What's non-alcoholic at a bar?
April 27, 2016 10:01 AM   Subscribe

A local jazz bar has a one drink minimum policy. I enjoy jazz more than drinking. How can I respectfully ask if they have something else?

Ordering tapas does not count as a drink. So far I have been ordering a whiskey and then leaving it at my table, but that feels kinda wasteful and I don't want to come across as rude. What should I be asking for?

The bar in question: Cezanne
posted by LiteS to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just say "I don't drink alcohol. What have you got for me?" You shouldn't feel the slightest bit rude or self-conscious about it.
posted by adamrice at 10:04 AM on April 27, 2016 [30 favorites]

How can I respectfully ask if they have something else?

By asking "What do you have that is non-alcoholic?" Seriously, this is no big deal. I always order cranberry juice when I'm driving.
posted by Beti at 10:05 AM on April 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've never had a problem saying "Give me a soda and lime, charge me for the vodka."
posted by General Malaise at 10:05 AM on April 27, 2016 [10 favorites]

Is there a reason you dont want to just order a soda or seltzer? i normally dislike bars that charge for seltzer/soda water but would gladly pay $3-4 somewhere where it was obvious drinks were subsidizing some other part of the experience. I did this just this past week at a comedy show where i had had one alcoholic drink but needed to meet the 2 drink minimum and the waiter did not bat an eye.

I guess the real solution is to just be direct and ask the waiter what their policy is next time - can you order a coke or soda water and satisfy the minimum drink policy? if not would they be willing to take payment in lieu of your non-alcohol consumption (same effect as ordering and not drinking the whiskey, without the waste).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 10:05 AM on April 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

A number of comedy clubs I've gone to also have something somewhat ornate but non alcoholic that will satisfy the drink minimum, like smoothies.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:09 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

"Tonic and lime." is a drink.

Maybe if the bartender balks just slap a five dollar bill down and tell him to keep the change.
posted by bondcliff at 10:13 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just ask for whatever nonalcohol drink you like. You'll get it, and you won't be the only one in the place. The minimum is about money, not meeting a booze quota.
posted by justcorbly at 10:17 AM on April 27, 2016 [11 favorites]

There are plenty of non-alcoholic cocktails (AKA mocktails) if you want something more interesting than soda or seltzer. I like Virgin Marys, since you don't really taste the vodka in a Bloody Mary anyway.
posted by brianogilvie at 10:17 AM on April 27, 2016

Don't feel sheepish. You can hang out in a bar and not consume alcohol. The bartender will be happy to make you something that isn't boozy, particularly if you tip well (but that goes for any bartender making you anything, anywhere).
posted by paco758 at 10:26 AM on April 27, 2016

I usually get bitters and soda when I'm out at a bar and don't want to drink. (There's a tiny bit of alcohol in bitters, but not enough to make a difference.)
posted by asterix at 10:29 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

"Rum and coke, hold the rum."
posted by kevinbelt at 10:45 AM on April 27, 2016

Get something non-alcoholic, and make sure you tip as if you had gotten something with booze in it. I would normally tip $2 for something like this (instead of the standard $1) just because I know I'm asking the bartender to humor me a little bit, and because if I'm just sipping a club soda with lime and listening to jazz, I'm probably not going to be buying anything else so it's still pretty cheap entertainment.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:46 AM on April 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

The similar looking bar near me has good house made ginger beer that I'll drink when I need to drive.
posted by Candleman at 10:48 AM on April 27, 2016

Oh, and asking "What do you have that is nonalcoholic?" would probably get you a nonplussed stare from the bartender, in my experience. All bars will have Coke, club soda, tonic water, cranberry juice, bloody mary mix, and regular water at a minimum. Most will also have ginger ale, Sprite, Diet Coke, and pineapple juice. Many will have lots of other things as well, but you can safely ask for any of the above without making the bartender rattle off a list of things that you could probably have guessed for yourself.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:51 AM on April 27, 2016 [9 favorites]

I have encountered this at comedy clubs too. When I'm not wanting to drink, I will usually ask for a soda or juice (sometimes juice cut with seltzer). I have also seen them come out with bottled water, so I assume they are selling this to people to meet the drink requirement as well. It is definitely completely fine and appropriate to ask your waiter/bartender what would qualify for their policy as you don't drink alcohol -- I can pretty much guarantee you will not be the first person to do this, and I am sure they have a policy in place to deal with it!
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:08 AM on April 27, 2016

I order whatever I want and tip at least the equivalent tip for a martini or other high-end cocktail. No need to do that all night, but it signals that you're not a jerk and will often get you a free refill.
posted by barnone at 11:15 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

A colleague told me about ordering tomato juice and ginger ale in the same circumstance. He said it was so awful that one drink lasted him all evening.
posted by Bruce H. at 12:16 PM on April 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

I've ordered ginger ale a million times. I would not say anything like "I don't drink alcohol." It's not their business what you do or don't do.
posted by DMelanogaster at 12:17 PM on April 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Whenever I'm not drinking, which is usually these days, I always ask for seltzer with lime.

Boy, I love seltzer with lime. Addicted to the lime variety of this stuff.
posted by bearwife at 12:29 PM on April 27, 2016

Yes, ginger ale (which looks like a highball and precludes all those "but you're not drinking!" smart remarks). Even when I'm drinking, I alternate an alcoholic drink with a ginger ale. Nobody will bat an eye. Tip as per a cocktail.
posted by MovableBookLady at 12:36 PM on April 27, 2016

If they don't have ginger ale, Sprite (or any other lemon-lime soda) with a couple dashes of bitters makes a decent substitute, and is pretty good.
posted by mikeh at 1:36 PM on April 27, 2016

Just because it hasn't been said yet, you can buy a drink for someone else. Including the band. A lot of times, when a musician plays in a bar, people in the audience buy them a drink. This is true even if they get to drink "free" - it helps the bar, so they'll never refuse.
posted by Miko at 2:18 PM on April 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

Seltzer and rose's lime juice is really tasty.
posted by leahwrenn at 2:55 PM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not to play rules-lawyer, but if the rule is "one drink minimum," that means one "drink."

A soda is a drink, and they are probably overcharging for it anyways (soda syrup is basically free). Order a soda or juice or whatever, tip your bartender/server and you'll be fine.

But, for something a little less boring than a coke: Seltzer & Rose's, Tonic and Lime, and even Shirley Temples are all pretty tasty.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:17 PM on April 27, 2016

Adding Roy Rogers (basically a cherry coke) to the list of traditional non-alcoholic drinks.
posted by annaramma at 3:31 PM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was about 15 when I first got into jazz. There was a singer who had a regular weekend gig at a bar in Boston. On Friday nights she played with her trio, and every Saturday she would feature a guest soloist. The soloists were big names in Boston jazz—Herb Pomeroy, John LaPorta, Gray Sargent, etc. Nobody really knew about the gig; it was a hidden gem. But I went nearly every week. I'd sit right up front and stay throughout the night, this 15-year-old kid who looked like he belonged at a Metallica concert, just listening.

That place had a drink minimum, too. I was 15, and I ordered Coke and french fries, and nobody ever asked a question. Today I still don't drink alcohol and when I go to the Vanguard I order a ginger ale, and they screw me on the price but nobody has ever asked why I'm not ordering a whiskey. They care about the money and the tip. Frankly you could proffer the ten bucks and tell 'em to spare the clean glass, and they'd say thank you. It's a nonissue. Don't worry about it. Enjoy the music.
posted by cribcage at 6:02 PM on April 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I think cribcage has a good point here. The bar doesn't actually care if you drink; in fact, for the same amount of money, they'd probably prefer that you stay sober. The one drink minimum is there in lieu of a cover charge. It's a way of getting people to spend money to see the music without having to charge at the door. Charging at the door turns a lot of casual passers-by away, but if you have free entry and a one drink minimum, people will wander inside for the jazz and then think "Well, I'm in a bar already, I don't mind buying a drink."

The point is, they just want you to throw some money at them in exchange for hosting the performance. Whether or not you're drinking is not actually the point.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:50 AM on April 28, 2016

I hang with a very drink-y crowd and we have two dear friends who don't drink, but do still enjoy hanging out with us when we go out. They tend to order ginger ale or ginger beer--and the nicer bars tend to have really good ginger ale/beer. Here's what else I've seen them order:

-Coke with lime
-Roy Rogers (Cherry Coke)
-Club soda/seltzer with lime
-Cranberry and seltzer with lime

I also really like ordering virgin drinks when I want don't feel like drinking but want something more interesting than soda+garnish. A virgin margarita is basically limeade.
posted by rhiannonstone at 8:00 PM on April 29, 2016

When I don't feel like alcohol I either get ginger ale or orange juice with cranberry juice.

For more ideas (aside from all the great ones in this thread), Wikipedia has a category of non-alcoholic mixed drinks.

And I was actually just browsing this Kiddie Cocktails book at my library last week.
posted by kristi at 12:49 PM on April 30, 2016

I love that bar! The last time I went, which was some time ago because we were just visiting Houston, Mr. Howell had a Coke because he was driving.
posted by loveyhowell at 7:32 PM on May 27, 2016

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