Thursday, February 7, 2019

On Drinking

Dry January is done for another year, I don't join in with it but as someone who makes their living selling alcohol I'm very aware of it. One noticible thing this time has been that whilst more people tell me they're doing it, our sales have been unusually buoyant for January which suggests that those who haven't, have been buying more than usual.

Because it's how I make my living I've also got a whole lot of opinions on drinking and now seems like as good a time as any to share them - not so much because people haven't been drinking, but because of the number of often judgemental articles about not drinking that January throws up. Like This one about Anne Hathaway which I find particularly troubling. Hathaway says she doesn't like the person she is when she's had a few, so has made the perfectly reasonable decision to avoid alcohol whilst her son is under age so he doesn't witness that.

An increasing, and enjoyable, part of my job is helping customers find alcohol free alternatives to their normal choices. There are some really good de alcoholised beers around (worth experimenting to find your own preference but the easily available range of these is increasing all the time), and excellent soft drinks aimed at adults. It's possible to find reasonably good de alcoholised wine (the Torres range is worth looking for, slightly more expensive than some, but it gets the best feedback by a mile). I'm not a fan of the alcohol free 'spirits' (distilled water with botanicals) they're expensive, and I've yet to find one that pulls its weight in a drink - but if you like them that's great.

For my money if I'm looking for a gin and tonic substitute I'll stick with just the tonic - I particularly like the fever tree aromatic tonic with angostura bark for this - plenty of ice, and a good garnish which might include a couple of crushed juniper berries. If it doesn't have to be 100% alcohol free a couple of drops of bitters will add variety to your normal mixer. Otherwise sparkling water mixed with all sorts of cordials or fruit juices remain an under rated option.

It's also true that when the drains got fixed yesterday I celebrated with a gin cocktail rather than a cup of tea. Getting the use of my kitchen sink and washing machine back made me positively giddy with joy. The perfect moment to enjoy one of those gins I keep collecting, but it was the relatively elaborate process of building the drink (and thevwashing up that created) that made it special.

And this is a key thing for me. I like a drink, any drink that isn't tap water, to be a treat made with a certain amount of ceremony and ritual. That's what makes a cup of tea, especially if it's loose leaf, or coffee (always freshly ground beans, never instant) something to anticipate for hours. I don't drink wine alone - there's not much fun in it for me if I can't talk about it, and I want wine that gives me something to think and talk about.

I hate feeling even slightly drunk - even more than I dislike hangovers, so I firmly believe in moderation. I also hate dealing with drunks - especially at work. It’s much easier to deal with junkies than drunks. Drunks are horribly unpredictable. So whilst I don’t personally hold with dry January I’m happy to support anyone who is doing it whatever their reasons. If you’ve been seriously overdoing it in December it should certainly be an easy way to drop weight and improve your sleep.

For me though this is the time of year when I have all the nice things I’ve been given for birthday or Christmas, and more leisure at home to enjoy them in (in a moderate and responsible manner). This is also why I’ve come to believe that the best way for a more or less single person to enjoy alcohol in moderation is through spirits.

The small effort of finding the right glass, and whatever other paraphernalia mixing a cocktail calls for is enough to give it a sense of occasion, or to put me off if I’m feeling lazy. A single drink is enough, and with long lived spirits there’s no pressure to finish the bottle before it oxidises as there is with wine. I can’t always find the enthusiasm for solo cooking, but pausing to mix a drink well is also a small act of self care.


  1. All things in moderation certainly applies to drinking. My drink of choice at the moment is IPA beers, they have a nice big flavor.

    1. Don't they ever - partly because of the relatively high abv. Beer defeats me a bit, about a wine glass full is enough for me which isn't really an option in most pubs, but is okay at beer festivals.

  2. Alcohol is to be used not abused. When I'm in the Highlands (the Motherland) I love to driknk a fine malt, its like you're drinking the land. I sometimes like to drink it when I'm not in the Highlands as well! warm wishes, Mark.

  3. I like ceremony and ritual too, especially where a glass is involved. I don't believe I could cope with the Japanese teas ceremony though - my knees would protest.

    Lately I have been drinking the Fever Tree range of tonic waters at our local pub - they serve it in a good gin glass and add various things if you want them - lemon or orange slices, cucumber etc., it makes for a festive feeling. I do have a glass of wine to finish the evening though.

    1. I'm not sure a Tea ceremony would be for me either, but a little effort is good. The fever tree tonics are great, and fine on their own. No point in drinking just for the sake of it.