Features On the Upswing

Absence of Proof: A Boozeless Take on a Night Out

Photo courtesy of AJ Portrait

For many people, having a good time is usually connected with alcohol. When people think of parties, festivities and social gatherings as a whole, they think “where is the alcohol?” But sometimes people either don’t drink at all or don’t want to drink on a particular night, and that should not mean they have to miss out on fun if the focus of the event revolves around drinking. Elizabeth Gascoigne, founder of Absence of Proof, made it her mission to make sure that didn’t have to be the case. She decided to create a space that had all of the energy of a bar but none of the alcohol.


There usually seems to be some taboo surrounding not drinking at social events. People are often confused with your lack of participation in the ritual, and will pile on the questions: “You don’t drink? Why don’t you want a drink?” This then makes some of those who don’t want an alcoholic beverage feel as if they don’t fit in. Gascoigne said, “I stopped drinking in January of this year [2022] as alcohol wasn’t helping me be the best version of myself. Once I cut out alcohol, I realized that there weren’t many social activities in the evenings that didn’t revolve around drinking. I could go to a bar and have cranberry juice, but I felt left out of the ritual of drinking.” Gascoigne thus took it upon herself to be the change, creating the non-alcoholic pop-up bar Absence of Proof—a boozeless take on a night out.  


The launch of Absence of Proof took place in Kobrik Coffee Co. with a variety of non-alcoholic drink brands present and types of drinks available. The collaborative process with Absence of Proof and these brands consists of thinking of the best ways to showcase the uniqueness of each brand and which tastes of the potentially present brands would resonate with Absence of Proof’s audience. With each event, there are different brands so that guests could try a range of products in the non-alcoholic space. Games are also present throughout the events and question cards are scattered around the venue to encourage conversations with new friends. Everyone is welcome, with the purpose of Absence of Proof’s creation to be a place where everyone feels comfortable and encouraged to be themselves. If Absence of Proof could be represented in one word, Gascoigne hopes it would be “community.”


“I hope everyone leaves feeling like they made a new friend and have a safe community to be a part of. I hope they leave knowing that they don’t need alcohol to have an amazing night out,” Gascoigne shared.


So far, Gascoigne has found a great deal of success with her events. She stated, “I started Absence of Proof because it sounded like a fun thing that I would attend but I had no idea it would resonate with so many people. The non-alcoholic and alcohol-free space is so amazing. I feel so lucky to have met and made so many new friends through Absence of Proof events.”


For Gascoigne, this includes the brands she works with. Absence of Proof continues to grow with Gascoigne having recently launched an ecommerce platform for Absence of Proof, so that everyone could order the ingredients for non-alcoholic cocktails and make them at home, even if they don’t live close enough to an Absence of Proof event to attend in person. Gascoigne would love to grow this ecommerce platform further, as well as expand to bigger and better events, starting with venues that help bring attention to other small businesses around the city of New York and other cities down the line. Ultimately, Gascoigne would like Absence of Proof to be a pioneer in what it means to have fun without alcohol.


In honor of Dry January, Absence of Proof will be having a residency every Friday for the month of January at a Speakeasy underneath one of Gascoigne’s favorite non-alcoholic bottle shops, Sèchey in the West Village. To find more Absence of Proof pop-up events, visit absenceofproof.com.