We’re entering a very social and, potentially, very boozy time of year. Which is great, up to a point. But how best to manage that balance between having a good time and becoming a human husk? How does one tread the line between looking forward to the next exhilarating glass of fizz or restful pint of beer and thinking dark thoughts about entering 2019 as a born-again teetotaller?
Here’s my seven-point guide on how to slow things down just enough to manage a full diary and get the most out of every second (and every glass).
1. Love every drink
Seriously. This is the rule that rules them all. If you’re not quite enjoying that glass of wine or fourth cocktail, put it down.
2. Start soft (not all the time, but most of the time)
You walk into a party. You’re offered a drink. Instead of taking it, say, ‘I’d love one of those but I’m so thirsty, I’ll start with a glass of water first if that’s OK.’ The exception to this rule is if you think the first drink served might be the only good one, in which case grab one and hang onto it.
3. Beware low-alcohol ‘wine’
I’m using inverted commas here because, technically, such drinks aren’t supposed to be referred to as wine. Any ‘wine’ under 5% is likely to be either sweet or terrible or both. Go for the real deal. I’m enjoying The Doctors’ pinot noir and The Doctors’ sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, which both come in at 9.5% and are spry and dry (around £9, Booths, Tesco, Waitrose & Partners).
4. Do the reading
My favourite book on zero-proof drinks is Dry: Non-Alcoholic Cocktails, Cordials and Clever Concoctions by Clare Liardet. It’s packed with ideas and is handy whether you’re having a quiet dinner at home with friends or throwing a bigger party. Another book to look out for is Redemption Bar: Alcohol-Free Cocktails with Benefits by Andrea Waters and Catherine Salway, the founders of alcohol-free bar Redemption (although I’m not sure I have the dedication needed to track down some of the more esoteric ingredients, such as pine pollen).
5. Rejoice in Monte Rosso (Ocado, £2.55)
It’s red, sparkling, bittersweet, flavoured with plant extracts in the style of an Italian bitter and contains no alcohol. My Campari substitute: serve over ice with a slice of orange.
6. Mix and match
Binary drinking – opting for all alcoholic drinks or staying entirely teetotal – is so last century. What about having a single glass of very good wine followed by a non-alcoholic cocktail, then another glass of good wine?
7. Try Seedlip Grove 42
The distilled, botanical, alcohol-free drink is flavoured with orange, lemon, ginger, lemongrass and peppercorn. Mixed with soda water, it makes a beautiful long drink.
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Victoria Moore is an award-winning wine columnist and author. Her most recent book is the The Wine Dine Dictionary (£20, Granta).