I get out of my car and lock the door. Walking into Bob Roes I look at the bartender and prepare to order one of my favorite drinks, a gin and tonic. She starts making my drink as I check my phone while I’m waiting for a few friends to join me. While waiting I’m making small talk with the bartender asking how the night is going.
After fifteen minutes or so pass my friends join me at the bar. They give their orders to the bartender as they get settled at the bar counter. This was more of a business meeting than just a casual hangout as we needed to discuss the upcoming booking for our concert venue. Before we get out our laptops and multiple manila folders, Grace says something out of the blue “What is zero proof gin?” Tanner and I both looked at each other probably wondering if we heard the same thing.
We had no idea what she meant so we asked her what she was talking about. “There’s a bottle behind the counter named Ritual zero proof gin alternative” As someone who drinks gin occasionally, I was unaware of such a thing. Sure, you have a nonalcoholic beer, but this is my first time seeing a zero proof spirit like gin. Being the curious person that I am I ask the bartender for a shot of the Ritual zero proof gin. All that I can say is that it had the same kick that typical gin has which surprised me because it didn’t have any alcohol in it.
We joked about it at the time, but later that night I thought what purpose zero proof could have? I wanted to ask several people not only if they knew that such a thing existed, but what purpose such a thing would serve. I interviewed a bartender, an owner of a bar, and another friend of mine to see what their responses would be.
The first person I interviewed was Autumn Solomon, who started bartending three years ago at the Firehouse in Sioux City. First, I wanted to establish if she was familiar with the concept of zero proof spirits. I could tell that she wasn’t right away because when I asked her, she looked confused. “You mean like beer, right? I don’t know you could get gin in a nonalcoholic form”. I replied, “neither did I until the other night when I had some”. I asked her why she thought such a thing existed. Autumn sat there thinking for a few moments until she replied, “Maybe it’s for recovering alcoholics”. Up to this point, that thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. With quitting any addiction, I can only imagine how difficult that can be. Particularly one as destructive as an alcohol addiction. I have had family members go through rehab and it’s always a difficult thing to go through as a family.
Next, I interviewed the owner of Buddy’s Tavern Bud Hall to find out if he was familiar with this type of liquor. We agreed that we would meet at his bar in Whiting and we would do the interview there. I can’t remember the last time I stepped foot in that bar. Bud is somehow related to my mom as her maiden name was Hall. I think a distant cousin maybe. Certainly, can’t remember much about him growing up. It’s been at least several years since I’ve visited his place of business.
Whiting doesn’t have much in terms of businesses left. Besides a gas station, there isn’t much left to the town. Somehow there is enough business to support two bars though. As you would expect there isn’t much to the bar itself. It is comparable in size to the television studio on campus. Besides the bar counter, there isn’t much to speak of with any additional seating. Bud and I sit down at the bar counter as I get prepared for this interview, he gets a call on his phone. Of course, I say no big deal as he answers his phone. I must lose track of time as close to twenty minutes pass and I’m already on my third beer.
Bud then emerges from the back office like our conversation didn’t miss a beat. The first thing that I asked him was how his business was responding to the pandemic. He thought about it and said that all things considered it could be worse. When I asked him to go into more detail, he replied “I think some of the larger bars that are used to seeing a larger volume of customers are in a worse spot than we are.” I then proceeded to ask him if he was aware of the existence of zero proof liquor. To my surprise, he said yes without any hesitation. I followed up with that by asking what purpose such a thing would have “I have seen recovering alcoholics order it if they are going to bars with people who do drink.” Up to this point, I hadn’t even considered the social aspect of drinking with friends or co-workers. It’s nice that there is a substitute out there for recovering alcoholics to where they can still order a drink with friends. I thanked him for his time and paid for my drinks as I left the bar.
Finally, I wanted to interview some of my friends. One night I had four good friends over watching the Kansas City Chiefs play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We were all drinking light beer as that’s what most college students can afford. Out of everyone there I knew that Dane enjoyed mixed drinks. At this point, the Chiefs have amassed a 17 point lead in just the first quarter. While most of us are Chiefs fans, Dane is a Buccaneers fan. Well, he’s more of a Tom Brady fan above all else. I asked him what some of his go-to drinks were. Dane responded “I don’t drink anything fancy usually just a rum and coke or something similar. Usually, I’m just more of a beer guy.” I asked him if he was aware of zero proof alcohol. He had no idea such a thing. “It’s cool that something like that is around though.” I then gaged the room to see if anyone was familiar with it. I received a resounding no as all the attention in the room was on the football game.