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It was in the jittery, tattered mental fog of New Year’s Day — visions of last night’s fizzing champagne cocktails and flowing wine still moshing before my frontal lobe, also sparkly novelty hats were involved and someone’s lost pants — that the proposition was put before me: Maybe, she said, between sips of seltzer water, we should go dry for January.

I can’t remember what my exact response was — in fact, I think I momentarily entered a psychospiritual trauma-induced astral rift and left my catatonic body behind or something — but she said it involved unearthly bleating and howls. But but but but what about the therapeutic post-work glass of silky pinot? But but but but what about the second therapeutic post-work glass of silky pinot? What about the mind-erasing zen of a martini after deadline? The chummy beers as I shout-talk at friends over the unholy scourge of an overloud Internet jukebox? What would I nurse at cocktail socials, a sippy cup filled with Jolly Ranchers? (Such was my shrill consternation that, you know, water never occurred to me.) Who are you? Where do you come from, etc.?

After breathing into a paper bag for a while, I came around and embraced the dry January challenge — a not insignificant one for a devotedly casual imbiber. Results? I won’t regale you with any epiphanic flotsam (chess rating improved from awful to promisingly bad; woke up Sunday mornings without scream-weeping), but I will say that taking on a Dry January (apparently, it is a thing) in a city where the liquor cabinet has no lock— where the liquor cabinet is, in fact, twerking in the lap of your psyche 24/7 — nurtures an instructive philosophical distance. In a city where pleasure is baseline, where dessert is offered first, it pays to occasionally step back and reframe. After a month in the box, I made my triumphant return to the drinking class not with an epic splash, but appreciative sips.

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Which, in its own drunken-stumbling way, gets to the premise of this month’s service feature: a more broadband, purpose-driven version of tippling. Given the plethora of spirited spring and summer events — beer festivals, wine tastings, pairing dinners, all great places to do that community-building thing — we moved the feature to May, and shifted the focus to why we step out for a drink. Whether it’s a date night, a search-and-schmooze mission, a birthday huddle or game day, we share our favorite 53 bars for the purpose on p. 57 — with a few lively bar stories thrown in for good measure (warning: may contain Evel Knievel and pigs). Of course, if you’re having a dry May (godspeed, srsly), there’s nonalcoholic fare, whether it’s our illuminating talk about building a more literary Las Vegas with outgoing Black Mountain Institute Executive Director Carol Harter (p. 30), our profile of UNLV baseball coach Tim Chambers (p. 36) or our fave camping, glamping and sleeping-in-a-fancy-bed-and-eating-artisanal-omelets-for-breakfast spots in the West (p. 72). Dry or wet, shaken or stirred, it’s all buzzworthy stuff.

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