How’s your Sober October going? What’s that? You weren’t aware it was even a thing? Can’t say I blame you: there are so many injunctions to be sober these days – Dry January, Dry July, Sober September – that you might wonder when and whether you’re supposed to be drinking at all. But most of us, I suspect, don’t want to go that far, any more than we want to give up chocolate or be on a permanent diet, and would rather simply reduce our overall intake. Hence the idea of sober-ish, which is being bandied about by many nolo (no- and low-alcohol) brands these days.
Not that that’s necessarily easy. For many people, for understandable reasons, it’s all or nothing. Once you start drinking something that’s particularly delicious, it’s hard not to have a second or third glass, so if you fall into that category, it may well be better not to drink at all.
But if being sober part of the time appeals, it’s worth thinking of strategies that will help you achieve that. The most obvious one is taking days off, much like for the 5:2 diet, though maybe in the case of booze it would be better to aim for 3:4 (that is, three days on, four days off). A lot of people I know don’t drink at all during the week, though the danger with that is you may then feel justified in hitting it hard at the weekend.
Another idea I’ve floated before, and which may be better in terms of creating a longer-term habit, is having just one glass a day. Anything of your choice, be that a glass of cava (or champagne), a pint of bitter, a gin and tonic, a glass of red wine with your midweek pasta, a whisky nightcap – and obviously not compensating for it by pouring bigger measures or using larger glasses.
Or try diluting your drinks: a highball instead of a martini, a spritzer rather than a glass of wine or a vermouth and tonic rather than a full-strength G&T, say.
Starting the evening with an alcohol-free cocktail is another good option. A lot of restaurants, even at the top end, now offer alcohol-free drink pairings with their menus, including Hjem in Northumberland, the Clove Club in London and, most recently, La Dame de Pic. And help yourself by keeping some decent nolo drinks in the fridge. I always have a couple of alcohol-free beers, a gin substitute (Sipsmith’s FreeGlider and Pentire Adrift are my current favourites) and some good, natural-tasting sodas such as Rapscallion’s burnt lemon soda. Or try one of the new releases below.
Five new alcohol-free drinks to help you cut back
Firebrand Shorebreak Alcohol-Free Hazy Pale £2.10 (330ml can) or £23.95 for 12, 0.05%. Bright, hoppy craft beer bursting with citrus and tropical fruit.
Sheppy’s Low-Alcohol Classic Cider £1.30 (500ml bottle) Tesco (£1 for Clubcard members), 0.5%. Made from a mix of traditional and dessert apples, this has a proper cider flavour. Bargain, too.
Caffè Carnevale Espress0% Martini £26.99 for 12 x 200ml cans drinkmocktails.co.uk. A good approximation to a full-strength espresso martini. Sweet and creamy.
New London Light Midnight Sun £25 salcombegin.com, £27.50 Waitrose, 0%. Off-dry, delicate, berry-flavoured gin substitute that will appeal if you like a pink gin (though I still prefer the original, which is now called First Light).
Aprtf Bitter Aperitif Non-Alcoholic Spirit £23.91 (700ml) drydrinker.com. Bracingly bitter aperitif with a tart, cranberry flavour that is unusual in the world of alcohol-free drinks. Good alternative to Campari.
For more by Fiona Beckett, go to fionabeckett.substack.com