NYC's First Sober Dive Bar Is a Very Good Time

·2 min read
Hekate, Sober bar in East Village, Manhattan
Hekate, Sober bar in East Village, Manhattan

Hekate

The pandemic sparked a shift in my drinking habits, as it has for many people. More and more, I found myself gravitating towards non-alcoholic aperitifs, which allowed me to have a few fancy little drinks after the work-from-home day, without a headache. The growing category of non-alcoholic spirits and drinks has made it easy to cut back on booze, for whatever reason – my fridge is stocked with cans of Ghia, Kin Euphorics, and botanical sodas. Still, there's a dearth of bars that offer compelling non-alcoholics options for people who want to enjoy a  drink outside the comfort of their own homes.

Hekate, a new "elixir lounge" in the East Village, is New York City's very first sober dive bar. It has all the hallmarks of a good dive: eclectic vintage accents, tattooed patrons, and a straightforward drink menu. The menu, however, is entirely booze free — all the cocktails, which include classics like piña coladas and jalapeño margs as well as more unusual elixirs, feature non-alcoholic spirits, sodas, and aperitifs. There's also coffee, "witchy teas," and a nice selection of NA beers.

"The motivation to open a sober bar came out of owning a traditional one," said founder/owner Abby Ehmann in a statement. Ehmann, who has worked in bars for 30 years, wanted to create a convivial, community space for people in search of an alternative to bars.

Hekate, Sober bar in East Village, Manhattan
Hekate, Sober bar in East Village, Manhattan

Hekate

I attended the grand opening on Thursday, and the place was decorated for spooky season with skull art and balloons. I ordered the Amalfi Spritz, a bubbly, bitter delight of a beverage made with Lyre's Italian spritz and Lyre's alcohol-free classico prosecco, served in a gorgeous glass. I also sampled the Empress, a shaken mixture of Clean Co. apple vodka, Seedlip garden, Franklin & Sons pineapple soda, and a splash of pineapple juice. Despite the speciality ingredients –– no well vodka or gin, here –– all  of the cocktails cost just $12, which seems about right for an Alphabet City dive bar.

Hekate is joined by a wave of new sober bars and bottle shops opening around the country to serve sober and sober-curious clientele. Not too far from me, in Greenpoint, a slightly more upscale bar called Getaway has been serving excellent mixed drinks made with non-alcoholic ingredients (plus shrubs) in a chic, cozy setting since 2019. I expect to see more of these concepts in the next few years.

"The concept behind Hekate is the same as any cool bar — fun events, interesting people, great music, comfortable ambiance — but boozeless," said Ehmann. "A place anyone could enjoy."