Mr Howard nonalcoholic cocktail from Seedlip
It’s the time of year when invitations to drinks parties start flowing, and we get ready to fill our glasses and celebrate Christmas with family, friends and work colleagues. Many patients assume I’m teetotal but I’m not. Firstly, the research shows there isn’t anything wrong with drinking some alcohol. And secondly, I love wine and like to bring some home from holidays to Italy, Greece and France – opening a bottle rekindles memories of those lovely times and adds to the enjoyment of sipping a glass or two.
But you don’t need alcohol to find your Christmas spirit and it does drive me slightly crazy when people are judgmental about the decision to enjoy a teetotal tipple instead. Sometimes you just don’t feel like drinking; you may have a sensitivity to alcohol or be allergic to the additives and histamines some drinks contain; or you may have found a pattern of drinking that works for you and your lifestyle. I choose not to drink during the week, as I couldn’t get up at my usual early hour and start the day feeling focused and energised if I did. I also know that after a busy week, a Friday night glass of wine leaves me feeling more tired and emotional than the same drink on a Saturday, when I’m more rested and relaxed.
Christmas can be a great time to rethink your habits around drinking, especially if recent illness has already prompted a shift in your diet and lifestyle. You’ll probably find that you’re very sensitive to alcohol, especially if your liver has been dealing with a lot of medication, or you’ve experienced physical or emotional trauma. Rather than thinking of the festive season as a reason to drink, or dreading the pressure to conform, why not see it as a chance to explore alternatives to alcohol, to get smart about when and why you drink, and give hangovers the boot (most of the time)? Here are some ideas to help.
Always eat if you’re drinking. Having some food first can help slow the absorption of alcohol and reduce the risk of an upset stomach.
Drink plenty of water. Having a glass of water between each alcoholic drink not only means you’re likely to drink less alcohol overall, it will also reduce the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream.
Do an emotional healthcheck. Heightened emotions – stress, joy, heartache – seem to intensify the effects of alcohol. My most dramatic moment to illustrate this was when I was finally given the green light to go to India and bring my adopted daughter Maya home from the orphanage. A friend took me out for champagne to celebrate but my emotions were so high I was overwhelmed and managed only half a glass before having to go home. He’s never let me forget it!
Choose the alcohol you enjoy. I’m often asked if it’s better to avoid certain alcoholic drinks, or to drink red wine because it contains antioxidants. Each of us reacts in various ways to different alcohols – you might find white wine too acidic, spirits too strong, or that sparkling wines quickly go to your head and trigger a migraine. My advice is simply to choose the drink you most enjoy and have a small amount of it.
Take care if you’ve been unwell. Your doctors will advise you if there is a medical reason why you shouldn’t drink, usually due to interactions with medication, but many will say it’s absolutely fine for you to join in with the festive toasting. Painkillers, antibiotics and steroids can all affect your liver and therefore your body’s ability to process alcohol, so take it steady and perhaps use a smaller glass than everyone else so that you can join in without having to keep pace. Drink plenty of water alongside to help reduce the toxic effects of the alcohol.
Enjoy a nonalcoholic cocktail. I love Seedlip nonalcoholic spirits served over ice with lots of tonic for a grown-up and glamorous alternative to alcohol. Take a look at the delicious nonalcoholic recipes they’ve shared with us, below.
The spicy flavours conjure up Christmas. Avoid this if you are having chemotherapy, as grapefruit can react with the treatment.
50ml Seedlip Spice 94
30ml pink Grapefruit Juice
20ml lemon Juice
15ml sugar syrup
1 star anise
Shake all the ingredients together, strain twice and serve.
Seedlip Garden & Elderflower Tonic
Fresh and sparkling fizz.
50ml Seedlip Garden
125ml elderflower tonic water
Ribbon of cucumber, to garnish
Pour over ice and serve, garnished with cucumber.
Spelling out Christmas