Cheers to celebrating sobriety
A new generation of temperance crusaders says alcohol-free is a game-changing way to go
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. |