Dry January: I’ll have what she’s not having ∣ Ervolino

We are already two weeks into the topic of today’s column, but…

Wait! Before, I tell you that, let me tell you this: Some 104 years ago, the great American composer Irving Berlin (“White Christmas,” “God Bless America” and about 1,600 others) wrote a song that most folks will tell you they’ve never heard.

Titled “The Near Future,” it appeared in “The Ziegfeld Follies of 1919.”

Heard of it?

I hadn’t. But, according to Wikipedia, the song “is better known for the small part of its lyric that took on a life of its own: ‘How dry I am…’”

Ervolino: Am I putting my guests to sleep or are they all perpetually exhausted?

On television shows — including a 1959 episode of “The Twilight Zone” — in movies and especially in Warner Brothers cartoons, that portion of the song, played languorously, with or without lyrics, let you know that whoever was stumbling around onscreen was…

Loaded. Hammered. Plastered. Wasted. And, most decidedly, drunk.

Which brings us to today’s topic, “Dry January,” a monthlong salute to sobriety that began after midnight on Jan. 1, right around the time when most revelers were clinking their crystal champagne flutes and prepping for their next gin and tonic.

I’d like to note that I am a lightweight in this department, even though I was sipping wine with dinner when I was 10 years old.

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Granted, there was some cream soda in my glass, too, but I was a traditional Italian kid. And wine is what we drank with meals. Even today, when I see parents giving children Coca-Cola with their spaghetti, I feel compelled to call Social Services.

As an adult, I’m usually satisfied with one cocktail. Two will put me to sleep. But I know plenty of folks who can (and will) drink until the cows come home. Or, until they see pink elephants with polka dots prancing through their dining rooms.

Like most people, I’ve known happy drunks and unhappy drunks and drunks who are just plain ornery.

Will any of them benefit from Dry January?

Studies have shown that quitting alcohol or even cutting down on it for a month can be an important first step in finding sobriety. (“One day at a time” has long been a mantra for Alcoholics Anonymous.)

Dry January, a campaign started in 2013, seems to become more popular every year, but not with everyone. It is apparently less appealing to baby boomers (those of us now in our 60s and 70s) than it is to millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) and “zoomers” (those born in the mid- to late 1990s).

According to a study done by Alcohol Change UK — the creator of the campaign —  almost 9 million Brits said they would participate in Dry January in 2023. But most of them were under 55.

As the Guardian newspaper reported last week, “A quarter of people aged 18-34 are planning to abstain from drinking this month, compared with only 10 percent of people aged 55 and over. It is a similar picture for people who want to reduce their alcohol intake in 2023 — 40 percent of 18-34’s as opposed to 20 percent of over 55’s, despite the latter age group drinking twice as much as young people in a week.”

For a glimpse into what’s happening on this side of the pond, I sought out Boonton resident Gary Vecchiarelli.

A longtime bartender, Vecchiarelli, 45, now works for Basking Ridge-based Fedway Associates Inc., one of the largest liquor wholesalers and distributors in the Garden State.

“Dry January doesn’t seem to interest older patrons, but it is something 20- and 30-somethings are embracing,”  Vecchiarelli said. “Same with Sober October. But it’s becoming popular at other times of the year, too, at the hipster bars in Jersey City, Hoboken and Manhattan. The non-alcoholic ‘mocktails’ are becoming more and more popular, and they’re not cheap.”

A bar in Manhattan’s Ritz-Carlton hotel reportedly sells a mocktail made with honeydew, celery and lemongrass for $20. In North Jersey, a fancy non-alcoholic libation is more likely to cost between $14 and $16, about the price of a regular cocktail.

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In addition to the ever-growing menu of mocktails made with fruit juices, sodas and bitters — drinks with names like Mango Mule, Virgin Margarita and Phony Negroni — there is an entirely new line of non-alcoholic spirits on the market from companies such as Ritual Zero Proof, Seedlip and Lyre’s.

CleanCo, which Fedway handles, is a line co-created by British reality show star Spencer Matthews (onetime star of “Made in Chelsea” and “The Bachelor”) and includes faux gins, rums and tequilas.

The line is becoming increasingly popular with zoomers, Vecchiarelli said, “many of whom look at drinking the way their parents looked at smoking in the ‘90s. They think it’s hipper and healthier to drink non-alcoholic beverages.”

Of course, some of them also think it’s hipper and healthier to combine these beverages with weed, edible cannabis products and psilocybin mushrooms.

I’ll gladly pass on those. And that honeydew thing, too. I’m over 55, though, so gimme a beer.

Bill Ervolino
Bill Ervolino

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: If you are older, you are less likely to take part in Dry January