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No thank you, I will not be drinking tonight


Mayhaw Man
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What do you drink during fine dining service when you don't or can't drink alcohol?

Do you feel that the service is different for those that drink than for those that don't? Do servers suggest interesting alternatives or are you just stuck with tea and water of various sorts? I am only discussing fine dining here, that is, places where apertifs, wine, and after dinner drinks would be considered part of the whole service experience and not just something to do. Clearly this is not so much of an issue in low end dining.

The reason that I ask this question is that I am currently taking medication that prevents me from taking a drink (although it is not so restrictive that I can't have wine cooked in food, etc.) as it renders the medicine much less effective and I need to take the whole course of treatment. Recently I have had dinner at Emeril's, August, John Besh Steakhouse at the Casino, and tonight will be dining with Bleachboy at Peristyle (mmmm, looking forward to it and to meeting him and his wife,as well). I would not say that I have been rudely treated anywhere (and at Emeril's it was treated as a big joke, because they know me and my reputation is definitely not one of a tea totaler :wacko::laugh: ), but I think I can say that the service was "different"- though not in an unpleasant way.

I am going to be on this stuff for a while and might as well get used to it, so I was just wondering what some of you thought about this subject generally. Also, before anyone chimes in with well wishes, I am fine and certainly this is nothing life threatening-but I might be stuck taking this stuff for a while (at least a year) so this subject is an interesting one to me and hopefully will be to some of you as well. :biggrin:

Thanks

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Man, that sucks. I've already informed my physician that if he ever tells me I have to stop drinking wine or die my response will be, "Okay, how long have I got -- in liquid measurement?" :laugh:

To answer your real question, if I'm not having wine, I usually go through buckets of iced tea. What's infuriating is that, despite repeated requests, the waitron usually won't leave the pitcher or carafe on the table. After they have refilled my glass for the seventh or eighth time, they begin to see the wisdom of my position. A better alternative, I suppose, would be bottled water in an upscale place.

And, yes, the service is a little different. More so in fine dining establishments because wine and/or cocktails are part of the experience. I haven't found anyone rude about it per se, but I do get the impression that the staff views you as somewhat unsophisticated.

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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The only time it has been an issue was when I was pregnant. Believe me when you're pregnant you get strange looks when you do order a drink, plus a whole lot of unsolicited advice. :laugh: But before I started to show and it was obvious why I wasn't drinking, we got a little attitude in a couple of places. Not sure how to avoid that except by sharing our happy news with the waiter, or hanging a sign around my neck that said "I'm pregnant and won't be drinking." I always got bottled water during my meal or a non-alcoholic juice concoction, but it still wasn't enough for some servers more worried about boosting their tips than serving me what I wanted to drink.

Brooks, I would go for the most expensive bottled water they have. :smile:

Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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In order of my preferences:

A lemon, some iced water (sparkling or still), and sugar to make your own lemonade.

Unpasteurized cider (but probably can't find that at all due to E. coli reg's)

Milk

Oolong or jasmine tea.

Roy Rogers

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Maybe you could order a glass of wine, don't drink it and then when your dining companion is finished with his/her drink do a little switcheroo and they can have another glass of wine!

I've been in this situation before several times. I usually order grapefruit or cranberry juice so at least I can get some vitamins :raz:

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Milk

At home, I drink TONS of milk (being the preferred beverage in my house, next to wine). I go through a half-gallon a day, on average.

I never order it in restaurants because they don't refill it for free! I guess that is kinda silly, huh? I mean, they don't refill my wine glass for free, but I can easily go through two or three glasses of milk during a meal at home.

Shawn calls me his "Dairy Queen" considering my proclivity for all dairy products (I'd commit suicide the day I become lactose-intolerant, believing there would be no reason left for me to live!).

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Maybe you could order a glass of wine, don't drink it and then when your dining companion is finished with his/her drink do a little switcheroo and they can have another glass of wine!

This is exactly what I am NOT interested in doing. I am not trying to trick any server into anything. Accept me the way I am or you could potentially see your earnings drop. I'm a nice guy, have been in or around service all of my life, and know what to expect-and I expect it, regardless of my beverage choice.

I can't drink for a while and was just wondering what people did as an alternative and how they felt the service might be affected by informing their server of the choice.

I do love milk. I drink it everyday at lunch.

I hardly ever order milk in a restaurant though, as I have worked in too many for too long to believe that the stuff is being stored anywhere but in a bev cooler behind the bar wedged in with some lemon/lime wedges, an old jar of marischinos, and a couple of cans of whipped cream. I have gotten so much borderline sour milk over the years on restaurants that I just gave up on it. :angry:

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Several years ago, out of the blue, I developed an allergy to raw alcohol. (Thank G-d I can still have it cooked!)

Before dinner I order bitters and soda with lime.

With dinner it is usually sparkeling water with lemon.

After dinner it is usually Schweppes Bitter Lemon. I could -- and sometimes do -- drink this throughout the evening. I love it. But someone told me I shouldn't drink so much quinine, so I limit myself to one or two. If I'm going to a cocktail party, I sometimes take this along -- it looks alot like my old favorite G&T and tastes like a cocktail, not a virgin something.

Aidan

"Ess! Ess! It's a mitzvah!"

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Bottled sparkling water is what my sister, who doesn't drink, orders. Imported, usually. The servers seem to like the fact that she's paying for water.

Since it seems that this situation will be going on for a while, maybe you could talk your favorite places into carrying some special beverages for you. Some of the drier non-alcoholic ciders are not bad, and Pellegrino makes some good non-alcoholic aperitif drinks, like San Bitter (similar to Campari) and Cinatto (similar to Amer Picon, I believe). I use them for non-alcoholic "cocktails" in my daytime classes, and they go over quite well.

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I've been sober for 4 years, and the two times any server has had the nerve to hassle me about my unsweetened iced tea, a manager has been notified. The situations were taken care of very quickly. With a new server. Who I tipped very generously.

Maybe it's because I'm not what you would call a small or retiring type. I also am in the bible belt, where wine and booze in general is not imbibed by a large portion of the population. I've gotten attitude in Atlanta and San Antonio, but not in Birmingham.

Screw it. It's a Butterball.
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I take medication that conflicts with alcohol but I've also I've been sober for fifteen years so it's a moot point. I probably eat out at upscale establishments far less often than the average egulleteer (I'm guessing). I generally order a glass of tonic wter with a big splash of Rose's lime juice as an apertif and enjoy either tap water (if I'm in a place like NYC where the tap water is decent) or mineral water with the meal. Sometimes I have both tap water and mineral water. I grew up consuming large amounts of milk with meals and although I rarely have a glass of milk these days, I still drink copious amounts of water on a daily basis including meal time.

I've been fortunate enough not to receive different treatment when I fail to order alcohol woth the meal. It does remain a distinct possibility that I was treated differently and failed to notice (deliver my meal in a timely manner and bring my check when I ask for it and I'll be content - friendly service is not essential to me as long as I don't encounter outright rudeness). When I enjoy "finer" dining I'm invariably with one female friend or another and they generally order a glass or two of wine with dinner - that may be why no one has looked askance.

If I'm with a group of coworkers or other acquaintances, some of whom may not know me that well, I'll generally say "I'm not drinking tonight (or today)". People rarely ask for more details but I find it humorous when they become intrigued by the fact that I don't drink or insistent that I should have a drink. Saw a very funny bit by a stand-up comic in NYC on this topic. His point: "Why is that when I say I don't eat mayonnaise everyone accpets at face value that I simply don't like mayo or it does not agree with me. Tell them I don't drink and they all have to know 'the story' ".

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I've been sober for 4 years, and the two times any server has had the nerve to hassle me about my unsweetened iced tea, a manager has been notified.

Ordering unsweetened tea, something I do regularly, can be a problem in and of itself in the deep south. My wife's tea usually has half of the day's production at Domino Sugar in Chalmette in the bottom of it but I like mine plain and strong. We keep a gallon in the ice box and replace it about every other day, year round.

I eat in a couple of soul food joints in New Orleans pretty regularly where I might as well be ordering Absinthe. THey dont have it and aren't even thinking about accomodating me. I just drink Barq's in that case, as they ALWAYS have that delicious beverage. :laugh:

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Saw a very funny bit by a stand-up comic in NYC on this topic. His point: "Why is that when I say I don't eat mayonnaise everyone accpets at face value that I simply don't like mayo or it does not agree with me. Tell them I don't drink and they all have to know 'the story' ".

Dear God, ain't that the truth....

Screw it. It's a Butterball.
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What do you drink during fine dining service when you don't or can't drink alcohol?

Do you feel that the service is different for those that drink than for those that don't?

If I'm not drinking wine, I usually have tap water with the meal and later get herbal tea or regular tea with lemon.

I haven't noticed any pattern of the service being the same or worse. If it's worse, I slam it on eGullet and lower my tip. :biggrin:

Brooks, just remember that the wine will still be there if and when you can start drinking again. And there are many people who can't or don't drink wine, but that doesn't prevent them from enjoying great food and a nice night out.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Just to make it clear, I am NOT whining. I am really perfectly fine with the whole thing and frankly there are some real positives to the whole situation as well.

I grew up in the South and lots of people don't drink here for whatever reason (primarily cultural/religious) and so it is no big deal anywhere but fine dining (which I fortunately get to do more than alot of people). On the other hand I grew up around people who drink like fish and became a brewer and distiller as a choice of trades. So my experience with not drinking is not normal for ME. I don't know much about eating fine food and NOT drinking wine and my experience so far has been mixed at best. But that may be because I am missing something (bisides big fat Cabs :wink: ) and that was the basis for my question

My question involved fine dining because it seems that so much of the service is often wrapped up in and around wine and I wanted to know how other non drinkers handled it.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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We dine out a lot. When I was pregnant, but before I was obviously so, I'd ask for sparkling water and a wine glass. (At least I could pretend I was drinking :biggrin: ).

When my husband and I dine out, there is the (admitedly rare) occassion, that I won't want a drink. I've only noticed it to be a problem when neither of us drinks, we do get the occassional odd look. Also, I tend to drink red wine, and hubby drinks white, which means we order our wine by the glass, rather than the bottle, a practice I've noticed some servers hate. They'd much rather sell us the bottle.

I also dine out a lot on business, in a fair number of high end restaurants, both lunch and dinner. And I don't always drink during business dinners. Again, with very few exceptions, it hasn't been a problem, but if I got attitude from a server, I'd most likely make an issue of it :biggrin:

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Neither my husband nor I drink, so I can't really tell you if service has been different. Of course, if I do sense that I'm treated differently because I'm not buying alcohol then that will definitely come out of the waiter's tip!

I usually just drink tap water. If a place serves Navarro grape juice (my favorite drink in the entire world) we'll often order a bottle of that. If they have a full bar my husband will always order a virgin bloody mary. Sometimes he'll be in the mood for sparkling water or a non-alcoholic beer (his drink of choice at home). If I'm coming down with or off of a cold I'll usually crave something sweet and ask for a Sprite. Is that detailed enough? ;) I guess since I've never had alcohol I don't think of wine as part of my meal experience and just order what I feel like drinking at the time!

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My question involved fine dining because it seems that so much of the service is often wrapped up in and around wine and I wanted to know how other non drinkers handled it.

Do you think that the difference in service might be because in some of these places, if you are not drinking, especially if you are not drinking wine, it's going to make a sizeable difference in the tab, and thus potentially the waiter's tip?

I've been alcohol-free (I wouldn't exactly say "sober") for almost 20 years, and I've rarely noticed a difference, but some of it might just be avoidance of places where it might make a difference. Drinking tea in a Chinese restaurant or lassi in an Indian restaurant hardly raises an eyebrow. Most places have sparkling water, soda, or coffee available; if they have those San Pelerino sodas and apertifs, so much the better.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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I too am on medication which means I can't drink. My illness is chronic, so I go on and off medication, and have done so for almost a decade.

Yes, sometimes you get strange reactions in restaurants when you decline alcohol. I base my tip on the reaction. If I am treated respectfully I tip accordingly. If not, I tip lower and on my way out I ask to see the manager.

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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So much of it depends on the server, and how the establishment has trained them. More and more these days I will be out with 2 or more people where one or more do not drink. Rarely are they asked to provide a reason, even at the table. We were out just last week at a very fine restaurant with another couple. One of them declined wine and ordered mineral water. It was served in a crystal wine glass, at the same time our wine was corked with no different treatment at all. I guess we were lucky.

I really believe it should NOT be an issue in a fine dining situation and hope you don't find it to be a problem. :biggrin:

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

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