What do you drink when you’re not “drinking”?

This is probably the question I get asked most often. Short answer: a sh*t ton of water. I carry a BPA-free water bottle with me wherever I go (probably something everyone should do, especially during these brutal LA summers) and my favorite thing about my water bottle (made by Contigo) is that it has measurements on the side of the bottle so I know exactly how much water I’m drinking every day. (Health note: To figure out how much water you should be drinking divide your body weight by two and that’s the minimum number of ounces you need per day, adding an extra 8oz. for every workout and every cup of coffee).

Now, there are times when water just won’t cut it for me in more social situations, so I’ve compiled a list of my favorite drinks for different scenarios!

1) House Parties: I love a good, friendly get-together, but when I started sobriety, I was never sure what to bring when the invite stated “BYOB”. I felt weird bringing a bottle of wine or a case of beer that I obviously wasn’t going to drink, luckily the tasty brainiacs over at La Croix came up with the perfect solution. I’m OBSESSED with this sparkling water. It comes in cases of 8 or 12 cans, so it’s easy to carry and the packaging always adds a nice festive touch. The best part is the variety of favors. Right now, my current favorite it “Cerise Limon” (cherry, lime), but they offer everything from plain seltzer to standard lemon or lime to grapefruit (another one of my favorites). The drink is zero calories and naturally flavored so you don’t have to worry about added sugars and fat, and each flavor has the perfect amount of sweetness. Though, it’s my favorite drink to bring as my date to any party, it’s pretty much my go-to for every situation.

2) Bars: I love being social and I still love going to bars, even though I don’t drink. Actually, I probably love going to bars more now because my tab at the end of the night doesn’t cost me an overdraft fee on my debit card in the morning. The tricky thing about going to bars as a sober person is that you burn out a lot faster. If I go out around 9pm, I’m usually starting to get a little sleepy before midnight. This is when I let myself have a sugar-free Red Bull. I know, this stuff isn’t the best for me, so to avoid having a heart attack, I only have one, and I nurse that one for pretty much the entire night. When it’s gone I switch back to club soda. This is also the only situation where I’ll drink soda. I’m a big fan of cherry coke, so ordering a diet soda with a pinch of grenadine gives me that indulgence I’m craving.

3) Dinner: My favorite way to socialize usually involves stuffing my face. Before sobirety, I LOVED the pre-dinner cocktails, especially in LA where it seems every bar/restaurant is constantly competing to have the tastiest, most unique drink on their menu. I’ve found that most places can make just about anything “virgin-style”, and they are still totally delish. I’ve started asking for craft-style lemonades wherever I go and the bartenders are usually up for the challenge. (Bonus: if you’re with a group of drinkers, most of the time the restaurant won’t even charge you for your virgin cocktail, I don’t know why this is, but I’ll take a free drink any day).

4) Dinner Parties: Another favorite. I love hosting dinner parties and cooking for my friends, but that inevitably means that everyone brings a bottle of wine to contribute to the festivities. The real kick in the groin for me is that I’m allergic to apples (which I take as further evidence that I was actually Snow White in my past life), so I can’t drink the cliche sparkling cider that is every parents’ go-to for the kid’s table at Thanksgiving. So, this is when I break out the fancy ginger-ale. I don’t really like the standard grocery store, soda version (too many flavored syrups and bad sugars), but I LOVE ginger beer (specifically, Bundaberg Ginger Beer) . The biggest difference between the two is that gingerbeer is fermented. Traditionally, ginger beer did contain small amounts of alcohol, but now-a-days, the majority of brands do not contain any. Because ginger beer is fermented, it has a much stronger, gingery flavor and it also contains some healthy bacteria, which aides in digestion, making it the perfect companion for another social gathering in which I stuff my face.

5) Brunch: Bottomless Mimosa Brunches are definitely a thing, at least in these parts, and saying no to a $10 all you can drink special in a fancy champagne glass, can be a challenge. I recently discovered the BEST alternative for this situation… Elderflower. My five-year-old best friend has been going on and on about this stuff for about as long as I’ve known her, so I finally decided to give it a try, and let me tell you, the kid was right. Most restaurants carry it to use in different cocktails, but I order it with either sparkling water or lemonade and it adds a wonderful, festive sweetness to my fancy brunch outing. You can also get elderflower lemonade at some grocery stores and liquor stores now, so I keep a bottle in my fridge for whatever special occasion may arise. (My favorite at the moment is Belvoir Fruit Farms Elderflower and Rose Lemonade).

So, there you have it. What to drink when you’re not drinking!

(Editor’s Note: A BIG THANK YOU to the kind folks over at La Croix for sending me so many yummy cases to keep my fridge stocked for the summer!)