Column: Drink Well, Consider Drinking Less This New Year

| February 1, 2022

Like many this year, I’m drinking less. Not sacrificially, just practically. I don’t have a problem with alcohol consumption, but like anyone age 57, it’s wise to put limits on this fun and flavorful hobby.

That was a challenge when Covid brought such deep gloom into our lives in March of 2020. The 24-hour news cycle centered solely on the pandemic, where it came from, where it was spreading and what would next be shut down. Why not hunker down with a cocktail, neat pour or rocks pour and watch it all unfold?

Whether the urge to “have another” rose from the very real fear of contracting the virus or the weighty dread of hearing then-president Donald Trump pronounce China, “Ghina,” I don’t know. But for least for a few weeks, my family, friends and others I read about drank more than normal. Extended happy hour happened most every day.

Woodford Flight

Drink well, but consider drinking a little less this year (image copyright The Whiskey Wash)

Research at the time put a positive spin on that period of national overconsumption, such as people learning to make cocktails at home. Already a hobby practitioner, I built on my basic three-ingredient skills and added complexity to my repertoire. I also mastered batching cocktails, especially margaritas and old fashioneds. Bottles of them were stashed in our freezer for quick consumption or given as gifts.

Of course, the heightened drinking couldn’t last. Friends on Zoom cocktail hours also admitted it was time to tap the brakes. Surely all our dishwashers—cursed with cleaning all those glasses—echoed that sentiment.

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Fast forward to December 2021, when talk of people’s holiday wishes were commingled with mentions of a “Dry January.” In case you’ve never heard of this, Dry January is a cold-turkey quit on alcohol consumption, a hard stop for health reasons as noble as permanent temperance or as common as weight loss. (Click here to read up on the origination of “cold turkey.” It’s pretty awful.) Some planning to do it dreaded the idea; others were motivated by the many upsides of alcohol-free living.

I listened to the discussion but didn’t accept the challenge. I had a wonderfully wet excuse to avoid Dry January with a handy hall pass signed, “Beach Vacation in Mexico.” Abstain from tequila in its motherland? Aye, caramba! Eres loco, amigo?

And yet, Dry January took one last shot when one of our traveling foursome tested positive and highly symptomatic for Covid—three days before our trip to Chicxulub, Yucatan.

Hasta la vista, rental beach home!

Though Mexico would have to wait, so would Dry January as my wife quickly arranged a trip to our favorite spot in Florida. With the Omicron variant surging, she reasoned we could bunker as safely on a less-traveled beach as well as we could in Louisville. (And is there any cocktail context better than sipping drinks on the beach?)

While in Florida, I read a “New York Times” article about sensible strategies to reduce alcohol consumption. One proposal I liked was drinking only every other day. I reasoned that, while I write about spirits, the job doesn’t require I drink booze seven days a week. And, admittedly, I’ve all but done that for years.

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When we returned home, we launched that new “drinks every other day” routine. On weekday drink days, we drink just one, but weekends might see one or two more.

It’s gone well, if not perfectly (so far just one, “Oh, we’ve both been out of town, so let’s catch up” over drinks moment). It’s a very doable long-term lifestyle change. And I must admit, I like it. I definitely sleep better, and it’s a lot easier to lose those holiday pounds when one’s metabolism isn’t dragging multi-cocktail anchors.

I may even switch some “drinking days” to mocktails. But while delicious, their carbohydrate loads aren’t the best. Like the real thing, one should those in moderation, too, I suppose.

And speaking of not drinking, did you hear about National Sober Day back on September 14? (I did only through the myriad press releases I receive.) Research quoted in the release claimed the demand for non-alcoholic drinks overall was up 60 percent year over year through the first seven months of 2021. In the same period, non-alcoholic beer demand was up 85 percent, and non-alcoholic wine and spirits demand was up 64 percent.

Since data can be skewed in any research—especially seven-month samples such as this—I’ll not be intrigued unless the trend lasts. Don’t get me wrong, sobriety is a great thing. My mother died 39 years sober, and her life was vastly better after she kicked bourbon to the curb. What I don’t care a wit about is fake beer, fake wine or fake spirits. None of these I’ve tasted was any good. Drinking them is basically pretending.

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If you want to drink alcohol, drink it. Enjoy it. Share it. (Write about it! It’s fun work!) Just do so smartly, safely and, ideally, socially. If not, there are so many delicious alcohol-free options available that aren’t faux-adult beverages and aren’t calorie laden.

If you’re in the same place I am—eager to drink well while drinking less—I hope you’re enjoying it like me. For those who aren’t, consider it. It’s nice on the sometimes-dry side.

Drinks

Steve Coomes

Steve Coomes is an award-winning journalist and book author specializing in whiskey and food. In his 30-year career, he has edited and written for national trade and consumer publications including USA Today, Southern Living, Delta Sky Magazine, Nation’s Restaurant News, Pizza Today, Restaurant Business, Bourbon + and American Whiskey magazine....