In a world (if Instagram wellness scene can be considered a world?) where we are doing almost the opposite of “sober shaming”, I want to discuss a topic with an opinion that often goes unmentioned: booze… and the fact that I enjoy drinking. Let me start by saying that this piece is by no means supposed to persuade people to drink, whatsoever. However, it seems as if we have reached a place where we are finally comfortable with people making the decision to be sober (what the hell took us so long?), whether for a night, month, year, life, whatever it may be, and the wellness scene is so focused on that idea that those of us who decide to drink feel “less healthy” by doing so. Ohhhh the shame game and how the tables have turned. SO SILLY! The moral of this entire piece is to, please, for heaven’s sake, do what you want to do and don’t feel pressure by the crowd. And, most importantly, quit judging or shaming people for opposing behavior than what you believe in!
As I write this, I am fortunate enough to be working from the Soho House rooftop – my “office” for the day. I’m chowing down on an overpriced lunch on a lounge chair by the pool and am surrounded by New Yorker’s, and visitors, enjoying their days off relaxing and having some afternoon cocktails. Would most people imagine this ideal day topped off with a nice glass of rose, a crisp beer, or a fruity cocktail? I’m sure. But, to be honest, I’m just not in the mood for one right now. So, because I personally do not want one, I’m not ordering one. Will I have a drink, and a handful more, tonight at my birthday party? That is going to be a yes. (Disclaimer: this said birthday party happened, and led to a few too many cocktails and a severe Friday hangover). This is how I view my relationship with booze: when I want a drink, I will have a drink, and when I don’t want a drink, I am okay being sober.
For some reason, I feel this wellness industry has two views on booze: we either don’t speak about the fact that people who are healthy drink alcohol, or we preach sobriety and how much more awake, healthy, and efficient we can be without alcohol holding us down. This is not to say there is anything wrong with that concept of sobriety – in fact, it’s true. When I don’t drink, I obviously wake up feeling more energized and ready to take on the day. No one is denying that. However, why are we, as a “wellness world”, unable to acknowledge the in between. The middle ground, the grey area, the night by night scenario, that so many of us live in. Do I enjoy a nice glass of wine with dinner, a beer during a football game, some cocktails (or even shots – the blasphemy!) when out with friends? Absolutely. Do I also have nights where I simply am not in the mood to drink and decide to go out soberly with friends? You bet ya. There is a world between those two extremities, and it’s time we start acknowledging it.
In order to help those who share this opinion and want to feel more confident regarding their habits, here are my top 4 tips and thoughts on how I maintain a social life including alcohol while still focusing on my overall health.
You don’t need booze to have fun
News flash, no one said you need alcohol to have fun. You, yes you, are fun just the way you are. Whether you are regularly sober, or just for the night, you do you and don’t let that hold you back. Just because you’re not drinking doesn’t mean you’re not able to enjoy a typical night out with friends. Don’t let this stop you from still going out to bars, approaching that guy across the room you think is cute, or dancing the night away. Yes, people will continue to ask if you want a drink, and follow up with more questions on why you are not drinking, but the great part is that it is actually none of their business! People love to put their opinions and insecurities on others. When I choose not to drink there are often people who, for some reason, have an issue with it. They not only attempt to peer pressure me in to changing my mind (c’mon, we all learned to stop doing that in middle school!), but they also try to almost guilt me in to drinking with them. I have come to realize that these people often times, but not all, have insecurities about their own habits and are putting those feelings on anyone who is doing anything different than them. How I handle this? “Thanks for caring so much, but I’m okay with not drinking tonight and don’t want to, so you shouldn’t have to worry about it”. Kill them with kindness.
If you are enjoying a night out sans-alcohol, don’t think you have to miss out on all the fun drinks! Mocktails are becoming an extremely popular thing, especially here in NYC. Have a conversation with the bartender about flavor profiles and ingredients you like and politely ask them to whip you up something fun. My favorite? Club soda with fresh ginger, lime, and some bitters. If all else fails, kombucha for the win!
You can still live a “healthy” lifestyle while enjoying alcohol
While this wellness movement and focus on a healthy lifestyle is something I am so appreciative and supportive of, I fear that it often times provides ground for people to beat themselves up over not living the “perfect” life. We often flood ourselves with images on Instagram or other social platforms first thing in the morning that depict these influencers, celebrities, or bloggers living their perfectly organized and overwhelmingly healthy lives, and compare each and every decision we make from that point on for the remainder of the day. I could write a whole piece on this, but for now let’s focus on one thing: not everything depicted on these accounts is real, they are highlight reels, and no two lives are the same. Just because your favorite health and wellness blogger avoids alcohol doesn’t mean that you are any less healthy for drinking. No two people are the same and we are all entitled to our own decisions. Yes, I love kale (surprisingly), I meditate daily, I have a pretty consistent workout regiment, and I would like to think of myself as a pretty healthy person. However, I also enjoy drinking alcohol. I’m not saying I enjoy the act of blacking out or actively going out to get wasted, but I thoroughly enjoy the taste of most drinks. Plus, if I don’t like the taste of it, you can bet your bottom dollar I’m not drinking it (yes, looking at you, fireball)!
Don’t set yourself up to fail
So often I hear people complain about how they had too much to drink last night, slept through their alarm, and missed their morning workout class. My first thought is: how the hell do you stomach paying missed classed fees, which is literally just watching money burn. My second thought is: why the hell did you sign up for a morning workout class if you knew you were going out drinking? I get it, there are times where the night gets away from us and what ends up happening was definitely not what was originally planned. But, for the most part, we all know what we are getting into. So, let’s stop setting ourselves up for failure! When people find themselves in these predicaments of missed workouts, skipped breakfasts, or snoozed alarms, it often leads them into a cycle of self-deprecating and negative thoughts. I’ve been there! Snoozed my alarm, didn’t go to the gym, grabbed whatever I could find for breakfast rushing to work (RIP office days), and then immediately regretted my decisions from the night before and felt like shit the entire day beating myself up for solely being responsible for my crappy day. Why, oh why, do we do this to ourselves? If you know you are going to have a late night (we all have them, and we know when they are ahead of us), do not schedule that 6:00AM Barry’s class. Let’s be real here: you are not going to make it, so why kid yourself? On the flipside, if you have that morning workout class, or an important work meeting, know your limits and maybe take a step back and question whether you really need or want that last drink. Are you ordering it just because everyone else is but you’re already pretty buzzed and feeling yourself? Probably don’t need it then! No matter the case, tomorrow you will thank your past self for not setting unrealistic expectations and preparing for a positive day ahead.
Not all booze is created equal
I say this not to sound like a health snob, but instead with the advice my grandmother once gave me: “the hangover is not from the alcohol, it’s from all the mixers.” Nana, I wish that were completely true, but my nights of solely taking shots and still waking up with the feeling of someone jackhammering my head have proved that theory wrong. However, I get where she was coming from. My opinion on this is two-fold. Firstly, those insanely sugary, over the top, filled with every mixer possible, cocktails completely mask the taste of alcohol. I question, if you’re having one of these, do you enjoy the taste of the alcohol in it? And, if not, then why the heck are you even drinking it!? If it’s because everyone else is ordering a drink and you want to feel one with the crowd, screw that! Order something you actually like the taste of and skip the loads of sugar you’re throwing into your body to mask the taste of the thing that is making that drink so expense. Secondly, if you actually enjoy the taste of this specific alcohol but you are not aware of all the sugars you’re consuming – take a step back and let’s reassess. Here are my pointers with choosing your cocktail for the night.
Starting with the basics: the main mixer. Do you like some bubbles in your cocktail? Is tonic your go to? If so, I’m sorry to say, but pass the club soda! One 12 ounce can has 32 grams of sugar in it. Yes, you read that right, the same amount as a can of coke. Club soda? Coming in at a beautiful 0. Now that we’ve got that swap covered, let’s add some flavor. If you are making this drink at home and have access to kombucha or unsweetened natural flavored seltzers (i.e. LaCroix or Spindrift), pour those babies in! However, when out at a bar and without these luxuries, here are some other ideas. Personally, I am a fan of muddled fresh ingredients. Nothing will ever compare to that! Berries, oranges, or any type of fruit (if they have it) are the best option, but even cucumber, lime, lemon, mint, etc. are awesome alternatives. If this is a bar where you’re unsure you trust these ingredients to be muddled into your drink (we’ve all been there, hello dive bars I love you), ask for a small splash of fruit juice. Think pineapple juice, grapefruit juice, or orange juice. And, if you’re feeling pretty uninspired and unable to make a decision – a feeling I often find myself encompassed by – put the work in the bartender’s hands! Whenever I am at a bar that features “specialty cocktails”, I tell the bartender my preferred tastes and let them work their creative magic. Usually, I’m a tequila or vodka girl, something spicy over sweet, and no added syrups. However, know your crowd, not all bartenders love this (i.e. Saturday night out at 2AM in a frat bar, not ideal).
If you need some help, here are a few of my favorite go-to orders that I am able to enjoy while also not feeling like complete crap the next day. You’ll notice both of these are ordered on the rocks with just a splash of club soda – in my mind, if I’m paying for a drink, I’d like to get the best bang for my buck and just drink it at a slower pace.
Warm weather drinks:
- Titos vodka on the rocks with a splash of club soda and muddled lime, mint, and cucumber (a mock mojito without the sugar and subbing vodka for rum)
- Casa amigos on the rocks with a splash of club soda, a splash of grapefruit juice, fresh lime, and a salted rim (helloooo Paloma)
Cold weather drinks:
- Titos dirty martini on the rocks
- Bullet bourbon on the rocks with a twist (orange peel)
Drinks to make at home:
- Titos with a splash of club soda and muddled strawberries, lemon, lime, and mint (my family’s “fishhook” that we are in love with from a resort in Turks and Caicos – we miss you Garth!)
- Titos with a splash of GTS gingerade kombucha and lime (a healthy Moscow mule)
- Casa Amigos with a splash of club soda, muddled watermelon, jalapeño, and a salt rim
If you are drinking in a manner that is addictive, to cope with other emotions, or because you pressured to, I suggest seeking guidance in helping you with this manner. Whether confiding in a therapist, friend, family, or AA, please reach out for help.