Duff McKagan: On Drinking

A guide to a sober life in bars.

I used to be the guy who was constantly trying to find the best place in town to drink the cocktail. Yeah, I was the guy barkeeps loved at first, but they always ended up trying to find a way to get me the hell out. An obnoxious drunk—but good tipper—like myself could only buy so much good graces. It wasn't a "just have a couple of drinks and go home" type of situation. It got embarrassing and weird and smelly. Bartenders get a bit sick of people like the guy I used to be. I was like the Bukowski character in the movie Barfly. I loved me some liquor.

Bars were there just for the alcohol and sleazy camaraderie. For people like me, getting sober and not drinking anymore is the only real choice (the other "choice" is not really an option at all—it's just sudden darkness). But what do you do when you can't do the cocktail anymore? Can a teetotaler even go into a bar?

Well, after I got sober, I still loved music, and most live music is played in some sort of drinking establishment. To my surprise and delight, there were a lot of people just like me out there. Not only are there a ton of sober peeps out at bars, there are also a whole legion of bar staff who are psyched to have a sober person or two in their midst. I guess people who teetotal give a bartender a modicum of sane company to keep.

If you are a non-drinker because of a "history," or are just not drinking alcohol on a particular night because you are behind the wheel, your list of bars to go to, and what they will offer in the form of non-alcoholic drinks, will vary on a par with what they offer in the alcoholic arena. If a bar has a bunch of fancy cocktails, then it's a good bet it will have a bunch of different NA drinks available. The opposite is also true, however. If a tavern just offers beer in a can, your only NA choice may be tap water.

There are a ton of different great NA beers these days, and more and more bars are recognizing the fact that there is a market out there for O'Doul's and Buckler drinkers.

And of course, there is the energy drink, my own personal favorite. For me, the sugar-free energy drink gives you the high without the sugar crash. (And the calories. A guy has to watch his girlish figure!)

Here's a quick list of some good options:

The Sunset Tavern: Great bar staff. They have O'Doul's and the energy drinks. The bar staff there are real cool, and the bands are right there to your right. Highly recommended for the sober night out.

Darrell's Tavern: A brand- new find for me, Darrell's is the ultimate in old-school kitsch. Nice round bar, good low stage. Great mixture of north-end locals and downtown hipsters.

Ivar's Salmon House Bar (Northlake): If you are in the mood for great food, an awesome view, and sports on TV, this bar has it all. Since the Ivar's bar is full-service, a teetotaler can get the fancy NA cocktails with a sprig of mint and everything!

JaK's (on N.E. 45th): A great place to bring the kids. Again, great food, a full-service bar, and no separation between the bar and restaurant. Since it is a real eatery, your chances of being around your standard drunk are pretty slim.

Slim's Last Chance Chili Shack: I'm a big fan of some authentic barbecue and some real historical Americana. As a bar, Slim's holds a candle to any shotgun shack in the Texas panhandle, while still holding something uniquely "Seattle." A great punk-rock/rockabilly club. A great restaurant. A great bar.

Palomino (downtown): For those inclined to the fanciness, Palomino will most certainly do. A great place for date night, and they make a real strong and full-bodied espresso. So while your date may be getting her hammer on, you can get all jacked up and ready for the eventual hookup. Of course, I don't know this from experience . . . I'm just saying it COULD go down like that.


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