Let’s face it, we’re all drinking “a little” more during this pandemic — it’s hard not to, until now. Welcome to #softail hour
Like many of the Hunkered, afternoon drinking was becoming more of the norm and less of the exception in my day. With the incessant onslaught of coronavirus news filling our minds, filling our glasses seemed our only defense. (besides washing our hands of course!).
There are many reasons NOT to drink too much during this pandemic, but none more so than its effect on our immune system. I’m not talking about moderate but excessive drinking. It may still be too early in these times to gauge the increase in alcohol consumption but it seems a foregone conclusion on the basis of the informal polling I’ve done (friends and family).
My wife and I decided it was time to break the cycle of, “It’s five o’clock always” and try something different and creative. Enter “Softail” hour.
Drinking like smoking can be more a habit of action than of actual desire. I’m not saying it does not have an addictive component, but a way to help break the craving is to replace the substance but keep the action, e.g., chewing gum.
I started detoxing from drinking two weeks ago. My wife didn’t. It was hard at first watching her open a Hazy IPA or a nice bottle of California Cabernet Sauvignon and drink it by herself. I felt like I was missing out on the ritual as much as the actual alcohol buzz. I decided to do something about it so I made myself a virgin gin and tonic with lime juice on the rocks. It did the trick — really! It was refreshing and it gave my hands something to do.
Since then my wife has joined me on the softail train but we have upped our game substantially. Here’s where the creative element comes in. There are limitless possibilities for one to be creative in crafting your concoction (Incidentally, this was another possible name, “Craftails” but it suggests alcohol and I think its already being used in that context).
There are many artisan soda and tonic based drinks available today including: Angostura bark, Indian and Mediterranean tonic, Smoky Ginger ale and Aromatic bitters. But you don’t have to buy products, you can make your own!
Frozen fruits are still widely available and are perfect for adding sweetness and color to your recipe. Frozen blueberries, strawberries and cherries serve both as ice cubes and flavor enhancers, and you just keep them in the freezer for whenever you need them. You can also make flavored simple syrups with mint, orange, ginger, vanilla or lavender (we just made lavender, yum).
Another fun project is to go to the grocery store and scan the shelves for possible ingredients like coconut cream/water, pineapple, pear or other fruit juice. I’m still trying to figure a way to incorporate my love for cinnamon in a drink (other than coffee). Obviously, virgin Caesars are always a nice breakfast option and subject to creative alternations. I like adding chipotle powder.
Here’s another huge benefit. You can involve the kids both in the process and the finished product. You can select a day, or two, or three during the week as softail hour for the family. Gather around the kitchen bar and become mixologists. Have a competition to see who’s the best bartender that day. Fun for the whole family and alcohol free.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a drink as much as the next person especially with the warmer weather. Softails do not have to replace drinking all together, only slow it down or break the habit before it becomes a problem. It’s a nice fall back when needed.
My wife and I get excited planning our drink menu for the night. In fact, we are going to buy a soda water maker today since it is apparent this is going to be our new habit. The mental and health benefits in actively reducing alcohol intake, inspiring creative ideas, promoting safe drinking, building family bonds and saving money on alcoholic drinks are huge.
We are all trying to navigate these unchartered and troubling waters with little certainty what lies ahead. It is imperative we be proactive if we are going to survive and thrive in tomorrow’s new world whenever that comes. Discovering creative ways to take control of our destiny and that of our families to ensure the best possible outcome is essential. However we do it, we should make it as enjoyable as we can.