Dry January – week 1

Recipes

Happy New Year! Fingers and toes crossed that this year is much improved for you all.

Still, with so much uncertainty I’m avoiding big bold new year’s resolutions. Phrases like “travel more” or “spend more time with friends and family” and I just hear a grotty “mwahahhah” from the gremlin that is Covid-19. But I am going to do dry January. Simply because I’ve not done it before, and I’m curious to see if it has any benefits on my mood and health more generally. I’m also really keen to try some of the non-alcoholic drinks on offer…and it’s a good excuse to revisit some recipes from our book!

First hurdle

When does it officially start? If you go by the stroke of midnight on the 1st of Jan then I have failed, I was definitely double-parked at that point with a glass of fizz and a brandy, ‘hic’. Spent mostly under a duvet, the rest of the 1st was unsurprisingly a lot easier to abstain. With the 2nd being a bank holiday I just fancied a glass of fizz. I know, that might make me sound slightly ridiculous but there we are. So I popped down the shop and bought myself a bottle of appletiser. Yes, it’s just sparkling apple juice, but served well chilled in a champagne coupe, it’s not that far off that first super-sweet sip of not particularly posh Prosecco – just what I was after! I thought it needed something extra though, something to kick the sweetness down just one notch so I took a strip of lemon zest, twisted it over the glass so plenty of the lemony oils spritzed in, then dropped it into the drink. It worked! Super simple, inexpensive but felt v. fancy.

Gin & tonic alternative

Over Christmas I very much enjoyed a pre-dinner G&T, so the thought that I could have one on an ordinary weekday, but without the booze, seemed strangely decadent. Personally I find faux-gins a real mixed bag. There are some bad ones, or worse – both bad and hideously overpriced. Bax Botanics had sent me a bottle of their sea buckthorn a while ago and I genuinely really like it; it’s got really good complex woody herb notes, plus it’s not silly spenny. I like it with ice, tonic and rosemary but they also suggest a slice of orange. Sea buckthorn is a funny flavour to describe, it reminds me a little of physalis, bit like overripe apricot or an underripe mango. But the key thing is that the flavour is present, and it doesn’t get lost when the tonic is added.

Fancied a cocktail

We have a lot of drinks. Occupational hazard of two drinks writers living under the same roof, but sometimes bottles get a bit lost in the mix. Snuck at the back of the cupboard, shamefully gathering dust was a bottle of Xmas Syrup from The Duppy Share. This was sent to me I think as part of a promotional pack in 2020, yikes. But looking at it, the ingredients were not a million miles away from the rum syrup we make in our book. So I found our dark and stormy soda recipe (pg 111) and, using this pre-made syrup, put one together. The syrup was still fine, though I’m not sure it’s on sale anymore, soz. Using it was a sweet shortcut that meant it didn’t go to waste. Our cocktail recipe also contains soda water, ginger beer (or ginger ale), lime juice and fresh thyme. It is based on the classic dark and stormy cocktail, though with the Xmas syrup it came out a bit more like a rum and coke but I’m not complaining.

Booze-less beers

I like beer, although sometimes I find the first sip is completely different to the second. It mainly happens with things like lager and wheat beers, less so for IPAs. I get this wallop of flavour that is like being punched with a loaf of bread, but on the second sip that disappears and it becomes a delicious beer. I don’t know why this happens, but it means that I make a bit of a strange expression when I first taste it. I had this beer over a zoom call with friends, so I think I styled it out when I snuck out of shot when my face wrinkled up. Anyway, afterwards it’s really good. It is quite sweet, but if you’ve ever tried wort (which probably means you either brew or live with someone who does*..so quite limited audience then but that’s what it is) it tastes mostly of that. Delicious malt loaf vibes. In an absurdly tall hefe glass this was a treat, reminding me (on a miserable January evening) of hot summer holidays in Germany. I think the combination of drinking this whilst chatting to my best pals did actually make me feel almost tipsy.

*my husband Richard being the beer nerd of the two of us.

Rosé party

Had a lovely video call with my Mum on her birthday where we both ate fish and chips and drank wine…except, my wine was pretend wine. I made it inspired by Jukes cordialities, which are delicious, and in my mind somewhere between a thick cordial and a shrub (as they are vinegar-based). Once diluted they are convincingly wine-like, my favourite is their Jukes 6 which is their red wine cordial. But I only have one mini-bottle left which I’m saving and kinda felt more in a rosé mood, so I raided the freezer and spice cabinet and came up with this:

Mock rosé shrub cordial

Makes about 250-300ml of cordial

100g sugar
100g raspberries
50g Bramley apple, chopped
1/4 vanilla pod
2 strips lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice
100ml water
1 teaspoon of dried hibiscus flowers
1 bay leaf
2 black peppercorns
100ml red wine vinegar
Few drops rosewater

Put everything except the red wine vinegar and the rosewater into a large saucepan. Heat gently until the mixture is simmering and the apple has pretty much collapsed. Cool, then strain into a clean and dry bottle or jug. Mix in the red wine vinegar and rosewater, then store in the fridge for up to a week. To serve, dilute with at least 1 part cordial to 4 parts still or sparkling water to taste. I quite like it at 6 or even 8 parts water. Diluting it more made it a subtler drink, and for me brought it closer in colour and taste to a rosé. Really keen to try this with other fruit and spice combinations.

WEEK 1: THE RESULTS

Mood and health-wise I haven’t really noticed any difference. I am generally pretty healthy anyway and for me to go a week without having alcohol is not unusual. So week 1, not much to report. I am enjoying making the effort to serve something different every evening, knowing it’s all booze-free. It’s quite celebratory and has made the transition from the festive season to the month of Mondays that is January a lot easier.

How’s it going for you?

I hope this post has given you a few ideas for things you might not have tried. How are you finding dry Jan? Are you doing it this year too? What are your favourite booze-free drinks? I’m going to be sharing my favourite booze-free drinks this month, be lovely to hear your recommendations too. Let me know in the comments below, use the contact form or find me @miriamjsnice on social media. Wishing you a very happy 2022 xx

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