When it comes to sober-friendly places in New York City, there are several venues catering to individuals who prefer alcohol-free or low-alcohol alternatives. One company that is trying to connect New Yorkers without booze is Third Place Bar, a series of pop-up alcohol-free bar events hosted at various venues across New York City and Brooklyn.
We sit down with Sam, the founder of Third Place Bar NYC, to chat about her sober story, the story behind Third Place Bar, and her favorite non-alcoholic drinks.
Hey Sam! Tell us more about your sober story.
I started drinking as a teenager (legally, because I’m from Germany) and was always pretty much a “gray area drinker.” I could go for days or weeks without a drink and would be fine having a couple of drinks when I went out. However, every once in a while, I would have way too much to drink and black out pretty hard.
After moving to New York City in 2014, I started drinking more frequently without even realizing. Drinking is a huge part of my social life here, and I did not realize how much drinking impacted my mental health, mood swings, and my relationships. Since I could go without a drink for a while and never had cravings, I didn’t think alcohol was an issue for me!
After a very tumultuous year (that was definitely made worse by drinking), I decided to quit alcohol for a while to see what it would be like. After only two months, my mental health had improved so much that I didn’t want to go back to drinking, and it felt like I had found the missing puzzle piece.
That was ten months ago, and although I sometimes get the urge to party and get wasted – especially when I meet people that I really click with, like, “Wouldn’t it be SO fun to get wasted and do dumb things together?” – I do not want to go back to the twenty years of emotional instability from alcohol consumption.
Why did you decided to create Third Place Bar NYC?
I’ve wanted to start a non-alcoholic bar even before I considered quitting alcohol. I love hanging out at neighborhood bars because they’re my “third places.” I know the staff and the regulars, and it makes me feel like I’m part of the neighborhood.
I was going through a rough patch in early 2022 and spent a lot of time at bars because I didn’t want to sit around at home alone. I realized that I ended up drinking a lot more than I wanted.
It seemed silly to me that there was literally nowhere to go at night in a city like New York that didn’t revolve around alcohol! So, I wanted to recreate the atmosphere and community feeling of a neighborhood bar without making people feel like they should be drinking.
Share some of your favorite non-alcoholic drinks!
There are so many! But here are some of my all-time and current favorites:
- JONI Blanc: It’s a fantastic sparkling verjus (grape based) drink that’s a great white wine alternative, with notes of basil, tarragon, and celery. My friends are obsessed with it. The herbal notes are unique and so delicious!
- Pathfinder: This is an excellent non-alcoholic amaro, i.e. a dark, bittersweet herbal liqueur. It’s super versatile – I like sipping it neat, serving it as a spritz with club soda, or using it in cocktails.
- Untitled Art Juicy IPA and AL’s lager: Two of my favorite non-alcoholic beers. They taste like the real deal!
- Flyers Tokyo Marg: An excellent ready-to-drink cocktail with CBD. It’s a little spicy, tart, and sweet, and it has the bitterness of hemp that elevates it from just soda.=
- Dromme Calm: This is my latest find – it’s a very very delicious “elixir” like drink that’s maybe closest to an amaro, or somewhere between a port and an amaro. It’s sweet, herbal, a little spicy, and just extremely tasty. Plus, it’s got a lot of functional ingredients that will chill you out!
What’s the most common question you get from customers at the bar about your non-alcoholic drinks?
A lot of people wonder what drinks taste closest to “the real thing,” especially those who are just taking a break from drinking and want to enjoy the flavor of beer, wine, or spirits.
I also get a lot of questions about functional properties, specifically people looking for something that will perk them up or help them relax.
Spill the beans on NYC! What are some of your favorite sober-friendly places in NYC?
My number one spot would probably be Hekate, a fully non-alcoholic neighborhood bar in the East Village. It’s got a really laid back vibe, and I like it during the day time/early evening.
For fancier cocktails, I love Hilot in the East Village. Their beverage director Ben is really into making excellent non-alcoholic drinks!
Don’t forget to follow @thirdplacebarnyc on Instagram!
Did you enjoy this interview with Third Place Bar NYC? Then check out our other interviews below: