Julia Bainbridge ’95 Dishes on Food Trends, Alcohol-Free Cocktails, and “The Lonely Hour”

Journalist Julia Bainbridge ’95 says that there has never been a better time to be a non-drinker – and as an esteemed food and drinks writer, she would know. Julia has worked for publications like Condé Nast Traveler and Bon Appétit, earned a James Beard Award nomination in food writing, and written countless stories on what we eat and how we eat it.
Now, after removing alcohol from her own life, she finds that more and more mixologists are reimagining alcohol-free cocktails, reviving them with complex recipes and well-developed flavors. She captures dozens of these recipes in her new book, Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking for Whatever Reason.
 
“The book is put together to reflect what was going on and to take a snapshot of that, to shine a light on people in the industry who were at the forefront of this space and really engaging in true hospitality because they were thinking of all kinds of drinkers,” Julia said.
 
She described the months-long travel and testing process behind Good Drinks during a virtual conversation with Calvert alumni on Thursday.
 
“I got in my car, and I pounded the pavement. I think there’s only so much research you can do from afar because it relies on what’s been reported on locally,” she said. “That was a great start, and it helped me determine where I was going to go, but then it was important for me to cast a really wide net, to taste with a bunch of bartenders and talk with them to represent diversity in all kinds of ways, including pulling recipes from all over the country.”
 
During the virtual talk, Julia also outlined how growing awareness and concern about climate change is affecting the food world, leading more people to seek out vegan options and meat alternatives. Interest in mood-altering food and drink is also on the rise, though research on the compounds that create these effects is mixed.
 
As part of Thursday’s discussion, Julia also spoke on her work as creator and host of The Lonely Hour, a podcast devoted to exploring social disconnection, talking about loneliness, and validating those who experience them. While there is a taboo that surrounds loneliness, Julia notes, it is actually “central to the human experience.”
 
 “My approach with the show has been to talk openly about loneliness in the hopes of de-stigmatizing it, and maybe that would soften the blow of the feeling, which is an inevitable one, or at least make people feel less alone,” she said.
 
Since Julia started thee show in 2016, The Lonely Hour has been featured by O, The Oprah MagazinePsychology TodayWomen's HealthBloomberg, and more. Julia recorded the most recent season within the current COVID-19 pandemic.
 
For the first episode, she departed from the show’s usual format to address the audience directly, providing tips for managing loneliness and isolation caused by social distancing.
 
“It was important, I think, that I address the concerns of some of my listeners who were reaching out and wanting something from me as ‘The Loneliness Girl,’” she said.
 
In addition to her work with The Lonely Hour, Condé Nast Traveler, and Bon Appétit, Julia has worked as an editor with Yahoo Food and Atlanta Magazine, and her stories have been published in The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalThe Washington Post, and Food & Wine, among other outlets.
 
Her profile of chef Iliana Regan was named one of Longreads Best of 2019, and she credits Calvert School with giving her the strong foundation needed to become a successful writer.
 
“I think my Calvert education affected my writing because reading was such an important part of our time at Calvert, and I think that good writers are voracious readers,” Julia said.
 
 
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