NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Scott Vogel try the mocktails at Sweet Jane in Bay Shore. Credit: Randee Daddona

You decide that 2024 will be the year of the New You, not to be confused with 2023’s New You, which reverted to Old You after a mere four days. Resolutions never having been your strong suit, you worry that a Dry January one will be impossible to keep. But then the month unspools, social myths about an alcohol-free life assert themselves, each of them debunked: 


Backseat Driver (with fried scallions) at The Last Word in...

Backseat Driver (with fried scallions) at The Last Word in Huntington. Credit: Newsday/Scott Vogel

Set foot in The Last Word in Huntington, with its lively bar crowd, live music most nights, and pair of lively spirits-free cocktails available seasonally. The best of these is the aptly named Back Seat Driver ($10), a creamy composition of cucumber, pineapple juice, egg whites and Capirete sherry vinegar, a perfect complement to riotous scenes behind the bar (thick clouds of flavored smoke and dry ice that find their way toward most everything boozy). Fittingly for a place named after a Prohibition Era cocktail, free-wheeling-with-an-edge-of-naughtiness is a policy at the Last Word.


Another day, another threat to Dry January-ness: social isolation. The worry that giving up alcohol means losing one of the most enduring conversational lubricants — that a Shirley Temple will not sufficiently grease the wheels. Tell that to Akbar in Garden City, which offers its own slate of zero-proof drinks, none more interesting than salted lassi ($7), a refreshing, surprisingly tasty beverage powered by yogurt and cumin powder, and powerful enough to tame Indian dishes like Akbar’s barbecued shrimp ($12), glazed as the creatures tend to be with garlic, soy sauce and something else capsaicin-forward. Conversing with another patron and fellow teetotaler whose drink of choice is Bombay Dreams (mango purée, grenadine, Sprite, $7) is a lively colloquy, the man’s exhaustive descriptions of Florida’s golf communities having the dual effect of relieving loneliness and, after 15 interminable minutes, making it sound really appealing again.

The non-alcoholic salted lassi with barbecued shrimp at Akbar in...

The non-alcoholic salted lassi with barbecued shrimp at Akbar in Garden City. Credit: Newsday/Scott Vogel


At 2 Spring in Oyster Bay, page past potent potables with harmless-sounding names (Good for the Goose, Pink Teddy Bear), to arrive at the reverse: Kill Dill Vol 1 ($14). The spirits-free concoction meets, and even exceeds, a proper cocktail’s most important requirement — flavors defying easy description. Its combination of coconut, cucumber, habanero bitters and lemon bangs into the tongue from every angle, that and the drink was born to accompany 2 Spring’s blush pink hamachi crudo, plated with yuzu, satsuma sections and crunchy bits of chicharron ($23).

Akbar (2 South St., Garden City, 516-357-8300,

Better Man Distilling Co. (161 River Ave., Patchogue, 631-708-7405,

Elaia Estiatorio (95 School St., Bridgehampton, 631-613-6469,

First and South (100 South St., Greenport, 631-333-2200,

The Last Word (13 Wall St., Huntington, 631-629-4545,

The Merrow (916 W. Beech St., Long Beach, 917-508-3230,

The State Room (67 W. Main St., Patchogue, 631-447-2337,

Sweet Jane (64 E. Main St., Bay Shore,

2 Spring (2 Spring St., Oyster Bay, 516-624-2411,

On other days, you wonder — half-seriously, but still — whether giving up booze is even healthy. Haven’t you seen those studies claiming that alcohol raises good cholesterol and lowers bad and found them quite persuasive, especially while raising or lowering a glass? Drs. Google and Reddit notwithstanding, medical professionals (and the American Heart Association) prefer you quaff beet juice instead, which you’re never going to do. But you might be persuaded to try the beet and ginger beer cordial at Better Man Distilling Co. in Patchogue ($8). A handsomely vermillion beverage with lemony accents that goes by the name of St. Matthews, it even sounds healthy, and yet plays festively, like U Don’t Have to Rob Me, a mojito at Better Man, or rather mockjito ($8), which brings Asian pear and sage notes to Cuba in a collins glass.


A non-alcoholic version of the drink WTFIG with fig puree...

A non-alcoholic version of the drink WTFIG with fig puree and rosemary syrup at The Merrow, a cocktail bar in Long Beach. Credit: Scott Vogel

On colder days, you find yourself missing the way you think alcohol makes you feel all warm inside, although what you’re really missing once again is the truth: booze actually lowers body temperature. A spiked hot chocolate shorn of spikes — that is, no vodka or RumChata — at The Merrow in Long Beach ($8) will warm you, even if what you’re left with is basically cocoa and mini marshmallows. Warming in a different way: the mocktail version of Merrow’s WTFIG ($11), in which fig purée, rosemary syrup and seltzer combine forces to scream summer even in the depths of February.


Gone too, or so you think, is all the clinking of glasses and joie de vivre merriment that come with consuming a mood-elevating stimulant, which alcohol is, briefly, before becoming a depressant. Stimulation of a more lasting sort, you find, is achieved at First and South in Greenport, where the bubbly Wicked Mint awaits to ring a gong in your head, its combination of mint, grapefruit juice and bitters whetting your appetite for an exceptional plate of uber-fresh Oysterponds on the half-shell ($21 for 6). And then there’s your mistaken belief that alcohol aids with sleep. Nope, it leads to more tossing and turning. Better you should have something with magnesium and tryptophan like a banana, or in your case the Banana Co-Nada at Sweet Jane in Bay Shore. The concoction’s blend of juices and fresh coconut spiced with cloves and nutmeg is delicious, if a bit too impressive to be sleep-inducing, not unlike the new cocktail bar it calls home.


The Achilles Heel mocktail at Elaia Estiatorio in Bridgehampton.

The Achilles Heel mocktail at Elaia Estiatorio in Bridgehampton. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

It turns out that all the social advantages conferred by alcohol, both real and imagined, can be found elsewhere — elsewhere at the bar, that is. These days, interesting booze-free alternatives are cropping up in all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, amid the candlelit elegance and glamorous Bridgehampton Somebodies at Elaia Estiatorio’s bar, where ordering an Achilles Heel demonstrates not weakness but a passion for passion fruit and the lovely Greek honey, saffron and lime cordial it gives rise to ($12). Or on drink menus at the tony State Room in Patchogue, which evince a serious devotion to craft cocktailing but also spirits-free alternatives like nonalcoholic sparkling rosé from Sagaponack’s Wolffer Estate Vineyard. A glass of the latter ($10) pairs perfectly with the kitchen’s fork-tender hanger steak au poivre ($42). Further, anyone who thinks that fine dining and sober living can’t coexist is either living under a rock (or you before January).

Put another way: Dry January need not be a dry affair in the least, and while certain bottles must be avoided, bars themselves are not the enemy. A spirits-free New You can actually be enjoyable, easy and painless to maintain, so much so that perhaps you'll vow to continue it in perpetuity, or till the end of the month, whichever comes first.

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