The Hard Sell: Convincing Friends to Join Mastodon and Dive Bars to Stock AF Spirits

Seventy-eight days ago I faced a hard sell. I needed to convince myself to stop drinking. Technically, my retina detaching for the third time did most of the convincing, but I had a stubborn customer.

Set in his ways, he had developed a rather enjoyable routine. He was labeled, “the cocktail guy” by coworkers and still maintained nearly one thousand followers on Twitter, despite not having had tweeted much in nearly a decade. His cocktail blog had been converted over to a Google Map of the nearly 200 dive bars he had explored since moving to New Orleans. Technically, over 200, but he was a slacker on updating that map. However, the one thing that was going to be the hardest to overcome… he had in his possession… wonderful memories. A slippery demon, perched upon his shoulder, whispering sweet remembrances and crystalizing his actions into proud routines.

“Remember that time Ronda Rousey was a bartender in Los Angeles and you asked her to create a Tiki cocktail just for you? How amazing was that?!” I know, right!? Ah, good times…

For the record, she was also very proud of her Bloody Mary recipe and I do have to say, still probably the finest I’ve had.

She had just won silver in Judo in the Olympics and was taking the summer break as a bartender in L.A. before going back and training on the East Coast. This was a couple years before her debut and dominance in MMA, and right as I was dipping my toes into the Southern California Tiki culture. I met her bartending while listening to the “hulabilly” band, The Hula Girls, at a pirate themed bar in downtown L.A.

It’s wonderful random moments like that which create powerful pathways in the brain and reinforce one to maintain the lifestyle they have so thoroughly enjoyed.

It was not easy, to give up drinking… to give up on the idea that events like the past would no longer be possible.

Finding out about the new push for mindful drinking and AF spirits, however, allowed me to embrace a new community, and a new paradigm, and commit to these changes with far greater ease. The community is passionate about their cause and passionate about the quality of their products. Because they are such a small industry, they are very friendly and supportive of each other, with sincerity and a passion to share.

Finding the compassionate community of mindful drinkers, not just non-alcoholic but the spectrum of no and low, was like walking into an untouched utopia. It was everything I wanted in sobriety. Still enjoying finely crafted cocktails, but in a way devoid of the toxins.

It certainly has had its trying moments, not drinking anymore, but finding others and building that new sense of self and sharing within the community has allowed me to proudly celebrate over seventy days of sobriety… in New Orleans… and twenty pounds of weight loss! That was an unexpected side-effect, I have to admit. My retina is happier. My heart a bit happier from being lighter, and I’m sure my liver is happier, as well.

But more surprisingly, I’m still happily drinking heavy! Quite possibly, even more “happily” than ever before. Though, not at Happy Hour prices.

The Cost of Change

There’s always a cost to changing things. You’ve spent time optimizing your routine, knowing the ins and outs, and have accumulated not only shortcuts and best practices, but a network of information enabling you to be empowered to manage those optimizations. When changes are made, you need to re-invest that time and energy to get back to your peek performance… back into your groove. At times its small: the bartenders’ shift ends and your regular is replaced with a new hire. We’ve all been there.

“Evening, sir. Can I get you anything?”
“Oh, boy. Okay. Hello, I’m Joby. I’m a regular. We’re going to be friends soon and you’ll make me things you like and want me to try, and we’ll chat about them, and whatever else life is throwing at you. So, let’s get started here…”

When it came to delving into alcohol-free spirits, to maintain a sense of normality and a desire to stock a new type of home bar, one thing immediately struck me.

The shit is expensive AF!

Doing my research, to even know what spirits are on the market, lead me to various reviews from Europe, where the non-alcoholic spirit industry is more widely adopted and slightly more mature. I still cringe every time they mention prices, “About 25 Euros… so conversion is about… what… $20 US?” Ha! NO! A good $30… minimum here, buddy. That’s a 50% markup for what it “should be,” according to someone outside the US market.

Why so expensive?

The Zero Proof had a great post about that. Among a number of factors, they mention shifting consumer habits and the cost required by these brands to do so in such a young market is not cheap. As I see it, you need “influencers” to adopt your product, and tell others about it, so they intrigue the demographic more sensitive to financial change to embrace said change. The simple fact is that brands need those that can embrace change, without it being a financial barrier to entry, to tell others they should rest their concerns and embrace this change.

The proverbial canary in the coal mine, “Living life has never been so grand… nothing to fear… buy this product…”
“Oh, I would have thought that wouldn’t be my thing… but I do enjoy a good product…”

Changing brands is one thing. Creating a new market is a whole other order of magnitude of difficulty… and expense.

Until the market matures and grows, AF spirits, in the US at least, will continue to be overpriced and not as widely accessible to the average person.

The things I used to drink weren’t cheap… but they weren’t THIS expensive. Now that I drink from a small, relatively unknown, market, my costs for doing so have increased quite a bit. I’m ok with that, to be honest. The quality of life from these products and the lifestyle I now enjoy is very much worth it. Sure, I’d like more bars to adopt AF programs, not only so my costs reduce, but also so I have more bars to go to!

I want my local dive bars to stock AF spirits! We are still quite a ways off for that level of mass appeal and ubiquity, but there is growing momentum that is extremely encouraging.

Thus I rant… I post… I make folks aware of this small market of wonderful things that I have adopted, that could benefit from a larger market presence. A larger market carries more options. More people contributing and a lower cost to that lifestyle for each involved. Have you bought AF spirits yet? You really should buy AF spirits.

By the way… are you on Mastodon? You really should get on Mastodon.

Mastodon: The AF Twitter

I’ve not only been online since before there was a Google, but were developign websites before there was an easy way to find them. I remember the “good old days” and have seen wave after wave of trendy sites and services come and go. Remember when AOL was THE Internet? I mean, it wasn’t… but the masses thought it was, much in the same way as they think Twitter and Facebook is Social. It’s not. It’s just one of many products… but they have the most users… and as Metcalfe’s Law states,  the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system. In short, you can make a shit ton of money if a lot of people use Twitter, but more importantly, if they are inter-connected to each other. So get them to build their social network! Make them want to build their network, and help them build it for them. Whether they like it or not!

Turns out, that gets really annoying. Also turns out, if you change it suddenly and philosophically… and that inter-connection they have with people… if those people become more and more not “their people”… people don’t like it and will leave. Go figure!

Some of us found another product. One of many… but this product had a community that, personally, was as shocking to find existed as non-alcoholic spirits. Mastodon’s community was like walking into an untouched early Internet utopia.

It was everything I wanted in a social network. People I wanted to be connected with, on my terms, as I chose to engage, empowered with tools designed for consideration and personal well being. The problem was… everyone I knew wasn’t on it. The cost of engagement was much higher, as I needed to spend time trying to find those to engage with.

I needed to convince others to get on Mastodon. I faced a hard sell. I needed to convince my friends to stop tweeting. Technically, news and Elon Musk making a mess of things did most of the convincing, but I had stubborn customers.

A Fractal of Building a New Paradigm

Leaving a community of heavy drinkers to being alone as a non-drinker was not easy, but as I said, I found a small community of passionate people who care about drinking… drinking mindfully… and that gave me a great sense of inner focus and inspiration.

I was building that community within Twitter and Instagram when I discovered Mastodon. Not just discovered the product, but the community that uses the product. A small and passionate group who care about Social in the same way. Each time I would step back into Twitter and Instagram I would find the experience more and more offensive.




Being sober, you start to see the world in a different way. Intoxicated people aren’t nearly as enjoyable to be around. They are loud, aggressive and chaotic. Engaging with people on Twitter and Instagram started to become louder to me as they drank from the social taps. I had turned a blind eye to the mechanism of how the money flowed in Social, accepted the noise for the benefits. Similarly, drinking at dive bars did me harm that I, no pun intended, blindly ignored. I benefited in the moment, but a larger darker machine both serviced me, as well as feed on me.

I had been in conversation with a company, that promoted AF spirits, to receive free products to review. I was very excited at first, as I felt like I had successfully developed my brand on Instagram.

Then after being on Mastodon, I realized… oh, god… I had tried to be a “brand.”

I deleted my AF Cocktail Quest Twitter and Instagram accounts, without notice. I decided to start to close and migrate my main Twitter account and Instagram as well. I don’t want to be a brand. That’s not why I started this. However, the paradigms of these networks encouraged this behavior and made me feel rewarded from followers and likes. It started to become a game that I was playing… without realizing it. Until I stepped into a social environment where those driving forces simply did not exist and have been explicitly design out of the software.

I started this for me. To be a better me. To find things that made me better and share them, if anyone was interested. That was what Social used to be for me too, before Facebook and Twitter. I found communities I enjoyed, not the largest community. Drinking was that too. A fascination with a small and passionate group. I got into Tiki because I read Jeff Berry’s Grog Log and learned about a type of forgotten cocktail bar… of forgotten cocktails… and the rest was history after I met the people who loved that forgotten history and kitsch.

Each step that has lead me to where I am now was a small step, unto itself. I look back and see a large journey. But I must remember that it was made from a small tab at a bar, one night at a time.

That is why I’m more and more confident that being part of the small mindful drinking community is worth the change.

That is why I’m more and more confident that being part of the small mindful social community of Mastodon is worth the change.

The strength and longevity of your journey will be determined by the passionate, and enjoyable, small steps along the way… not by attaching more hashtags and yelling out into an ocean of ears that aren’t listening to you.

I find great comfort in exhaling the musky air that filled the closed rooms of Twitter and Instagram. Crammed with people, yelling hashtags at you, hoping your gaze would be diverted and your eyeballs rest upon them for a fleeting moment.

I’m much happier having drinks with a small community that enjoys strong drinks… where the strength is not coming from the alcohol.

I do wish each community was larger. That the parts I liked from each could merge into some super Voltron of mindful drinking Social. However, each is as strong and as passionate as I could ever hope for and a few deep connections are far more meaningful than being aware of large crowds of folks you occasionally notice..

The non-alcoholic spirit and cocktail industry should have a larger presence in the Fediverse. They are exactly “our people.” Exactly the demographic that will endure a higher cost of engagement, to spend the time and energy doing so, for the quality of the product. Best yet, they are not the types that need influencers. They will be there, if the product is of quality and from a passionate group who truly care about what they are doing.

We all are on a quest to find “our people”… our community… our social. Some will find it in the mainstream and will enjoy that which I cringe from. They find the glitzy shine invigorating and circle them like moths to a flame. However, as small as they are, both the Fediverse and the AF mindful drinkers are a strong northern light that one can guide their ship by, if they find the need.

Buy AF spirits. Join Mastodon. Come find me and let’s have drinks. I have some recommendations…


Tooting AF
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Categorized as Musings

By Joby

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1 comment

  1. Got the blog setup with the ActivityPub plugin for WordPress! You can follow my blog @joby to receive new blog posts as toots, and leave comments simply by replying! So cool. In this post I discuss my journey and the parallels of embracing a non-alcoholic lifestyle and joining Mastodon.

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