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How to lose the booze this summer

Let’s face it: After a long, hectic day with the trials and tribulations of modern life, there are few things more appealing than to unwind with a glass of wine or a G&T on the sofa once the dishwasher is stacked and the kids are in bed. At weekends, we like to let our hair down with some friends, whether that’s down the pub, in a trendy bar or at a dinner party at home.

Drinking is so much part of our culture and social life that we barely stop to think about it. Those of us who decide to drink less or even stop altogether are the odd ones out – and society doesn’t make our lives easy. Ask for an alcohol-free drink and you’ll be met with blank faces and the option of choosing between cola, lemonade, fruit juice or water. However, all this may be about to change!

Why would you not want to drink?

I won’t bore you with all the health reasons to shun alcohol (of which there are many), but I can tell you that – just for starters - your liver, your heart, your brain, and your gut would thank you, if you let off the booze. But you know that already. We all do, and yet we drink – often too much – anyway. Why?

“Because it tastes good!”, I hear you cry. It does, admittedly, but is that why we drink? Think back to your first alcoholic drink. Did that taste good? Probably not; most of us have to keep trying until it grows on us. Odd, if you think about it. Again, why?

Alcohol also seems to help us relax (see above), bestow confidence upon the shy, give us courage, loosen our tongue, and help us sleep. But in the end, we always pay the price, in a variety of ways. While we still think we’re completely in control, we may already be talking too loudly, slurring our words or sway – embarrassing. Alcohol causes accidents, arguments and makes us vulnerable to crime. What’s more, when we wake up the next day, we may not even remember what happened!

Even with moderate – and in our society ‘normal’ – alcohol consumption the aftermath is not great. A dry mouth, a headache, sensitivity to noise and light, and crushing fatigue are the classic symptoms of a hangover. It isn’t fun, and it will affect our mood and performance the next day. Which we will try and improve by having copious amounts of caffeine – also not good – or even another drink.

Now imagine staying sober, not necessarily forever, but at least more often: Alcohol-induced sleep is not refreshing. Sober sleep is. You’d wake up without a hangover, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and ready to face the day. Going out and staying sober means you can drive yourself home after a night out. The next day, you’ll remember exactly who you talked to and what you said. Your mood will be stable (alcohol is a depressant, did you know?) and you’ll be able to focus and concentrate, perform better at work, as a mum, when exercising, and in anything else you are striving to achieve.

So, what sort of thing do sober people drink?

High-up on the list are botanicals, alcohol-free distillates resembling gin, vodka, rum or whiskey. Once you start googling these drinks, you’ll be amazed at the selection. Most manufacturers list mocktail recipes, illustrated by mouth-watering photographs. The gins, when served with tonic, are particularly close to a G&T. Seedlip Garden is one example – they have flavours from peas, rosemary and thyme, and it’s delicious with tonic. Even though the drink’s creation doesn’t involve juniper, its taste comes pretty close to a classic gin and tonic.

Brewers were probably the first to try and recreate an alcoholic drink that didn’t contain alcohol. They have had the longest time to perfect their product, and it shows. There are now excellent non-alcoholic beers that are so good that even seasoned drinkers cannot tell the difference. Brewdog has five non-alcoholic craft beers in its rang.

Mocktails, too, have been around for a long time – think Virgin Mary. Many see cocktails as a particularly dangerous alcoholic drink, as they often taste like juice, but pack a real punch. The resemblance to fruit juices makes them fairly easy to recreate. After all, juice tastes like juice, too.

Alcohol-free wine and champagne, however, may still need a bit of work. Or perhaps you just need to taste your way through a range of them, until you find one that hits the spot. They’re out there though, and vintners are working hard on perfecting non-alcoholic wines. Like the brewers, distillers and bartenders, they are well aware of this growing trend and not about to lose out. So, watch this space. Delicious alcohol-free wines are probably just around the corner.

Take the alcohol-free challenge

Can you last six weeks without alcohol?

Here’s how to pass the time:

  • Sample interesting-sounding botanicals, alcohol-free wines or beers to find your favourite tipple

  • Get your hands on a mocktail book and shake up a storm of guilt-free drinks

  • Tick-off your alcohol-free days – you’re not going to want to break the chain

  • Measure your waist at the beginning and end

  • Keep a mood and sleep journal, rating both on a scale of 1 to 10 each day

  • List the advantages of clear-headedness as you discover them

  • Feel smug because you’re trendy

And who knows?

Perhaps you’ll then fancy staying sober – or sober more often – way beyond the holidays!

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