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.
We asked the 9:30 Club’s Kayla Johnson.
How long have you been sober?
Since February 27, 2011. When I drink, bad things happen to me and likely to the people around me, so I can’t do it safely.
Do you drink at all? If you’re making a drink, do you taste it?
I don’t even taste-test my drinks, which is actually why I prefer high-volume bartending in spaces like the 9:30 Club. I purposely don’t work in cocktail bars because I don’t want to be in a position where I have to taste my drinks.
How has being sober changed the way you tend bar?
I realize that putting more alcohol in front of somebody is not necessarily the best way to build business. There’s a lot to be said about an experience that can be remembered.
Is it still a temptation being surrounded by alcohol all the time?
There is not a night that goes by that I leave work and don’t have a reminder of why I don’t drink. If I had gone back to a day job at a desk, I don’t know that I would have stayed sober this long. You don’t have as much of a reminder in an office. It’s a lot easier to hide it.
Do you notice an uptick in people asking for nonalcoholic drinks?
Absolutely. We have a coffee bar, and it has a plethora of nonalcoholic options. As one of the sober bartenders on staff—I’m not the only one—when I notice someone is not purchasing alcohol, I try to recommend to them that there’s a place for you to also enjoy yourself. I’m noticing that I’m pointing that out to people a lot more lately.
This article appears in the January 2020 issue of Washingtonian.