem to drive the bar scenes. Just this week, the BBC reported on a new underground London cocktail bar, run by a juice company, that promises good times even for teetotalers.

This new wave of cocktail bars certainly have an allure. Who wouldn’t want to climb through a phone box to enter a secret clubhouse (shout out to PDT), or tunnel beneath a popular part of town to have a booze up with 18 other people? It’s all so speakeasyish, without the revolting world speakeasy spoken—privileged revelers know because they know, and they sip concoctions made by like-minded folks with strong consideration for ingredient and experience.

I’m also unlikely to accept the notion that a seltzer with a squeeze of vanilla syrup is an ‘artisanal’ soda—I’m sober, not a complete fucking noob.

There is a surface refinement to the practice. The drinks are slow, the atmosphere calm. But there’s too often a dark lining—a seeming distrust of, or at least disregard for, anyone not involved in the boozing. For us sober folks, mystery wears off quickly, and the reality of being trapped in a tight place nobody else would rent, surrounded by a bunch of people devolving into slurring imbeciles, instantly takes over.

“Would you like a mocktail?” No, I fucking wouldn’t. Why mock me? Why assume teetotaling guests will gladly accept a mixer as an actual drink? I’m also unlikely to accept the notion that a seltzer with a squeeze of vanilla syrup is an “artisanal” soda—I’m sober, not a complete fucking noob.

The trickery is never-ending. Take that new “booze-free bar” juice I mentioned before.

Under the buzz of Covent Garden, the place doesn’t so much cater to a sober crowd as it does trap them in a monotonous dungeon. Owned by Juice Club, a Prince’s Trust-supported juicer, the advertised “BYOC” practice stands for “bring your own cocktail.” Yup, they provide the mixers, you provide the fun (sound-tracked, no doubt, by some hackneyed gramophone) and promise you three to six drinks in a two-hour session (read: 120 minutes until you have to provide physical support to sweaty, drunk friends suffering at the hands of a winding staircase).

The only juice bar I like is owned by Styles P of D-Block. It’s devoid of yoga pant-clad soccer moms. He juices because, shit, having some fruit is a practical step in living healthy. Faddish health bars are no less abhorrent than faddish cocktail bars. Mixing the two? Let’s just call an end to the world, shall we.

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