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June 3, 2021

Dry Challenge Accepted: Meet Hilary Sheinbaum, Author of The Dry Challenge

By Emily Merrell

Have you ever done a Dry January? Oh you know, a whole month where you trade booze for delicious mocktails to heal your liver and prove to yourself that you can live life to the fullest booze free. Living a dry month is becoming more of a lifestyle, especially for the “sober curious”. Brands are releasing more alcohol alternatives and combos to get that same buzz without regret. After living a life of glamour with nights out and red carpets, Hilary Sheinbaum was swayed to take a stab at a Dry January. That month evolved into a tradition and ultimately a book. Learn more about her journey from starting the challenge to writing about it. 

Try "The Dry Challenge" with Hilary Sheinbaum! Courtesy of Lisa Richov.
Try “The Dry Challenge” with Hilary Sheinbaum! Courtesy of Lisa Richov.

SDS: How did a red carpet reporter become the author of The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month?

HILARY SHEINBAUM: In 2016, when I first heard about the notion of Dry January, I was a red carpet reporter and a food & beverage writer. At the time, my main job was to interview celebrities on red carpets, and attend parties and afterparties. There was always top shelf liquor and champagne upon entry. Mind you, it was all open bar! I wasn’t drinking every night, but if I wanted to have a glass of bubbly, it wasn’t strongly discouraged either. 

Red carpet reporting was my evening gig and during the day, I would freelance for publications ranging from EATER to USA Today, amNew York and others about food & beverage (including wine, beer and spirits). Translation: Taste-testing cocktails, etc. was part of the job. Coincidentally, my first Dry January promptly began on Jan 1, 2017, while I was working these parties and writing about alcohol…so, that’s how it began!

SDS: What are the biggest misconceptions of “the dry challenge”? How has this book and your own dry months changed your relationship with booze?

HS: I think some popular misconceptions include that your month has to be perfectly, 100% dry. That’s not true! If you slip up and have a drink (or a night of drinking), you can still finish out the month strong (and dry!)

One important thing to consider is being kind to yourself…alcohol is so ingrained in society: weddings, funerals, job promotions/loss, baby showers, birthdays – everything from celebration to devastation – so it’s hard to ignore. Be patient with yourself! 

For me, dry months changed the way I think about and consume alcohol, including noticing how it impacts my mood, sleep and health in the days that follow a round of cocktails or even one glass of wine. Since my first Dry Jan, I definitely drink less than I used to. I’ve become super interested in the alcohol-free and dry month movements as a whole. Writing my book has opened me up to meeting a ton of other people in the space, and of course, sharing my experience with the masses!

Read more from Hilary's book, The Dry Challenge. Courtesy of HarperCollins.
Read more from Hilary’s book, The Dry Challenge. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

SDS: Being dry seems to be synonymous with “no fun” when in reality there are so many alcohol free alternatives to make cocktails, replicating the taste of booze all without the hangover and liver damage. What are your favorite non-alcoholic brands? 

HS: Being hungover = no fun. There are SO many alternatives to alcohol these days, which has been a welcome evolution over the past couple years. Not only are there alcohol-free (or alcohol-removed) wines, beers and spirits — not to mention N.A. (non-alcoholic) cocktails — in stores, but also on bar and restaurant menus. 

I’m constantly being introduced to new non-alcoholic brands! Right now, I’m enjoying mixing my own N.A. bevs, and there are a ton of recipes within The Dry Challenge for novices and pros alike!

And, it goes without saying, there have always been cool things, hobbies and activities to do outside of bars and drinking in general! 

SDS: The sober and sober curious lifestyle is picking up. For someone new to it, do you have any advice to approach a night out on the town, ordering a drink and telling your friends? 

HS: I highly recommend recruiting a friend (or friends) to partake in a dry month with you. Strength in numbers, right? Not only will you have someone who is cheering you on (and vice versa) but you’ll also have people to hang out with at the bar (or in another venue) that aren’t drinking either. 

In terms of telling friends, approach it with confidence! They’ll likely have questions out of curiosity, but even if they are nay-sayers, it’s important to relay that this is something that you’re doing for you and that they don’t have to participate. Of course, they can if they’d like! The more the merrier.

In terms of ordering a drink, try a nonalcoholic cocktail if you’re out and about! Or, you can simply request a soda, juice, seltzer water or something else. Another tip: instead of going to a bar, take the reins and plan your friend group’s outing for another place or activity like bowling or a hike, where drinking isn’t the main event.

Journalist and author Hilary Sheinbaum. Courtesy of Lisa Richov.
Journalist and author Hilary Sheinbaum. Courtesy of Lisa Richov.

SDS: For your book, you have a forward from Lo Bosworth of The Hills and Laguna Beach fame. How did that relationship develop? 

HS: I first met Lo a couple of years ago when I interviewed her, funny enough, and we’ve crossed paths a bunch over the years. She’s someone I really admire in the health and wellness space. She has a personal care and supplement brand called LoveWellness, and our approach to wellness has many similarities. She, herself, did a Dry January (which you can read about in the foreword), and I’m so excited and grateful that she was up for sharing her story.

SDS: Lastly, how can we learn more about your writing and catch your most recent article on love, food, beauty, fashion, fitness, events, travel, lifestyle? 

HS: I tend to post my recent articles on my Instagram stories (@hilarywritensy) but you can also check out my website and/or follow me on Twitter (@hilary_she), too!

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