I’m feeling disgruntled. A couple of months ago, sick of suffering leg cramps and night-after-night of disturbed sleep, I decided I’d better monitor my alcohol consumption. Don’t get me wrong, two or three small (less than 100ml) glasses of wine whilst preparing and eating our main meal of the day to help me ‘wind down’, didn’t seem excessive to me. In fact, I was convinced that if there was a downside to my relatively miserly alcohol intake, it was probably doing me less harm than sitting and stewing in my own stress hormones at the end of a hard day! I was deluded. Alcohol, even within the UK government’s drinking guidelines (3 units per day for women, 4 for men), is toxic to my system. A unit, by the way is 70ml (I always thought it was a small glass of wine as defined by bars and restaurants, namely 125ml!)
I’ve since discovered that the maximum amount of alcohol I can tolerate without any apparent adverse consequences is about 125-170ml of 11-12.5% table wine. Pathetic or what? I mean, how can you party? Still, as much as I might balk at the situation, it was timely that a BBC Horizon programme, broadcast on 20th May 2015, entitled ‘Is Binge Drinking Really That Bad?’ validated what I already knew. And, to give you the heads-up, binge drinking most certainly is bad! You can follow this link to check out the definition of binge drinking and the effect of your drinking habit.
But, the party still goes on - so, notwithstanding the odd glass of 11% ABV Prosecco, I now feel compelled to search out, test and/or create Primal-friendly mocktails: low-sugar, low-carb, non-alcoholic drinks - or at least alcoholic drinks with greater fluid content, which don’t get absorbed into your bloodstream so quickly, and hopefully last longer in your glass - so that I, and everyone else whose brain says “yes” but whose body is telling them “no”, can still feel like they’re part of the celebration.
Whether mixing cocktails or mocktails, a successful outcome isn’t so much about the headline ingredient - whether fruit or alcohol based - because both the taste and ‘fizz’ factor of your drink depends more on the quality of your mixer. This is tricky if you don’t want to load up on sugar and carbs, because it’s really difficult to find natural, sugar-free, low-carb ginger beer or ale, tonic water or lemonade for sale here in the UK. In my view, shop-bought, sugar-laden or artificially sweetened ‘soft’ drinks, colas, sodas and other mixers are completely unfit for human consumption!
Fever-Tree is the one exception I’ve found, which I think stands head and shoulders above the rest because it boasts the best ingredients, is all-natural and is relatively low-carb. Their Naturally Light Tonic Water and Naturally Light Ginger Beer are both sweetened with natural fruit sugar (pure fructose, not nasty high fructose corn-syrup) rather than the likes of “Ssh you know who”, whose slimline versions of these drinks contain the deadly artificial sweetener and neuro-toxin aspartame and saccharin. Remember that next time you’re out at a bar or pub!
Whilst it’s always best to get your fruit sugar (fructose) from fresh food (and to eat your carbohydrates rather than to drink them), Fever-Tree’s recipe for Naturally Light Gin & Tonic passes musters (2 units of alcohol and 6g carbohydrate per drink), so I’ve included it on my ‘allowed' list on the basis that one double G&T is my absolute limit (special note to Sarah, who’s been badgering me to lift the ban on Gin & Tonic for a long time!) Meanwhile, Fever-Tree’s Naturally Light Ginger Beer really stands up well against the flavour profile of my homemade Fiery Ginger Ale, so for sheer convenience and an enlivening ‘fizz’, go buy.
Other healthy mixers (no added sugar, zero carbs) include seltzer water, soda water, sparkling water, mineral water, club soda or just fizzy water! Basically these are all carbonated water. Some have carbon dioxide pumped into them, like my favourite San Pellegrino, to make them effervescent and others, such as Perrier, are naturally carbonated.
Our non-alcoholic, low-sugar, Fiery Ginger Ale needs a grown-up ginger ale concentrate as its base. I do so love the fantastically refreshing, spicy-heat of this cooling ginger ale (I know that sounds contradictory, but it’s true) that I could almost be persuaded to go tea-total! I’ve added fresh lemongrass to underline the citrusy aromas of fresh ginger and a pinch of chilli flakes to give extra kick to ginger’s heat. To sweeten my concentrate, I’ve used zero-carb liquid stevia in combination with raw honey (rather than using all honey or coconut palm sugar) because this effectively halves the grams of carbohydrate. Yey! only 1g carb per drink! It also minimises the potential aftertaste of stevia.
If further justification was needed, ginger is also really good for you. It’s an anti-inflammatory (that should take care of the inflammatory effects of alcohol then!) settles an upset stomach - including motion sickness, morning sickness, vomiting, nausea and loss of appetite - strengthens the immune system (brilliant treatment for colds and flu), lowers cholesterol, improves circulation, aids digestion and protects against cancer.
A brighter future for social drinkers starts here. Cheers!
Fiery Ginger Ale (makes approx 24 fl oz = 10 to 12 drinks)
Ingredients - for the concentrate
200g (8oz) fresh ginger, sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, cut into small pieces
½ tsp organic chilli flakes
900ml (32 fl oz) filtered water
Instructions - for the concentrate
In a medium saucepan, combine water and ginger over high heat. Once boiling, turn heat to very low, cover with the pan lid and leave to just barely simmer for one hour.
Take off the heat and let stand for another 30 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine sieve.
Stir in honey and liquid stevia, then cool completely. This is your ginger concentrate.
Pour it into a covered container and keep chilled.
To Serve (makes 1 drink)
Put a handful (half a dozen) ice cubes into a highball glass (a tall, 250ml glass tumbler). Add 60ml ginger concentrate and 15ml (1tbsp) lime juice
Fill the rest of the glass with 200ml of soda water or sparkling mineral water.
Decorate with a sprig of fresh mint and enjoy!