Introduction Of Me
I spent the summer of 2018 crisscrossing the country in my (somewhat) dependable 2006 Subaru Impreza. After a decade of writing about food and drinks in New York City and two years doing the same in Atlanta, I got a book deal—for this very book!—and I decided that the best way to do research was to put my foot on the gas and go.
I was in search of alcohol-free mixed drinks at a time when, serendipitously, they were starting to be taken more seriously. Bartenders were (and still are) pushing against the boundaries that had previously limited “mocktails” to syrup-laden juices or glorified Shirley Temples, and consumers—sober or not—were getting curious. I knew I wouldn’t be writing the first book on nonalcoholic drinks, but I also knew that my work could capitalize on this newfound acceptance and energy. And because I was finding the things I really wanted to drink in bars, restaurants, and cafes as opposed to in other books, I could tap the people whose job it is to make good, balanced beverages—no matter the alcohol content.
You could say I did a lot of drinking and driving that summer. In between interviews and states, my car’s (painfully outdated) sound system stayed silent as I mulled over pieces of this book. How odd, my friend Tunde commented, that I could drive for hours with no music. But I needed the quiet to think, as I moved along: “Which of these beverages are still on my mind days after tasting them? Which recipes feel fresh? Which drinks warrant the effort they take to make? How much of this book is about the drinks and how much of it is about me?”
Somewhere in New Mexico, I decided that all you really need to know about my relationship to alcohol is that I’m trying not to drink it—at least not for a good while. More important: I like to eat delicious things, I like to drink delicious things, and I like to do both with the people I love. There are many others like me, and the reasons they don’t drink booze vary: religion, health issues, substance use disorders, pregnancy, mindful living. Maybe alcohol simply doesn’t fit into their lives anymore. Maybe they’re just not drinking this week. Or this night. Or this hour. (I know plenty of people who switch back and forth between alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks throughout the course of a Saturday night out.) Some statistics show that Americans are consuming less alcohol than they used to, and I hope that what I discovered on the road will get them into the kitchen. (Because it’s not about the bar; at home, good nonalcoholic drinks are made in the kitchen. More on that later.)
In Denver, Death & Co’s bartenders showed me how kefir whey gives body to nonalcoholic drinks (see page 92), which can be lacking in that area. Jermaine Whitehead handed me his recipe for the Rockefeller (page 166) from across the bar at Deep Dive in Seattle, and upon reading it, I realized I was going to have to dig through my spice cabinet, break out my 4-quart saucepan, and turn on the stove. (It ended up being worth it.) I sat in Gabriella Mlynarczyk’s living room in Los Angeles while she pressed watermelon juice with mint, rose water, and pickled plum vinegar. (Find a similar recipe of Gaby’s on page 66.) The next day, I drove back east thinking about that sweet, tart, saline drink, my tongue watering. And yes, that trip was quiet, too.
“I think I understand the driving-in-silence thing,” Tunde told me, once the trip was over. “Been walking in silence recently. It’s amazing.”
Now, though, it’s time to make noise. These drinks deserve a party.
Copyright © 2020 by Julia Bainbridge. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.