Sober in the City: How to Brunch Like a Sober Boss

Hold onto your eggs, we’re getting ready for Autostraddle’s International Brunch Weekend 8/23-24! Find a brunch meetup in your city or create your own by heading over to our events page. You can also load up on all things brunch by watching this space. From playlists to recommendations to personal essays, we’re writing all about the brunch experience. Get excited! BRUNCH.

Ahhh, brunch you old so-and-so. You were once in my top 10, if not top 5, excuses to get wasted when I was an active addict. Brunch is a portmanteau of breakfast and lunch. But I was never brunching for the food. I wanted a reason to drink in the middle of the day. Brunch provides a golden opportunity for people, addicts or not, to get shit-faced and stumble home before dark without judgment.

Often times, when someone gets sober, they come to the realization that their once “favorite” social activities – brunch, karaoke, dancing, dinners, bowling, parades, going to the beach, attending sporting events and concerts, etc. – were all just background noise to the headlining activity: getting fucked up! When recovering addicts participate in these same activities without using substances, they sometimes come to yet another realization: They actually truly dislike some of these activities and/or they much prefer experiencing some these activities sober.

Learning about what your likes and dislikes are when your mind is in an unaltered state is one of the most enlightening experiences. You genuinely find yourself. I realize now that I quite enjoy dancing, but I’m not big fan of some of the nightclubs I once frequented. (What the hell did I ever see in this place?) I still love going to the beach and participating in Pride events. I used to roll my eyes at lavish, cheesy weddings, and now I love observing family dynamics, watching drunken hookups, and doing line dances with complete strangers at receptions. Who knew?

It also turns out that I’m a foodie and love brunching sober because I get to focus and spend more money on the actual food! (Pizza and Oreos are NOT theeeeee best combination of food I’ve eeeeeeever eaten. That was the vodka talking.)

So, with Autostraddle’s International Brunch Weekend approaching (8/23-8/24), I’m going to give you sober queers some pointers on how to brunch like a boss. If you have ideas too, please share them in the comments section. And don’t forget to list your sober brunch events on Autostraddle’s Meet-Up Calendar.

Host Your Own Themed Brunch

Spa brunch complete with cucumber infused water, mini quiches, fresh-mint scented steamed hand-towels, mud masks, eye cooling pads, and aromatherapy? Go for it! Brunch with an Orange Is the New Black inspired menu? Hellz yeah! Tea (not as in political) party brunch that boasts a menu of traditional English teas, finger sandwiches, and puddings? But, of course! A dashing dapper backyard jazz potluck brunch where guests wear bow-ties, pearls, suspenders, twirly skirts, and big hats? Only if you invite me! What I’m trying to get at here is that there are a million and one creative ways to make brunch interesting without the unlimited cheap booze and questionable eggs. You can enjoy the social, not just culinary, aspects of brunching by creating a unique shared experience. When developing your menu, check out these 20 awesome mocktails for drink inspiration. You can ask that your guests refrain from consuming alcohol altogether, have a “sobers only” brunch, or have both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage options. Ball is in your court.

Go to a Restaurant Known for Its Food

New York City is a foodie’s dream come true. You can find a multitude of delicious cuisines at every price point. However, before I got sober, I rarely took advantage of New York City’s best brunches because I was always too concerned with making sure that my meal came with an all-you-can-drink option. Yet the all-you-can-drink option is usually only available once a week during brunch hours. Ever wonder why? Well, some very successful chefs and restaurateurs are actually anti-brunch in their own personal lives because they believe that restaurants use brunch as a sham to sell food made with cheap inputs and old food left over from their more profitable Friday and Saturday nights to unsuspecting intoxicated patrons. (Think “seafood frittata.”) So, do your research and go to a restaurant with a good reputation for serving up outstanding brunch meals. Maybe even try a new cuisine. Just keep the focus on eating delicious food, because you’re no longer that person who will eat anything (and think it’s delicious) after a few cocktails. Moreover, if you’re going to brunch with people who drink, check out my Pride post, which offers tips on how to stay sober during Pride, but can also be helpful in many different social situations where alcohol is involved.

Go to a Restaurant Known for Its Entertainment

So, your friends don’t care about the quality of food and insist on experiencing the all-you-can-drink brunch. Now you must decide on whether to go with them or miss out on the fun. If you feel that going to a boozy brunch will trigger you and jeopardize your sobriety, skip the brunch. However, if you’re like me and in a place where being around drunken people is a reminder of why you no longer drink, take your friends to a restaurant that has some form of entertainment. Everyone can have the shared social experience of enjoying a great jazz band, a phenomenal drag queen performance, or even dancing on tabletops at one of NYC’s famed party brunches featuring top DJs. The entertainment will certainly be more interesting and less triggering than listening to your wasted friends complain about their consistently horrible OK Cupid dates and bad bosses and the half-baked, substance-fueled ideas they have to address these problems.

Dress the Part

While a fair number of brunchers will be dragging themselves hungover from the night before in sweatpants and shades to the pub so they can get a bit of the “hair of the dog,” you, my sober friend, will be bright-eyed, rested, and have a well-hydrated glow. Now’s the time to show off your sartorial smarts and be that head-turning queer at the table. For outfit inspiration, I highly recommend Tomboy Femme, dapperQ, Qwear, and Fit for a Femme.

Now, go forth sober queer and brunch like a boss!

Feature Image via Daily Mail

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Ginger Hale

Ginger has written 13 articles for us.


  1. I didn’t know that brunch ever included alcohol?

    Also what exactly is brunch? Is it a fry up? Is it just any meal you have about 11 when you wake up later on the weekend?

    • It’s just eating breakfast food into the afternoon, and traditionally on sunday, and those who partake can put champagne in their orange juice without judgement. Also sometimes they last 6 hours. Really worth trying out.

    • Brunch is basically a late breakfast (though it can include lunch foods as well), typically served on weekends. It is often accompanied by cocktails such as mimosas or bloody marys. Many restruants offer brunch specials like unlimited mimosas which can be fun, but can also be a problem for people who are trying to stay sober.

    • I accidentally drank alcoholic orange juice at like nine, at the brunch at a Holiday Inn… My opinion of early day drinking has softened over the years, but I don’t tend to drink at all anymore. In my early twenties I was a bit of a lush. Thank the goddesses for cannabis! Ganja glycerin in coffee is the solution to all problems. Ha ha! You wake up at 11 and call that later? Do you mean PM? :P

  2. Wowza…I was just hugging it out with President Obama in Martha’s Vineyard when I saw RiRi starring at me from my blackberry!

    I thought it was a personal call coming in, but I was happy to read about brunching like a sober boss…cuz that’s what I am! I’m not about to lose out on that well-hydrated glow for my presidential campaign just so I can get shitfaced and next day see myself on Perez Hilton website drowning in Oreos and pizza.

    Anyway, I gotta get back to watching a recently released top secret video…

  3. Again, Ginger Hale, your articles are the most meaningful thing to me on the Autostraddle website.

    For anybody interested or curious about what it would mean to have a sober brunch, Austin Autostraddle brunch (and so far all of our events) is all-sober!

    I think the fact that our meetups have been sober and mostly during the day has been a really great thing for everybody in the group – not just the one sober organizer. It’s forced us to be adventurous and to try new things. It’s let us make queer spaces that aren’t bars. It’s encouraged a kind of dorky environment of openness and support that I think maybe wouldn’t have blossomed in quite the same way if alcohol had been involved. It’s definitely given me a glimpse of what it means to be comfortable in the sunlight and in a queer body.

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