On not drinking

I stopped drinking a while back, mostly. I had a couple of G&Ts over Xmas with some family, and maybe a single glass of wine on other occasions, but other than that I generally avoid it nowadays. As I started to develop other areas of my life, I found drinking alcohol was making me feel crappy, mentally, emotionally and physically. So I just stopped (with that very rare exception of a glass of wine with family at Xmas or other events). Here’s what I found.

The benefits

Having stopped drinking, I found a number of really significant benefits. Firstly, I can drive everywhere now. No more faffing about with taxis at 2am on a Saturday evening.

Secondly, I no longer have hangovers. Being a night owl I hate mornings anyway, but not losing a Sunday because I made myself feel rough the night before certainly has its benefits. The weekend seems longer, Sundays are far more productive and my home is tidier.

Oddly, my social life has improved as well, which was not expected! I’m now more ‘present’ when I’m out and about. It’s easier to listen to others and to connect with them because there’s no alcohol-inflated ego getting in the way of things.

The drawbacks

This left me with an interesting problem: what do I drink when I go out?

Mostly, in pubs, there’s a range of soft drinks options: various sodas such as Coke and lemonade, or fruit juices. These are fine as they stand, maybe if you’re just stopping by for a half hour or so, but I defy anyone to spend an entire evening drinking Orange Juice or Coke without starting to feel decidedly strange. The huge amount of sugar and/or caffeine in Coke, the carbonation of other sodas, and the acidity of fruit juices generally makes for a very unpleasant internal experience.

Worse, if you go to a dinner party round a friends place, turning up with a 2L bottle of Pepsi is a little bit gauche. Again, what to do?

The question

The flavours of a drink at a meal, club, dinner or other social event are a part of the sensory experience of that event. It’s rather like the way music, the conversation, the atmosphere, the scents and the sounds set the ambience; the choice of accompanying drinks is just as important.

So a big question on my mind is this: for those of us that, for whatever reasons want to avoid alcohol, what are the options for ‘adult drinks’? Specifically, I started looking for drinks that:

  • have complex, multilayered flavours: bitterness, sourness, sweetness, fragrance etc.
  • aren’t dominated by sugar, sweeteners, caffeine or citric acid (and therefore the resulting calories, buzz and reflux)
  • can be enjoyed slowly, and on the same level as a wine or beer

Currently, my go-to drinks are Erdinger Alkoholfrei if available at a bar, and elderflower cordial or sparkling elderflower with a meal, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for more viable and satisfying non-alcoholic options thrpughout the yea.

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