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My Sober Life in Montreal Day 7: Hey bartender, whip me up a mean mocktail!

During my first year of sobriety, life was not particularly glamourous. I worked, went to AA, drank a lot of coffee, avoided social events and, fatigued by emotions, spent a lot of time in bed. I took the AA slogan “one day at a time” very seriously. I did not spend time imagining my future without booze. When I did, it was bleak and depressing: Upcoming dates on my social calendar, like birthday parties, weddings, launch events, or even just Friday, no longer ignited feelings of excitement, but dread. I made up a lot of excuses as to why I couldn’t meet people at bars and repeatedly turned down dinner party invitations. If close friends wanted to hook up for an evening, I would suggest sushi, as French and Italian restaurants were unthinkable without a glass of vino. That is what I needed to do for year one. I’m happy to report that life isn’t quite as restrictive these days.

Some people say that you go to AA to get your life back. Mine has finally returned. And it’s better. After seventeen years of hard drinking, I had to relearn how to be social without alcohol. It took time, but I now feel confident attending open bar industry events. I am often the first to hit the dance floor at bar nights and comfortably arrive at house parties with bottles of San Pellegrino clanging in my tote. I enjoy eating out at any restaurant and only ask that the carafe of wine be kept at a distance, as the aroma alone will trigger strong desires.

No longer racking up outrageous bar tabs, my monthly costs have slashed in half and I’m a cheap dinner date. With a shot of espresso, I can keep up with you until 3 am and rise the next morning without a hangover. Am I bragging? YES. Of course I am! There is a fear out there that life without alcohol is boring; it wasn’t long ago that I too believed that. It isn’t.

I certainly push the limits more than most of my AA peers in terms of immersing myself in numerous heavy drinking situations. AA veterans, who have attained over twenty years of sobriety will sometimes caution me, “Hang out in the barber shop long enough, and you’re bound to get a hair cut.” Oooohhh, scary. That warning made me chuckle, like a bratty teenager, but it also shot a bolt of fear through my veins. Is my desire to reclaim my hectic late night schedule too risky?

I know I’m not invincible; I choose my nights carefully. When my week begins to look rather unbalanced (i.e four nights out, one AA meeting) then I adjust the pattern. I can say without a doubt that if I continue to put myself in drinking situations without AA, I will drink again. If I drink again, I may never return. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that dancing with my devil is entirely thrilling; it’s a high that gets my adrenaline pumping. Is this dangerous? Debatable, but for now I feel strong, and so my time here is not exclusively reserved for meditative walks or deep introspective thought by hypnotic fountains. Sometimes I put on heels, red lipstick and hit the town.

This past weekend, a woman in the know led me down a cobblestone street to a pink neon sign. Hidden from the part of Old Montreal rife with tourists and vulgar bachelorettes, Le Bremner distinguishes itself as sexy, elegant and sophisticated, which is exactly what I’d expect from Montreal’s star chef, Chuck Hughes. We will return to savour the seafood from this Iron Chef champion but for Saturday night it was all about sampling the delicious mocktails. I have to say, it’s really nice to be able to order something exotic and fresh versus my usual watered-down fountain-pumped ginger ale. (wah-wah)

Bar Chef Brynley Leach is as passionate about creating innovative cocktails as he is about the fresh ingredients mixed in. In fact, everything at Le Bremner is made on the premises, down to the sour cherries that decorate the rim. The juice is all freshly squeezed and Leach even makes his own house soda! I sipped on an exquisite virgin Mojito made with Quebec wild blueberries and fresh pressed lime. I sampled the house made cola, refreshed with earl grey strawberry ice tea and when my bar mates did shots, Brynley kindly poured me 2 ounces of fresh squeezed orange juice to cheers and knock back.

If you do get the chance to make a reso at Le Bremner, the back terrace is absolutely enchanting. Steep winding staircases, trees lit with delicate white lights and arched stone walls with hung cast-iron lanterns. You can imagine the horses trotting down the lane; neon pink sign aside, not much appears to have changed since 1867.

It was a perfect July night that ended with a breezy Bixi ride home.

Le Bremner is located at 361 Rue Saint-Paul E

514-544-0446
crownsalts.com/lebremner

~ Jen McNeely

On day 1, Jen outed herself as a recovering alcoholic. On day 2, she wondered why the hell she did that. On day 3, she compares the dark days of 1999 with vibrant life in 2012. On day 4 Jen randomly meets Steven Tyler while strolling the streets late at night. On day 5 Jen took a meditative morning walk through the Plateau.On day 6 she found serenity in the Fuchsia Tea Room.

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