You walk up to the bartender and order your drink. Nodding, the bartender gets to work. They add ice and carefully pour the ingredients into the shaker. They shake, pop off the cap, and pour; straining the ice and the ingredients. The bartender offers you a choice of garnishes and then hands you your drink. You have one, then a second… and perhaps even a third. But instead of feeling like you had too much… you feel fine…
That’s because you’re at a soBar event and the bartender created mocktails for you.
“I would hear more and more ‘There’s nothing around here that doesn’t involve drinking’ and ‘I wish I could go out without the pressure to drink,’” said Ashley Crooks, a psychotherapist and the founder and owner of Counseling by the Sea.
Ashley used what she heard from friends and clients and opened soBar, a sober bar, in 2019.
“It was an opportunity for people to have fun and make new connections,” said Ashley.
“Ashley’s main reason to create soBar was to create a safe space to enjoy a night out without alcohol,” echoed Jess Grello, soBar’s social media manager and marketing coordinator.
SoBar is for anyone who wants to enjoy activities without alcohol. They hold events once or twice a month as a way for people to socialize and do fun activities without the pressure of alcohol. soBar only asks that you come to the events sober. Events are for everyone; not just those in recovery.
“You don’t have to be sober to be a member of soBar,” Ashley said.
SoBar holds a variety of events held in conjunction with other small businesses.
“We have something for everyone which is why I like working for soBar,” said Jess. “We have cruises, wellness events, yoga, meditation, massages, tarot card readings, live music, paint and sip, paddleboarding, and kayaking. Nothing’s really off limits for what we want to do.”
They try to collaborate with local small businesses whenever possible. They’ve held a paddle event with Ocean City Paddle Company, a sunset cruise with Beachy Tiki, and a paint and sip event with Mindfully Active Studio, Galloway.
People who prefer not to drink do so for a variety of reasons.
“They don’t like the way it makes them feel, they would prefer to be present for what they’re experiencing. They don’t want to wake up feeling sick and wondering where all of their stuff is. The response and feedback I get from the attendees are all different,” said Ashley.
Less stress on participants who don’t want to drink or aren’t comfortable drinking means that participants can relax and enjoy the event and activities.
“A big reason that we have is our tagline – go out without the hangover. You don’t have to be a sober person or anti-alcohol. We just ask that people come to our events sober. People are loving what soBar is and what it stands for. It’s less to stress about. Our mocktails look like real drinks,” said Jess.
While they sometimes have a bartender at their events, other events call for canned mocktails.
“When we had the sunset cruise, we had pre canned mocktails. Every event (has) different mocktails,” Jess said.
Ashley tries to buy the premade mocktails locally.
“I order mine from a small business who curates them. We also have a sponsorship with Spiritless. We make some cocktails through them. We use their distilled non alcoholic spirit as well as the canned and premade ones I get through small businesses in New Jersey.”
Jess has noticed more popup events happening throughout the US that don’t serve alcohol.
“I think a big part of it is that people are getting tired of feeling the pressure to drink all the time. SoBar is the creator of pop ups in New Jersey. We’re organizing parties and live events in southern New Jersey. [Not drinking is] becoming very trendy; it promotes healthy living.”
SoBar is coming back strong from their pandemic year off.
“Coming back in May after such a long year, it was exciting to see how many people were into it and wanted to participate in events. The neat thing is that we’ve had such a great response,” said Ashley. “Our events have been mostly sold out. It feels really good in a dry town. SoBar is a different way to help make friends and connections and I really find so much joy to be able to bring different ideas to the area. For people to make connections; to heal from things. It’s a fun extension of my career.”
Looking for mocktail ideas? Here are some on soBar’s website that they make at their events.
Muddle 4-5 slices of cucumber and 1oz honey syrup in the bottom of the shaker. Add 1.5oz of mango puree and 1.5oz of lime juice. Shake with ice and top with ginger beer.
Mix 3oz of coconut water, 4oz of Sprite, 1oz of mint extract, and 4 drops of Raspberry Kool-aid. Pour over ice.
Not so Cosmo
Mix 1oz of freshly squeezed orange juice, 1oz of cranberry juice, 1oz of freshly squeezed lime juice, and 1oz of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Photos by soBar.
Find this story and more in our September/October magazine