Home Hotel industry Sober Bartenders Talk Challenges and Changes in the Bar Industry

Sober Bartenders Talk Challenges and Changes in the Bar Industry


Despite logistical challenges, awkwardness, and feelings of isolation, many bartenders believe their avoidance of alcohol makes them better at their job. For those in leadership positions, staying sober sets a disciplined tone for others they work with. “It definitely has a halo effect or sphere of influence,” Levon says. “I noticed that everyone has calmed down.”

But the people behind the bar aren’t the only ones avoiding alcohol. The culture around sobriety is changing, with a recent explosion of soft drink brands, more customers ordering soft drinks, and more integration of “regular” cocktails with mocktails on menus. Abstaining from drinking helps bartenders better cater to these customers. “I just don’t know how much of a serious bartender I could have considered myself until now without putting some real energy into the mindless side of things,” Levon says.

Despite the myriad ways bartenders navigate their sobriety and create spirit-free menus, there’s one thing they all agree on: just don’t call them “mocktails.”

“To make fun of something is to make fun of it,” McMichael says. “We should remove this word completely. Every time someone who is obviously an adult of drinking age orders something non-alcoholic, in my head I grab my chest and say to myself, “parent, you and me!” I feel something.”

After all, isn’t that the real reason people walk into bars night after night to feel something? The bartender’s job is to provide an experience, a space to connect. And whether you drink alcohol or not, we all deserve that feeling.