Tales of the Muslim Teetotaler

I don’t drink alcohol. Plain and simple. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m Muslim but even then, it’s not just my faith that’s holding me back from drinking, I don’t feel the need to do so.

But I do wonder about it. I don’t crave alcohol or anything but I do think I would have potentially been a martini person (I know, I know, astagfirullah I wouldn’t drink it, really, I promise). I say this without having the slightest idea of what a martini tastes like. I didn’t even know it had vodka in it until someone mentioned that it’d be really hard to make a non-alcoholic version of a martini since it’s mostly vodka. I just liked the idea of martinis and growing up on Bond movies probably solidified that in my mind. But I don’t want to drink one, I’m just saying.


Not drinking alcohol means that I’ve never really had the bar experience. I don’t really care about that at all although recently, I kinda, sorta had one. With coffee, of course.

I was in Orange County visiting friends when we went to this coffee shop called Portola Coffee Lab. They had told me about it before and so when I checked out their website, I noticed there was another part to their cafe called “Theorem”. In this part of the cafe, they mixed coffee drinks, making cool and interesting drinks reminiscent of alcoholic drinks sans the alcohol. I even saw a picture on their page of the liquid nitrogen affogatos they make in this “brew bar”. Fortunately for me, we went at at time the brew bar was open for service.

The “Theorem” section is separate from the rest of the cafe. They have bar like-chairs up at a counter and one of their people mixes drinks behind it. We were told that the kinds of drinks made was up to whoever it was working that night. The night that I went? Well, the drinks had a Mad Men theme:

Mad Men Drinks

So I ordered the Don Draper.

I watched the barista (not even sure if that’s the word to use in this case), Amanda, make my drink. She mixed some stuff together with the iced coffee, even using the kind of cubed ice that were staples of alcoholic drinks that come iced. She put something in called “bitters” and ended by shaving a bit of an orange peel off of an orange.

I admit, I definitely did want to try it but I had to step out of my coffee comfort zone to even think about getting one of the drinks on the brew bar menu besides the affogato. I have no idea what it would all taste like and I rarely stray from regular cups of coffee, mochas, and now the occasional Gibraltar or Flat White.

I honestly had no idea what to expect when the drink was placed in front of me.

Don Draper

My friends, it tasted quite awesome. Not only that, but I enjoyed the whole experience and I loved how she didn’t mind me asking questions along the way of what she was going as she went through her process.

And… this is the part where I don’t need everyone to judge me, I got a liquid nitrogen affogato as well. How can one not get something made with liquid nitrogen?


Watching that drink getting made reminded me of a science experiment. The result was quite cool.

I loved it all to be honest. I loved the drinks, the presentation, the ambience, the everything. This was the closest I was going to get to the bar experience and I’m really quite happy that it was with coffee without any alcohol in sight. I really wish there was something like this up here in the Bay Area. Although maybe I should be happy we don’t have a brew bar type place nearby as it could have quite the impact on my pocketbook** though. But, what an experience :) This Muslim was pretty happy and caffeinated.

* I highly doubt I’m the only Muslim who has thought about what alcoholic drink they see themselves with.
** Do people still say “pocketbook”?

8 thoughts

  1. I will have to get to this place. That iced coffee looks delightful. I love the learning about coffee from you. I have to track down a Flat white now or make one on my own. Thanks as always for keeping it real!

    1. Definitely worth a trip! Check out their website for when they have craft service/brew bar hours. I don’t think they offer the brew bar on Sundays anymore though even if their schedule says it. Just an FYI :)

  2. I absolutely respect your decision not to drink alcohol, just promise me that if something ever required you to have a Martini, you’d make it a proper one with gin.

    Vodka is deliberately, defiantly flavorless booze and I say what’s the point? It’s like that wacky caffeinated water stuff. Ugh.

    1. Hmm… maybe I’m not remembering what the person told me correctly. If the proper way to make a martini is with gin, then maybe that’s what my friend had told me.

      I’m so clueless about this stuff in general. Once, at a Muslim wedding that was at a hotel, they had someone making/serving drinks. Since it was a Muslim shindig, it was really only sodas, shirley temples, roy rogers, etc. I joked to a friend that maybe I would order a “hard drink”. She corrected me by saying “stiff drink”. Yeah, haha, my knowledge of drinks is zilch :)

      Thanks for reading Dinah!

      1. Alas, you heard right. Vodka replaces gin in a great many cocktails, largely thanks to some clever advertising campaigning over the past two generations, supplemented by some people’s preference for blander flavors.

        It’s goofy. People say “hard alcohol”, but “stiff drink”—and not the other way around. Easy as cake, right!

  3. Just FYI – Bitters generally contains alcohol (something like 40%), similar to other extracts like vanilla. For folks entirely avoiding alcohol, your drink would probably not be appropriate.

    1. Hi Rob!

      I checked out the bitters that this particular coffee shop had and there was no alcohol in it. Besides assurance from the barista, I read through all the ingredients (as this was my first intro to bitters and had no idea what they were meant to be). I didn’t even realize until later that bitters usually do have alcohol until I was at a restaurant in Oakland and just asked to look at the bitters they had (they were easily visible from where I was eating so figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask if I could look at it). I was surprised that all the bitters the restaurant had contained alcohol but when I did a google search on bitters in general, discovered that that was the norm.

      Thanks for providing the info though in case someone read my post and made an assumption that all bitters are alcohol-free (which was my initial assumption as well).

      Thanks for reading!

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