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Total commitment of the teetotaler | Comstock’s Magazine

In the best of all worlds, libations bring people together through relaxation, camaraderie, and a kind of kinetic energy that flows through space. However, when these libations contain alcohol, the best results are not always obtained. Now, two women are opening a one-of-a-kind cocktail bar in Sacramento—one that celebrates the collective highs of drinking culture while eschewing risk.

In founding The Teetotalist, Kathryn Altman and Amanda Brincat have created a business that serves a range of clients on multiple fronts. It’s a meeting place where elite athletes can regularly have fun while keeping their bodies in tip-top shape. It’s a hangout lounge where people in addiction healing can meet up with a friend or go on a date stress-free. It’s a craft cocktail paradise accessible to everyone, regardless of health conditions, religious restrictions, or personal choices that might lead to avoiding alcohol.

Amanda Brincat, left, pours some non-alcoholic wine for Kathryn Altman. The two founded Teetotalist and are finalists in the Calling All Dreamers competition.

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“We both quit drinking in 2022, and Amanda in particular is very sociable, but when it comes to going out, Sacramento just has a really alcoholic culture,” says Altman. “We didn’t feel like there was a sober place to hang out, so we figured we’d make it.”

She adds: “Right now a lot of people are taking a break from drinking: there’s dry January and a lot of women who are pregnant. There are also people who just want something different. We had a large group here last Saturday and I think everyone is drinking but they just wanted a night without alcohol.”

For Altman and Brincat, who are engaged, creating Teetotalist was an idea they built over time. Altman is a competitive weightlifter who went long stretches without alcohol in her 20s and 30s because she was looking for maximum results in the gym. Altman surmised that there were other athletes, cyclists, and long-distance runners with similar goals, although they might not want to be locked up after sundown. Then, last year, Brincat quit alcohol altogether.

“You can be very hesitant to quit, and from personal experience I’ve wanted to give up alcohol for a long time, but it just became so ingrained in my daily life,” says Brincat. “An after-work beer to unwind or a shot to celebrate this or that – it’s everywhere. But if I had had a place where I could still have fun, where I could meet people without alcohol, I might have been able to make that switch sooner. I think if people have that, it won’t feel so scary and lonely.”

It’s hard to disagree with Altman and Brincat’s assessment of modern Sacramento life. However, running a business is still about providing products and an atmosphere that attracts people – and the two entrepreneurs know that. That’s why they hired an experienced mixologist named Jen Shaver to work with them to develop their cocktail menu. The founders also rely on some of the country’s most experienced alcohol-free distillers to create an experience. “Some of the spirits are distilled with various herbs and spices, while others are traditionally distilled and then dealcoholized,” explains Altman.

Amanda Brincat makes a cocktail at the Teetotalist pop-up bar on K Street.

That equates to dry, highly calibrated mixed drinks, according to Brincat, which aren’t like the ultra-sugary “mocktails” some people might have encountered. “They have the same taste, smell, and mouthfeel as the alcoholic version,” she says, “although a lot of them don’t really have the bite. It’s not like Shirley Temple or orange juice with grenadine in it.”

In August, Altman and Brincat submitted their business concept to the Downtown Sacramento Partnership’s Calling All Dreamers competition. The winning pitch will result in a business startup package valued at over $120,000. Once Teetotalist was accepted as a candidate, Altman and Brincat began serving drinks at events in Sacramento. They currently operate a full pop-up bar downtown at 830 K Street, where they plan to remain until at least the end of March. Teetotalist is now in the top six finalists for Calling All Dreamers. The winner will be announced in April. Altman and Brincat say they will settle down in a permanent place soon regardless of whether they win.

“We want to help normalize alcohol-free fun,” says Brincat. “And whether you’re sober-serious or sober-curious, we want you to be comfortable.”

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