Sober October 101: Everything You Need to Know

If you are partaking in Sober October this year, this survival guide has all the rules, benefits and tips for a successful month without alcohol.

A cup of apple cider with cinnamon sticks and apples.

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After a busy summer of vacations and relaxation, the beginning of autumn (or spring, depending on where you live) is a great time to reset, especially with another busy season of holiday festivities ahead.

One way you can do that is by participating in Sober October, a personal challenge to abstain from alcohol for all 31 days of October.

What is Sober October?

Sober October is the name for a no-drinking challenge that is observed from October 1 to October 31. Participants commit to not imbibing alcohol for the entire month of October. 

The fall challenge is similar to Dry January, which is a similar event that takes place in the new year. There’s also Dry July and Sober September, two more times to try this dry challenge.

This month-long challenge helps people reset before the upcoming holiday season, reduce their alcohol consumption and explore the ever-expanding world of mocktails.

In the United Kingdom, “Go Sober for October” is a social media fundraising campaign for Macmillan Cancer Support. People can donate in support of anyone doing the charity challenge for a good cause. 

Mocktail recipes: Virgin MojitoItalian SodaSparkling Mocktails

a virgin Moscow mule in a copper mug

Sober October vs. Dry January

Sober October and Dry January are both month-long challenges in which participants abstain from drinking alcohol.

The most significant difference is the month in which they take place: one is in the fall and the other in the winter.

Sober October helps people detox after a busy summer and prepare for the busy holiday season ahead, allowing them to save money on going out to bars and buying alcohol to drink at home.

Dry January is often the start to a New Year’s resolution and, like the fall version, is a way to reset after the holiday season.

Otherwise, the rules are pretty much the same: Don’t drink alcohol for an entire month.

Why people do Sober October

Participants start the Sober October challenge for a number of reasons, including:

  • Resetting after a busy summer
  • Detoxing before the holiday season
  • Starting the school year on a fresh note
  • Practicing mindful drinking and healthy habits
  • Saving money on buying alcohol or going to bars
  • Solidarity with a friend who is not drinking
  • Practicing for Dry January
two non-alcoholic mimosas with a citrus juicer

Rules for Sober October

If you’re ready to go all in on this wellness trend, the Sober October rules are pretty simple: 

  1. Don’t drink alcohol for 31 days. From Oct. 1 to 31, participants commit to abstaining from drinking alcoholic beverages. That includes beer, wine, spirits, cocktails, shots and other drinks that can cause intoxication.
  2. Don’t consume other intoxicating substances. This rule is optional, and more of a personal choice. Some take Sober October a step further by not consuming other substances and recreational drugs, like nicotine or marijuana, or even caffeine.
  3. Avoid temptation. The hardest part of a sober month isn’t avoiding alcohol — it’s avoiding situations where you’re tempted to enjoy a drink. Some people avoid bars, parties, eating out and social events where alcohol is often consumed. If you like to drink at home, it means putting your booze out of reach so you’re not inclined to imbibe.

Benefits of Sober October

Reduced alcohol use is said to have a number of health benefits, including weight loss, sharper mental acuity, better sleep, improved blood pressure, better mental health and healthier skin, as well as reduced risk of certain cancers, strokes and heart disease.

Beyond that, Sober October is a great way to try out the sober curious movement for participants to discover how to enjoy life with non-alcoholic alternatives.

For some, the goal is to detox or enjoy alcohol in moderation. For others, participating is a step toward eliminating alcohol for good.

The downside of Sober October

Though the health benefits and behavior modification learned during Sober October are helpful for many people, the challenge isn’t for everyone.

Some people may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. For heavy drinkers, one risk is the rebound effect in which some may feel inclined to binge drink when they end the challenge.

Always discuss with your doctor before starting this challenge to see if it is a good choice for you.

If you think you or someone you know might need help with alcohol abuse, please call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

a non-alcoholic Bloody Mary with olives, tomatoes, cheese and celery on top

Is Sober October hard?

The sober movement is gaining popularity, so events like Sober October and Dry January are a great way explore non-alcoholic beverages.

There is more to mocktail recipes than just the Shirley Temple drink. With more zero-proof choices than ever, participants have nothing to worry about.

Many bars and restaurants now offer non-alcoholic drinks on their menus year-round. You can even find bars dedicated to zero-proof drinks all over the world.

There are lots of non-alcoholic brands gracing the shelves of grocery stores, specialty shops and big name stores like CVS and Wal-Mart. Because alcohol isn’t an ingredient, zero-proof spirits can also be ordered and shipped to your door.

three bottles of ritual zero proof alcohol

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Non-alcoholic options

Non-drinkers have lots of choices beyond flavored water, soda and iced tea: non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits.

These have a limited shelf life compared to bottled alcohol, so be sure to store them properly.

Zero-proof beer and wine

Non-alcoholic beer and wine have graced store shelves for years, yet discovering options that actually taste good often posed a challenge.

Thanks to the burgeoning zero-proof trend, enjoying beer and wine that’s devoid of alcohol is becoming much more accessible.

Noteworthy companies such as Athletic Brewing Company and Fre Non-Alcoholic Wines offer top-tier non-alcoholic beer and wine options.

For a sparkling option, you can enjoy sparkling cider, ginger ale or lemon-lime soda, or add them to cocktails in place of champagne. This non-alcoholic bellini is made with sparkling apple cider, but you could also use a non-alcoholic sparkling wine.

a mint julep surrounded by ingredients and tools

Zero-proof spirits

Zero-proof spirits offer an alternative avenue for savoring drinks without the inclusion of alcohol.

These are mixers engineered to replicate the flavors of alcoholic beverages but lack alcohol content. Some premier brands to explore include:

  • Monday, Ritual and Spiritless: These three brands’ products are non-alcoholic versions of spirits, such as whiskey and rum, that are a one-to-one replacement for alcohol. For example, non-alcoholic whiskey like Ritual rum alternative instead of regular makes a virgin mojito.
  • Lyre’s: Lyre’s takes the concept of the one-to-one ratio even further, offering zero-proof versions of liqueurs such as a bitter apéritif for virgin Negronis and coffee liqueur for virgin espresso martinis and White Russians.
  • Seedlip: Unlike the others, Seedlip does not strive to mimic specific alcoholic spirits. Instead, it incorporates spiced and herbal infusions, which infuse complexity and depth, and allow more creativity for dreaming up your own concoctions.

Non-alcoholic spirits work well with cocktail mixers such as tonic water and ginger beer.

In addition, you can even find canned and bottled mocktails, which are non-alcoholic versions of their cocktail counterparts.

Non-alcoholic bitters

Some people choose to exclude all alcohol from their diet, even cocktail bitters, which typically contain small traces of alcohol.

However, there is a great non-alcoholic alternative: All the Bitter offers a range of both classic and innovative flavors, including aromatic, chocolate mole, and lavender.

Their line of bitters empowers customers to enhance their favorite beverages with more flavor while omitting all of the alcohol content.

a gray mug with hot chocolate and a melted marshmallow next to a gray kitchen towel

Sober October Drinks

When it comes to alcohol-free drinks, there’s no shortage of creativity. Bookmark some intriguing non-alcoholic beverage recipes and make a plan to try them all during the Sober October month.

Brunch: For brunch, you can start with virgin Bloody Marys and virgin mimosas, which are both delicious substitutes for the real deal.

Evenings: virgin Moscow mule is a versatile drink to enjoy anytime. You can make it with almost any zero-proof spirit alternative, from ones that taste strong like whiskey and rum alternatives to lighter ones that taste like herbal gin or smoky tequila. A French soda with flavored simple syrup and cream.

Daytime: Preparing some batch drinks like iced tea, cold brew coffee or lemonade to keep in the fridge is a great way to keep yourself accountable. Agua fresca is another refreshing and hydrating choice.

Chilly days: Sip on a mug of warm homemade apple cider or hot chocolate. Or make it even more fall-like with pumpkin spice hot chocolate.

Parties: If you’re entertaining, plan to serve non-alcoholic beverages like hot chocolate party You can also set up a Bloody Mary bar or mojito bar with or without booze. If you do provide alcohol, be sure to provide a non-alcoholic option, like cranberry punch, for yourself and any other non-drinkers.

Halloween: Halloween is at the end of the month, on October 31, but that doesn’t mean you must stop the challenge a day early to enjoy it. Celebrate with a spooky mocktail, such as a witches brew drink or a fizzy potion.

A deep purple drink in a glass with a second behind, garnished with fruit and herbs.

Tips for Sober October

Quitting anything cold turkey is hard. If you’re not sure how you’ll make it through the month without a glass of wine or a cocktail, here are some tips for tackling Sober October with ease:

Plan ahead. If you know in September that you plan to take on the challenge in October, try limiting your alcohol intake whenever possible in the time prior so that the transition isn’t as harsh.

Do it your way. If not drinking for a whole month sounds too challenging, feel free to take it at your own pace. You can drink less without giving it up altogether. Try limiting yourself to a smaller amount of drinks per week or opt for low-ABV (alcohol by volume) drinks, which contain less alcohol.

Enjoy the process. The pleasure of drinking is the act of pouring or mixing the drink. Instead, try a substitute like a zero-proof wine or beer, or prepare a mocktail, like a virgin Moscow mule.

Make it easy. Keep the ingredients for your favorite non-alcoholic drinks stocked at all times. When thirst strikes, you’ll be ready with a refreshing drink you love that still satisfies you.

Set a plan for social situations. Sober October doesn’t mean you have to give up your social life! Come up with a non-alcoholic drink you can order at a bar. For a party or social gathering, plan to bring your own beverage. Tell your friends what you are doing — they’ll likely encourage you, not try to tempt you.

Hide your alcohol. If you have a stash of beer, wine or spirits in your home that might tempt you, box them up and place them somewhere you won’t think about them. If you think you will be tempted, ask a friend to store them for you.

Accountability. Ask a friend or your partner to join you. You could also join a Facebook group. Check in to see how the month is going and encourage each other.

Reflect often. Throughout the month, reflect on how the challenge is going. Take note of the positive changes you feel. Keeping these top of mind is a great motivation to continue.

A red and a yellow Italian soda sit on gray stone coasters garnished with mint sprigs.


What is Sober October?

Sober October is a personal challenge to drink no alcohol from October 1 to 31. It’s meant to be a way to detox or reset, practice mindful drinking and save money after a busy summer and before the holiday season.

Does Sober October include coffee?

While Sober October is usually a month-long no-alcohol challenge, it can also include abstaining from other substances, such as caffeine, nicotine or marijuana.

decorative icon of a beer stein.

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