The B-Side

Dry January just got a whole lot easier 🍹

Plus: 🎓 Swifties get degrees

The B-Side
Welcome to The B-Side, the daily dose of news you actually want to hear. Katie Cole

It’s Thursday, Boston.

🎶 We all know Spotify Wrapped just dropped. But have you checked our “Boston Wrapped”? We know you spent 875 minutes stuck on MBTA slow zones and thought about riding the cop slide 112 times this year. Find out what else our Boston Wrapped has to say here.

👀 What’s on tap today:

  • State Legislature woes
  • Winter preparedness check
  • Boston’s X-mas tree lighting

Up first…


DRINK

A drink without the drunk

Image: Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff. Illustration: Gia Orsino.

Dry January just got a whole lot easier. Dray Drinks, a non-alcoholic “liquor” store in the South End, officially opened for biz Nov. 17. It’s stocked with more than 1,000 booze-free drinking alternatives, including everything from non-alcoholic beer to zero-proof tequila.

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Here’s what to know:

💪 At its core, it’s about empowering people to make an intentional choice. And that all starts with giving them an equally attractive option to the real thing. Dray Drinks owner Pat Dooling quit drinking a few years ago, an experience that showed him just how much gray area there is in sobriety. “There’s a lot of people caught in the middle who would love to move toward the more sober world, but it can feel like a stark choice of ‘I’m either quitting or I’m not,’” he said. And up until recently, the lack of tasty booze-free options has only reinforced that binary. 

🍷 There’s a growing market for this kind of shop, too. Gen Zers drink 20% less alcohol than Millennials, according to a report from Berenberg Research. Some Mass. college students are embracing alcohol-free housing and more drinkers are giving Dry January and Sober October a go. While Dooling has plenty of young customers, he said everyone from an older man needing a non-alcoholic option to stay sober during the holidays, to pregnant women, and athletes who can’t drink while training are stopping by, too.

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🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Products aside, building community is a key goal of Dray Drinks’ mission. “Community is often described as the opposite of addiction,” said Dooling. And the hope is that in-person tastings and events can create a supportive network for those who are sober or sober-curious who “maybe don’t get those kinds of recovery-type benefits.” Plus, a portion of sales will help fund community alcohol and drug recovery causes.

🍹 We obviously had to try a few booze-free bottles. Here’s what we thought:

  1. St. Agrestis’ Phony NegroniIf you like the sweet start and bitter finish of a negroni, you’ll love this. If I didn’t know it was booze-free, you could’ve fooled me. 
  2. Vinada Crispy Chardonnay sparkling wineLight, crispy, and very dry, this tasted like a sophisticated, apple-y prosecco without tipping into the sparkling apple cider realm. 
  3. Surely non-alcoholic red blend. I never thought I’d describe a wine as “meaty” but here we are. While having the look and mouth-feel of red wine, the beef jerky notes were hard to overlook.
  4. Spiritless: Kentucky 74, non-alcoholic bourbon: While smoother than a normal whiskey, the flavor and texture felt watered down. That said, I think it would work well mixed with ginger beer. 

TOGETHER WITH MBTA COMMUTER RAIL

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CITY

Quick & dirty headlines

Image: Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

🐌 The state Legislature is moving slower than the Red Line. Our lawmakers on Beacon Hill aren’t exactly known for their fast pace or transparency, but this year, they’ve seriously reached a new low. We are nearly 11 months into this legislative session, and the Globe reports that it will rank among the least productive first years of session in decades. Several proposals on pressing state issues like housing, gun reform, the MBTA, and a $2.8 billion spending bill containing crucial funding for homeless families and children have failed to reach Gov. Maura Healey’s desk. You can get the whole scoop here.

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❄️ Boston is in its winter preparedness era. Mayor Michelle Wu gave her annual overview of Boston’s winter preparedness prep and resources, and by the looks of it, we’d say the city is ready to go. You can go through all of the mayor’s tips and info here, where she encourages people to opt into Boston Community Choice Electricity, shares rules about clearing snow and space savers (IYKYK), resources for homeless and vulnerable individuals as temperatures drop, as well as tips on safety, and how to make your house as energy efficient as possible. 

🎓 Swifties get degrees. Harvard is the latest university (of many) to announce they’ll be offering a class on Taylor Swift, aptly named “Taylor Swift and Her World.” What, like it’s hard? The class will be offered starting next year, and — like everything Swift touches — it looks like  it’ll be extremely popular: 300 students have already signed up. According to Stephanie Burt, the class’ professor, students will go beyond examining Swift’s fans and following to analyze her music by comparing it to other types of written art. 

🥯 New York bagels are quaking. We never thought we’d see the day that Bostonians line up around the block for bagels, but Jordan Renouf’s Brick Street Bagels has managed to make it happen. And the hype is sure to continue at their upcoming pop-up at Frenchie in the South End on Dec. 2 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. The pop-up is pre-order only, so if you want one, claim your bagel here when the portal opens at 4 p.m. today. But be quick! They tend to sell out fast.


ONE LAST THING

A Boston holiday tale 

Image: David L. Ryan/Globe Staff. Illustration: Gia Orsino.

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The annual Boston Common holiday tree lighting is tonight, Nov. 30. But have you heard the story that goes along with it?

For decades, the iconic tree has been sent to Boston as a thank-you gift from Nova Scotia. In 1917, Mont Blanc, a French ship in Halifax Harbor, collided with another ship, caught on fire, and eventually exploded, killing over 1,000 people and destroying entire neighborhoods in the city of Halifax. 

Boston officials immediately sent aid, supplies, and funds to the province, and set up entire relief camps in the city in order to help them recover. So this Christmas tree is Nova Scotia’s ongoing thank you to Boston for its response. How’s that for neighborly love? 

The tree will be lit up tonight at around 8 p.m., followed by the Comm. Ave and Public Garden lights. You can find more info here.

—Written by Gia Orsino and Emily Schario


🎄Thanks for reading! This year, the tree is a 40-year-old, 45-foot-tall white spruce donated by Bette Gourley of Stewiacke, Nova Scotia, and her family. :’)

💜 Special shoutout to today’s sponsor, MBTA Commuter Rail, for supporting local journalism and making transportation in and around Boston more accessible.

💃 Keep up with us @BostonBSide on IGTikTok, and Twitter. Send comments and suggestions to [email protected].