Are you shaken or stirred by Dry January? This mama feels your pain, and is here to help!
For most of us our student days of hard drinking are a distant, booze-fogged memory of carefree abandon – pre husbands, kids and alarm clocks! Monday nights at my university often consisted of triple vodka tonics on a revolving dance floor, followed by a tequila shot or two to round off the evening! I honestly think I’d be in a ditch somewhere if I attempted a night out like that now! I’m a responsible 40-something working mother of three, after all! I’m almost certain if I suggested a tequila shot now I’d have friends pulling red flags out of their bags in unison as panic set in that I was heading into the alcohol danger zone!
But are we all naively thinking that we are now ‘safe’ drinkers just because our tastes have changed and we are perhaps a little more sophisticated with our choices? The days of salt and lemon shooters might be long gone, but have we simply swapped the cheap vodka for a rather more respectable Bombay Sapphire and Fever tree? Or those tequila shots for a large glass (or four) of pale pink Rosé on a Friday (and often Saturday) night?
We all jump out of bed at the crack of dawn for the kids’ early morning rugby, netball and swimming lessons, but perhaps the spongy head and waves of anxiety felt on Saturday mornings are not just down to growing old, or being a bit over tired. Just maybe they are a direct result of drinking too much? Yikes!
In Singapore the dangers of getting into the realms of ‘big’ boozing are even more slippery. We catch cabs everywhere; many of us have helpers at home; and let’s face it, in this heat there’s always a good excuse for a drink. Our hubbies are away so it’s ladies’ night out, friends or family are visiting for the week and we need to show them a good time, or we’re just having a few cheeky Coronas on a Sunday afternoon by the pool.
Well folks, here’s some slightly scary facts (which I have previously, rather immaturely pooh-poohed as OTT and obviously researched by geeks who have no life). The World Health Organisation defines binge drinking as more than 6 units of alcohol in one sitting.
Just to put it into perspective, a large G&T or an ordinary medium sized glass or rosé is two units, people! We could (as I also have in the past) convince ourselves that these stats may well be based on very small people. However, perhaps more scarily, alcohol is directly linked to significantly increased risks of heart disease, strokes and liver disease, as well as seven different types of cancer. It is thought to cause one in every 13 cases of breast cancer in the UK. Again, Gulp!
I’m guessing that these are not statistics applying mainly to students in their twenties? Scarily I’m now their target audience. Finally, there’s the effect on our mental health, which I’m sure most of you readers will recognise: being short tempered with the kids, getting rubbish low-quality sleep, having negative thoughts and worries, and generally feeling low after a batch of boozy nights.
Dry January (or in the case of Australia, Dry July), is a term that many of you will know and might well be partaking in as you read this. It was devised by the group Alcohol Concern a few years ago in the UK. Three million people took part last year and an estimated five million are giving it a go in the UK now.
Some, including me, have always hung on to the idea that a month off booze must do more harm than good. Surely better to just cut back? However, if I’m being honest I haven’t ever really consciously cut back! Maybe I’ve held off the urge to crack open a bottle on a Tuesday whilst watching the new series of Luther, but that’s as far as ‘cutting back’ goes! Plus, does only moderating the vino consumption actually help our body to recover properly?
Well here’s some good news for those who have taken the leap this month: a study at the University of Sussex in the UK backs up the idea that abstaining for a while does encourage good patterns of behaviour — helping people drink less in the long term. According to them, a month off can also have long lasting health benefits for as long as eight months afterwards.
There are also considerable immediate benefits: nine in 10 people save money, seven in ten sleep better, and three in five lose weight.
For me this year has been the one to give it a try. The pros of having a month off outweighed the cons, as a kick-start to a positive year, with the obvious added health benefits. I’m also hoping it’s a way to find out how great I can feel. Maybe it’s not just a depressing trait of turning 40 that I’m never going to be as springy and clear headed as I once was! There’s also the reassurance that (said in a whisper) a month off the lady petrol is not going to be as hard as I presumed it was going to be!
Though a dry January has now become the popular timing (and perhaps an easier/more socially accepted time to be abstaining), you can obviously do this anytime for as long as you like. However I have found it’s been helpful to have an end goal date in mind – whether that’s one month, two months or in some cases a full year. Not because you can make sure that wine is chilled, ready to rip it open with your teeth when the time comes, but more that you won’t buckle at the first mention of a cold G&T twenty two minutes in. But maybe that’s just me!
The good news is that there seems to be a bit of a trend starting, with many bars in Singapore and elsewhere offering interesting alternatives for non-drinkers. Seedlip, a copper distilled non-alcoholic spirit, has taken the UK by storm and is now sold in a number of shops and bars in Singapore, including The Fishwives and Temple Cellars. It comes in three flavours – Garden, Spice and Grove (citrus) – and can be mixed with tonic or soda for an alternative to gin or vodka. Here are a few non-alcoholic ‘adult’ drinks below to help you get inspired with ideas for what you can drink when you aren’t drinking! Good luck!
50ml Seedlip Garden 108
1 x 200ml bottle Fevertree or another good quality tonic
4 black peppercorns
3 strips cucumber
Fill a gin glass with ice, dropping in the cucumber strips and peppercorns. Pour over the Seedlip and top up with tonic.
Lemongrass and Ginger Fizz
Makes enough for 4-5 glasses
5cm piece of ginger, peeled and the cut into strips
2 sticks of lemongrass, bashed then cut into 3 pieces each
2 large lemons
2 tbsp runny honey
1 litre soda water
2 cans of ginger ale
Place the ginger, lemon grass, and honey into a heatproof jug. Squeeze the juice from the lemons into the jug and then cut the halves into quarters and add them. Pour over 125ml of boiling water and muddle all together with the end of a rolling pin or pestle. Leave to infuse for as long as possible.
You can either remove the aromatics at this stage or for a more rustic end result, simply transfer everything into a large jug. Add plenty of ice. Pour over the fizzy water and ginger ale. Give a gentle stir with a wooden spoon and serve using a small strainer or wooden spoon as a barrier.
400ml good quality tomato juice
1-2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
3-4 drops tabasco sauce
Squeeze lime juice
2 pinches celery salt (optional)
One grind pepper or ¼ tsp horseradish (or both!)
In a jug combine the above ingredients and stir well. Taste, adding more seasoning or heat depending on your taste. Fill two long glasses with ice and pour over the virgin Mary mix. Add a small stick of celery to each and serve.