Trying Dry January? Here Are 9 Ways to Use Alcohol Without Drinking It

A couple pour a glass of wine into the pan they are cooking meat and fish with.
Getty Images

Have you heard of Dry January, or are you giving it a try? It’s an annual campaign to get people to pledge to abstain from alcohol for the month. This is actually Dry January’s 10th anniversary.

Problem is, lots of us currently have a bunch of alcohol basically lying around the house — adult beverages left over from the holidays.

You don’t have to drink that stuff, though! If you’re trying to start 2023 sober — or at least cut down on drinking — here’s what else you can do with that leftover wine, those unopened beers and the rest of the whiskey.

9 Ways to Use Alcohol Without Drinking It

We found plenty of ways to enjoy that alcohol that don’t involve imbibing.

1. Make Martha Stewart’s Vodka Sauce

A vodka company, of all things, has a new Dry January ad out featuring Martha Stewart demonstrating a bunch of tongue-in-cheek ideas for how you could use Tito’s Handmade Vodka around the house. You know, water your flowers with it, use the bottle as a hammer to tenderize steaks, etc.

One of her suggestions is legit, though: “Add it to your pasta sauce for a little extra kick,” Martha says, stirring some red sauce and pouring some Tito’s into it.

In all seriousness, plenty of cookbooks will tell you that a splash of vodka can really enhance the flavor of tomato sauce. The alcohol burns away, so you (and the kids) won’t get tipsy from this.

Are you all in on Dry January? One company is giving away $1,000 for going boozeless for the month.

2. Cook With Wine

You’re not required to finish off that last wine bottle that no one got around to drinking over Christmas and New Year’s. There’s no sacred rule that says you have to drink it.

There are so many ways to cook with wine! Red or white, it doesn’t matter — you can use it. Pair sauvignon blanc with seafood, pinot grigio with vegetables, chardonnay with chicken and mushrooms. Use a merlot or pinot noir for pork chops, a zinfandel or shiraz for roast beef or lamb.

“A small quantity of wine will enhance the flavor of the dish. The alcohol in the wine evaporates while the food is cooking, and only the flavor remains,” advises What’s Cooking America. “For best results, wine should not be added to a dish just before serving. The wine should simmer with the food, or sauce.”

3. Cook With Beer

“As a baking liquid, beer is unsurpassed. It adds a lightness and buoyancy to biscuits, pancakes, cakes and a variety of homemade breads,” says an organization called the Beer Institute.

And hey, if you can’t believe what the Beer Institute says about beer, what can you believe? We’re inclined to take their word for it.

So don’t drain that last six-pack that’s hanging around. A little Googling will find you countless yummy recipes for cooking with beer — Guinness cheese dip, beer batter fish and chips, lobster rolls with IPA, a lager crust apple tart, etc.

“Cooking with beer adds a deep, earthy flavor to savory dishes such as chili, soup, and stew; and a nutty, caramelized flavor to baked goods,” says the website AllRecipes.

4. Cook With Liquor

Last one of these, we promise. We’ll keep it short and sweet.

Next time you’re in the mood to bake or cook, Google “vodka pie crust” or “whiskey mushroom gravy.” You won’t be sorry. This is an excellent use of any leftover liquor you have hanging around.

5. Do What Bob Vila Would Do — Clean

Ever heard of Bob Vila? He was the longtime host of “This Old House” and other home improvement TV shows. Way before today’s countless home improvement shows on cable and streaming, Bob Vila was The Guy when it came to home improvement.

Anyway, his website suggests 10 alternative uses for alcohol at home — things like cleaning jewelry with gin, polishing faucets and sinks with beer, and cleaning tobacco pipes with whiskey.

“You can find alcohol in cleaning products, polishes, and even fuels, so it’s not surprising that it has a bunch of practical uses around the home,” Bob Vila’s website says. “Its solvent properties give this versatile potable dozens of uses besides consumption.”

The party doesn't have to stop because you gave up booze — break out one of these fancy mocktails at your next happy hour or brunch.

6. Use Beer on Your Hair

No, really. Some people swear by this. It’s similar to the apple cider vinegar rinse that some people use on their hair.

You can already buy shampoo or conditioner that has beer as an ingredient. The idea is that the beer’s malt and hops nourish your hair follicles. Some people skip the middleman and just pour the beer directly on their hair.

“Even though claims that beer is good for hair are largely unproven in clinical research, there are some ingredients in beer that do provide certain health benefits,” says an article on Healthline that spells out this technique in detail.

It suggests that you wash and condition your hair, then pour flat beer on your hair and massage it into your scalp. Then rinse your hair after 15 minutes or so.

7. Loosen Rusty Bolts With Beer

The website Thrillist offers up a list of 15 unexpected ways to use alcohol around the house.

Our personal favorite: Use beer to loosen rusty bolts.

“The carbonation in beer helps break down rust,” Thrillist says, “so if you have a stubborn bolt or anything else covered in rust, corrode it by pouring a few glugs of beer over it and waiting a few minutes for the rust to break down.”

8. Use White Wine on Red Wine Stains

The foodie website Spoon University has an interesting tip. In its article offering eight ways to use up alcohol without drinking it, Spoon University has advice for us red wine drinkers who sometimes spill just a little bit — oops.

“Pour white wine onto the stain and then apply baking soda for a couple hours and you’ll be as good as new (aka ready for another glass of wine),” it advises.

We have an aunt who swears by this, too.

9. Use Beer to Get Slugs Out of the Garden

Tired of slugs and snails in your garden? They eat your precious plants’ leaves and roots!

Try this: Put out beer in little cups all around the area where these pests are feasting on your plants. Then let the slugs and snails climb into the little cups and drown in the beer. Apparently they’re attracted to the yeasty odors found in beer.

Some gardeners will fill three or four plastic cups and then partially bury them around the garden, leaving the rims of the cups up out of the dirt.

Use the cheap stuff, obviously. The slugs don’t care if the beer is a fine local IPA or if it’s Pabst Blue Ribbon.

So there you go. If you’re trying to do Dry January for real, there’s no reason to let all that unused alcohol mock you.

Show it who’s boss.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.