Saturday 21 July 2018

Dry-ish January

Many non alcoholic drinks can be sipped slowly and savoured
Many non alcoholic drinks can be sipped slowly and savoured

If you've started January, preceded by the word 'Dry', congratulations. As well as the cost-saving benefits, a study in Britain found that 82pc of people who abstained for the month felt a sense of achievement, 62pc had better sleep, 62pc had more energy and 49pc lost weight. That's a pretty good result for a fresh start to the new year. Added to that, 8pc of people stayed off the bottle for six months, and for those who went back, they drank less often, had fewer drinks and were less likely to get drunk. They also found it easier to refuse drinks, which is a nifty skill in our 'go on, go on' culture.

The number of teetotallers is rising, particularly among the super healthy, under-25 millennials, and 'mindful drinking' is now a thing. In her newly released book, Mindful Drinking: How Cutting Down Can Change Your Life, journalist Rosamund Dean combines scientific expertise with practical advice. The key is to identify the habits and triggers, which could be a social situation, a particular person, or an emotion. And then you need to be a bit forensic, and analyse exactly how much you are drinking and in what situations.

It's not about meditating. It is simply about being aware of what you are doing. Being 'present' as they say in mindfulness. It's about cutting down, not cutting out. For your plan, the secret is the rule of three: you restrict alcohol intake to three days a week and never have more than three drinks. Yes, that last bit is the kicker. It can be easy enough to avoid drinking during the week, especially in January, only to play catch up at the weekend. And you need to be pretty honest with yourself when it comes to glass size. Wine glasses are now seven times larger than they were in the 1700s. They've grown from an average capacity of 66ml to 449ml.

Mindful drinking may improve your pocket, your mood, your skin, your sex-drive and your body, as well as reduce stress and anxiety, but non-alcoholic alternatives can be dreadfully dull. Which is a shame, because they don't need to be. A while back, I met a friend for lunch in the Clove Club in east London, and I can still see the mixture of surprise and amusement on her face when she rocked up to the ultra-cool bar and found me sipping a non-alcoholic cocktail. But after having a taste of mine, she was soon sipping a similar concoction herself. At the Clove Club, they take their drinks seriously. Rather than lily-livered 'mocktails' which aspire to be non-alcoholic versions of 'normal' cocktails, their drinks, which are made with finesse and layered with flavours, can be sipped slowly and savoured.

One of the secret weapons in the Clove Club's battalion of ingredients is Seedlip, a non-alcoholic spirit that is truly grown-up in its flavour profile. It's been on the market for over a year now, and was developed by Ben Branson, a non-drinker who was thoroughly bored with sweet, fizzy drinks. While researching herbal options, he happened upon a copy of The Art of Distillation, a rare book from 1651 which had non-alcoholic herbal remedies for illnesses. He was interested, and ta-dah, an exciting alternative was born.

There are also some very good soft drinks on the market now which are great on their own with ice, and I was impressed with the latest Schweppes 1783 range. So this weekend, I have two non-alcoholic options and two wines, which are low alcohol, and yes, also dry.

 

4 drinks to try

Seedlip Spice 94, 70cl, €33-€35

From Redmonds of Ranelagh, Martins of Fairview, Harvey Nichols and House of Fraser, all Dublin; and Drinkstore.ie

Allspice, grapefruit, lemon peel, cardamom, American oak and cascarilla bark combine together to make this a fresh, aromatic spirit with brooding earthy notes and not a trace of alcohol. Great with tonic water.

Schweppes 1783 Cucumber Tonic Water, 200ml, price varies by outlet

From premium bars and restaurants

Fresh, with crisp aromas of cucumber, the quinine from the tonic comes through on the palate, making this perfect for drinking on its own or for mixing with gin without dominating. The Salty Lemon Tonic Water, which has citrus and floral notes, is also worth checking out.

Domaine de Pellehaut Blanc 2016, €13

11.5pc, from Mitchells and Mitchells at Avoca, Anderson’s Food Hall & Café, Glasnevin, Anderson’s Creperie, Drumcondra, all Dublin and Myles Doyle’s, Gorey, Co Wexford

Fresh and crisp on the palate, this blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Colombard, Ugni Blanc and Gros and Petit Marsang is a deliciously easy-drinking wine, with plenty of sweet gooseberry, papaya and lime on the palate.

Grifone Sangiovese 2016, €9.99

12.5pc, from Eurospar, Spar, Mace and Londis

Bright and vibrant with juicy flavours of cherry, redcurrant and a touch of strawberry, this well balanced, organic Italian wine will pair very nicely with pizza, quiche, pasta and vegetarian dishes.

GRAPEVINE

Forget the weather and head to Courtmacsherry in Co Cork where the Lifeboat Inn will be bringing a taste of Spain to its wine pairing dinner on January 20, featuring the wines from Rias Baixas and Ribera del Duero. Starting with canapés, the dishes on the five-course menu, prepared by head chef Martin Buckley, have been chosen to celebrate the tradition and terroir of each wine region including monkfish carpaccio, black pudding salad, and a Guinness and chocolate dessert. Tickets, including wines, are €40 per person. Pre-dinner drinks at 6.30pm. Visit lifeboatinn.ie or call (023) 886 4656.

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