“That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.” ― Charles Bukowski
We all know we’re supposed to drink less (some experts say a couple of consecutive booze free nights a week is ideal – because it gives your body a break and resets your tolerance levels) but at this time of year? C’mon! Prosecco at a neighbours at 10am? Well it’s Christmas! A slug of brandy in your hot chocolate? Very hygge. A glass of red wine? Well, we have lit the fire. Drinking is almost an obligation. To yourself. To your host. To that bottle of half-drunk Pinot Gris in the fridge. I mean, you wouldn’t want it to feel unwanted, would you?
This may surprise those that know me, but I don’t enjoy drinking every night. Once something loses its treat status, it becomes a bit boring and besides I am a lightweight. All too often I have a midweek glass of red only to wake an hour later on the sofa, with dribble down my chin and a whole night wasted. My husband argues a snooze on the sofa is an evening well spent, but on my booze-free nights the house becomes a well-oiled operation worthy of a feature in Good Housekeeping. The ironing gets done. The forgotten emails sent. The window boxes watered. I am on fire.
Often for me the ritual of having a drink – the popping of a cork, the slicing of a lemon, the clink of ice. the fizzy smell of tonic – more than the alcohol is the catalyst to relaxation. A visual and visceral reminder the kids are in bed and this is my time. Allegedly.
So if the alcohol is some times superfluous, why bother? Well, because the alternatives seem so dull. I mean I love a herbal tea (teapigs and pukka are my favourites) but they lack the treat element of a vodka and tonic, partly because I drink them all day (I am sipping a Fennel and Licquorice as I type). So my friend Helen McGinn’s new book – Teetotal Tipples – is a well-needed inspiration that could just save me from myself.
Many of you will know Helen as a wine expert and author of the splendid Knackered Mother book and blog and rest assured there is a section in her new book on booze, but also lots of recipes involving all the elements of cocktails without the alcohol. Drinks that feel like a treat, but are easy on the liver – like a No-jito, a Seedlip and tonic or a warm apple punch. Works for me. So if your new year resolution is to drink less, then this book is a good place to start. Chin, chin.