“I’m never drinking again.” Lots of people stick to it for life, plenty commit for a month after looking back through their texts from New Year’s Eve, and others say it after a sober night in - when they wake up feeling like Bradley Cooper in Limitless. Whatever the reason you’re holding off on alcohol right now, it doesn’t mean that you have some sort of curfew. Whether it’s a spot with shuffleboard or show tunes to keep you entertained, or a place with non-alcoholic drinks worth ordering, here are 14 great bars to go when you’re not drinking.
Going on a sober date doesn’t need to mean getting shushed by a freelancer at Starbucks while whispering questions about siblings and favorite dog breeds. It should mean sitting at a candlelit table at Nitecap - an underground cocktail bar on the LES - and drinking very good non-alcoholic mixed drinks with ingredients like carrot juice, watermelon shrub, and jalapeno brine.
It might seem silly to go to a speakeasy and not drink alcohol, but considering Prohibition ended in 1933, speakeasies are silly in general. But Angel’s Share is so pleasant that the whole unmarked door thing is irrelevant. There’s no standing room in the mural-covered bar, which is hidden on the second floor of a Japanese restaurant in the East Village, but the booths and bar seats are both ideal for dates. The tuxedoed bartenders serve phenomenal mixed drinks, including some non-alcohol options like one with Seedlip, rosemary, and egg white.
Towards the end of typical wedding receptions, the DJ usually plays a few crowdpleasers, and the whole room sings along while swaying back and forth with their arms around each other. It’s a nice moment that makes people forget just how forgettable the rest of the evening was. Marie’s Crisis in the West Village will give you that same feeling, but at any time of day or night. Crowd around the piano in this basement bar, and belt out show tunes with a room full of people who don’t seem to have any inhibitions, regardless of how much or little they’ve had to drink.
Whether you treat craft beer drops like iPhone releases, or you’re just tired of seeing the same tap handles at every bar you go to, Covenhoven is one of our favorite spots to drink beer in Brooklyn. The friendly staff can give you everything from a thesis to a TL;DR on the nearly 300 beers available, including non-alcoholic pilsners, blondes, lagers, and IPAs. When it’s nice out, hang out on the lawn furniture in the grass covered backyard.
Places that serve non-alcoholic mixed drinks usually only offer a few, and those tend to feel more like a chance to charge $13 for ginger beer and old parsley than thoughtful cocktails. At Getaway, though, non-alcoholic drinks aren’t just an afterthought - they’re the only thought. All of the drinks at this Greenpoint bar are non-alcoholic, including beer, wine, and about 15 cocktails. Besides the absence of alcohol, this place feels like any other attractive cocktail bar with Happy Hour specials, grilled cheese sandwiches, and candlelit tables ideal for casual dates.
The best time to go to Nowadays in Ridgewood is Sunday afternoon, when it’s essentially a daytime rave hosted by Mister Sunday. Even if you do drink, you’ll probably be better off sticking with cold brew or yerba mate just to stay energized and ensure that you won’t fall into an existential pit of panic on Monday morning. This is a fun spot on other days too, when you can play ping-pong or hang with your dog outside, or listen to DJ sets inside until late (4am-ish on weekends).
Not drinking at a sports bar can be difficult. That’s partially because it’s hard to watch the Knicks sober, and partially because there’s nothing else to do during two hours of State Farm commercials. We can’t really help you with the first thing (besides suggesting a new owner, GM, and players), but if you go to Break Bar in Astoria, at least you’ll have plenty of other things to keep you entertained. The huge space has pool and ping pong tables, mini bocce courts, and giant Connect 4, as well as some great buffalo wings.
If you’re willing to do sober karaoke anywhere more public than your shower, then you either played Ariel in your middle school production of Little Mermaid, or you don’t give a sh*t what other people think. Either way, go to Karaoke City in K-Town. The huge, seventh-floor space has a bunch of private rooms with wraparound leather booths that cost $40 per hour, or if you’re ready to pull a Maggie Rogers, go on stage in the main bar area up front.
Mother Of Pearl is a “post-modern Polynesian” vegan spot serving cocktails in mugs shaped like shark heads. Fortunately, this East Village cocktail bar doesn’t take itself too seriously, so instead of an overpriced theme restaurant, it’s just a casual date spot you should use when you’re tired of sharing wine and charcuterie. And the drinks - including a bunch of non-alcoholic options - would be noteworthy even if they weren’t served with colorful straws and animal-shaped mugs.
There are some things you just shouldn’t do while drinking, like argue politics with your significant other’s parents, use the phrase “real talk” with your boss, or throw axes. And while Kick Axe Throwing in Gowanus does serve alcohol, drinking it is by no means mandatory. The 70-minute course includes a few different stations where you try to throw axes more accurately than your friends, and it’s a fun alternative to bowling or giant Jenga.
Downtown hotel bars tend to be like sanctuaries for people who have walk-in closets that look like Soho sample sales. We’re not sure how this phenomenon came to be, but the bar at the Standard Hotel in the East Village is no exception, and it makes for great people-watching. Order something from the “On the Wagon” section of the menu, and hang out at a table in the indoor/outdoor space next to someone who you think you recognize from a show on Bravo.
There’s a reason why Royal Palms is to adult birthday parties as laser tag or creepy clowns are to kids’ ones. This tropical-themed bar in Gowanus has 10 shuffleboard courts and a bunch of board games to keep people from having to talk about what they do, and the hangar-sized space has enough seating to fit all of your third-tier friends who apparently lost your number when they got new phones. People who want to drink here won’t ever have to wait too long for refills, but there’s enough going on that you’ll have a good time with a group whether you’re drinking or not.
Going to a brewery for a sober night out is kind of like deciding to hike the Dolomites with a fear of heights. But Threes Brewery in Gowanus is an exception thanks to non-alcoholic beers, a huge backyard, and food by The Meat Hook, which serves things like a dry-aged double cheeseburger with raclette until midnight on weekends.