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This year's annual 'All Things Considered' holiday cocktail interview is alcohol free

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

I have had the honor for the last several years of conducting the annual ALL THINGS CONSIDERED holiday cocktail interview. It is that time of year again, friends. So we have come to a cocktail bar. Except fewer of us are drinking cocktails. According to one survey, non-alcoholic spirit sales grew more than 100% in the last year they could measure. So we have come to a bar that is zero-proof, zero-alcohol. Let's check it out.

GIGI ARANDID: Hi.

KELLY: Hi.

ARANDID: How are you folks?

KELLY: Vergie?

ARANDID: Yes.

KELLY: Mary Louise. Nice to meet you.

This is Binge Bar. It opened this past February - the first completely alcohol-free bar in the nation's capital. We step inside, head down narrow stairs into a cozy basement space where Gigi Arandid is waiting for us. She's the founder and owner. And I start with the basic question - why? Why open a bar with no booze?

ARANDID: It is an extension of my lifestyle. I'm going on seven years sober, and...

KELLY: Congratulations.

ARANDID: Thank you so much. And in the beginning of my sobriety journey, I knew going to AA meetings was not going to be enough to manage my sobriety and healing to recovery just because of the type of person that I am. I realized, once I opened the space, that there are people like me who didn't think the same way - not that there's anything wrong with AA. I feel like we all have respective phases, and...

KELLY: You needed more.

ARANDID: Exactly.

KELLY: And this may be - it may be such an obvious answer, but I'm curious - what's different about creating this that you couldn't have at any bar in D.C. where you can obviously walk in and order a Coke or a pretty cocktail with no booze in it?

ARANDID: My concept in particular is that I just wanted for people to kind of gather and be able to have an open dialogue about where they are in their journey, whether - if they're sober, taking a break, pregnant, in chronic illnesses - because there are a lot of people that serves this type of concept, not just people that are in recovery.

KELLY: Did people get it? Like, when you explained the idea, what was their reaction?

ARANDID: No, no. I remember my first taste of backlash, and I received a lot of negative comments.

KELLY: Without wishing to dwell on what sounds like one of the less happy aspects, what was the backlash you got when you floated the idea?

ARANDID: Oh, that it was going to be for church folks (laughter) - yeah - or that it's going to close in a month - all that good stuff.

KELLY: Before opening Binge, Arandid hosted pop-ups, mixing drinks for all kinds of people - nondrinkers, people avoiding alcohol temporarily, the sober curious.

ARANDID: I served pregnant women that were eight months pregnant, Muslim couples and father and daughter that were, like, taking a stroll.

KELLY: Arandid, by the way, will tell you she does not make mocktails.

ARANDID: I prefer to say elevated and elegant, nonalcoholic or spirit-free cocktails.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KELLY: I wonder if there's a story you would tell. Has somebody walked through that door at the top of the stairs and looked around and said, oh, thank God - like, I needed this?

ARANDID: Yes. Yes. It's a lot of real smiles and a lot of tears also because - and, again, we welcome those - because they would come up to me and say, Gigi, I didn't think that I would ever step into a bar. It's been three years. I'm so glad you opened this. So those are the - sorry. (Crying) That's when it gets personal, and that's where I think the love comes from.

KELLY: And it gets personal 'cause you've walked that walk.

ARANDID: Yes.

KELLY: Yeah.

ARANDID: Yeah, exactly.

KELLY: It must bring so much joy to get to open your doors to other people...

ARANDID: Ah...

KELLY: ...Who've wrestled with this.

ARANDID: ...Yes, definitely. It's time to break the stigma that is attached to this addiction 'cause it's real. And people who are struggling does not have the resources sometimes to have a space like this - just to, like, you know, come in and be comfortable in. And I always say, like, you know, we can heal out loud, but we can also struggle out loud together.

KELLY: Hmm.

ARANDID: Yeah. And that's why our tagline is come as you are.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KELLY: Of course, the ALL THINGS CONSIDERED holiday cocktail interview would not be complete without us having a taste in the name of journalism, so we step up to the bar.

ARANDID: What I'm actually going to make is the Soul (ph) Apple Cider Mimosa, because D.C. loves a good brunch, loves a good mimosa - brunch with the girls, etc.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ARANDID: OK, it's a slice of green apple into the shaker. I'm going to muddle it to release all that aroma, the tannins and the juice.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUDDLER HITTING SHAKER)

ARANDID: I usually do an allspice, but maybe we can do cinnamon 'cause cinnamon is also very holiday-ish, right?

KELLY: This is just ground cinnamon.

ARANDID: Yes, ground cinnamon - not too much. And then this right here is our hibiscus mixer. I cook this myself in the kitchen.

(SOUNDBITE OF MIXER BEING POURED)

KELLY: All right. So that was - what? - like, 3 ounces, something like that, just going in?

ARANDID: That was about four.

KELLY: Ah.

ARANDID: And then just a little bit of agave - not too much, right? - because that one is already sweet. I'm going to put a little bit of ice - not a lot 'cause I don't want a lot of dilution into the cocktail.

(SOUNDBITE OF ICE FALLING INTO SHAKER)

ARANDID: And we're going to do a quick shake.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRINK SHAKER BEING SHAKEN)

ARANDID: This is my workout.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHAKER OPENING)

ARANDID: Little sound effect there - I hope you guys like that.

KELLY: (Gasps) A champagne flute.

ARANDID: I love how you just got super excited just now.

KELLY: I did get super excited.

ARANDID: What was that? OK.

KELLY: Ooh, it's dark.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRINK BEING POURED)

KELLY: So you're topping up the mixture in the flute, bubbles bubbling up, bubbling almost over.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLE BEING GRATED)

ARANDID: A little apple garnish.

KELLY: Pretty. Cheers.

ARANDID: You're going to have a cute, little bubble...

KELLY: (Laughter).

ARANDID: ...Like, mustache or, like, a foam mustache.

KELLY: A sparkling wine 'tache (ph).

ARANDID: (Laughter).

KELLY: Here we go.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KELLY: Mmm. Refreshing. Refreshing. I can really taste the apple. Thank you.

ARANDID: You're so welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KELLY: This year, millions of Americans plan to take part in Dry January, and Binge Bar will ring in 2024 with a New Year's bash full of music, dancing and, of course, elegant, spirit-free cocktails. Gigi Arandid will be raising an alcohol-free glass to all of you on Sunday and wishing you a very happy new year.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUY LOMBARDO AND HIS ROYAL CANADIANS' "AULD LANG SYNE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Matt Ozug
Kai McNamee
Mary Louise Kelly
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.