Cheers to cel­e­brat­ing so­bri­ety

A new gen­er­a­tion of tem­per­ance cru­saders says al­co­hol-free is a game-chang­ing way to go

Sunday Tribune - - METRO - LIZ CLARKE

IT’S NOT the best of rep­u­ta­tions, but the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion rates South Africa as the fifth-big­gest al­co­hol con­sum­ing coun­try in the world and, with the fes­tive sea­son upon us, con­sump­tion lev­els will rocket as they al­ways do.

As usual, the po­lice will be watch­ing out for drunk driv­ers.

But be­fore writ­ing off De­cem­ber as the boozy month when end-ofthe-year par­ties in­vari­ably end up as a foggy can’t-re­mem­ber-what-hap­pened scram­ble for headache pills, a new spin is be­ing put on drink­ing with the emer­gence of mind­ful so­cial move­ments such as Soberis­tas and Club Soda, which have an on­line com­mu­nity of more than 10 000 mem­bers – and grow­ing daily.

It’s about cel­e­brat­ing so­bri­ety, said Club Soda’s founder Laura Wil­loughby, “not in the way that sug­gests that re­fus­ing al­co­hol means hav­ing a prob­lem with drink, but as a cool and healthy thing to do.”

Re­cently, more than 2 000 peo­ple flocked to Club Soda’s Mind­ful Drink­ing Fes­ti­val in cen­tral Lon­don to try out ev­ery­thing from Sober Gin to non-al­co­holic beers and wines and par­take in so­bri­ety events like “mock­tale” hour.

One young mother at the fes­ti­val said she re­alised she had to make a change when her 3-year-old asked why she wasn’t buy­ing any wine like she usu­ally did.

A high-pow­ered city ex­ec­u­tive and fre­quent im­biber said she was build­ing a new so­cial life based on her love of sport.

“I’m re­lieved to feel I’m no longer tak­ing mas­sive risks with my job by turn­ing up for cru­cial meet­ings with a rag­ing hang­over.”

And in New York a new gen­er­a­tion of tem­per­ance cru­saders is in­sist­ing that so­bri­ety is a game-chang­ing thing to do, like be­com­ing ve­gan, or go­ing to breath­ing classes.

If you pooh-pooh the idea that that sort of move­ment would ever take off in South Africa, you would be wrong.

Justin El­bers, the man­ager of Stoker’s Arms in Kloof, did not hold back when asked about non-al­co­holic beer at his pop­u­lar drink­ing hole.

“If some­one of­fered me a non-al­co­holic beer, I would prob­a­bly say no.”

How­ever, he said cus­tomers were buy­ing into the mind­ful drink­ing wave.

“A lot of peo­ple are or­der­ing it, more of the older crowd. I re­cently got into trou­ble with a cus­tomer be­cause the Heineken 0.0 ac­tu­ally has 0.5% al­co­hol in it.”

At the coun­try’s first Mind­ful Drink­ing SA event held at the Kirsten­bosch Stone Cot­tages this month, at­ten­dance fig­ures were above ex­pec­ta­tions.

“The mes­sage we wanted to get across,” said Sean O’connor, co-or­gan­iser of sev­eral Mind­ful Drink­ing SAS, “is that there are plenty of al­co­hol-free and low al­co­hol choices on the mar­ket, but un­less you can taste and com­pare them, how do you find the one you like.”

O’connor, a theatre pro­ducer and writer, re­cently joined forces with lo­gis­tics pro­fes­sional Barry Tyson to pi­o­neer the mind­ful drink­ing move­ment in South Africa.

“Peo­ple of­ten ask us why we want to pro­mote the use of non-al­co­holic bev­er­ages when we have some of the best wines and spir­its in the world,” said O’connor.

“It’s not that we are against drink­ing. It’s about giv­ing peo­ple a choice of prod­ucts they can have if they pre­fer not to have an al­co­holic bev­er­age.”

O’connor be­lieves that the move away from al­co­hol, which has al­ready made its mark in Bri­tain, Europe and the US, is start­ing to take root in South Africa.

“Al­most ev­ery day there are new prod­ucts com­ing on to the mar­ket, with some of the big wine, beer and spirit pro­duc­ers launch­ing non-al­co­holic al­ter­na­tives. If you look at some of the big stores now, there are shelves de­voted to non-al­co­holic or low-al­co­hol drinks. But it’s con­fus­ing. Some of th­ese prod­ucts are ex­pen­sive, so you need an op­por­tu­nity to try them out.”

Wil­loughby de­scribed mind­ful drink­ing as an at­ti­tude and a new way of think­ing.

“Once you be­come aware of how your body and mind are af­fected by al­co­hol you can de­cide if you’re okay with that. If you are, that’s fine. If not, you have choices. Whichever way, you’re in con­trol and that is what is im­por­tant.”

South African en­trepreneur­s Jo­hannes Le Roux and Inus Smuts have paved the way for others to en­ter the non-al­co­holic bev­er­age mar­ket. Their non-al­co­holic gin and tonic bev­er­age, the Duchess, has pen­e­trated over­seas mar­kets in the UK, Bel­gium and Scan­di­navia and won nu­mer­ous awards.

The Duchess, they said, uses a se­cret recipe con­tain­ing a key aro­matic in­gre­di­ent, along with or­ange peel, star anise, car­damom and cloves. It tastes like the real thing with­out the af­ter ef­fects. We should all say cheers to that. |

AS USUAL at this time of year, the po­lice will be watch­ing out for drunk driv­ers and with South Africa stuck with the un­en­vi­able rep­u­ta­tion of hav­ing the fifth­high­est global al­co­hol con­sump­tion rate, it’s a recipe for dis­as­ter. But there are so­lu­tions that give mind­ful drinkers choices that put them in con­trol of what they con­sume once aware of the ef­fects of al­co­hol.

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