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Jason and Deborah Friend Wilson, Photo credit: Jim Garner

Featured Article

Festive and Alcohol Free

Looking to go non-alcoholic? Soft cocktails provide the experience without the booze

Article by Bree O'Brien

Photography by Jim Garner and Suzii Galan

Originally published in Kirkland Lifestyle

After the holiday season, which can sometimes lead to overindulging in both food and drink, many people decide to cut down or eliminate their alcohol consumption. Deborah Friend Wilson, who co-owns The Lakehouse restaurant in Bellevue with husband Jason Wilson, a James Beard Award-winning chef, has personal experience in that regard. Sober (which she describes as free from all substances) for six years, she feels that the pandemic has made conversations around substance abuse more accessible than before and people in the hospitality industry can help open a dialogue around emotions and mental health to ask, why do people numb themselves with alcohol? “What in your life is causing discomfort, such that you reach for a substance?”

In addition to The Lakehouse, Friend Wilson founded a management consulting firm to work with restaurants in “emotional literacy” when she noticed that their employees were reluctant to return to work after pandemic closures. “Working in restaurants should not be such a churn and burn lifestyle,” she says, and that lifestyle influences mental health which in turn can affect the use of alcohol to numb oneself. “The more comfortable we are to talk about living a healthier lifestyle, acknowledging our minds and emotions are big things – removing stigma could save lives. We have the opportunity to help people live with less fear, judgment, and shame.”

                Abstaining from alcohol needn’t take anything away from the dining experience. Having non-alcoholic or “soft” cocktails on the menu is increasingly the norm, as guests request these options and restaurants respond. Friend Wilson explains that the science behind mixology has moved forward leaps and bounds with interesting flavors and pairings, and non-alcoholic is part of that.  With these soft cocktails, diners still get the experience of beautiful flavors and glassware as well as human connection. Of the local hospitality scene, Friend Wilson says “Working in a market as exciting as Bellevue feels like a real privilege.”

                When thinking of festive soft cocktails to serve for a party, Friend Wilson recommends fizz and color! “Pomegranate jewels in the bottom of any beverage invite some sparkle, and garnishes are fun, festive, and eye-catching.” One option is a Rosemary Pomp and Circumstance, which she calls an elegant and refreshing soft cocktail. Grapefruit citrus forward with a balance of honey and hint of rosemary, it pairs especially well with roasted vegetables, greens and seafood.

Rosemary Pomp and Circumstance

1oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
.75oz lemon juice
.75oz honey
Shaken with sprig of rosemary
Double strained. Top with 2oz soda water

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