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How this DC bar is embracing the growing non-alcoholic culture

WUSA9 went to happy hour with a booze-free blogger to sample the exotic tastes at DC's newest pop-up bar.

WASHINGTON — A statue of the Virgin Mary greets patrons of Disco Mary on Blagden Alley in Northwest Washington. While you might consider that an odd choice at a bar, the statue is adorned in shiny jewels - a spin on an iconic image. 

It's perfectly appropriate here where this relatively new pop-up bar at D.C.'s Columbia Room is twisting our minds around the fact that one can frame a bar concept around patrons who prefer to imbibe specialty drinks that are alcohol-free. 

It's the brainchild of bar operator Maria Bastasch who believes the idea is catching on.

"It's something I’ve dreamed about for a while," said Bastasch, as we lounged on couches in a sunken room amidst the bar's dimly lit and inviting ambiance. "My hope is to see more places like this."

We arrived here last month, as some were counting the hours until the end of 'Dry January,' a 31-day period where the well disciplined among us look to cleanse themselves of the over-indulgence of the preceding holiday season. 

Laura Silverman founded the group Booze-Free in DC to help others explore options she was desperately searching for herself. She's not a prohibitionist. Just a chic woman in search of an outlet with more appeal that gelled with her own life and preferences. 

Now, almost like a travel writer, Silverman fills online pages with suggestions where people can find booze-free options in D.C. and beyond.   

"The whole non-alcoholic culture in D.C. has been slowly (pause for effect) brewing,” said Silverman with a chuckle. “For the longest time there wasn’t any kind of .."

“Buzz?” I interject.

“Right. And there is definitely now with events like 'Dry January'. With places like Disco Mary and Columbia Room that have a devoted alcohol optional menu."

"For the longest time there wasn’t anything for adults who wanted to have a booze-free option but still feel sophisticated like a grown-up or part of the crowd," she added.

Taking a seat at the bar with Silverman, the drink menu made me seem underdressed in my sweater, jeans and sneakers. Perusing the options felt quite sophisticated and even a bit intimidating. Of course, I have three kids, live in the suburbs and normally just call out for whatever is on tap. Let's not digress. 

The whole point is that if you desire a non-alcoholic option during a night out on the town, you're not forced to relegate yourself to a club soda, tonic water or embarrassingly, a Shirly Temple. 

"The same care and thought and creativity that goes into mixology for alcoholic cocktails goes into these non-alcoholic cocktails," explained Bastasch.

Silverman and I ordered a 'Mushpreso-Tini'; an adaptogenic mushroom-cacao infused coffee cordial with Lyre's white cane (non-alcoholic) spirits. 

"So you can add alcohol. But they’re made to exist without alcohol," said Silverman. 

"I really wanted the entire menu to be something that any person could come in and enjoy," said Bastasch. 

Mission accomplished. The 'Mushpreso-Tini' was smooth, sophisticated and made me feel like I should have been wearing slacks and an expensive belt.

Silverman calls Bastasch and the mixologists at Disco Mary 'flavor innovators.' And that innovation is catching on.   

“It's definitely subversive to not drink alcohol in a culture that is basically telling you it's normal to drink and abnormal not to drink booze," said Silverman. "So to make the conscious choice not to drink alcohol doesn’t mean that you have to ditch all fun."

Find out more about Disco Mary HERE.

You can read Silverman's website HERE and see the full directory of booze-free options HERE.

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