I Went To A "Sober Curious" Bar, And It Was Actually More Social Than Any Bar I've Been To

In recent years, the "sober curious" movement has gotten bigger and bigger — especially among Gen Z'ers.

Kris Jenner sipping a teacup
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So when I — a debatable Gen Z'er (I just turned 27) — quit drinking five months ago, I felt that I was in pretty good company.

But when I started researching sober groups and spaces near me — and mind you, I live in New York City, a place that has EVERYTHING — I quickly saw that with sobriety came few events for alcohol-free twentysomethings, and more of meetup groups of middle-aged folks planning "field trips" to the Statue of Liberty (which, hey, if that's your thing, slay! It just wasn't mine).

Kim Kardashian leaning back and gazing at something
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Then one glorious day, I found Elizabeth Gascoigne, aka @absenceofproof, on TikTok. In her videos, Elizabeth advertised these nonalcoholic parties she was throwing in a GORGEOUS speakeasy. I was immediately sold on the promise of alcohol-free espresso martinis that wouldn't get me heinously shitfaced, so I registered my best friend, Dara, and myself to go to one of her events ASAP.

@absenceofproof

Non-alcoholic speakeasy pop-up every friday in February! #sobercurious #alcoholfree

♬ Collide (sped up) - Justine Skye

When we got there, we were immediately presented with two STUNNING glasses of nonalcoholic champagne and pamphlets with a list of their mocktails. They had a lychee martini, a spicy margarita, the aforementioned espresso martini, and more. As someone who'd grown accustomed to ordering plain ol' seltzers with cranberry juice, I was obviously ecstatic!!!

The pamphlet and two hands holding glasses of nonalcoholic champagne
Syd Robinson

Downstairs, we were greeted by Elizabeth herself. I got to talking to her about why she started Absence of Proof and how it's been going.

Two smiling women with caption, "Gotta love a low-light photo!"
Syd Robinson

"When I stopped drinking about a year ago, I felt immediately better ... but I did notice a shift in my social life," she told me. "I still wanted to experience the nightlife I'd moved to New York for, just without the alcohol, and I really couldn't find anything unless it was an Alcoholics Anonymous community, which is not something I'm a part of. So I just started throwing parties."

Downstairs, Elizabeth welcomed us into a moodily lit room that was decorated vaguely like the set of Speak No More, if you've seen that show. Alternate description: a sexy antiques shop. It was decently packed for a Friday night!

People standing and sitting in the speakeasy, with checkerboard flooring, and a gramophone on the bar
Syd Robinson

One of the first things that stuck out to me once we got down there was how sociable everyone was. Maybe I'm just more of a wallflower, but whenever I go out to regular bars with my friends, we mostly just sit down and talk among ourselves. That wasn't the case here.

Close-up, fuzzy photo of Kylie Jenner
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We got to talking to a bunch of different people, all of whom were there for different reasons. Most were millennials and Gen Z'ers, with nondrinkers and drinkers alike. Some were there for a night off from drinking. Others were entirely sober. Regardless, everyone seemed excited to be there and to mingle with other people who, for whatever reason, just didn't want to drink.

People (with their faces blacked out) standing or sitting around in a small room with a bar

"What's cool is [Absence of Proof] isn't a sober community, it's an everyone community," she continued. "Everyone can get behind taking a night off of drinking."

Kendall Jenner giving a thumbs-up as two kids play in a pool behind her

As Dara and I waited for our mocktails at the bar — she got a spicy margarita and I got a paloma 😌 — we got talking to a woman next to us. She shared that she was Muslim and didn't drink for religious reasons, saying that these Absence of Proof parties were one of the few nightlife spaces where she felt included. We talked to another guy whose fiancé didn't drink, and so he was there to scope out the bartenders to potentially provide some nonalcoholic options at their upcoming wedding. It was amazing to see firsthand the inclusion that Absence of Proof was providing.

A spicy margarita and a paloma
Syd Robinson

It was awesome meeting all of these new people (and even swapping some IG handles) in an environment where everyone showed up authentically: No one there was relying on "liquid courage" to say or do anything, no one got unruly or made anyone feel uncomfortable, and the conversations we had with one another were kind, real, and more connected than any keg-side chat I've had, TBH.

Kris Jenner wiping away a tear
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Back to the no-alcohol drinks now: Once we got our mocktails, we were surprised by just how much they tasted like actual alcohol! Dara drinks, and even she was taken aback by how tequila-like her farg (fake marg) was.

A hand holding up a drink

After my paloma (which was good, but the bartender recommended the lychee martini next, so...), I pivoted to the lychee martini, which I definitely preferred to the paloma. It was SENSATIONAL — I ended up ordering like three as the night went, on since the $40 cover charge included unlimited drinks. SLAY!

A hand holding the NA lychee martini, and a person drinking it
Syd Robinson

More than anything, though, I was just so happy to be there and so grateful that Absence of Proof provided a safe space where I and others weren't considered "weird" for not drinking.

Kourtney Kardashian and Kris Jenner tapping glasses

As for what's next for Absence of Proof?

If you're interested in going to one of Absence of Proof's alcohol-free events, you can follow them on Instagram or view their upcoming events on their website!