These Philly Women Are Trying to Normalize Social Events Without Alcohol

Joy Manning and Annie Baum-Stein invented Sober Ladies Happy Hours for women who want to hang out without drinking.

alcohol-free events

Philly food pros Joy Manning and Annie Baum-Stein host Sober Ladies Happy Hours, a series of alcohol-free events. / Photograph courtesy of iStock

Everywhere you turn in Philly, it seems like there’s another yoga event with drinks or a book club with drinks or a goat race with drinks. (OK, so maybe there aren’t boozy goat races popping up all over the place.) It’s almost expected that alcohol is going to be involved when you go out or meet up with friends. That’s a little scary when you think about the fact that too much liquor, beer, wine, etc. can up your risk for cancer, high blood pressure, memory issues, and more — and “too much” is often less than you’d think.

Aside from the alarming health concerns, this pervasive culture of intoxication can also be frustrating for those who can’t or don’t want to imbibe. After longtime food writer and Edible Philly editor Joy Manning decided to stop drinking in January 2017, for instance, she turned to the internet to vent about the lack of non-alcoholic options at local restaurants and bars compared to other cities (think: Los Angeles, Chicago, and even Louisville, Kentucky). That’s how she connected with fellow sober foodie Annie Baum-Stein, the general manager of Milk & Honey Market in West Philly. “Some people who don’t drink alcohol don’t want to hang out in bars, but we do,” Manning says. “I like the experience of putting on lipstick and meeting up with girlfriends at a trendy place and feeling like we’re taking part in the food and drink scene here.”

Enter Sober Ladies Happy Hours, their series of alcohol-free events during which women can get together and hang out without feeling the pressure to drink. “The idea is to flip the script,” Baum-Stein says, “to not tell ourselves or each other that women don’t gather unless we’re getting loaded.” The first Sober Ladies Happy Hour took place at Spice Finch in October, but the second is coming up February 7th at Front Street Café. It will feature kombucha mocktails made by Olga Sorzano, the founder of Phoenixville kombucha line Baba’s Bucha, as well as snacks and other juice-based drinks from the Front Street bartenders.

Other local folks in the food industry seem to be thinking along similar lines, especially as the demand for mocktails grows. However, Baum-Stein and Manning are essentially leading the charge when it comes to events. They’re still playing around with the frequency of the series, but Baum-Stein says she’d like to host another Sober Ladies Happy Hour in the spring, perhaps at the Pennsylvania Horticulural Society’s Pop-Up Gardens. We’ll drink (zero-proof cocktails) to that.

Get tickets to the February Sober Ladies Happy Hour here.