“Do people think it’s weird you’re not drinking?” a 27-year-old I had just met asked me at a recent Christmas party. “I mean, like, do you drink even a little bit? There has to be something in your cup.” (Ed. note — Obligatory John Mulaney reference: “I know you don’t drink.“)
The company party which I attended as a plus-one boasted an open bar, including some bootleg moonshine (it was in Florida). Most of the employees started to get loose as I sipped on Coke Zero after Coke Zero. In the two and a half years since I quit drinking, people had asked me a variation of the young employee’s question so often, I usually shrugged it off and said, “My friends are usually happy to have a DD.”
The holiday season, this year extending over a seemingly-six month time span, brings a lot of pressure to drink. New Year’s Eve is the worst; its midnight make-out expectations and the chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” unleashes everyone’s inner lush. For those of us who don’t drink – be it recovery, work the next morning, allergies, or ex-boyfriend at the same party with someone else – NYE can be brutal.
Staying in your room on NYE is valid and sometimes the best choice, but if you do decide to go out sober on the last night of the year, plan ahead. I’ve always felt better equipped to handle social situations with a drink in my hand. I can take sips from my cup when the conversation lulls and say I need a refill when I need a quick exit.
Home for the holidays, I sat down at the kitchen table with my 71-year-old grandmother, and we taste-tested six different brands of sparkling juice. We found six different brands at Target all for about $3. Along with taste, we discussed color (how it looks in a clear flute), sugar content (how much you could drink in one night), and packaging (how cool the bottle looked).
Welch’s Sparkling Red Grape
Color: Maroon, looks close to red wine with bubbles in it
My grandmother crowned Welch’s Red Grape her favorite of the night. No surprise there, this company is the Cadillac of Sparkling Juices. “It’s sweet, and it’s tart,” my grandmother said. “It just has a wow factor.” Because of the sweetness, you probably wouldn’t want to drink too much of it.
The only problem with this juice is nostalgia. Parents give this drink to their kids on New Year’s Eve. It’s the American Gold standard of non-alcoholic partying. You might feel like you’re sitting at the kids’ table if you bring this.
Party Type: The only single person at the event.
Color: Mountain Dew
Bottle: Traffic Cone
“It’s got bubbles, look at it,” my grandmother said. “The bubbles are doing all this popping, and it looks like sparklers.” I thought it looked toxic.
This drink had a mellow taste and left my tongue feeling clean but was a bit too normal for NYE. The label assured us “no added sugar,” and the almost blandness confirmed this statement as true.
Party Type: Brunch. My grandmother said a party a “Southern belle would host because of the clementine.”
Ocean Spray Cran-Lemonade
Color: Sex and the City Pink
Bottle: Red Bull-esque
On first taste, this drink felt too pink-lemonade for an adult party, but after a half-glass, it had started to grow on me. If you plan on eating during a party, I’d say get this one. It wasn’t too sweet and it looked kind-of sexy in the clear flute.
“You could say it was your own recipe,” my grandmother said. “It’s really not lying when you’re flirting.”
Party Type: Get-together with friends.
V8 V-Fusion Diet Cranberry Apple
Color: Christmas Red
Bottle: Fruit Explosion
As soon as I opened this can a potpourri aroma filled the air. If you don’t feel like wearing deodorant, bringing this drink will mask any unwanted smell. To its credit, the diet drink would be a good choice for the health conscious. “I know I’m boring,” my grandmother said, “but I like the fact that it’s good for you.”
I’m sorry to say, but it tasted like cold medicine, and I wasn’t feeling it. I’d describe the experience as chugging apple hand soap. Made with five vegetable and fruit juices, we could really only taste apple. “You know it is apple,” she said. “I don’t care what they say about the five other things.”
Party Type: Open House for Gym Members. My grandmother said it would be a good drink to take to “someone’s house after a funeral.”
Simply Balanced Grapefruit
Color: Murky Cream Soda
Bottle: Teal very Target-y
My thing is: if you’re going to a holiday party, you want your drink to look festive. The bubble-sparkles in this grapefruit drink were weak. “By far this is my least favorite,” my grandmother said. “It’s flat and there’s no wow factor.”
To its credit, this drink would be good if you’re eating a lot of food and want something light and clean between bites. Also, it would probably punch-up if you added some orange juice to it.
Party Type: An accountant’s dinner.
Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider
Bottle: Wine Bottle
This drink turned me on a bit and was by far my favorite. In fact, I’m drinking it as I write this. The cider tasted fresh and it looked classy in the glass as it bubbled over onto the table, which felt very Wolf of Wall Street to me. It requires a bottle opener, so it looks very legit.
Don’t be surprised if other people at the party try to drink it.
Party Type: Any.