Non-alcoholic Holiday Drinks and Festivities

Contributor: W. Travis Stewart, LPC, NCC writer for Addiction Hope

studying-703002_1280For many recovery alcoholics the holiday season can present a uniquely stressful set of circumstances. Trying to stay sober during the days from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve can produce more stress, anxiety and temptation for the recovering alcoholic and often contribute to a feeling of being lonely, isolated and disconnected from the festivities.

If you are in recovery yourself or are hosting a party for friends in recovery you may be looking for non-alcoholic alternatives to serve. Here are some great ideas and recipes on how to make the holidays safe and sober.

Creamy Hot Cocoa – recipe by Jeanie Bean

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup white sugar
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup boiling water
3 1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup half-and-half cream

Prep 2 minutes
Cook 5 minutes
Ready in 7 minutes

Combine the cocoa, sugar and pinch of salt in a saucepan. Blend in the boiling water. Bring this mixture to an easy boil while you stir. Simmer and stir for about 2 minutes. Watch that it doesn’t scorch. Stir in 3 1/2 cups of milk and heat until very hot, but do not boil!

Remove from heat and add vanilla. Divide between 4 mugs. Add the cream to the mugs of cocoa to cool it to drinking temperature.

Non-Alcoholic Punch – recipe by Ruth Perkins

4 cups cranberry juice
4 cups pineapple juice
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 liter ginger ale soda

In a large punch bowl, combine cranberry juice, pineapple juice and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add almond extract and pour in the ginger ale. You can also make this without adding the white sugar and still enjoy a sweet flavor.

Spiced Apple Cider – recipe by

Thanksgiving Harvest Doll1 gallon fresh apple cider
10 cinnamon sticks
5 anise pods
3 teaspoons whole cloves
Orange slices for garnish

Pour the cider into a large pot and simmer with the spices for 10-15 minutes. If you want, tie the spices up in cheesecloth for easy removal later – or just let people deal with cloves in their drinks. Garnish with a slice of orange.

Spiced Pomegranate-Apple Cider – recipe by Better Homes and Gardens

Makes 20 servings

1 pasteurized apple cider or apple juice
2 16 ounce bottle pomegranate juice or 4 cups cranberry juice
1/4 cup maple syrup or packed brown sugar
6 fresh kumquats, halved, or 6 3×1 inch thin orange peel strips
16 inches stick cinnamon, broken
12 cardamom pods, light crushed to expose seeds
12 whole cloves

In a large Dutch oven or kettle, combine cider, pomegranate or cranberry juice, and maple syrup or brown sugar.

For spice bag, cut a double thickness of 100-percent-cotton cheesecloth into a 12-inch square. Place the halved kumquats or orange peel, 16 inches stick cinnamon, cardamom pods, and cloves in center of cloth.

Bring the corners of cloth together and tie closed with clean kitchen string. Add spice bag to cider mixture.

Bring mixture to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove spice bag and discard.

To serve, ladle cider into mugs. If desired, garnish with additional sliced apple, kumquats and/or cinnamon sticks.

Fun Activities that don’t include drinking

Santa Claus & ChristmasIn addition to finding non-alcoholic drinks to enjoy during the holiday season, it will be helpful to find activities that are enjoyable.

Nothing can increase your temptation to drink like sitting around bored, listening to Uncle Bob complain about his football team or waiting for everyone to agree on a movie. Here are some great ideas for things to do with friends and family.

Speed Scrabble
Use Scrabble game tiles to create a crossword as quickly as you can.
Goal: Be the first one to finish and use all letter tiles.

A full set of Scrabble tiles, without the board and letters face down on the table. Leave these in the middle of the table.

How to Play
1. Each player grabs 7 letter tiles and leaves them face down. When you say “go”, everyone flips over their tiles and make individual crossword puzzles in a small space in front of them. Each letter must be connected with the other letters to form a word (using Scrabble rules).

2. Once a person completes a personal crossword puzzle using all their letters, someone says “go”. Everyone grabs two extra letters and keeps going. They cannot exchange any letters.

3. This process continues until there are no more tiles. The first person to completing their crossword puzzle and use all of his or her tiles wins the round. Everyone gets points for their remaining unused tiles.

4. Play as many rounds as you like. Low score wins.

Memory Sharing
Share stories with one another. This is particularly fun for children to hear adults share memories.

Goal: Laugh together and build community

How to Play
Pick a theme and take turns telling your stories. Here are some sample themes:
The greatest day of my life.
The best thing that happened in my life this year.
My favorite memory from childhood.
The funniest thing that ever happened to me.

Make a Time Capsule – idea comes from

Goal: Be creative, do a project together and build new memories

Gather items that are meaningful to the family and/or group of friends (you may need to tell people ahead of time so they come prepared). Put everything into an archival box, then stow it away in a cool, dark place.

Real Simple continues, “Include the big stuff (artwork, school reports, notes to your future selves) and the little (movie stubs, a printout of a Facebook page, a toy with its batteries removed so they don’t corrode). Items that won’t stand the test of time: delicate clothing, food, or tapes and discs that will be outdated by technology.

Add a silica-gel pack (which comes with new shoes) to absorb moisture.” Set a date for some time in the future when you will open the capsule. This could be next holiday season or 5-10 years in the future.

Telephone, the Animated Version

Goal: Have fun together.

family sitting on grassHow to Play: This game is a twist on the classic game of telephone. Start by having one person write out a sentence at the top of a sheet of paper (legal paper is best). Then fold the paper just below the sentence.

Pass the paper to the next person. This person can view the sentence and then attempt to illustrate the sentence with a simple drawing below the fold. After drawing, fold the paper below the drawing (the paper will eventually look like an accordion).

The next person then writes a sentence describing the drawing. Fold the paper again and pass it on. The next person illustrates the new sentence. This continues as long as you have new people. At the end, compare the first sentence with the final result.

To see an example of this game visit

Group Therapy

Goal: Have fun and get to know one another

Have everyone sit in a circle in one room. Explain to the group that this is a group therapy exercise. One person will be selected to be the group therapist. The person selected as therapist will leave the room.

Once he or she is gone the group will decide on a diagnosis. Examples include acrophobia (fear of heights), trypanophobia (fear of needles), narcolepsy (spontaneously falling asleep), and narcissism (elevated view of him or herself).

You can also make up problems such as; everyone believing he or she is a super hero, everyone believing he or she is a character from Lord of the Rings. Once this is decided have the therapist reenter the room and begin the “therapy group” and start discussion.

Participants subtly begin to act out the diagnosis as they talk. Don’t make it too obvious. Once the therapist guesses the diagnosis choose a new person and start again.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What are some of your favorite sober holiday drinks and activities?

Travis Stewart About the author: Travis Stewart earned a Master of Arts in Counseling (2001) and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies (2003), both from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, MO. Travis is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Missouri and a writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 12, 2015
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