Apologies if this column lacks its customary sparkle. But, like you, I am suffering from a severe case of January. Christmas is over. The sky is grey. The mood bleak. On 15 January, it’s Blue Monday: officially the most depressing day of the year. For that reason, Dry January, now in its fifth year, strikes me as a terrible idea.
In winter, we all need a little light in our lives, and, at Naylor Towers, that light glints off a cluster of gin, brandy and whisky bottles. Believe me, I am not out to get trolleyed (please drink responsibly), but a snifter, a pick-me-up, a livener is an essential (vodka and) tonic in January. Warmth floods in, endorphins spike and the world seems far more forgiving. Abstain if you must, but here are 10 reasons I won’t be doing #dryjanuary.
1. Because life is hectic
Work, kids, deadlines, parents, bills, chores! We all need a little stress relief, an analgesic (have you seen the news lately?). In 2001, Irvine Welsh wrote a brilliant piece for The Observer about drinking and the ecstasy of being in a bar with friends as the third drink kicks in, and, after a hard week, everyone begins to relax. ‘You wish you could just hold on to it for ever,’ he wrote. How true.
2. Cocktail class
A well-made Old Fashioned can be as satisfying and complex as the finest food. Head to The Savoy’s American Bar (No1 at the 2017 World’s 50 Best Bars awards) for its signature Hanky Panky, a very adult combination of gin, Cinzano Rosso and Fernet Branca.
3. Near-beer fear
Have you tried non-alcoholic beer recently? It’s abysmal. I reviewed a selection for The Guardian two years ago. I still have nightmares.
4. Support your local publican
According to CAMRA, 21 pubs close each week. Use them or lose them. Remember: from tiny, DIY micropubs serving immaculate cask ales, to Tom Kerridge’s now Michelin-starred Coach in Marlow, there is a pub for every occasion.
5. Don’t follow the herd
Alcohol is in retreat as millennials opt, instead, for juice crawls (!), sober raves (!!) and immersive, fancy-dress movie nights (!!!). If they can’t Instagram it, they’re not interested. It’s enough to drive anyone to drink.
Go dry this month and you will miss Manchester Beer Festival (25-27 January) and Bristol Gin Festival (okay, it’s sold out, but you take my point). Plus, Burns Night is on 25 January.
7. Rum affair
#tryjanuary is a #dryjanuary rival that encourages people to dabble in different drinks. Rum is surging in popularity as bars revive daiquiris and explore new wave craft rums aged in unusual barrels or vibrant agricole, made from fresh sugar cane juice.
8. Arguments over abstinence
Interestingly, the British Liver Trust says that having at least two alcohol-free days a week, is, as its chief exec, Andrew Langford, told The Daily Mirror: ‘Far more effective than taking one month off.’ Long-term moderation I can live with. Just.
The value of well-being rarely features in debates about alcohol. But research has found that drinking, particularly regularly with friends, makes people happier. One US study even suggested a few glasses of wine is the secret to a long, contented marriage. Who am I to disagree?
10. Golden age
Have you tried those murky, super-juicy New England-style IPAs? Mind-bending orange wine? The latest fruit-infused gins? Sparkling pét-nat reds? The current creativity in artisan drinks, in small producer wines, gin and craft beer, is unprecedented. I am determined not to miss a drop.
Tony Naylor writes for Restaurant magazine and The Guardian.