I can’t lie – I like a drink. I turned 18 in 2005, when binge drinking was still cool and clubs were doling out all-you-can-drink Blue WKDs for a tenner. Since then my drinking habits have thankfully changed, but I still love the social aspect of drinking – whether it’s that first wine of the weekend with workmates at 4.30pm on a Friday, a glass of champagne at a wedding or an espresso martini after a meal with friends (dessert and coffee in one, it’s a genius/deadly move).
Alcohol is so much a part of everyday life for many of us in the UK that I imagine it’s difficult for a lot of pregnant women to give up alcohol for nine months (even longer if you cut down while trying to conceive or plan to carry on abstaining while you breastfeed). But it felt especially tough in the middle of lockdown, when most of the nation were drinking more than ever to cope. Stats suggest a quarter of people said their drinking increased at the height of lockdown, with one in 5 of those saying this was a response to stress or anxiety.
Facing endless nights in on the sofa, not being able to enjoy a bourbon and Coke (a drink my husband introduced me to) in front of one of our favourite boxsets was tough. Something I struggled with even more was how to differentiate day from evening when working at home. I know a lot of friends opened a bottle of wine at 5pm to try and ‘own’ their personal time. And now, facing the uncertainty of whatever lies ahead as the dreaded second wave arrives, and having been stone-cold sober for four months, it’s feeling more difficult to not have an evening drink or two to fall back on.
Having said that, in general I’ve found it easier than I anticipated to stay on the wagon, probably helped by not having as many social gatherings to attend (and how sick I felt for weeks!). At a time of reflection for so many of us, it’s made me reassess my relationship with alcohol. Do I drink because I genuinely enjoy it or because it’s expected? While I’m no longer downing drinks to rugby chants and having shots poured down my neck at Freshers’ events, do I still succumb to peer pressure to have ‘just one drink’ on days when I might not fancy one? And if I use it on occasion to switch off from a stressful job, is that an acceptable way to unwind or a coping mechanism I need to cut back on?
While I’m not saying I’ll never go back to alcohol (I’m already planning my first medium-rare Sunday roast with large glass of red wine after baby’s arrival), I’ll definitely think twice about whether I want to drink as often as I did before.
It would be MUCH easier to make that lifestyle change if pubs upped their game with alcohol-free alternatives. There seem to be plenty of 0% beers on offer for designated drivers, but no non-alcoholic wines. Surely they’re missing a trick here – how many women up and down the country are trying to hide pregnancies for months?! Yet another area where women aren’t thought about as a target market (although I’m well aware women drink beer too – I just happen to prefer wine).
Some restaurants, on the other hand, have been incredible – shout to Blacklock’s ‘Off the Sauce’ menu which offered a really good attempt at a non-alcoholic Old Fashioned, Hawksmoor’s ‘Temperates’ which let me try a clean version of my favourite house drink Shakey Pete, and 14 Hills’ EverLeaf Spritz which, although it still had the price tag of an alcoholic cocktail, was great at giving the vibe of a real celebration drink on my birthday.
Inside the house, I’ve found some great alcohol-free alternatives – here are the best of the bunch:
Seedlip Grove 42
This is the one we’ve probably all heard of, and the first non-alcoholic drink I reached for in the supermarket. We enjoy spirits in fancy bottles that we can display in our kitchen, and this one really fits the bill. It’s been great over summer for making a gin and tonic replacement, and I’m keen to try the others in the range. The Seedlip website also offers some good virgin cocktail recipes for when you need something a bit fancier.
McGuigan Zero Sauvignon Blanc
White wine is my go-to, so I’ve tried a few dealcoholized versions. As a fan of Riesling, Leitz Eins Zwei Zero has been a great find (available from Waitrose), but this Sauvignon from Sainsburys is a better all-rounder. The only thing I’ve found missing from fake wine is that urge to have the second glass – one is definitely enough!
Is there anything better than a glass of pink fizz on a sunny day?! It’s great that there are now more adult versions of Shloer available, in proper popping bottles that give you that celebration feeling. To be honest I found this a bit sickly sweet without the dryness of the alcohol to offset it, but it’s great for a special occasion.
At £12 a bottle for two servings, this really is up there with the price of normal cocktails, but if you like the bitter, herby taste of Negronis then it’s a really good attempt at recreating that. Again from the Seedlip family, stick it in a fancy tumbler and you’re well on your way to the perfect autumnal mocktail.
Erdinger Alkoholfrei Weissbier
As I’ve already said I’m not a fan of beer, so this is my husband’s pick! Me being off the sauce has definitely led to him drinking less too, and he’s tried a couple of low alcohol beers to keep me company. This is his favourite, and is an isotonic drink too so apparently has some health benefits! I think this one will definitely come in useful when we get nearer Baby Mac’s due date and he has to be ready to drive to the hospital at a moment’s notice…
Did you give up alcohol completely when you were pregnant or still enjoy a glass every now and again? And how easy or difficult did you find it, especially during lockdown? Leave a comment and let me know.