Sober Curious? Try Mindful Drinking

Learn how to incorporate booze into your life like a responsible, ahem, adult.

By Devin Parr


Is this “sober curious” movement a real thing?

Working in the wine industry, these days it seems like every time I turn my head, I see another headline about how people aren’t drinking as much, if at all anymore. There is a growing “sober curious” movement happening – at least according to the news. But, as I look around at my friends and family all happily and regularly pouring their second and third glass on any given Tuesday, I’m starting to feel like I should call shenanigans. Fake news! Granted this could be a statement about the company I keep… but, at least in my little world, regular and social drinking seem to be alive and well. 

Millennials are drinking less (of course they are)

There are plenty of studies out there documenting a decrease in alcohol consumption among younger generations; and how bars and beverage companies are responding to the trend. A new category of de-alcoholized wines, beers and spirits has emerged. Alcohol-free “bars” and gatherings are popping up in most major markets. There are dating apps, meet-ups, hashtags and more, all dedicated to the movement. 

Drinking in moderation vs. abstinence

As a full-time working mom, the idea of giving up booze sends me down a rabbit hole of terror like you wouldn’t believe. But it’s not because I struggle with overconsumption; it’s because I truly LOVE the ritual behind enjoying a nightly glass or two of wine. And I have learned to do so responsibly and mindfully, which is something we should all practice, regardless of whether we were born before or after 1980. 

Katheryn Romeyn wrote this great piece for The Plum about how to handle your liquor after 40, noting how much worse hangovers tend to be as we get older. There’s actual science behind why we can’t drink like we used to. But does this mean we should start taking a page from the younger generation and dabbling in a little sobriety? Does it mean a lifetime of Dry Januaries and Sober Septembers? 

Personally, I am not choosing to go there yet and I get the sense from a quick informal survey among friends and family that there are plenty of you out there who aren’t either. While many women I spoke with talked at length about their commitment to a healthy lifestyle, and the importance of having a sense of awareness about their drinking — when they do it, why they do it and how it makes them feel — none seemed interested in giving it up completely. As one wisely observed, “Why not take a day off from drinking once a week instead of the whole month of January? Last I checked, 52 is more than 31.” Girl’s got a point. 

With that in mind, I came up with an utterly non-scientific list of suggestions on how you can better incorporate this life-giving nectarindulgence into your life in a more mindful way. 

It should go without saying that I am by no means a doctor (although I’ve watched enough episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and House to probably diagnose any number of rare diseases), and if you find yourself questioning your relationship with alcohol, it may be a sign that you should seek some professional help. 

4 tips for reducing your drinking without quitting altogether

For those of us who view wine or an evening cocktail as one of life’s true pleasures, here are my tips for mindful drinking:

1. If you like to enjoy a nightly tipple or three, the gym is your friend.

Exercise is a big and deeply important part of my life because of how it makes me feel, how it helps me sleep, and how it reduces my anxiety. I know that drinking too much is going to make it less likely that I will be willing to hit the gym the next day and that has many more far-reaching negative consequences for me than just not burning those calories. If you make regular exercise a non-negotiable part of your lifestyle, then you are far less likely to let a few too many drinks compromise that commitment. 

Also, nothing makes you feel like you earned that glass like a good sweat session. As my friend Bridget likes to say, “Will work out for wine.”

2. Explore low-alcohol wines! 

I cannot overstate this enough. There are so many incredible wines out there that are lower in alcohol (not to mention more interesting) than the majority of what’s on supermarket shelves. The difference between a wine that’s 13.5% alcohol and one that’s 15% is actually pretty substantial, so don’t assume all wines are created equal on that front. 

Old World regions like Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Austria are crawling with so many leaner, lighter options. Explore wines like Zweigelt, Riesling, Gamay, Muscadet, and Lambrusco, or simply look for Old World or cooler-climate versions of your favorites as they tend to be lower in alcohol. 

3. Drink better.

My mom jokes that she tries to balance her liquor consumption by making sure the lemons and limes she uses as garnish are fresh and organic. But she’s actually on to something. There are plenty of wineries and brands out there that are making ingredients labeling part of their mission (and you thought wine was just alcoholic grape juice!). These companies want you to know what’s in your bottle… or, more specifically, what’s not. There are plenty of weird ingredients that are technically allowed to go into a bottle of wine, some of which may or may not contribute to that crappy post-drink feeling, so if you don’t want to drink less, drinking better is a solid strategy. 

Atlas Wine Co.Ridge VineyardsParadisos del Sol and Thomson & Scott (full disclosure: this last one is a client of mine) are all about transparency when it comes to what’s in the bottle, whether through ingredients or nutritional content labeling. Even big brands like Bud Light are on board with this trend. Organic and biodynamic wines are also great to consider when trying to drink cleaner.  

4. Channel your inner Italian.

I find it’s helpful to remember what sipping wine is all about – discovering a delicious product made from the earth, in an amazing co-mingling of science and art. A product with thousands of years of history, tradition, romance and controversy. A product with some proven health benefits when enjoyed in moderation. And a product that is designed to bring us together, loosen up and engage all of the senses. The same goes for beer and spirits. Practice the art of truly integrating alcohol into your lifestyle, by enjoying it the way it was intended – with food and among loved ones.

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