Nonalcoholic Party Drinks

Why every get-together deserves nonalcoholic options

I didn't want to tell her this way. She's a good friend. But the choice was booze, booze or more booze. Being 11 weeks pregnant at the time, I couldn't accept any. Around the fourth offering (alcoholic cider), I decided to put an end to what was becoming a scene. 

I blurted out the news.

While this friend was thrilled, her happiness was quickly replaced by a look of panic as she raided the fridge with the same intensity of Indiana Jones searching for the Golden Idol. When she resurfaced, she did have a relic: a can of seltzer that advertised the 2016 Rio Olympics.

This was my first encounter with sad soda, or the can or bottle of the only nonalcoholic beverage in the house that's a little too weird to be used as a mixer but given to guests who aren't drinking. Not all sad soda is old, though. In the best cases, the host prepares in advance by stocking up on newer cans of soda under the impression that because you no longer drink, you've suddenly developed the beverage preferences of a Little Leaguer.

If you ever find yourself with a sad soda, remembering the summer of 2016, you, too, may realize how ridiculous a social oversight this can be. Because there are dozens of reasons why someone might not drink at a party, not all of which have to do with expecting a baby. You may be the designated driver. You may be on a new medication that doesn't interact well with alcohol, or have gone on a new diet, or are part of a religion that restricts alcohol usage, or just don't really like drinking. If any of these are the case, then your sad soda also comes with an increasingly personal set of questions. At least in pregnancy, you have the belly that answers the inevitable question, Why aren't you drinking?

That's the unspoken statement that sad soda makes: You're not part of the group. It's likely not the host's intention, but sad soda reveals the blind spot hosts have when entertaining. If we can provide food that meets our guests' dietary needs, why can't we do the same for drinks?

The solution for a better bar that can accommodate non-drinkers? Just offer simple nonalcoholic options that actually taste good. Novelty juice from Trader Joe's? Yes. A fizzy spritzer made with fresh-squeezed orange juice? Go for it. An "infused" lemonade that's just a few rosemary sprigs floating in a pitcher? An effort was made. Trying your hand at making agua fresca? So thoughtful it deserves a Hallmark card.

In the end, the mark of a good host isn't the intricacy of what they're offering at a party but that they've made it possible for everyone to have a good time. That includes us non-drinkers. Friends don't let friends drink sad soda.

Have you had the same experience at parties? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Brie Dyas is a contributing writer for Tasting Table and an avid collector of your grandmother's fine china. You can find her occasionally sharing photos on Instagram at @briedyas.