This article describes the best ways to navigate the nightlife scene in Boston as a non-drinker
Boston is known for a myriad of things, from its key role in early American history to its bustling biotech businesses to its internationally renowned institutions of higher education. Its non-alcoholic nightlife scene is not necessarily one of them - but maybe it should be! This article will serve as your guide to discover nightlife as a non-drinker. In this guide, you will read a brief history of Boston's drinking culture, you'll learn where to find the best non-alcoholic drinks, and you'll discover locations for spending non-alcoholic nights out with other like-minded non-drinkers.
Boston's relationship with alcohol
Boston has a long, complicated history with alcohol that has wavered between adamant prohibition to rambunctious inebriation. During the time of the American Revolution, colonial taverns were popular spaces for socializing in Boston. Yet this revolutionary spirit clashed with the strict religious rules of Puritanism. The puritanical General Court of Massachusetts attempted to dissuade alcohol consumption since its origin, including passing a law in 1657 that made it illegal to sell strong liquor.
Eventually, puritanical attitudes influenced the advent of the Prohibition era. For over a decade beginning in 1920, Boston was legally a non-drinking city. Yet these laws and regulations did little to thwart Boston's drinking habit, as the 1,000 licensed bars quickly mushroomed to 4,000 illegal speakeasies.
In 1933, Bostonians were ebullient to see the end of the Prohibition era, and many seem to still be celebrating. Today, Boston is notorious for its culture of inebriation - from its boisterous annual St. Patrick's Day celebrations to its rightful claims to Cheers! and Sam Adams to its uproarious parades for its winning sports teams. So how is a non-drinker to cope in a city where alcohol has left such a sizeable imprint on its culture?
Not drinking in Boston
The good news is that it's culturally acceptable to be a non-drinker in Boston. Although the city may have rowdy alcoholic pubs, sports events, and festivals, Boston's drinking culture still brushes against strict Puritanical liquor regulations, such as prohibiting patrons from purchasing more than two drinks per person at bars. In addition, you may find those living in Boston to be extremely driven, forward-thinking, and career-minded - especially if you associate with individuals in tech, finance, or who are affiliated with Harvard/MIT. This crowd is very understanding of those who place their personal success above a wild night of drinking.
New England is arguably the most breathtaking place to be for the autumn. If you happen to be in Boston during the beautiful changing of leaves, you'll also be able to try locally-made apple cider. While it may be trendy in Boston to drink hard cider, classic apple cider provides the tart taste of New England's apples sans hangover. If you're interested in trying apple cider from the source, Belkin Family Lookout Farm, Dowse Orchard, and Boston Hill Farm are all about a 30-minute drive from the city. As an added bonus to tasting these splendid apple ciders, you can also pick apples at these orchards. Apple cider is also seasonally available at many local grocery stores and fall festivals.
Additionally, Boston has a bustling juice bar scene, which can be accessed throughout the year. Look out for locally-made fresh-squeezed juice, including Cocobeet, Mother Juice, Nourish Your Soul, and The Juice Box. Finally, Boston is known for several other non-alcoholic products, including MEM Teas, Katalyst Kombucha, and Taza's divine hot stone-ground chocolate.
Although cocktails may be more popular than mocktails in Boston, several bars go above and beyond accommodating for non-drinkers' tastes. Drink is an example of one such bar that is dedicated to the craft of cocktails (and mocktails). Drink does not provide its customers a menu for its cocktails because its owners don't want to limit our creative potential. Instead, you can select your drink based on a conversation with a bartender. For example, you could say, "I'm in the mood for something dark, stormy, and alcohol-free" and wait to be surprised by the genius mind of your bartender. The world truly is your oyster in terms of mocktail design at Drink.
Another bar that creates impressive non-alcoholic drinks is Backbar, which a speakeasy-style bar in Union Square that designs drinks inspired by flavors around the world. Similar to Drink, Backbar offers a "Bartender's Choice" cocktail or mocktail, which is designed based on your conversation with your bartender.
ArtBar is another bar that has developed a selection of mocktails based on their clientele's request for healthier drinking options. ArtBar, which is known for its commitment to taking an artistic spin on food, frequently substitutes sugar-based syrups for kombucha in its drinks. Try ArtBar's Guava Mule, made from guava, muddled lime wedge, and (non-alcoholic) ginger beer.
Finally, Alden & Harlow is a bar and restaurant in Harvard Square that offers thoughtfully-sourced $8 mocktails. On its menu at the moment are the Plum Out of Ideas mocktail, made from red plum, lime, Thai basil, and bubbles, and the Oleo Leo mocktail, which contains grapefruit, orange, honey, and tonic.
You absolutely don't have to drink to enjoy your evening in Boston. If you're looking for non-drinking friends, you can meet them in one of Boston's alcohol-free Meetup groups, including Boston-Area Alcohol-Free Meetup and NamaStay Sober.
Additionally, there are numerous non-drinking nightlife options in Boston. For dance-lovers, Havana Club has unbeatable salsa and bachata dancing five nights a week. Beginners are very welcome, and dance lessons are provided during the opening hour of each night. Monday Bachata Nights are strictly alcohol-free, while the other nights have a zero-tolerance policy to drunken behavior.
Other non-alcoholic nightlife options include attending the weekly poetry slam at Cantab Lounge, listening to a performance at Boston Symphony Hall, singing Karaoke at Sissy K's, having a board game night at Knight Moves Café, or taking a nighttime stroll around Boston Commons.
Wrapping up your zero proof guide to Boston
Despite Boston's reputation as an alcohol-loving city, it's easy to find non-alcoholic drinks, activities, and friends throughout the city. In Boston, you absolutely can raise your mocktail to nightlife, yet rest assured knowing that it won't cause a headache or a hangover. Cheers!