A complete clean slate, January is the annual harbinger of renewal. Over the last decade — at the very beginning of each year — Dry January and Veganuary have opened the door to good intentions both in the UK and beyond. With the passing of the years, these two movements have grown from being time-limited novelty challenges to mainstream lifestyle choices in their own right. In the greater sense, the fundamental cores of each initiative are now widely lauded for their potential to bring about positive change. This shift has been recognised and incorporated into the wider world, meaning there are no shortage of choices for those who are looking to start the year with the very best of intentions. Whether you’re embracing an alcohol-free lifestyle or exploring a more plant-based diet, here is some inspiration to keep you going through January and even beyond.

Dry January

Improved mental and physical health, better quality sleep, a little bit more money in your pocket — the reasons to commit to Dry January are so very many, with peaked energy levels and enlivened senses an undeniable benefit to going alcohol-free for a month. But one of the mental barriers that some have in fully embracing Dry January is the lingering perception that a month without alcohol means a month without fun. However, with so many now actively choosing not to drink, many establishments are going out of their way to cater specifically to this increase in non-drinking clientele. Options have moved well-beyond sickly sweet drinks and boring soda water to encompass a wide range of sophisticated offerings; indeed, from mocktails composed of well-balanced soft spirits to carefully crafted alcohol-free beers and wines, the non-alcoholic drinks market can now cater for even the most discerning palate.

For travelers making their way across Europe this January, there are no shortage of dry options. In the UK, the BrewDog brewery and pub chain has expanded from its Scottish base to offer up a range of alcohol-free IPAs and lagers to consumers at locations in London, Brighton, and Cambridge. For something different, London’s Nightjar has intimate, speakeasy vibes plus a menu of carefully curated soft cocktails. If you want to go tee-total at Britain’s last temperance bar, there’s always Mr. Fitzpatrick’s in the Lancashire town of Rawtenstall, where you’ll find no alcohol on the menu, but plenty of old-time vibes and a family-friendly atmosphere. For a timeless experience, head for Dublin’s Virgin Mary Bar for a huge range of expertly created drinks served with a thought-provoking social message. And finally, if all you really want to do is party, Berlin is — as ever — the place to be. The city’s Sober Sensation initiative hosts club nights that are specifically drug and alcohol-free zones, offering revelers experiences that pique each and every one of the human senses.

Veganuary

As impressive as 31 days without alcohol is, there are others for whom the first month of the year has come to mean one thing: Veganuary. Now firmly established as a way of eating and even a way of life, Veganuary’s overarching goals — to protect the environment, prevent animal suffering, and increase the health of millions — are wholly positive. Since its inception in 2014, more and more people around the world are opting in to Veganuary, with many taking their plant-based pledge to the end of the month and beyond. Restaurants, chefs, and the food industry at large have all responded to this wider shift in demand, with veganism no longer consigned to being a tiny corner of the consumer market or a single item on a menu. From street food to humble cafés, pubs, and even high-end establishments, there is now so much choice and innovative sophistication, that plant-based is no longer just a niche option.

North, south, east, and west — no matter where you are, Europe’s cities are crammed full of vegan-friendly venues. In the UK, London’s Temple of Seitan is the plant-based answer to the omnipresence of a certain world-famous fried chicken chain, while the Scottish capital of Edinburgh — and especially the Bruntsfield area of the city — abounds in cosy vegan cafes. But for something truly special, Aurora in Leith offers an elegant and fully plant-based fine dining experience. On the European mainland, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin are all notable for both the exceptional quality and quantity of their vegan dining options. In Paris, Land&Monkeys has brought classical French patisserie to the vegan masses, but if all you really want are some nachos, then head to any location of Vegan Junk Food Bar. With outlets in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Cologne, and Barcelona, this restaurant is delectable proof that not all vegan food has to be healthy. 

And if that’s not enough to get your junk food fix, head to Berlin for doughnuts at Brammibal and kebabs at Vöner, respectively. If you’re after something slightly more upmarket, the Michelin-listed Sorbillo in Naples now also offers a tofu-mozzarella pizza, thus ensuring that vegans get a slice of the city’s most famous food. For those heading further afield, it’s worth knowing that the cities of Warsaw, Ghent, Strasbourg, Groninberg, and Milan are all widely recognised for their comprehensive plant-based dining options. 

Be it freedom from alcohol or a curious dip into a more plant-based way of eating, January can be a time of positive change. With so many actively acknowledging these monumental shifts in lifestyle, it’s never been easier to carry these good intentions into the new year and well beyond. 

Happy New Year!

Images courtesy of https://www.land-and-monkeys.com/blog/

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