Kitsap County resident Marnie Rae Clark is the force behind National Mocktail Week, which aims to create welcoming events and places for people who don't drink booze.
Do a Google search for National Mocktail Week, and the internet is incredulous. What do you mean you want to spend a whole week downing drinks with nothing in them?
You must have meant Seattle Cocktail Week, right? Or London Cocktail Week? Or maybe the Cocktail Weeks Calendar, hosted by DrinkWire?
No, I meant National Mocktail Week, which, it turns out, was hard to find online because it is brand-new for 2019. Bought and paid for and put on the National Day Calendar by Marnie Rae Clark, of Kingston, Kitsap County.
As part of the launch Clark is hosting Sans Bar, a pop-up bar in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood on Thursday, Jan. 17. It will feature alcohol-free cocktails that Clark has invented using ingredients from sponsors Dry Soda and Simple Goodness Sisters, makers of flavored simple syrups. Sounds like a good thing for anyone like me who will be having a Dry January.
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The event will benefit The Recovery Café, a nonprofit that helps people suffering from homelessness, addiction and other mental-health challenges.
And it will be held at The Factory Luxe, an event space in the old Rainier Brewery. (“It’s the best kind of irony,” Clark said.)
People have already started registering for the event, which surprises Clark, but then, doesn’t. Some are in recovery, but there are others who simply choose not to drink now and then.
“The thing that I am learning is that there are so many reasons that people don’t drink,” Clark said. “They’re pregnant, or the designated driver. They have religious or business reasons. People are just trying to make choices.”
Clark, 51, has been sober for 15 years. She was in her 30s, the happily married mother of two kids who had started drinking in high school.
“I wouldn’t consider myself a problem drinker,” she said. “But it was a part of my life and got progressively out of hand.”
On the night of a fundraiser for her daughter’s elementary school, Clark and her friends got together to drink beforehand, and didn’t ever stop.
“It was a really ugly evening that didn’t end well,” Clark remembered, “and I woke up in the morning knowing it was the last time that was going to happen. My husband said, ‘You need to fix this, or this is going to end. You can’t do this anymore.’“
In the time since, Clark has gone to endless bars and restaurants in search of a satisfying drink that didn’t taste like sugar, wasn’t a “virgin” version of something, and didn’t have a straw stuck in it, making her feel as though she should be sitting at the kids’ table. She’s not a soda drinker, so water and iced tea became her go-to.
“Sometimes when you go out, it’s an awkward kind of moment when you don’t know what to drink,” she said. “I have been continuously challenged and feeling left out. There was nothing crafted or creative or that really tasted good.”
So she hired a development team to help her come up with recipes and started a website where she posted not just the recipes, but other things that put a happy spin on sobriety: Glasses she likes, notecards she has designed. Words of encouragement.
“I … have a firm belief that this is about a much bigger picture than a beverage,” she writes. “This is about making people feel welcome, included, thought of, and a part of something … So alongside the recipes we’re going to share stories about caring well for our guests and what it looks like to live a sober lifestyle — the dry life:).” she said, adding the hashtag #sobernotboring.
So far, Clark has 290 people on her email list. They have shown her that there is an increasing demand for drinks without alcohol. (She’s not even a fan of the term “mocktail” and prefers “soft cocktail.” It doesn’t sound like it’s trying to be something it isn’t.)
With their help, Clark is in the process of building a directory of restaurants and bars that have done a good job of making sure alcohol-free drinks are on their menu, and supporting people who don’t drink alcohol. The directory will launch on her site at the end of January.
“So many people sent me messages asking, ‘Where is a good place to go?’ or they sent me suggested bars,” she said. “It would be helpful if it was all in one place.”
On one night in January, sober Seattleites will have a bar all their own. No designated drivers needed, and no hangovers the morning after.
“It’s going to be a good time,” Clark said of Sans Bar. “These are people who are making the commitment to come and support this alcohol-free community and the best kind of humanity. They’ll be happy to be there and have a good time.”
Good people, a great cause and no alcohol. Sounds like a night to remember.