My Non-Drinking Experience in Palm Desert

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I’m a pretty lucky girl – I got to spend four days (not enough) in Palm Desert with someone I’ve been friends with for 20 years. The 20 year friendship is THE BEST, the trip…that was a bonus😊

We had big plans to hike, to shop, to eat out, to lay by the pool, to do ALL THE THINGS but let me tell you, there just aren’t enough hours in four days to do all that when you’re dealing with two tired mamas.

Once we arrived at the home we were staying at and saw the pool and patio we couldn’t leave. We kept saying things like “let’s just hang by the pool for a little while then we’ll go on a hike.” Or, “today will be our pool day, tomorrow we can shop.”

Needless to say, we reached our quota in pool time.

I had really big plans to sample as many local restaurants and bars as I could, I wanted to find all the best alcohol-free cocktails for you! But after a day at the pool reading books and telling stories, getting dressed up to go out was not in the cards. What was in the cards was watching a chick-flick (Sisters) from a big comfy couch while eating our very own tubs of Phish Food (for me) and a bag of popcorn (for her).

I am not complaining.

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I did make it out twice for drinks – once for dinner and once for lunch while we were shopping at El Paseo (hello Anthropologie and Louis Vuitton!). The lunch drinks at Tommy Bahama were wonderful but I wasn’t surprised. I’ve been there quite a few times and they have this mocktail thing figured out. Drinks are on the menu, presentation is legit, and they are delicious. All I wanna do is win win win ;)

Unfortunately our dinner drinking experience was the anti-Tommy Bahama experience. We had dinner at The Cliff House – a beautiful restaurant literally built into the side of a cliff. It came highly recommended and it was our first night in town, we were ready.

There was a wait for an outdoor table so we decided to hang out at the bar until we could be seated. There was a menu on the bar, no alcohol-free drinks to be found, so I asked the bartender if he could make an alcohol-free cocktail. This is how it went down:

Me (smiling and super excited to be there): Any chance you can make me an alcohol-free cocktail? I don’t see anything on the menu.

Bartender: Oh. You mean a mocktail. (Insert snide emoji here.)

Me: Umm I suppose. (Still smiling and determined to get myself an af cocktail.)

Bartender: Well what do you like?

Me: I don’t care for anything too sweet, other than that I’m open to ideas! (Still smiling.)

Bartender: Well that pretty much rules out any mocktails.

 

At this point my friend chimes in, she’s trying to order an actual cocktail and wants to know about a cucumber drink on the menu. When I hear the word “cucumber” I get excited and ask, “do you have fresh cucumber for this drink she’s asking about?” (Still smiling and hopeful but reaching my limit of patience.)

Bartender: No. We use cucumber flavored vodka. (Annoyed,)

Me (now pissed off and done trying to work with this guy): Do you have ginger beer and mint? Can I please have a ginger beer with some muddled mint?

Now, we have been friends for 20 years – she’s been with me in plenty of bars ordering alcohol but I don’t think she’s had the pleasure of witnessing the shit show (sometimes) that is a non-drinker trying to order an alcohol-free cocktail. She turned and looked at me and said “I feel like he was making fun of you.” Yea :(

This was an opportunity for me to have a conversation with him about why it’s important to have alcohol-free cocktails on the menu—read my thoughts here. I feel like maybe some of these bartenders (they are definitely not all like this) are uninformed about the reasons why people don’t drink and about what their customers want and will pay for.

But it was the first night of my vacation and I was done with this guy. AND I think I’m pretty good at reading the room – something tells me he wasn’t interesting in being “informed” at that particular moment.

What I want him to know? I had a wonderful time at The Cliff House (once we left the bar), our server was so kind, our food was good, and the company was exceptional. But all that goodness has a little black mark…I’m not likely to forget the way he made me feel.

In other words: probably won’t go back.

The good news is the culture is changing. THERE WILL BE A DAY when guys like this will have to step up or step out. It’s important that we keep asking for options and we keep speaking up. It’s the only way to get the message across that we want better.

Also, more good news: Palm Desert is the perfect place for a girls getaway! Whether you drink or not!

-Marnie Rae

Marnie ClarkComment