With the world’s watering holes temporarily off-limits, our social lives are awash with virtual happy hours and pub quizzes, and for better or worse, we’re in charge of the jigger. Don’t let your relationship with your drinks trolley sour – here, industry experts share their top tips for drinking mindfully during lockdown…

There’s no question that enjoying a glass of something lovely can be a tonic for the soul, but regularly overdoing it on the booze weakens your immune system and worsens anxiety – not exactly ideal in the midst of a global pandemic. During times like these, fostering a healthy relationship with alcohol has never been more important. Enter ‘mindful drinking’.

“It’s all about becoming more conscious about how you are consuming alcohol, and taking time to slow down and really savour your drink,” says Jacob Briars, global head of advocacy and education for the Bacardi group. “Just like fine dining, with a great cocktail there’s the excitement of preparing it, the pride of presenting it, and the enjoyment of relishing every sip.”

Last year’s mindful drinking festival in Spitalfields

As Briars alluded, mindful drinking doesn’t mean going teetotal, ditching your favourite spirits or sipping on uninspiring serves. Put simply, it’s about paying attention. “Being a mindful drinker is about paying attention to how alcohol affects you, and how it shapes the world around you,” explains Laura Willoughby, co-founder of mindful drinking movement Club Soda.

“As a mindful drinker, you will pay attention to where and when you drink, who you drink with and what you drink,” she says. “You’ll notice how you feel after one drink, rather than mindlessly ploughing on to the next. You’ll become aware of the effects of alcohol on your physical and mental wellbeing, and you will begin to see the role it plays in your life.”

Let go of any misconceptions about mindful drinking being boring, says Camille Vidal, founder of mindful cocktail website, La Maison Wellness. “For me, it’s all about experimentation,” she says. “Since we have more time on our hands to be with ourselves and reconnect, now is the time to explore and create, and very importantly have fun while doing so.”

Camille Vidal mixing up some wellness, mindfully

Ready to foster a more mindful approach to drinking in lockdown (and beyond)? Below, you’ll find 10 simple and easy-to-action habits and hacks you can adopt today:

1. Self-moderate

“Just like we track our steps, you can keep count of your weekly cocktail consumption and set limits,” says Briars. “My advice is don’t drink at times that you wouldn’t usually – but still treat yourself to a great cocktail when you’d normally have one, whether that’s to celebrate the end of the working week, or a virtual Saturday night get-together with friends.”

2. Go ‘low’

“For those who want to drink alcohol but want to drink less, Spritzes are a favourite of mine,” says Briars. “They’re especially great during the summer months, when afternoon drinking in the sunshine is a fixture on many people’s social calendars. The St. Germain Spritz [40ml St. Germain, 55ml dry sparkling wine, 55ml sparkling water] is really delicious and refreshing.” 

“Vermouth and Soda is a great simple serve,” he continues. “My favourite was created by Naren Young at the award-winning Dante café in New York City – one part Noilly Prat and two parts soda, with frozen grapes. For the quarantine kitchen, vermouth is a great staple to have around as you can use a splash when cooking risotto or fish.” 

3. Reverse your serve

“Lighten up some of your favourite cocktails by flipping the formula,” says Briars. “For example, if you fancy a Gin Martini but would like it to pack a little less punch, reverse the measure to two parts vermouth and one-part gin. The same goes for a classic Manhattan where you can swap the portions of the vermouth and the whiskey or rum.”

Always measure your ingredients

4. Measure up

“When drinking in the home, many people don’t have alcohol measuring tools, such as a jigger,” says Briars. “If you don’t have one, grab a measuring jug. A double measure is 50ml, and a single is 25ml. Don’t free pour – with a glass full of ice in front of you, it’s often hard to gauge what a double or single measure looks like. Make sure you use a jigger, or alternate measuring device and keep track. It will also taste better!”

5. Play it forward

You may not have control over the lockdown, but you are in control of how you react to it,” says  Willoughby. “Look ahead to who you want to be when this is all over, and focus on the bigger picture. Where do you want your life to be in 12 months time? What role does alcohol play in this vision of the future you? Ask yourself where, when, who and what you want to drink, so you can make more conscious decisions about the role of alcohol in your life.”

6. Shrink your drink

“Some of the world’s top bars have debuted demi-serves of classic and bespoke cocktails that deliver big taste without the calories and alcohol content of full serves,” says Briars. “Think of this as the cocktail equivalent of choosing a starter versus a main course for dinner. Just cut the measures in half to turn the iconic Dry Martini cocktail into a ‘Dry Marteeny’.”

7. Embrace the aperitivo

“The aperitivo – Italy’s favourite drinking ritual – is fast becoming a global phenomenon,” says Briars. “A respite at the end of the day, a traditional Aperitivo cocktail tends to be a longer and more refreshing serve, for example a Martini Fiero and tonic, served 50:50 over plenty of ice – ideally with something tasty to snack on too.”

Martini Fiero and tonic, lowish alcohol, high flavour

8. Quality over quantity 

“Treat yourself to something really delicious; then sip slowly and savour the moment,” says Briars. “It’s the taste and ritual of the drink that matters, not the amount of alcohol. Also, with so many people looking to gain new skills on lockdown, this is the perfect time to master new cocktail skills and try your hand at mixology – you could even host a virtual cocktail making class via Zoom with your friends. Get creative and dust off the bottle of any classic spirits that have been sitting in your drinks cabinet for years, such as vermouth.”

9. Help yourself

“Do those things you never had time for,” says Willoughby. “Rather than drinking in response to stress, use this time to do things that will make you more resilient in the long term. Invest some time into trying new things. From meditation to computer games, I suspect that your list of ‘things to when I have more time’ doesn’t include getting sozzled! So write everything down, from new hobbies to jobs around the house. Then prioritise.” 

Alternatively, enrol on one of Club Soda’s Mindful Drinking programmes. They also run weekly sessions on HospoLive for anyone working in hospitality.

10. Don’t sweat it

“Mindful drinking isn’t about drinking alcohol or not, it’s about bringing mindfulness into the glass, becoming aware of our drinking habits and making better choices,” says Vidal. “Be kind to yourself, and don’t feel that you’ve messed up if you reach for that glass of wine. Find what works for you – there are no rules.”