How to Not Drink in a Bar

Mormons are, generally speaking, afraid of bars. This is because people drink alcohol in bars and we do not. It is because we want to avoid the appearance of evil. It is because we want to stand in holy places (really drunk old men are not holy), and it is because we don’t like to look like total dorks who don’t know how to navigate the society of the bar. This leads others to believe that we are self-righteous, uptight and boring. This is not true, as evidenced by our impressive skills at boardgames, relay races (where one might carry an egg in a spoon) and charades.

It is my mission to help us feel a little more comfortable (and a little less nerdy) when we are occasionally obligated to be in a bar with others who drink.

First of all, I think it is important for us as Mormons to understand that most people do not go to a bar to get completely wasted, especially if it is a happy hour/work get together. Mostly it is another place to get together to socialize that is a not-so-structured environment (like the workplace). Think of it as the cultural hall versus the chapel.

Secondly, we need to let go of sermonizing about the Word of Wisdom when we are in bars or around people who are actively drinking. Sometimes, I think this impulse is genuinely born of our desire to share our gospel but mostly I think it’s because we feel awkward and a little defensive. Lots of people don’t drink in bars, as a Mormon you’ll just be one of the non-drinkers. No need to proselytize. If people want what you’ve got, those opportunities will come.

Thirdly, I recognize that most people have families or Mormon friends to hang out with but a little bit goes a long way with non-Mormon co-workers. Every few months, go out, chat, have a Shirley Temple.

Choosing your drink: the most awkward times I’ve been in bars is when I order water. There’s nothing wrong with water. I love it, but mostly it’s weird in a bar (unless you’ve drunk too much and you’re trying to water yourself down). Don’t order water.

Know that besides alcohol, there’s a huge variety of juices, mixers, and soda behind the bar. Get creative. Not all juice mixes are good (pineapple and cranberry are terrible together, for example) but it’s still fun to mix stuff. Here are the ingredients of a Shirley Temple: Ginger Ale (or Sprite) mixed with grenadine syrup (pomegranate flavor) and orange juice, garnished with a maraschino cherry. (Don’t get a dirty shirley or a Shirley Temple Black-that’s the alcoholic version of the ST.) Soda water and juice is great. I like cranberry and soda water with a lime. You could even be healthy at the bar and order bloody mary mix (spicy tomato juice) with a celery stick. Your favorite soda is fine too. I’m a big fan of Diet Coke with lime.

Ordering the drink: if a waitress comes to your table, just say what you want. Soda water with grenadine and a lime. You don’t have to announce to everyone that you’re not drinking alcohol. Just order a non-alcoholic drink. If you have to go to the bar to order (which sometimes can be scary) get close to the bar and hold cash in your hand. This makes the bartender know that you mean business. If the bar is crowded, sometimes you have to be a little bit pushy. Then you tell the bartender what you drink. For good measure, I sometimes say I’m the designated driver. (I always am at least my own designated driver, driving my feet to the train or bus). This sometimes will get you a free drink. I have no qualms about getting free drinks in this scenario. You will have to examine your own morals and see where this one falls. You could pray about it.

Hopefully this helps. If you get invited by co-workers to go out, maybe try it once. You might not hate it. And you probably won’t even see a drunk person (I’m sorry if this disappoints you). Also, be advised that when people ask you out for coffee, that is the generic name for going somewhere to chat in a coffee shop type setting. You are free to order herbal tea, juice, or hot chocolate and you would fit right in. Like you might fit in at the bar with a tonic on the rocks in your hand.

My next segment in my quest on making Mormons socially well-adjusted in the real world will be how to enter a crack house without doing crack.


That’s a joke. Don’t go to crackhouses. Don’t do crack. (BCC PSA)


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    This is great, Amri. A very useful primer.

  2. Hear, hear. I quite enjoy going to bars with people, and I’m often the only non-alcoholic drinker in my group.

    My thing is that I really enjoy a non-alcoholic malt beverage, so I order those with impunity. And during warm months, I drink one at home most evenings before bed (I prefer Sharps), as an alternative to soda or juice loaded with unhealthy sugar.

    Love coffeehouses too, where I freely drink decaf in its many forms. Instant decaf is my evening drink at home during cold months.

    One thing I never do is use my temple recommend as a coaster, though.


  3. I work at a company with a strong drinking culture. Often the company provides rides so there arn’t any designated drivers. But all the same I have never been made to feel uncomfortable not drinking alcohol at any of the parties. I just order something that looks delicious and have fun. That’s the whole point anyway.

  4. Amri,

    Really, this is great for those of us who entertain or travel with non-LDS and don’t know the mores of bar etiquette. I had my own crash course this spring bar-hopping in Vienna with a co-worker and a German colleague who were a bit more understanding of my ineptidude. I would add that in my limited experience with Germany and Austria, their non-alcoholic brew (esp. Null Komma Josef) is much better than the American offerings, which I also enjoy on a hot summer’s evening. I would also refer back to Kevin Barney’s (??) discussion a few months back on the meaning of “avoiding every appearance of evil” as “every instance” or “occurrence” of evil. Otherwise we may as well stay indoors all day for fear of what others may think of us.

  5. Larry the cable guy says:

    Virgin rum & Coke, my personal fave.

  6. One more question, how much do you tip (or should you) the waiter or bartender?

  7. Having spent a lot of time in bars as a kid (my parents were not members, obviously) I can attest to the fun of playing shuffleboard, pool or pinball games to the honky-tonk rythyms of a real juke box. Just don’t eat the pickled eggs or pigs feet! :-)

  8. Tipping depends. A dollar a drink is what I’ve normally heard but if you’re getting a check at the end (sometimes people use they’re credit card to open up a bill that drinks can be put on throughout the night) then the normal 18-20 percent is fine.

    I’ve never tried the Null Komma Josef, tho I’ve heard it’s good. I’m not as big of a fan of the non-alcoholic beer but, like BruceC, just get something that tastes good to you and have fun.

    Larry, I didn’t know they made virgin rum. Is that just Coke with Rum flavoring? I’ve had that before and it is tasty.

  9. It’s refreshing to know you can be LDS and enter a bar with friends to socialize. In the jello belt, if you even mention you joined some friends at the local bar, you’d be banished and labeled as “jack”.

    All too often I hear “avoid all appearances of evil”. Well, I live in the real world where I have friends and business associates that partake of the fermented grape from the vine and malted barley.

    I still would like the pleasure of their company and perhaps even be able to do a little business. I find by the time they’ve had a drink or two, they don’t really care that I’m not imbibing.

    Amri, perhaps you could teach the next S.S. lesson on this in my ward. It would be very helpful.

  10. This is pretty solid advice. I’m never going to be someone who habitually hangs out in bars, but most professional people will find themselves in a bar (or a tavern, or a bar and grill, or a brew pub…you get the idea) at some point. It’s a good point that there are plenty of people at bars who don’t drink–there’s no reason to make others feel uncomfortable about it.

  11. Oh, and I should add that clean air act ordinances around the country are making bars much, much more attractive places to spend a little bit of time. Some places exempt bars, but increasingly a lot of cities do not. All the better for us non-smokers (libertarians be damned!).

  12. Virgin Pina Colada, multiple umbrellas.

    Actually a Diet Coke is the LDS bar passport of choice. But good advice Amri. I think we can do much to make friends with people if we don’t act all freaked out by establishments that serve liquor.

    That said… I do believe in avoiding the appearance of evil. Shouldn’t Mormons avoid bars, generally?

  13. I like cranberry and soda water with a lime.

    My favorite! I find that getting something that looks pretty, i.e. a little flair like the celery stick or slice of lime, makes me feel not so nerdy.

    You’re totally right about water. I ordered water at a company party and a co-worker (and former bartender) came to my rescue with the cranberry idea. He gave a lot of the same tips you gave here–especially pointing out that many people in bars don’t drink at all so there’s nothing wrong with ordering a fun, but non-alcoholic, drink.

    One suggestion I would add is, it’s ok to pay attention to your own comfort level and know when it is your time to leave. Like you said, a little goes a long way, you don’t have to stay all night. I have had great times with friends, co-workers, and so on, in alcoholic situations. But often I find that I wear out sooner than the others. They’ll put up a big show about “oh don’t leave!” but that’s just them being polite and wanting you to know that you are wanted. Nobody gets offended if I leave a little earlier than most.

  14. Jeez, Amri, you’re 25 years too late. After our lawyers basketball league games, in the mid-1980s (when I was serving in rather visible leadership positions in the church), I used to go out regularly with the guys on the team for drinks and food at a bar. And I had to do it all without Amri’s guidance.

    But, with a steady diet of Ginger Ales and Cokes I managed to muddle my way through.

    It never dawned on me that I shouldn’t go with them–although later I’ve wondered what members of my ward or stake would have thought if they’d seen me coming out of Callaghan’s late some Wednesday night. (If any of them did, and it shook their testimony to the roots, I have yet to hear about it.)

  15. Abby, I say go. If you see another member in the bar then you can use it as blackmail. Just don’t tell anyone else.

    BTD Greg–the worst place to go to a bar these days is Utah because they’re private clubs and people can smoke. I hate them for that reason. And like you say, probably none of us will go to bars every weekend but knowing how to not act like a complete idiot goes a long way with co-workers sometimes.

    I remember one of the first times I went with my now husband’s friends to a bar, one didn’t drink because he had alcoholics in the family, another wasn’t in the mood, another one just didn’t like alcohol. I think there were only two at the table that did drink and nobody seemed to care.

  16. It strikes me that there are all types of bars, some of which LDS church members should probably avoid (certain “pick-up” bars, for example) and some of which are mostly harmless (restaurants with an accompanying beverage counter). Seems like a good amount of discretion is key when it comes to the “avoiding the appearance of evil” rule.

  17. Excellent point, BTD G.

  18. Steve, I’m not sure I think social drinking is evil. It’s against our Word of Wisdom which we can stand by as a part of our faith without thinking that the thing is inherently evil. Bars are mostly for social drinking, which I don’t think is evil, so I don’t think it’s the appearance of evil and therefore one not to be avoided necessarily.

    One certainly has better things to do with one’s time than go to a bar and drink non-alcoholic drinks every night, but that’s not really avoiding the appearance of evil either. It’s just doing more interesting things with your time.

    If you think that all drinking is evil, than yeah you should probably avoid bars.

  19. You know why I love going to bars? The people who are drinking (and paying lots of money to do it) are often subsidizing free entertainment. For example: I’ve spent many nights hanging out with some buddies at a local Irish pub that regularly has in lots of great bands (including Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphy’s). I get to go hang out, see a great show up close and personal and walk out having paid for nothing more than a diet coke, an appetizer and a decent tip.

    I love America!

  20. Martin Willey says:

    My only real objection to going to bars with friends was the smell of tobacco smoke (which is becoming less of a problem, thanks to clean indoor air laws) and the outrageous price of the soft drinks. So I like the free-drinks-for-designated-drivers tip.

  21. Greg. You’re right. I forget about those. It’s true. There are lots of bars that are way more about sex and drugs than social drinking. I’ve never been to one of those bars but I’ve heard about them and don’t go. Mostly bc it’s hard to make conversations with people who are having sex. Or totally high.

  22. Larry the cable guy says:

    Amri #8

    I’m afraid it’s just rum and Coke, minus the rum.

    Generally available in a six-pack for $1.39.

    It does sound much more exciting though when socializing

  23. I always order a virgin Mojito- they are delicious!

    Also I’ve learned that I only have to stay at a bar or work function with alcohol until everyone gets sufficiently tipsy- then no one noticies when I sneak out the backdoor to go home.

  24. Another great drink to order- a Roy Rodgers- I always get a laugh from the collegues and the waitresses get confused- I tell them the bartender will know how to make it. Then they return with a smug “here’s your cherry coke”

  25. I think things are different in different places. In LA (me), people usually stay away from the “Bars”. But a lot go to places like TGIF, Friday’s, Applebee’s. etc. Fun places with food, talk, and a *bar*…(and kids).
    (note: avoid non-food bars with 3 hr.blocks)

  26. Steve Evans says:

    “I always order a virgin Mojito- they are delicious!”

    Just bring your own bottle of Scope and be done with it.

  27. So what do you do when you are a SAHM, and all your SAHM girlfriends want to get together for cofee at someone’s house–and then it’s really awkward when you just don’t want a cup. It is 100 times more awkward to invite them all over and have no coffee to offer-because offering coffee is the polite thing to do. It’s not normal to say, “Herbal tea, anyone?”

    I’m getting more grown-up about these situations, but nonetheless, it’s hard to remember that if I want non-LDS gilrfriends to feel comfortable over for a chat, I need to stock beverages above and beyond water, milk and maybe OJ to offer them.

  28. This is so timely because this weekend I attended a wedding and then spent a couple days afterward with my friend and her boyfriend (who had also attended the wedding) in San Diego. We went to the Gaslamp Quarter and the boyfriend wanted to stop by this bar before dinner because he’d had a similar one near his campus in college and they had a specific drink he wanted my friend to try. As we were heading in the door, getting our IDs checked, the guy who checked mine (seeing a UT driver’s license) asked (in a rude tone of voice), “Are you mormon?” I said, “Yes.” And then he asked (again in a rude tone of voice), “Really?Can you guys drink?” And I said, “No,” and walked in. I wanted to tell him, “You can still go to bars even if you don’t drink!”

  29. James McMurray says:

    Great stuff. I have another related question, sorry if this is a threadjack. I’ve ended up in a few restaurants on occasion where wine drinking seems to be pretty much assumed, as glasses are already laid out as part of the table and someone inevitably orders a bottle.

    While I’m not at all uncomfortable with others drinking in such situations, I was unsure of the appropriate etiquette (resulting in unnecessary awkwardness). Just flip the wine glass over? Stop the wine-pourer when he comes around with the bottle? Just let them pour and not drink? The last option is obviously the most discreet, but I don’t like it since, hey, it’s expensive stuff and might as well let SOMEBODY enjoy it, right? Any insights would be welcome.

    Someone should write a book on this stuff…

  30. James, the best thing is to turn the glass over, and give a discreet shake of the head to the sommelier.

  31. Mmiles,

    Well, there’s tea, and then there’s tea.

    If you break out a Celestial Seasonings variety pack from Long’s Drugs — yes, they may look at you funny.

    On the other hand, if you have a stock of Lady Hannah and Rote Grutze and Rooibos (flavored or unflavored) from Tealuxe, then it’s a different story. Then you’re the cool person with exotic tisanes.

    Seriously. No sane person turns down a cup of Rote Grutze.

  32. Adam Greenwood says:

    I love the smell of condescension in the afternoon.

  33. Haven’t showered yet today, Adam?

  34. We all do, Adam. Thanks for stopping by.

  35. Adam,
    You like your smell that much? and you say it’s better in the afternoon?

    Thanks for the link. I’ll have to try it.

    It really was awkward last weekend while at an engagement party the mother of the groom REALLY wanted to get us drink. No thanks didn’t cut it. And then people are embarrassed when they find out you don’t drink, as if they did something immoral by offering a Mormon a glass of wine.

  36. Any way to make this required reading? Part of the Standard Works?

  37. Haha! This post would be satire if it weren’t so true! I love the fact that Mormons (including myself) need a primer for how to navigate bar culture. What’s next? Mormon’s Guide to Starbucks? Little LDS Book of Cigars?

    Great post! :-)

  38. Favorite Mormon-in-a-Bar experience:

    I went with my jack-Mo brother-in-law and fiancee to a loud, raucous bar. A very attractive barmaid came to take our order and when I asked for an O’Doul’s, the in-law interjected that I was the designated driver (I guess he was trying to make it clear that I really wasn’t a pansy). Suddenly the barmaid leans in and gives me a kiss. “Thank you,” she said. “My sister died ’cause she didn’t have anyone to take her home.”

  39. MikeInWeHo says:

    Gosh, I’ve missed you Amri. Telling people to pray about whether or not to accept a free soda at a bar….classic.

    re: 26 If you think a mojito takes like Scope, you deserve a lifetime TR. Take my word for it; a well made mojito is heavenly. It’s probably TK consolation prize #2, after the Earl Gray.

  40. MikeInWeHo says:

    (correction: tastes) And no, I’m not drinking one right now.

  41. Good post, Amri. Virgin daiquiri for me – or orange juice and soda water. Nobody bats an eye, even when I stress “please make sure it’s a *virgin* daiquiri.”

    I have never been made to feel uncomfortable by any friend or associate in a bar or restaurant when the alcohol is ordered – and I often am not the only one not drinking. Sometimes I am, but there are plenty of times when I’m not. As long as you aren’t self-conscious and just order what you want, it’s no big deal.

    My father HT a man years ago who often would only let him visit in the local bar. He drank soda water or water. No big deal. Everyone knew when he walked in that he was there to HT, and everyone respected him for it.

  42. The Tupperware Lady says:

    When I do parties at people’s homes, they often have margaritas or wine. I often say, “I don’t drink on the job” and laugh, but never say anything. It was much easier when I was 8 months pregnant…

  43. #27, If one or more of your non member friends knows you don’t drink coffee, you could ask one of them to help get that part of the get-together at your house done so that they can have their coffee if they want.

    I used to be the first person into the office at work, and so one time they asked my to get the coffee going for them. They only asked once, I really screwed it up. I just didn’t know what I was doing.

  44. Mormon’s Guide to Starbucks?

    Just get the Venti Hot Chocolate. Mmm.

  45. Abby, I say go. If you see another member in the bar then you can use it as blackmail. Just don’t tell anyone else.

    Joke: Why should a non-member always invite two Mormons when he goes fishing?

    Answer: Because if you only invite one, he’ll drink all your beer.

  46. Bull Moose says:

    Please hold your fire until I’ve finished, but for those who love to feel innocently naughty by drinking “non-alcoholic” beers, keep in mind that it doesn’t mean “alcohol free.” It only means they are less than 0.5% alcohol (about 3.5% less than a Bud Light).

    Of course, the liquor store clerk didn’t get that and was easily convinced by we 10 year-olds proclaiming, “It’s non-alcoholic! It says so right on the bottle!”

  47. Bull Moose,

    Agreed, but seeing as how I’d have to drink a LOT of O’Douls to get even a mild buzz on, I’m not losing sleep over my occasional “pseudo-libation”.

  48. I haven’t worked with another Mormon for years, but several of my coworkers are teetotalers. It’s worth keeping in mind that you might not be the only person at work who doesn’t drink, smoke, drink coffee, etc. I know that some will find that disheartening, feeling that it robs them of their peculiarity.

  49. Kevin Barney says:

    You guys should all thank your lucky stars you live today. In a prior generation, not drinking wasn’t the easy option it has become, and there was no such thing as a designated driver. Navigating these hurdles has become much, much easier, for which I am very grateful.

  50. Steve Evans says:

    A friend once sent me this link, as a cautionary tale. I now share it with all of you.

  51. Jonovitch says:

    I went to happy hour once with some co-workers. The waitress carded all of us, then took orders. As she came around to me, I clearly stated, “Shirley Temple,” knowing full well that my co-workers were going to mock me — which they did.

    I then asked them all if anyone had ever ordered a Shirley Temple before. Not one of them had. “There you go,” I said, and I turned back to waitress and proudly confirmed my order.


  52. Here east of the mighty Mississip’ times were where often the only way to get to see BYU football was if we all met at a sports bar. It wasn’t uncommon at all to meet members of your bishopric and Stake Presidency there to cheer on the Cougars.

    At first the Sports bar manager was unsure about devoting a screen to us, but I assured him that if he gave us a room to gather in that was somewhat separated from all the drinking and smoking we’d make it worth his while. I then explained to the Cougar faithful that the manager was likely losing money on alcohol by helping us, so we needed to order lot of appetizers and tip very very well.

    Win-win if you ask me.

    Of course, these days everyone has access to 27-ESPN channels at home, so we don’t meet there any more. I noticed a few weeks back that the Sports bar was out-of-business and replaced with a dinner theater. I’m sure it’s the loss of the Cougar Fan revenue that put him under. ;-)

  53. My most recent position was in sales & marketing (read: lots of customer entertaining). I always order San Pellegrino. Yes, it is water, but is “cool” water (is there such a thing?!) And, that also seemed to be the drink of choice of other non-alcoholic drinkers (pregnant women, muslim & other LDS folks)

    And yes, it was much, much easier when I was pregnant!! (sorry guys)

  54. Having grown up in Las Vegas (born and raised here, no less), I remember being told on several occasions as to why “faithful” members never go into bars or dance clubs, casinos, etc. Something to the effect of it being akin to going into a coal mine, one can never get the dust off.
    Given that my father (non-member) had worked in the gaming industry since the early 50’5 and I having grown up on going into the casino to see my dad on more than one occasion, I had to hold off on remarking that my father’s work made it possible for me to go on a mission…..

    And besides, virgin Daquiri’s are also really good since they are so so cold when the temp is 110 and above…..

  55. Cranberry juice is what I would order.

    Honestly though, the few times I’ve been in a bar, I get bored. There really isn’t that much going on.

  56. A couple of months ago I went out to a gay bar with a couple of friends to sing karaoke. I didn’t drink anything stronger than a diet coke, but I had a wonderful time. And the women’s bathroom was immaculately clean.

  57. TA Esplin says:

    There are plenty of nonreligious reasons to avoid bars. The bars my friends frequent are loud and boring. The subtle pressure to buy overpriced food to make up for not purchasing alcohol also annoys me. Coffeehouses at least have an enjoyable atmosphere. Avoiding bars might lead others to perceive one as boring, but patronizing bars leads to actual boredom.

  58. Guys, I love love love reading your blog. I’m not Mormon and I do drink (some, and sometimes I don’t), and I just want to say that everybody is a little fearful of bars at first. Even my friends who drink were nervous well into their twenties about figuring it all out and not looking uncool.

    Amri’s advice is mostly spot-on. The one thing I would say is that Shirley Temples are unusual to order unless you are ordering them for your eight-year-old niece. It’s not the lack of alcohol, it’s the pink color. And the cherry. Cooler, more grown-up nonalcoholic drinks would be fancy water like San Pellegrino or Perrier, a tonic water, a soda water, a cranberry juice, even a Coke. I like “bitter lemon” (a mixer) but it’s more esoteric.

    Also, the general rule of thumb is to tip a dollar a drink for an alcoholic drink. For a nonalcoholic drink you don’t need to tip that much. And sometimes bartenders just give you a soda for free — I wouldn’t worry about it because the bar isn’t making its money on you.

  59. #27: Buy a jar of instant coffee and tell them to make it like they like it. They will think you are a great host.

  60. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to be here (probably how you feel when you walk into a bar). I am, in your terms, an “investigator.” Gosh, how I despise that term. Who came up with that? Talk to your Elders b/c, as an aside, as an “investigator,” I find the term offensive. Why do I need a name exactly?

    Anyhow, I write with a wealth of experience on the bar/alcohol topic. And frankly, you are putting too much thought into it. Lots of people, myself included, enter bars and don’t drink. Whether you’re a designated driver, a recovering alcoholic (probably shouldn’t be in a bar), or simply someone who doesn’t feel like drinking, there are lots of reasons not to drink in a bar. The tip — at the bar, getting my own drink, I typically leave $1. That’s it, even if it’s a soda and I’m a designated driver. I have no qualms about not drinking in front of my drinking companions. Really, why are they so worried about someone else’s drinking anyhow? Usually b/c they have their own drinking issues.

    My own little story to share — I have a friend, and upon meeting her, found that we have lots in common — books, interests, similarly-aged children, etc… I truly enjoy my time with her. Being from that “non-peculiar” world, I asked her if she’d like to meet up for coffee at Starbucks one night after the kids were in bed. She looked at me extremely uncomfortably and explained that she doesn’t drink coffee. I then looked at her like she had 2 heads, b/c seriously, WHO doesn’t drink coffee?? I had no idea she was LDS, and in fact, truth be told, I had no idea what being LDS entailed, other than all the “weird” stuff — you know, I had previously read Under the Banner of Heaven, and doesn’t that really tell you all you need to know about Mormonism?. I actually had to ask her if she recognized Christmas — I had no idea, and I am ashamed at admitting my own ignorance of your Christian faith.

    Anyhow, I’ve now spent 2 years studying the LDS religion (from all sides, not just sanctioned versions), reading the Book of Mormon, praying, etc.. b/c I wanted to learn more and to understand. We’ve had lots of theological discussions — can you eat chocolate? Is Diet Coke ok? (I see there is a difference of opinion on this — is it the caffeine or the caffeinated hot beverage that’s the problem?) What about polygamy — not here, but probably in the celestial kingdom? I could go on and on. My friend and I have developed a closer friendship. We don’t go to Starbucks, and out of respect, I don’t drink coffee or alcohol around her (whether at my home or at a restaurant). She has given me a Book of Mormon, though oddly enough, I haven’t thought to give her a copy of my New American Bible.

    I loved this post, which is what prompted me to de-lurk. I’m thinking of writing a series — The LDS Guide to Bars and Coffee Joints, a Catholic Perspective.

    Not everyone is concerned with what you’re drinking — whether we’re talking about a drinking establishment or a coffee house. Get out there and enjoy socializing with people you don’t find in your Ward or Stake House. If asked, sure, explain your religion, but don’t feel like you have to or feel like you have to justify anything. I’d like to think that my lone LDS friend has enjoyed my friendship as much as I have enjoyed her’s. I find her faith inspiring, and quite honestly, that is the best witness you can provide — following the rules and avoiding “appearances” of evil are certainly admirable, but it is the Faith that gives pause. And sometimes there are no better people to reach than those who need to imbibe to get through their day. And you would find them in a bar.

  61. I recall a conference talk by Elder L. Tom Perry in which he shared an experience related to social drinking (“Not of the World” or something like that — had to be 15+ years ago). Elder Perry actually ordered milk and claimed to have made important business contacts because of his odd beverage choice!

  62. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks, Aileen, I’m thrilled to see that we have such a cool lurker. Please feel free to de-lurk any time!

  63. Heather O. says:

    In German bars, you can order banana juice. I know it sounds weird, but it’s pretty tasty.

    I usually go with a Diet Coke, although in college, many a time I’ve been asked how much rum I want in it.

    The biggest problem I always had with being the non-drinker is that there comes a point in the party where you aren’t having fun anymore. The jokes just don’t get funnier after the 3rd Diet Coke.

  64. This is a great post.
    I wish I had read it a few weeks ago before I had my first experience in a bar with some friends.
    Here’s what I learned.
    1. Don’t tell people you’ve never had alcohol, and you’re excited to see how they act when they’re drunk. They will think you are very strange.
    2. Don’t ask people why they would get drunk if the hangovers are so terrible. (they’ll ask themselves the same question)
    3. Don’t smell the tequila, you might want to vomit.
    4. Do have just as much fun as they are having. My favorite was partying with a big group in a hotel room where a few of us got up to dance on a table (nothing bad, just fun). One of them looked at me and said, “I’m most concerned about her, because she hasn’t had anything to drink.”
    5. Do become the designated driver, but don’t let them talk you into going to the grocery store to buy more alcohol after the bar closes. geez.

  65. Aileen, I second Kevin. What a great comment.

    Jessawhy, Nice!

  66. Great stuff. I haven’t been any bars in a professional situation but the same rules certainly apply at a reception with an open bar or at the Christmas Party. Especially if the drinks at these kinds of gatherings are free (i.e. paid for by the company) it’s fun to get something fancy that you might not normally spring for.

    After the drinks when every one orders coffee I always try and get a hot chocolate or something. Sometimes the waiter will come up with some really great stuff. The last time they brought me a hazelnut steamer which was really good.

  67. K Corbett says:

    Think of it as a game with the bartender to see if she really knows what she is doing. Really skilled bartenders can make some really good non-alcoholic drinks even if you don’t know the name of it.

    I second the mojito (assuming fresh mint), and would add St Clements for that subtle religious angle (half fresh orange, half bitter lemon).

    drinks can be named differently, so I often just go for the ingredients (2 or 3 ingredients is a good number) — pick any one from a fruit juice, liquid (soda, coke) and something else (lime, mint). Here are some of the drinks I’ve ordered using that basic recipe: mojito (lime for the juice, soda for the liquid, mint for the extra), the delicious pink drink (cranberry juice, soda, mint), fuzzless navel (peach nectar, orange juice and better if thinned with soda water or ginger ale), something pretty delicious with orange juice, grenadine and soda or ginger ale.

  68. Get out there and enjoy socializing with people you don’t find in your Ward or Stake House.

    Word up, Aileen.

    Very useful, Amri. As a fan of jazz music, I’ve been a virgin barfly for a long time. Out here, mixed drinks are very unusual, so a coke or mineral water is the way to go. I like Ramlösa myself.

    Oh, and thanks for the warning against crack. You may have just saved my life.

  69. Aileen, Please comment often.

    Lurking without commenting probably gives you the same experience as I get barhopping without drinking.

    BTW, you have excellent lurk etiquette. I hadn’t even noticed that you weren’t commenting previously. You played it off very casually.

    You could just make one more comment. One comment won’t hurt you.

  70. Actually, one of my favorite bar memories is going to a karaoke bar in Hong Kong with a group of engineers from around the world all working on the IRIDIUM satellite phone system. But, yeah, just order soft drinks and stay cool. ..bruce..

    P.S. For those wondering, yes, I did: “House of the Rising Sun”

  71. Amri,

    You are obviously getting the NY Times a day early down there. It’s like that TV show my kids used to watch.

    Here’s the real answer to “How to be cool drinking no booze at the bar?” Too bad you couldn’t see the print edition: it’s above (and below!) the fold on page 3 of the Dining Out/In section, with a teaser at the top of page 1.

    I know Amri’s got something going with the editors.

  72. You forgot to explain about tipping the bartender. What percentage was it that you tip a bartender again? Even if you’re getting a free drink, it seems a bit tasteless to me to not tip.

  73. Wait, I see Aileen already touched on that subject…

  74. Heather O says, in comment #63:

    The biggest problem I always had with being the non-drinker is that there comes a point in the party where you aren’t having fun anymore. The jokes just don’t get funnier after the 3rd Diet Coke.

    This is an important point. Different people go to bars for different reasons. Lots of people like me find themselves there occasionally for a company-sponsored happy hour or a celebratory drink for a colleague. My visits are usually pretty brief as I’d rather just get home (those TV shows on my DVR queue aren’t just going to watch themselves, you know!). But there are plenty of drinkers who go to bars to get drunk, at least occasionally. I don’t see much point of sticking around for that scene. I mean, you could be a designated driver and make sure your friends make it home safely, but it’s not really that much fun hanging out with a bunch of drunks after the non-drinkers and light drinkers have already left. YMMV.

  75. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 74
    The Universal Law of the Bar applies even to the non-drinker, BTD Greg:

    Thou shalt depart the bar when thou no longer haveth fun.

    Failure to heed this law leads inevitably to woe. Of course it only applies to those above the age of bar accountability, which is 30. In practice, this law is easy enough to follow unless you are the designated driver and your companions don’t want to leave yet. (Handling that situation is an advanced topic and would require a separate thread though.)

  76. something pretty delicious with orange juice, grenadine and soda or ginger ale.

    It’s another ginger-ale sunrise
    Starin slowly cross the sky
    Said goodbye

  77. Steve Evans says:

    I gotta say thanks to Aileen for a wonderful comment. Please de-lurk more often!

  78. Brother Kaimi
    Writes Haiku drunkenly
    But not all that good

  79. I attended a sales meeting back east with individuals who are officed in SLC part of the month and back east the other part (non-Mormon) and others who I work with over the phone regularly bet rarely meet with in person. Largely my ability to have good working relationships with these people depended on my ability to socialize with them.

    Long story short, after an excellent meal with 5 star catering they took us to a private party in museum with a catered bar. The group I was sitting with all drank, and when the bartender came around to me I asked for “something he recommended without alcohol”, and I was subtle with no alcohol request. A few people noticed and asked if I was Mormon, I said yes, and that was it. We all drank our respective drinks, talked, laughed, socialized, and seemed to have a good time. I wonder what the impact would have been had I responded like a few of the others from Utah who chose to go and sit on the bus for 90 minutes in order to avoid even the appearance of evil.

  80. Wow, haikus on a thread about not drinking. The avoidance of alcohol clearly gets the juices flowing.

    I think I mentioned in #8, a dollar a drink for tipping.

    Norbert #68, I’m glad to save your life anytime. Also, are mixed drinks uncommon in all of Europe or just up north where you are?

    74,75–actually it’s not fun to be the real designated driver, because you have to wait around for everyone to get toasted. I just say it to get the free drinks (it’s wicked, I know) but Mike’s right. It’s usually more fun to leave early. And if you’re out on a weeknight with co-workers, I think it’s a lot easier to do this.

    And I second what K Corbett said. Know 2-3 ingredients for your drink. And Shirley Temples are a little weird, but it’s good to know what goes in them and how you can mix flavors together.

    I did used to work at Starbucks and I could make some WoW worthy drinks that would knock your socks off.

    And Aileen I would read your series if you wrote it!

  81. Peter LLC says:

    Also, are mixed drinks uncommon in all of Europe or just up north where you are?

    Just up north where they like it straight from the bottle in whatever quantities they can get their hands on.

  82. Peter LLC says:

    it seems a bit tasteless to me to not tip.

    What business does a patron of a purveyor of drink have getting concerned about taste? It’s like turning to Johnny Rotten to tell you how to dress.

  83. Mark B.,

    Thank you for haiku.
    Please note, my prior comment is

  84. Don’t forget to ask if they have root beer on tap. Yes, some may think you are a total gomer, but you can also get some awesome, microbrewed root beer that way.

    Also: the best lemonade (and probably the most expensive) I have ever had was at a hotel bar in San Francisco. I was just going to order a mineral water or soda, but the person who was buying (the president’s speechwriter at the college I worked at) knew I was Mormon and ordered for me. It was excellent.

  85. My story:

    I had just started my professional career in engineering. The department manager was fond of various microbrews (of which there are many in Colorado) and consequently set our quarterly off-site meetings at the local pubs. At my first meeting everyone ordered their beers and I opted for a Sprite. I was the only woman in the group, and no one was inclined to pressure me to “be one of the guys”, so the event passed without notice.

    The next meeting a few of my co-workers also opted for soft drinks, and at the next several more. After a few meetings only my manager and 2-3 others were ordering alcohol. Turns out almost all my co-workers disliked the taste of beer, but had felt obligated to drink with the boss. My presence gave them the excuse they needed to opt out of the alcohol part.

    No Word of Wisdom lecture required, and non-drinking pub presence appreciated by associates.

  86. If my co-workers are ordering Margaritas, am I safe to order one of these virgin, frou-frou drinks?

    I always get a diet coke, because my companions are almost always drinking beer. I don’t want to be the only one getting a funny shaped glass.

  87. The king is gone, Peter LLC. But he’s not forgotten.

  88. My father relates a story of when he was on the staff of a USN Admiral in Japan during the 50s. There were many social drinking events to which he was obligated to attend. The Admiral, knowing my father was Mormon, took great pleasure watching him try to explain to the Japanese hosts that he did not drink. Since neither were fluent in a common language, the explanations were completely inadequate. The host kept trying to bring out different types of alcohol. After the Admiral had his fill of amusement at my fathers expense, he would say something in Japanese and it would end. Later my father discovered his secret phrase. In English it translates as “When the Ensign is with me he is on duty and does not drink”

  89. When I was in college (Idaho State), I had the station wagon so I was the perpetual designated driver on Friday nights. I’d usually be given a “Designated Driver” sticker which meant I got all the Diet Pepsi I wanted. And like above, the barmaids generally love DDs. Best of all, I made sure everybody got home in one piece, and that was probably the best thing I could have done for my dorm buddies. It was appreciated, and later on when my car broke down, they set up a sign-up sheet for people to take me to and pick me up from my hotel night auditor job. I’d looked out for them, they looked out for me, and I never got ridiculed because of my choice not to drink.

    My girlfriend (now wife) liked to play backgammon in the local coffeeshop/bookstore on Saturday. We learned real quick that the best way to warm up in a coffeeshop in February is to order steamed milk with almond or hazlenut syrup. Like a very sophisticated hot chocolate, but it warms you all the way to the bone, even in Pocatello.

    Now that I’m working for a really big bank, we do have happy hour trips for departing employees. I used to go and have diet Pepsi, but there aren’t really any non-smoking bars around here, so I’ve quit going and I can honestly blame it on the smoke.

    You don’t have to feel bad about taking free sodas if you’re the designated driver. They generally have it on the fountain, meaning they have a handheld hose (like a vegetable sprayer) to squirt it right into your glass. With ice, soda, and cherry, the cost to the bar comes to about nine cents. Add labor for the bartender and dishwasher, and you might be up to quarter. If you’ve tossed back a few, tip the bartender a couple of bucks and figure you’re saving them a bundle in hassle over calling a cab for the patrons you’re driving home.

  90. Mrs. Peacock says:

    #31, I like Adagio Teas ( Their chocolate and valentine’s (chocolate and strawberry) teas are fantastic!

  91. Mrs. Peacock says:

    #88, this is a great story! Drinking culture is very strong in Japan. People are expected to go out with their bosses after work and get drunk. Capsule hotels evolved to give a place to sleep for the salaryman who missed the last train home.

    Does anyone know what Japanese Mormons do in this situation? Fake an allergy? That after-work time is a critical component of career advancement.

    I’m not Mormon, btw, I just love this site.

  92. Just up north where they like it straight from the bottle in whatever quantities they can get their hands on.

    There’s some truth to that.
    I think the mixed drink is pretty American. I don’t recall seeing much in my travels beyond mixing with water or juice … at least, that’s what I’ve read (cough, cough).

  93. MikeInWeHo says:

    I cannot imagine anything more horrible than going out with my boss after work, much less getting drunk together.

  94. Mike,

    Here’s a story you’ll (probably) appreciate.

    We went for a family trip several months back — stopped briefly in LA; went to Joshua Tree national park; saw really cool geological stuff (you can see parts of the San Andres fault; plus huge granite towers and stuff).

    Afterwards, I was telling a friend — he’s LDS and currently active, but used to be a hard-partying gay man, several years back — about the trip. And I said, “we went to LA with the family, went to Joshua Tree, saw fault lines . . .”

    He stopped cold and did a double take. And then, he started laughing, and said, “Oh. Fault lines. In the desert. Right.”

    And then he explained that Fault Line was the name of a gay bar in LA that he used to frequent — and so, when I said we went to LA with the kids and saw fault lines, it took him a second to process what I meant.

  95. Snow White says:

    I have two words to say to those of you who find bars boring: drunken karaoke! My Lambda Delta Sig sisters and our Sigma Gamma Chi brothers (LDS sorority/fraternity)used to have a blast at the local bar and grill on karaoke night. We’d order a round of Diet Cokes or virgin Daquiris and appetizers and watch all the free entertainment. The drunken little redneck guy bobbing and weaving to “I’m your Boogeyman” was particularly priceless.

  96. MikeInWeHo says:

    If your friend frequented the Fault Line, it’s not a wonder he’s active in the Church now. That place would make anybody repent, fast. The Abbey, however, is like a cool pot of water on the stove for the frog.

  97. In German bars, you can order banana juice. I know it sounds weird, but it’s pretty tasty.

    The Banana juice is actually a mixer for beer. Yes, beer. I was dubious at first, but its actually really tasty. They do lots of mixers with beer here, even beer and cola, and its suprisingly not gross.

    Also, are mixed drinks uncommon in all of Europe or just up north where you are?

    While beer is a serious thing in Germany, there are tons of mixed drinks. But, they are crap compared to the states. You can get decent vodka and whisky/scotch and thats about it. The rum and tequila are horrible and overpriced. I love me a vodka tonic with lime, but most bar tenders here in Berlin have no idea what that is. Somehow, the White Russian is extremely popular however (I guess the Big Liebowski was big here…)

    Also, this post is hilarious. I would love to see one on Starbucks as well. It never occured to me that many Mormons don’t know of the all the delicious non-coffee drinks at most coffee shops (Pumpkin Spice and Eggnog steamers at Starbucks are delish). Also, even in Seattle I knew lots on non-coffee drinkers. Its not that weird, really (ok, here in Germany it would be…)

    (And I am obviously not Mormon…but as a former member love your site…)

  98. Spencer (86):

    Only if the margaritas are blended.

  99. I don’t know, Mike. I clicked through the menu for The Abbey — someone posted a link at T&S — and I have to say, I’m not sure I can take seriously a place that puts “Red Bull mojito” on the menu.

  100. I was proud to be the designated driver for my friends when I worked at Disneyland; one of my friends was thrilled because she (a nominal drinker) had been stuck being the designated driver since junior high school — the first time she drove a drunk person home, she was 12 years old. She used me as her opportunity to finally try all the exotic drinks at TGI Friday’s. Conversely, in college, my roommate used to puke all night long and tell me how lucky I was to be a non-drinker (she was incapable of drinking till she passed out — she drank till she got really really sick and eventually fell asleep; I have no idea why she drank at all.) It probably helps that my friends and associates are getting older — drinking till you’re ill and stupid apparently seems far cooler when it’s illegal and you’re 19.

    And bars — at least the kind where there’s a lack of anonymous “grind” dancing — are moderately interesting, for at least an hour or so. More if you’re friends with the band. But I’m so non-social that quite frankly, I’d rather hole up in a steakhouse with a good book — when you would rather stay at home and learn to cross-stitch than go to FHE, you’re not likely to become a barfly, WoW or no.

  101. It never occured to me that many Mormons don’t know of the all the delicious non-coffee drinks at most coffee shops (Pumpkin Spice and Eggnog steamers at Starbucks are delish).

    Ahhhh, I love, love, love the vanilla bean frappucinos at starbucks on a hot day, and in the winter, carmel apple cider with a double shot of carmel. Yeah baby.

  102. MikeInWeHo says:

    If you put a frog in a Red Bull mojito it will jump right out. But if you put a frog in a glass of muddled mint and lime, then gradually add the Red Bull and rum…it will stay until it gets drunk.

    It’s a great place to hang out, but why on earth would anyone take a Catholic-themed gay bar seriously??

  103. Peter LLC says:

    I cannot imagine anything more horrible than going out with my boss after work, much less getting drunk together.

    I can: going out after work and getting drunk and singing karaoke together. We call it a “team-building exercise.”

  104. As a Ward Mission Leader I’m working w/ a gentleman who is a recovering alcoholic and if he saw or heard that I was in a bar, he just wouldn’t understand. Nor would he understand if he saw our bishop there.

    Can someone provide some tips for avoiding the bar all together, as I am a traveling consultant and constantly being asked to join the “team building” events that occur daily described by Peter in various cities and I’m looking for a sound reason to give that is not “avoid the appearance of evil” (as my colleges don’t consider themselves evil, nor do I for the most part.)

    Everyone knows I’m Mormon and that I don’t drink, they constantly inform me of Amri’s points but, I’m just not comfortable w/ being in a bar w/ everyone around me drinking. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  105. Err, Mike — wouldn’t that actually be a Red _Frog_ mojito? (And, do you drink the frog too? You know, like the worm in the tequila?)

  106. I’m just not comfortable w/ being in a bar w/ everyone around me drinking.

    g, how about just saying that? If that’s not good enough, just say, “I don’t go to bars.” If they still persist, tell them that someone close to you died from alcoholism (it might even be true). That should get them to back off.

  107. Re #91 Yes, duty is really big in Japanese culture. So not drinking because you are on duty makes sense. But not drinking at all? That’s just crazy talk. I wonder if it has changed over the last 50 years since my father was there.

  108. Virgin Bloody Marys for me.

    In my opinion, it is a personal thing. I find that I can have more fun kereokeing at a bar than I every will have at a Mormon function. Singing is fun! And if the place get lude, leave. :)

  109. This was a great read. I’m starting to feel quite comfortable with my coworkers in bar scenes although it did take some time. My one pointer is to not order sissy drinks. I hope you’ll forgive my playground-level gender bias, but no man should be ordering Shirley Temples, pink lemonade, etc at a bar.

  110. I get the “How To of the Day” on my Google email. Here’s what popped up today: How to Turn Down a Drink.

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