Meet Lisen Helander, the influencing straw that stirs the non-alcoholic drink in southeast Michigan and beyond.
A resident of Detroit and a senior project manager at Rocket Homes Real Estate, Helander decided in 2021 to — temporarily, at least — stop drinking alcoholic beverages. Helander wasn’t a problem drinker nor did she stop drinking for medical reasons; she just decided to find out what a buzz-free life would feel like.
“The thing is, I still like to go out and socialize and my partner and most of the people around me are drinking socially, so I thought it would be interesting to chronicle what establishments had alcohol and alcohol-free cocktail and beer offerings,” Helander explained.
“I’ve been to places that have had absolutely nothing in terms of alcohol-free spirits — basically just soft drinks — but I’ve been to other places that have a wide selection of the new non-alcoholic spirits and thoughtfully-made non-alcoholic cocktails. I started thinking, ‘Gosh, I want to reward these places that are part of the new non-alcoholic movement’, which is how The Friday Mind was started.”
The Friday Mind
Helander developed a blog and website — TheFridayMind.com — where she certifies establishments on a 0 to 5 scale (five being the rating earned by the most-accommodating alcohol-free-drinking bars/restaurants) and lists the ratings on her platforms.
She explains it’s impossible to classify members of the drinking community on simple black-and-white scale as far as alcohol consumption.
“There’s a spectrum that spans from being completely alcohol free (AF), sober curious, not drinking for an evening, not drinking for private, health or pregnancy reasons, to enjoying alcohol with a mindful presence for all,” she explained. “We specifically certify those businesses with a healthy mindset when it comes to both alcohol and alcohol-free beverages, not those focusing only on the typical alcohol normalized menu.”
An example of an establishment that has earned a 5 on The Friday Mind certification scale is Detroit’s Sfumato Fragrances, a business that sells perfumes during the day and cocktails in the evening.
“Literally every alcoholic cocktail they serve has a non-alcoholic option as well,” Helander said. “It’s 50-50, which is why they earned a 5. Most establishments have a non-alcoholic section, but if they have a little room to grow, we’ll give them a 3 or 4, or if they only have, let’s say ginger beer, we’ll give them a 1. The zeroes go to places that basically offer sodas or mixers.”
Helander posts well-written features on the establishments that earn solid rankings.
“But if an establishment gets a 0 or a 1, we’ll still put them on the list, but we won’t feature them,” she said. “We want to reward the places that provide a variety of options, without bashing the ones that don’t.”
Helander, who certifies Detroit-area establishments as well as bars/restaurants she visits during her travels, said she has received a healthy dose of feedback from non-alcoholic consumers as well as bars and restaurants that are listed on her platforms.
“Our lists have made a lot of people happy,” she said. “I think it’s opening the eyes of bartenders and the owners of establishments, too. I’ve heard from several who have said they’ve expanded their non-alcoholic offerings since The Friday Mind came out.”
The Friday Mind will remain a hobby for Helander through the end of 2022. Next year she’ll decide whether she wants to develop an app with an effort to monetize her idea.
Helander eloquently explained how the name of her platforms was developed on her website.
“The Friday Mind came about when I came to the realization that I was basically living for Friday’s, 14% off the week,” she writes. “When Friday rolled around, with it came that giddy feeling. No other day of the week felt quite like Friday. I’ve worked hard all week, it’s time to finish the week off strong and let the party begin. Two whole days off. Let’s do this. Get the happy hour started, grab my partner, board a plane, head out for drinks and dinner, you know the drill.
“Wow that sure went fast. Too many drinks and dollars spent to even count, here we are at dreaded Monday again, hangover in tow. Simply get through Monday and Tuesday, bare minimum at times. Feel pumped on Wednesday, start repeating the high which began to creep in on Friday Junior (Thursday).”
Every day is Friday
She ultimately came to the realization of: What if every day felt like Friday, without the alcohol dependence?
“What if discipline, purpose, productivity and health were your high?,” she asked. “I started by becoming alcohol free (for now; I do not use the word forever). I wanted the same experiences alcohol fueled events provided without the repercussions.
“I now get that same giddy Friday feeling when establishments provide a thoughtful alternative. Giddy with full mental clarity and health!”
And for those who share Helander’s thought process, there is The Friday Mind, where people seeking alcohol-free fun can find their happy place.
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