As one of the few 21-year-olds in America who doesn’t drink—or drinks very rarely—I’ve unwittingly adopted the role as my friends’ go-to chauffeur when they head out on a weekend bar-hopping spree. But being the designated driver doesn’t have to mean guzzling water away from the dance floor. There are perks. I’ve scored bottomless root beers, hand-crafted mocktails, and even half-price German chocolate cake, just for staying sober. In fact, I’ve found most bars are more than willing to shell out free snacks and sodas for those willing to provide a safe ride home. Here are 20 DD deals from across the country practically worth skipping the cocktails for.
7353 East Scottsdale Mall; 480-994-5576
Bartenders at this contemporary club whip up DDs the bar’s signature faux-tini, a shaken mix of grapefruit, orange, and cranberry juices, for just $2—a bargain compared to the $14 Cosmo.
University of Phoenix Stadium
1 Cardinals Drive; 623-433-7101
When the Cardinals play at home, sober drivers receive a coupon for a free soda during the game and the chance to win tickets to the NFL Pro Bowl.
1620 Colorado Boulevard; 323-258-8800
DDs at this mellow, skater-owned dive are the only ones who can order the free—and exclusive—Black Mocktail: a fruity mix of pineapple, cranberry and lime juices splashed with soda water and a fresh cherry.
510 West Main Street; 209-381-0280
Sober chauffeurs at this hidden-gem seafood spot get a free appetizer and mocktail with dinner. Those who stay late pay no cover charge to get into the bar and dance floor after hours.
Great American Beer Festival
700 14th St.; 303-228-8000
It’s hard to turn down a beer at a festival that honors some of the nation’s best brews, but for a free massage? Easier. Designated drivers are rewarded with exclusive admission to the DD Lounge, where they can relax with their shoulder rubs and craft root beers all day long. Bonus: DDs also get a 25 percent discount on parking.
2001 Blake St.; 303-292-0200
Sports and beer usually go hand-in-hand—but so do hiked up prices at live events. Instead of dropping $8 on a tall cold one, DDs can sip on a free soda or lemonade during an MLB game.
1460 W. Chicago, Ave.; 312-243-7100
Sick of traditional soda? This Chicago bar is known for whipping up booze-free artisanal beverages. Local favorites are the pink peppercorn and thyme soda and lemonade made with bitters.
Karyn’s On Green
130 S. Green St.; 312-226-6155
Vegan DDs can get their (virgin) drink on with healthy mixes like Blueberry Mint Fizz, lemonade, mint or coconut water spiked with zippy lime juice and almond syrup.
Iowa Craft Brew Festival
Visit iowabeer.org for tickets and details.
Food, music and even cooking classes await guests at the annual Iowa Craft Brew Festival. DDs can enjoy these summer festivities for $5, compared to the $40 price of a regular ticket.
Des Moines Social Club
900 Mulberry Street; 515-369-3672
At this firehouse-turned-event space, DDs can sip on a variety of mocktails during one of the club’s plays, musicals, art showings and more.
Kelly’s Westport Inn
500 Westport Road; 816-561-5800
A long-time happy hour favorite for locals, Kelly’s Westport Inn helps DDs unwind with bottomless sodas, root beers, and lemonades all night.
420 NW Englewood Road; 816-221-5255
DDs at this KC sports bar can play pool, sing karaoke, or sit back and watch the Chiefs with unlimited free sodas in hand.
820 North Rampart St.; 504-324-6045
Sober drivers can’t beat a bar with an entire menu page dedicated to non-alcoholic beverages. Highlights include locally made cream sodas in cool vanilla lactart and tart strawberry shake.
The Avenue Pub
1723 St. Charles Ave.; 504-586-9243
DDs looking for a thirst-quencher on the healthier side can check out Huhu’s Ginger Brew. These non-alcoholic beers are brewed with fresh-squeezed ginger, instead of sugary syrup. Served fresh on tap at The Avenue Pub.
St. Louis, Missouri
700 Clark Ave.; 314-345-9600
DDs at St. Louis Cardinals games score a free MLB keychain and sodas throughout the game. Sober drivers are also entered in a raffle for prizes—and past DDs have won big with tickets to the World Series.
900 North 1st St.; 314-241-5915
For designated drivers, this low-key pub is the perfect place to enjoy live music and free sodas against the backdrop of the Mississippi River.
The Corner on Northgate
401 University Drive; 979-268-1406
A go-to haunt for Texas A&M students, designated drivers get a free DD cup they can refill with unlimited sodas all night long.
700 University Drive East; 979-846-4488
Schlepping friends with a case of the late-night munchies? Designated drivers eat free at Mickey’s Sliders. Fried chicken-and-waffle sandwiches and Texas-sized deep-fried Oreos taste better sober, anyway.
Horse and Cow
536 4th St.; 360-627-9843
As part of a local movement to stop drunken driving deaths, DDs are treated like royalty at this submarine-themed dive. After bellying up to the bar, designated drivers get a special wristband that scores them free soda and juice for the night, along with a complementary bucket of fries or eight-piece chicken wing basket. When they leave, DDs are given a gift certificate for a free appetizer the next time they come.
Red Wine and Chocolate: Olympic Peninsula Winery Tour
Visit olympicpeninsulawineries.org for a complete list of participating vineyards.
Who needs wine when you can sample fresh—and free—artisanal chocolates during a Washington Winery Tour?
Bar Tonique photo by Kevin Tao; Flickr.