by Suzanne Wentley
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As I sit to write this, I celebrate 21 months without drinking alcohol. It’s the longest I’ve gone since I was 15 without a beer, a cocktail, or a glass of wine. I feel amazing.
I never especially had a “problem” with alcohol, but I think alcohol had a problem with me. A few casual drinks often led to poor sleep and an upset stomach. I felt bloated and carried around an extra 10 pounds. I also had a few foggy mornings where I cringed at my behavior from the previous evening of drinking. I started to take month-long breaks and then just cut it out altogether.
I’m not preaching for everyone to be a teetotaler. People can put whatever they want in their bodies. That’s the freedom of being an adult. Drinking or not drinking alcohol is a personal choice.
Still, in many social circles, drinking is the norm. There can be a lot of pressure to drink, even by the most well-intended people. I mean, come on! Just one drink! That’s not going to hurt you, right? Certainly, you wouldn’t want to be caught empty-handed when someone calls for a festive toast.
I find it’s best to come prepared, in the same way, I’m also a vegetarian who attends backyard barbecues. If my cup is filled with a healthy nonalcoholic beverage that tastes great and provides a sense of special novelty, I have no problem.
Nonalcoholic drink options have come a long way from club soda with lime or nonalcoholic beer. The new market of specialty non-alcoholic mocktail and “liquor” brands is classy and sophisticated. Other refreshing new sober drinks are fun and surprising. Mixologists are getting inspired.
If you’re considering a Dry January, why not kick it off on New Year’s Eve? By choosing a healthy mocktail or two over alcohol, you’ll wake up on the first day of 2023 with a clear mind and a healthier body. If you can bring your own, buy it now so it’ll be chilled in time for a dry NYE.
Nonalcoholic Brands to Sip
While some nonalcoholic wine still tastes too sweet to me, I like sampling them just as I did a lovely Malbec or Vignot Moscato. No New Year’s Eve is complete without a bottle of bubbly, so arrive with a few bottles of Surely dealcoholized California dry brut. When chilled, it’s the ideal beverage to pour into a flute and raise a glass to celebrate the start of a great year ahead.
Lyre’s Spirit Co.
It’s hard to imagine a bourbon without the alcohol, but that’s just one of a line of beautifully labeled nonalcoholic liquors from Lyre’s Spirit Co. Make mocktails like a piña colada with Lyre’s Spiced Cane Spirit or an aperitivo with Lyre’s Italian Orange Nonalcoholic Spirit. You may recreate a health-friendly mocktail version of your entire old liquor cabinet.
If Kentucky Whiskey is your favorite, Spiritless is worth checking out. They produce a distilled spirit with 0.5% ABV that mimics bourbon with its rich notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak. Looking for that extra kick? Pick up a bottle of the Spiritless Horse’s Kick Ginger Syrup to mix in.
It’s hard to have a Taco Tuesday without the tequila, but it’s never really a good idea to tie one on in the middle of the week. Ritual lets you have both. The Ritual Tequila Alternative isn’t really for shots, but it can stand in quite well for a classic shaken margarita on the rocks (I take mine with plenty of coarse salt on the rim, por favor.)
Other Surprising Refreshers
Kin Euphorics offers nonalcoholic nootropic drinks that are botanical concoctions that naturally calm the mind and relax the body. They also taste delicious. The Lightwave, a mix of lavender, vanilla, ginger, and birch, is a can packed with all the biochemical support I hear on health podcasts like The Huberman Lab.
When you “just need a beer,” you may be surprised to discover that a boost of magnesium and adaptogens in a tasty beverage works even better. Recess Mood is technically sold as a supplement in a 12-pack of sample flavors like raspberry lemon, grapefruit tangerine, and lime citrus. Consider it a power version of a boring can of sparkling water.
No doubt, opening a cold brew can help anyone relax — but it’s even better when that brew is good for you. Tranquini is more than a fancy soda or sparkling water. It’s naturally sweetened but low-calorie, brewed with green tea and lemon balm. The herbal adaptogens help you feel better than alcohol. After all, alcohol is chemically a depressant.
When people ask me why I stopped drinking, I explain the gut microbiome. Turns out, a serving of alcohol down the hatch is basically like setting a bomb off in your gut. You feel crummy because your body has to repair your GI tract. Probiotics like those found in GT’s Kombucha, conversely, strengthen your body’s ability to digest our entire environment. I’m partial to the Gingerade, myself.
If a heady IPA suits you, you definitely will love HopTea. These sparkling teas are brewed with hops in a surprising way; they’re perfect for a casual get-together where you’d want to enjoy a beer. I like the caffeine in The Really Hoppy One, brewed with black tea, to drink at parties, but The Calm One brewed with chamomile is excellent too. I love all the flavors.
Mocktail Mixology Requests
You can’t always BYOB. When you’re out, more creative bartenders are happy to create signature health-friendly mocktails. Some places even have tasty alcohol-free concoctions they recommend in a special section on their drink menu. Don’t be too shy to ask.
If you need a quick and easy order, here are some for inspiration.
Even Neater Tom Collins
This classic cocktail is a mixture of gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup, and soda water. Hold the gin, but maybe there’s something back there, such as elderflower syrup or maybe a splash of ginger beer, to make it a little more interesting? See how well the bartender knows the business.
An S & T
I remember ordering a Shirley Temple when I was 6 and out to eat with my grandparents. Ordering it today may risk a few snickers. I’ll just say the ingredients: tonic, lemon syrup, and grenadine, please. If the bartender knows the business, I smile as big as a child star.
“Yes, can you make a mojito?” I’ll ask, and most bartenders will nod. “OK, great, but without the rum. I’d like it without alcohol, and not too sweet, but otherwise just a virgin mojito.” When I order like this, bartenders will know to muddle fresh mint, squeeze limes, and add a touch of sugar to soda water, and ice. It’s so refreshing.
Nonalcoholic Long Island Iced Tea
OK, that’s a joke! A nonalcoholic Long Island Iced Tea is ice, but the bar may have some regular iced tea brewed. Iced tea can serve as a base for some elderflower syrup, muddled fresh berries, mint, or even cucumber mixed in. The classic Arnold Palmer — half lemonade, half iced tea — is also a good standby, although as a youthful, single woman I always feel weird ordering it.
Health-Friendly Mocktails for 2023
When I’m ready with a bottle or can of something different, the reaction from even my hardest-drinking friends is always positive and curious. Some of my friends express their own interest in cutting back on alcohol, and I hold space for them to figure out what’s best for them.
Also, look for people in your social circles who also aren’t drinking. Sober people are often quiet about their beverage choices, but many became part of a support system of people who were proud of me.
I learned it was very possible to have a fantastic time out with friends without drinking alcohol. This New Year’s Eve, I plan to dance and laugh, then feel ready for my best year yet!
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