What Can You Drink Instead of Alcohol During Dry January?

sober october alcohol alternatives

Verywell Health / Amelia Manley

This story is part of a sober series that explores what sober curiosity means and how you can practice mindful drinking in your personal life. Read the rest of the stories here.

Dry January is an opportunity for people to avoid or cut back on alcohol for 31 days in a row.

Avoiding alcohol for a month may not seem like enough time to make a difference in your health. But research has shown that a short-term break from alcohol can improve blood pressure and insulin resistance.

“In general, alcohol can interfere with how the brain works and looks,” Silvia Martins, MD, PhD, a professor specialized in substance use epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, told Verywell in an email.

When people reduce their alcohol use, they could see benefits in their “overall health, general mood, and behavior,” she added.

But the decision to stop drinking is not always easy. Alcohol is ingrained in our society and there are opportunities—and peer pressure—to drink everywhere, all the time.

Whether you’ve decided to try Dry January or just want to reexamine your relationship with alcohol, start by considering why you gravitate to it in the first place. Are you using alcohol as a social crutch or stress relief? Or do you enjoy the taste?

Each individual’s journey with alcohol is unique. Meg Fee, 31, the owner of the Instagram account @YouDontHaveToDrink, is a New York-based advertising manager who advocates for sobriety on social media. She said that anyone who is considering quitting probably has a strong reason for it.

“Don’t lose sight of that reason. Consider writing it down on paper and putting it somewhere you’ll see every day,” Fee said. ”You don’t need to label yourself anything to stop drinking or take a break from it, and there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with you if you can’t hang with booze anymore.”

Here are some alternatives to alcohol depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Alcohol Alternatives for Socializing

Drinking is a major part of socializing for many adults. Between boozy brunches, post-work happy hours, pub trivia nights, birthday parties, and weddings, giving up alcohol might feel like giving up your social life.

If you want to socialize without alcohol, you don’t have to settle for seltzer.

Kombucha, a fermented tea drink, contains a minimal amount of alcohol. Commercially available kombucha generally has less than 0.5% alcohol and it’s unlikely to get you drunk. Some breweries and bars are also starting to offer kombucha on tap as a non-alcoholic option.

Kombucha may also offer probiotics, though studies have shown that the amount and type of microbes vary greatly between different brands. And if you want to avoid alcoholic content entirely, you might want to consider other beverages.

Alcohol Alternatives for Stress Relief

Many people turn to alcohol to cope with stress, but research has shown that stress-related drinking can lead to long-term problems with alcohol.

“For stress relief at the end of the day, people can try to exercise, walk in nature, practice yoga, or chat with close friends,” Martins said.

If you’re looking for a substitute beverage that can offer stress relief, try kava. Pacific Islanders originally created this brown drink from the root of the kava shrub. It’s commonly used as a natural remedy for anxiety and insomnia.

Many people also visit kava bars to enjoy this non-alcoholic drink. While kava may reduce feelings of stress, scientists warn that more research needs to be conducted to determine the risks associated with kava, especially for liver health.

Besides kava, CBD-infused drinks could be another option for relaxation. Like kava, more research needs to be done on the long-term health effects of CBD and these types of beverages are still waiting for FDA approval.

Alcohol Alternatives for Taste

If you enjoy the taste of beer, CBD-infused water might not cut it. Tavis Glassman, MPH, PhD, a professor of public health at The University of Toledo, said he enjoys tasting different types of beers and non-alcoholic brews could be the closest alternative.

“You can get a non-alcoholic hazy IPA that actually tastes pretty good,” Glassman said.

Atlantic Brewing Company is exclusively nonalcoholic and offers a variety of IPA and stout alternatives. But many established beer brands, like Heineken and Samuel Adams, are also starting to get on board with this trend and offer zero alcohol brews.

Non-alcoholic beers are just one option. You can also find alcohol-free wine or mocktails in many liquor stores and bars nowadays.

How to Prepare for Peer Pressure

Even after deciding to cut back on drinking, peer pressure can make it challenging to stick with these goals. Studies have shown that peer pressure related to drinking can happen to anyone at any age.

Fee said it could be awkward to admit that you’ve decided to stop drinking, but it’s best to stay honest.

“For me, the key has been to confidently say something like, ‘I’m taking a much-needed break from alcohol for a while,’ or ‘No, thanks, I’m not drinking right now.’ Don’t question yourself,” she said.

Glassman, who has designed interventions to help reduce alcohol use during high-risk events like tailgates and spring break, said there are ways to make these events safer.

He said if someone plans to drink at these types of events, but wants to limit how much they drink, they should eat before the event and drink water in between each alcoholic beverage.

“At the end of the day, it’s up to each individual person to decide what’s right for them,” he said.

What This Means For You

Remember alcohol isn't your only beverage option at social events. If you or a loved one needs help with an alcohol dependency, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to speak with a trained specialist who can connect you with local support.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mehta G, Macdonald S, Cronberg A, et al. Short-term abstinence from alcohol and changes in cardiovascular risk factors, liver function tests and cancer-related growth factors: a prospective observational studyBMJ Open. 2018;8(5):e020673. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-020673

  2. Yang J, Lagishetty V, Kurnia P, Henning SM, Ahdoot AI, Jacobs JP. Microbial and chemical profiles of commercial kombucha products. Nutrients. 2022;14(3):670. doi:10.3390/nu14030670

  3. Russell MA, Almeida DM, Maggs JL. Stressor-related drinking and future alcohol problems among university students. Psychol Addict Behav. 2017;31(6):676-687. doi:10.1037/adb0000303

  4. Mount Siani. Kava kava.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CBD: what you need to know.

  6. Morris H, Larsen J, Catterall E, Moss AC, Dombrowski SU. Peer pressure and alcohol consumption in adults living in the UK: a systematic qualitative review. BMC Public Health. 2020;20(1):1014. doi:10.1186/s12889-020-09060-2