The Party Isn’t Over: Pasadena’s Guide to Dry January

From nonalcoholic tipples to tea, avoiding alcohol doesn’t need to feel like a New Year’s resolution deprivation with these three fantastic spots. Here’s where to celebrate dry January.


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Maybe it’s a backlash to pandemic binge drinking, but avoiding alcohol is de rigueur as we ring in 2022. Experiential designer and art major Jillian Barkley, owner of Soft Spirits in Echo Park, decided to take it a step further and open the first nonalcoholic bottle shop in L.A. “I stopped drinking about three years ago and had a personal vested interest,” she says. “I decided if it’s something that doesn’t exist maybe I could create it.”


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Soft Spirits carries about 40 brands—many are local, and you can even sit down at a cozy bar and discuss them with Barkley. “I was really impressed with the options,” she says. One of them is the striking cut-glass decanters holding local brand Optimist Botanicals. “It’s full of flavor and has an interesting expression. It’s in its own category and a completely new way to think about drinking.”

“This isn’t a temporary thing, it’s the beginning of a meaningful cultural shift to more mindful consumption,” says Lisa Farr Johnstone, co-founder of Optimist Botanicals. “This is also a nod to the trending consumption method known as ‘zebra striping.’ It’s becoming acceptable not to drink, or to have that first gin then switch to something that won’t ruin your chances of getting up early to work out.”

Three Spirits is a plant-based alternative that gives you the buzz without the booze. “It comes in three functional beverages with properties that are mood enhancing, from soothing to stimulating, while not becoming intoxicated and with no side effects,” says Barkley. Look for Saturday sidewalk samplings at Soft Spirits if you’re interested in trying out a few brands.

If you’d like a bit more zing, Brighter Tonic is a new sparkling beverage by Pasadena native Elizabeth Varnell that combines apple cider vinegar with lemon-lime, blood orange, and lemon-ginger and is available at Erewhon, Whole Foods, and Bristol Farms.

As the name suggests, Genever in Historic Filipinotown focuses on gin-based, vintage-style libations in a special occasion speakeasy atmosphere. But the company, owned by three Filipino American women, makes many zero-proof versions of its complex cocktails that hearken back to Prohibition. The fall-winter menu features the Happy Happy, Joy Joy, where Ming River gin is swapped out for Amass Riverine alcohol-free spirit and finished with passion fruit, National Bitters, and citrus. The Earth Crosser uses cold-brew coffee rather than tequila or Galliano, and is topped with coconut cream, egg, and mole bitters.


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For an interesting pit stop to savor a cup of caffeine that looks more like a MOCA exhibit, Steep in Chinatown features Japanese tea—from green oolong to Old Tree black—that you can order by the artisan ceramic pot for up to four people. Add pastries or Soymilk Cold Noodles and make it an afternoon meal.


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Art of Tea, which can be found at The Huntington, is debuting a Matcha Cocoa in January 2022 that you can sip while you stroll through the grounds.