Meet the Sober Blogger Who Proves It’s Fun to Be Booze-Free in DC

Laura Silverman runs nonalcoholic mixology classes, throws zero-proof parties, and thinks DC is ready for a sober bar.

The Sobriety Collective founder Laura Silverman at the bar at Summer House Santa Monica. Photograph by Scott Suchman
Dry January Guide

About Dry January Guide

This article is part of our guide to Dry January around DC. Today’s bartenders are catering to the sober—and the sober-curious—with more sophisticated options than ever. Dry January doesn’t have to mean bland January. Here’s how to (not) drink your way through Washington in style.

Doing Dry January is a very different thing from leading a dry life. But there are things the temporarily sober can learn from the alcohol-free. Meet Laura Silverman of the sober-lifestyle blog Sobriety Collective. She helped start the DC chapter of Sans Bar, which throws alcohol-free parties, and she hosts zero-proof mixology classes. Silverman just launched Booze Free in DC, a website to showcase sober-friendly restaurants, bars, wellness activities, and events around town.

What are your favorite spots for spirit-free drinks?

For a special occasion, Barmini. There are drinks there that are $18, which seems ridiculous, but I went for the experience and really enjoyed watching those drinks come to life. I have to give a shout-out to a chain: BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. They have a whole page of spirit-free options and have a brewery for homemade root beer plus cream soda and special sparkling waters. I want to give a shout out to Meredith Raimondi who has an Instagram @teetotalingdc. She posts from all around the city and I get a lot of ideas from her.

As someone who’s sober, what do you think of the term “sober-curious,” and the trend in general?

I love it, actually. For me, sober-curiosity is all about mindfully figuring out if alcohol has a place in your life. I’m a huge supporter of Ruby Warrington, who is the writer who elevated that term and made it popular. It’s great when people can evaluate their drinking—if they’re able to, because there are people who can’t and they may need treatment. It suggests eliminating alcohol from your diet like you’d eliminate gluten to see how you feel—see if you’re sleeping better, feeling better, not just physically but psychologically. It gives people an entry into a sober lifestyle without giving them a “life sentence.” I’m also not mad at it for being a trend. I’d rather it be in the national discourse . If it gets people in the door to try out a different, healthier lifestyle I’m all on board.

Has there been backlash against sober-curiosity as a trend?

I wouldn’t say backlash,  but there’s been some concern with the trend and how it can take away from the fact there are people who have serious problems with drinking and who can’t just be flippant, like, “Oh, I’m just going to do this sober-curious thing and see.”  I’m a sober lifer now, but I’m a supporter of however someone can try out a different, healthier lifestyle. Maybe they’ll be a better ally for someone who’s struggling with drinking. It may make you more aware.

Sober bars exist in New York and San Francisco. Is DC ready for one?

We could be if we had a place that was more than just a bar. Maybe an event space that had karaoke and game nights. One thing we could absolutely do is if there’s someone who owns a bar who wants to do a weekly booze-free night. I get it, it all comes down to money, and alcohol is a money maker. But I’d be excited to see someone like Derek Brown [of Columbia Room] or Ashish Alfred [of Duck Duck Goose] open their spots one night a week for a booze-free bar situation. DC, while a drinking town, is thirsty for options.

This article appears in the January 2020 issue of Washingtonian.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.