Imbibe 75: People, places, and flavors

There was a lot of good stuff in 2016, but a lot of tough things to get over as well.


Joined a band.
Started Reluctant-Teetotaler Website.
Traveled to Baja, Mexico.
Attended the 2016 Big Ears Festival in Knoxville.
Started Lutheran Hymnal Project.
Remained Happily Married.
Remained Happily Sober.


Got kicked out of the band.
A lot of people died.
That whole Trump thing.

So when Paul Clarke, editor of Imbibe Magazine called to tell me he had “some space” in the Jan/Feb issue and thought he might be able to fit something in about the reluctant-teetotaler, I was in a bit of a dark place. Not sleeping too well. I didn’t really think the mention in Imbibe would be anything too special. A side bar, maybe, or mention in another article.

While we were out of town for the holidays, I was puzzled when a friend texted me to say, “Hey! Congratulations on the Imbibe article! You’re first!”

First in what? Least likely to succeed? I know I’m not the first middle aged ex-bartender to give up drinking.

When we got back to California I resolved to track down this pesky new issue of Imbibe Magazine and find out what was going on.

Happily, when Mrs. Flannestad looked through the mail we’d gotten over the holiday, she discovered we had been sent the issue!

Huh. Paul didn’t mention anything about this being a special issue. That’s odd.

Page through the first few features, don’t see anything about my website. Get to the feature article, “Imbibe 75: People, places, and flavors that will shape the way you drink in 2017” and see my friend Humuhumu across from Paul’s summary. Well, that’s cool! Some San Franciscans made the Imbibe 75!

Turn the page to the first section, “People to WATCH: Drink innovators poised to make an impact in 2017”.

Oh. I see what my friend meant by, “You’re first!”

Wow! This went a long way towards making a pretty dark end of 2016 a lot better. It gave me hope that there might be some light in the new year. Nice Holiday Gift, Paul!

Though, ahem, I guess I have a lot of work to do this year to earn my place among Imbibe’s illustrious cast of characters!

Dear Reluctant Teetotaler

“Dear Reluctant Teetotaler,

I have to go to a party this weekend and I am not sure what to do?

Yours in teetotaling solidarity,

A fellow traveler”

First, as discerning drinkers, we need to be aware that whatever beverages are available at any party, they may not be our ideal, alcoholic or non-alcoholic. So the my first recommendation is to do exactly as you would do if you were drinking alcohol: Bring Your Own Beverage

Bring enough tasty beverage for yourself, some to share, and, (if you think they’d enjoy it,) leave whatever is leftover with your hosts. (If you don’t think they’d enjoy it, feel free to recover the leftovers and take them home with you.)

However, your larger question may be, “Help! I have to go to a work party! I hate small talk. I can’t stand my coworkers! I can’t imagine going without drinking myself into a coma. Everyone else will be drinking! What should I do?”

Well, yes. The easiest answer, if you truly think attending this party will trigger some sort of alcoholic episode, is to make an excuse, (cat’s sick, family emergency, no sitter for kids, transport problems, &c.) and not go. Attend a meeting, if you have to. I hear meetings can help.

However, if you must, or really want to attend said party, perhaps some hints are in order.

First off, aside from the alleged therapeutic and psychoactive benefits of booze, mostly, in social situations, it is just something to do while you’re not talking. Occupy your hands, take a sip with your lips. Maybe you can avoid making a funny face, or exclaiming out loud in dismay, while your neighbor posits a horrible theory regarding the nature of human existence.

Alcoholic Beverage is, essentially, a PROP.

So, the first thing you need to do, is to get yourself a decoy prop, because there is nothing sadder than the clunk of a plastic water bottle or empty hands when someone is making a toast.

So, rocks glass with soda water, bitters, and a twist. Who could tell you weren’t drinking an old fashioned. Perfect. Tall glass of tonic or soda with a lime or lemon wedge. Why it might be a Gin and Tonic or a Tom Collins. Personally, I like a mix of Knudsen’s Just Cranberry, Cloudy Apple Juice, and a little water or soda in a wine glass. If you get the mix right, it looks, and pretty much tastes, like a glass of wine. Well, better than most non-alcoholic wine, anyway. It took almost 3 dinner parties until my in-laws noticed the color was a bit off from their Zinfandel and ask if I wasn’t drinking.

Alternatively, you can carry around a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a cocktail and just NOT drink it. The old skill of many a bartender. To appear to be drinking, while you are, in fact, not. At one of my jobs, we used to give a hard time to one of the managers (*cough*Trevor*cough*) for leaving full bottles of beer all over the restaurant every night while pretending to drink with his friends. Now, however, I admire the skill with which he carried non-drinking of alcoholic beverages off. Only the few of us who knew him pretty well even noticed. However, this is a bit of a slippery slope, especially if you forget you’re carrying a loaded drink.

Most importantly, let’s get back to the idea that drinking is really just “something to do”. Strip it of its ritual meaning and associations, just let them go, and suddenly drinking loses much of its power over you.

If you’re going to a party and aren’t going to drink, the best thing to do is to find something else to do!

Help out in the kitchen, I’m sure they’ll appreciate some sober help. Volunteer ahead for different duties, since you know you won’t be drinking. Can you bring a punch? Heck, if you know how, make drinks for other people. The bartender is supposed to be sober, or at least less drunk than the other people. Or make a game of finding an interesting person to talk to. As a sober person, you have a certain advantage!

But most of all, try to find some way to have fun or at least be occupied.

Parties are supposed to be fun and no one wants you staring at them, sad and mopey because you don’t have a drink.

Get over yourself.

(OK, this note is really just to myself…)

Is This Thing On?

Tap, Tap.

Check One, Check, Check. Is This Thing On?

Hi, my name is Erik Ellestad, and I write this blog.

Up until a couple years ago I wrote a Cocktail Blog called “Savoy Stomp“, worked as a bartender at restaurants like Heaven’s Dog, The Coachman, South at SF Jazz, &c., and helped host Savoy Cocktail Book nights at Alembic Bar.

However, as I was getting older, for various reasons, I was finding the balance of my ambivalence about cocktails, spirits, and drinking, was tipping towards, “You know what, the cons are now outweighing the pros.” So when The Coachman closed, I also decided to take that opportunity to take some time off drinking.

A sucky first month of not drinking turned into a good second month, and pretty soon it was a year. Now it is almost two years.

Up to this point, my strategy for not drinking has been primarily, to stop buying booze, stop making drinks at home, and to stop going out to bars. Period. Effective, easy; but I have friends and family that drink and I have friends in the bar industry that I miss, so I’ve started to slip back in, and sit at the odd bar stool. I’m talking again to friends I knew while working in the industry and realizing I do miss the social aspect of working and hanging out in bars.

However, the first thing I notice as a new teetotaler, is, outside of Food and Bev, myself and my old friends in the industry often don’t have a lot to talk about. Or we need to find new things to talk about. We worked together, navigated tough Saturday night after Saturday night, but small talk was more often about the drink nerdery, than what the kids are up to or what our hobbies or interests are. I mean, booze WAS my primary hobby there for the 10 years I was writing the Savoy Stomp blog. Partially my fault for being a bit of an obsessive personality.

Another thing I notice as a new teetotaler is that non-alcoholic drinks are often relegated to “Kids’ Menu” status in most bars and restaurants. If you’re lucky, a few lines at the end of a menu, and mostly drinks that are not very interesting to an adult palate. Literally, “Kid Stuff”. Sweet saturated fruit flavors with little challenge or bitterness.

Finally, I am noticing more that there are quite a few people who work in the Food and Bev industry who don’t drink for one reason or another. Or who are at the very least trying to work out a way to cut down on their drinking.

So, while learning to play clarinet at a grade school level is satisfying on some levels, I felt like there was something interesting to do with the experience I had with cocktails, the drink industry, and the fact that I was no longer drinking.

Maybe I could go out to bars and restaurants and look with new eyes at what they offered for non-drinking patrons, and be an advocate for giving more respect to non-drinkers on the menus and in the drinks they serve. Talk to some friends who didn’t drink about their choices while working in an industry that is pretty well pickled. Maybe post some recipes for actually tasty ADULT beverages without alcohol.

And most of all, kill the term “MOCK-TAIL” with fire.

Join me, won’t you?

We Must Drink Something

Talkative old lady (drinking a glass of milk, to enthusiastic teetotaler, who is doing ditto), “YES, SIR, SINCE THEY’VE BEGUN POISONING THE BEER, WE MUST DRINK SOMETHING, MUSN’T WE!”

Reluctant Teetotaler
Talkative old lady (drinking a glass of milk, to enthusiastic teetotaler, who is doing ditto), “YES, SIR, SINCE THEY’VE BEGUN POISONING THE BEER, WE MUST DRINK SOMETHING, MUSN’T WE!”