A Drinking Lover’s Guide to Temperance

This might come as a surprise to you — whatwith all those love letters we’ve written to our Gin & Tonics, Dark & Stormies and Manhattans, not to mention an entire section titled “Medicine” in my first book  — but we in the DALS house, as of about two years ago, are no longer cocktail-every-night folks. This does not mean we are going all PollyAnna on you, nor does it mean we have given up drinking. Good Lord, no it does it not mean that. It only means that about two years ago, I started to feel a nagging pull to dial back on the alcohol, and I tell the whole story at Bon Appetit‘s new Healthy-ish. So head over there, then come back here so I can briefly discuss a few more details I wasn’t able to include.

Back? Good.

I want to preface this by saying something that should hopefully be assumed at this point in our small corner of the internet — i.e. No judgment. I mean, I can’t stop you from judging me — that comes with the territory and I guess I could say I’m used to it — but I really hope it’s clear that this was a personal decision made during a specific time in my life. The last thing in the world I am trying to do is make anyone feel guilty about their nightly glass of wine after a day chasing oppressive deadlines or stubborn toddlers. (I’d also like to make it clear that I’m not in any way presuming to address clinical drinking issues.) In other words, you might have zero interest in my Weeknight Wagon Plan. And if this is the case — that’s OK! Here’s a nice little gratin recipe you should consider for dinner tonight and I will see you tomorrow!

But if you are one of those people who I mention in the essay — the ones who ask me a lot of questions then inevitably end up texting me at cocktail hour saying “I want to try this. How’d you do it?” I wanted to share a few little strategies I discovered along the way.

I Came up with a Battle Plan. I strive to drink only on the weekends — Friday, Saturday, usually Sunday. I like that schedule because after four or five days of not drinking, there is now almost nothing I love more than my first sip on Friday night. And that is sort of the goal for me: To enjoy it more. My friend Naria achieves the same reward with a different schedule. She drinks one glass of wine twice during the week and never on Sunday. We both make exceptions on vacation, for birthdays and nights out. But the point is, it’s much easier for both of us to stick to a plan when we’ve outlined exactly what that plan is.

I Teamed Up. Speaking of Naria, she was one of the first to suggest that weekend-only drinking might be worth trying. She’s a lot like me – she has three young girls and likes being organized. She has systems. She likes counting things and making lists and like all self-respecting neurotics, loves the illusion of being in control. It’s one of the reasons we are such good friends. It’s also one of the reasons why initially sticking with the plan was easier than I thought it would be. Accountability and all that.

I Figured Out My Weakness I discovered fairly quickly that the urge to pour myself a gin and tonic is always strongest while we are making dinner — so if I could just power through the 30 to 45 minutes it takes to get a meal on the table, I would be in the clear. It helps to have some good seltzers on hand (I like Spindrift; Naria has been known to pour seltzer into wine glasses with ice and a dash of kombucha), and last month, Andy even got into drinking those Tamarind Shrubs from PokPok. (More on that later.)

I Gave Myself a Week I’m not going to sit here and say it was a cakewalk from Day 1, but I will say that after a week I realized that I was waking up fresher, staying up later, and even making it through an entire 30-minute episode of Veep or a few chapters in whatever book I was taking to bed without crashing. That was big.

I Do Not Go on Instagram Close to 5:00 Nothing will crush my will faster than the photograph of a chilled Negroni taken in some seaside Italian village.

On the other hand, it’s not so terrible to have my will crushed every now and then. The other night — a Tuesday — I was firing up the grill to make some burgers. It had been one of those hot New York June days, but the evening was golden and the air was heavy with the scent of honeysuckle. It was almost physically impossible for me not to pour myself a glass of cold rose. And so I gave in. Because if there’s any hope of me following a rule like this, I can’t be afraid to break it every once in a while.

P.S. I feel the need to say the same thing I said last time I ran the photo illustrating this post: It’s doctored. But it still cracks me up every time.

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This is exactly what I do. I get a bottle of Asti Spumante, (I’m such an Essex girl!) on Friday night when I do my shopping and have a glass when I unpack and it usually lasts until Sunday afternoon, then nothing all week. Drink driving laws are quite stringent in Scotland and I have to drive for work, so it’s just not worth it and I know what I’m like, if it’s in the house I will drink it, if it’s not in the house I don’t miss it or seek it out, bit of a shame, I live a mile from the Glenmorangie distillery, but I would have a nip every evening if I had it in the house!


I made a similar decision about 2 years ago too. My rule is Monday thru Thursday except for
special occasions. I don’t always abide by the “rule” but I do feel better and more in control.

And that Glass of wine on Fridays is the BEST!

Thanks for sharing.


Thank you for sharing this. I’ve felt the same thing for awhile. This month, my husband and I decided to not bring any alcohol into the home. We could drink what was there (which was a bit of tequila and vodka) or have a drink while out, but we agreed not to bring anything home. With two high schoolers, and having tracked how much money we spent on alcohol the past two months, and having gained a bit of weight, we felt it was time to cut back.


I’m a no-judgment kind of person, too, when it comes to this but I’m totally onboard with this. And that’s in spite of having two small children and *wanting* to drink most nights (haha).

Alcohol affects your sleep cycle, it’s empty calories, and even one drink a day isn’t great for your liver (read a study on this and was surprised that you need to give yourself at least a 24 hr break in between drinks). So I’ll have a baby cocktail or split a beer with my husband every other night, or every couple of nights.

I do need to find a good low-calorie mocktail that’s free of artificial sweeteners. Anyone have recommendations? Straight seltzer is too gassy for me.

Lynn in Tucson

You drink (drank) very much like we drink and I’ve been thinking of doing the same thing.

Laura J

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and how it has worked out for you. I recently saw the study about drinking and the aging brain(https://consumer.healthday.com/general-health-information-16/misc-alcohol-news-13/even-moderate-drinking-may-dull-the-aging-brain-723441.html) and also decided to cut back. I need all the brain cells I have! Perhaps you could start sharing some mock tail recipes! Kids do have a way of changing how you look at things. Aren’t we lucky that they do.


My simplest and favorite mocktail is half mango lemonade (Simply lemonade makes a good one) and half seltzer water. The seltzer adds some fizz and cuts some of the sweet/sour strength of the lemonade, and it looks and tastes like a fancy cocktail. You can even dress it up by tossing in some raspberries or a sprig of mint or basil. It’s a handy drink for when you are hosting pregnant friends too (or are pregnant yourself).

Julie Chase

I just started this myself two weeks ago. Drinking only on weekends, unless I’m out. And it’s been easier than I thought and really great actually. My skin looks better, I feel better. I’ve lost a little weight. I found that fresh lemon in my water, getting through making dinner (that is so key, I love a glass of wine while chopping veggies, and a big mug of chamomille and mint tea at the end of the night are great ways to not miss that sip of sauv blanc.

My week at the shore starts Saturday, and though I will be indulging more I would like to at least have two days without alcohol. No more ‘WHOO, I’m down the shore, lets grab a beer for lunch!”


I feel like a hero if i can go Sunday to Wednesday w/o a cocktail (or any alcohol!)! I usually do take a few nights off. Mondays are easy. Tuesdays are not too hard. Wednesday (hump day!!) gets tricky. Thursday is sometimes my friday (flex schedule!), so there it is. I only drink one, but i sometimes follow up with a glass of wine (or 2). So, yes, moderation is always a good thing. (By the way, it’s negroni season!)

Patrice Berry

I applaud your fortitude to stick with this! Happy Hour is a sacred space in our day for sitting down with a glass of wine and talking about the day. But we recently decided that we, too, wanted to cut back on the alcohol, so instead of pouring a glass of wine, I make a wine cooler of sorts, more sparkling water than wine. I’ve had fun experimenting with different waters and add-ins, the point being that we’ve cut our alcohol consumption down by more than a half while still getting to have that glass of wine. We both feel better and sleep better and the added water aids in hydration as well. Great post!


I really love this! I absolutely romanticize alcohol (I LOVED your Bon Apetite article!) I might’ve had a terrible, soul-crushing day at the office, but homemade paella, a nice glass of red wine, and some Gypsy Kings on the speakers, eaten at the kitchen table with my fiance make me feel like a real person again. I’ve been making a conscious effort to cut out the “Do I really need this?” drinks. e.g. it’s one thing to prepare a nice dinner and pour a glass of wine to go with it, it’s much different to, out of habit, pour a slightly-too-strong vodka soda to pair with sad leftovers eaten on the couch in front of the TV. If I’m going to drink, it better be intentional, and it better be worth it! (I’m trying to do the same with food, for the record. No more scarfing down whatever is in the fridge, just because I’m the tiniest bit bored/stressed/sad/procrastinating!)

I definitely appreciate waking up without the weekday-hangover/headache thing that I had become oddly used to over the past few years…

Gosh, typing this stuff out makes weekday drinking sound a little scary, huh?


I hear you! After completely quitting alcohol for about 5 months, I now do it more or less like you, weekends only, usually Fri and Sat, but might go for a month or so without it. I am not sure you frown upon inclusion of links, so if you think I am stepping on a red line, please let me know, and delete my comment. But I thought you would maybe enjoy reading something I wrote a few months ago… on the very subject



So interesting. We also have been one-drink-per-evening drinkers for many years, and we loved the ritual of it. This spring my husband gave up alcohol during the week for weight control reasons. He was finding that not only was he getting the extra calories from the alcohol, but also after a beer or glass of wine he was more likely to pick at leftovers or help himself to seconds that he didn’t really need or want.

I have also been wanting to drop the Monday – Thursday glass of wine for different reasons. I need more energy in the evenings to get things done around the house, and once I’ve had that glass, I’m just too tired. But. But. It’s so hard. In fact, I’m a little bothered by how hard it is. It’s such an integral part of my dinner (I always have my wine with my food, not during prep time). When we all sit down at the table not having the wine makes it feel incomplete. And I’m a little horrified that I feel that way!

That said, I’m struck by your doctor’s comment about the children, and it’s a good point. I’ll resolve again. (On Monday!)


What interesting timing – I, too, recently decided to exercise a little more self control, mainly for better digestive health and clearer-headed mornings. The amazing thing is how uncomfortable it makes people when I don’t have a drink in my hand, and how much time I spend fending off pregnancy accusations! It really makes me re-examine why the cocktail is SUCH a requisite part of social gatherings, particularly as a grown woman with children. What I actually love is the feel of a cold glass in my hand, especially when it’s filled with Pellegrino and wedge of lime.


Thanks for sharing this! My husband and I starting doing the same thing about 1 year or so ago. It was mostly for health reasons at the time, he wanted to lose a few pounds, but I’ve come to feel so much better when I take a couple of days off (at least) in a row.

We have the added difficulty of both working in the wine business. We ALWAYS have great wine around the house, and often, it’s already open if we’ve have been our sampling for accounts. That’s really tough…because it’s free (I don’t feel bad about spending money) and because it’s already open (it’s going to go to waste!)

It took me a good couple of months not to crave a glass of wine or cocktail when I got home from work. It was really hard! It’s such a signal that the work day is over. After a couple of months, though, I stopped thinking about it at all. Now, after a couple of days of not drinking anything, I come to work feeling like a genius! It actually makes me laugh because I feel like I have a different brain.

We typically have wine on Friday and Saturday, and then maybe one day during the week. During the week, it would just be one glass of wine, but on Friday and Saturday, we have the tendency to drink quite a bit more. It’s really easy to have beer, and then share a bottle of wine. It’s like we kind of “make up for” not drinking during the week. Does anyone else have that issue? Any tips to keep weekend drinking in check?

In general, I feel like the attitude towards excessive drinking, and even minimal but frequent drinking, has changed drastically in just a couple of years. I think of it almost like smoking…it isn’t really “cool” to drink a lot anymore. It seems like it changed fast.


Moriah, I’ve been picking up these cans.


I love the bubbles and the pinot gris the most. A can is equal to half a bottle of wine. This helps eliminate the “but there’s an open bottle in the fridge I should finish” dilemma. It’s enough for a big glass for each of us or a two big glasses for me (when the mom struggle is real).


You’re going to laugh at me. This whole post (and your article, which I read,) made me want a drink!!!!
1. A few years ago my husband and I set this same practice in our lives, mostly for our kids (what would they think of us?).
2. Since I’ve been pregnant with, then nursing, our third baby, I’ve basically given up alcohol. I found it gets easier and easier- the not-drinking.
3. But we summer and boat and do enjoy the family compound- so your husband’s article about dark and stormiest was fun to read. We have been known to knock a few back at the cape.


My link to the article on Bon Appetite didn’t work but I get what you are saying. I gradually stopped week day drinking when I started exercising before work. Getting up early and working out hard keeps the rest of my day on track. Why blow it with extra calories after work? Like you with your gin and tonic, I loved a glass of wine while cooking dinner. I subbed out with a glass of seltzer and I’ve been doing really well. (plus I stopped reading the news and went off social media so the NEED to drink isn’t nearly as strong). I’ll have to dig up that Bon Appetite article.


I just came across “hello sunday morning” dot org– it’s goal is to encourage people to cut back or to abstain, without judgment– no shame, no blame. I think of drinking like I think of eating– I have been to Weight Watchers before because I know I have a tendency to make the less-good choice. I know WW is a “gimmick” of sorts because I already know what I should be eating– but it’s a means to becoming more conscious. This is how I see “hello sunday morning.” There are people who really need to abstain– and others, like you (and me), who just want to be more moderate. It’s so good for you, Jenny, to be honest about this– it’s a great and healthy self-assessment, and by sharing this you’re giving others a heads up to maybe do the same before the drink becomes a problem. Kudos– !


I’ve been awaiting this post ever since you hinted at the change in your weekday drinking months ago. I too am in the habit of having that cocktail or glass of wine while preparing dinner and would like for it be less habitual and more of an occasional decision. I must admit that it makes the witching hours around dinner and bedtime *feel* more manageable with my four-year-old… almost like a reward for parenting or just a full day of “adulting.” But your doctor’s words strike me, too; of course he’s watching my every drink. I would rather him see that cocktail as an occasional, responsible decision instead of a daily “must have.” As always, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your game plan!


I, too, picked up on this comment several months back (?) and was interested in your thoughts and process. Thank you for sharing something that is very honest and personal. That evening glass of wine feels like my own private sanctuary. Evenings in my house can be stressful and I don’t have any meaningful rituals with my spouse that are anything like what folks have described here…we are as distant as can be. So we all have our own reasons and motivation for a daily beverage :). But this does raise excellent points about what our kids observe. I have cut back significantly in the past few years, mostly so I could be fully present in the evenings with my girls. I don’t regret that decision at all, and I feel much more refreshed and in control in the morning. But sometimes Fridays can’t come soon enough!


I identify with the pre-dinner cocktail making, the ritual of it, the brief moment of “me time” in a long day of no me time. I feel that way about my morning coffee. Just one cup. But the grinding of the beans, the brewing, the smell, the first sip is my moment of zen and meditation. It gives me so much happiness.

I find my alcohol consumption is seasonal. I’m a summer drinker. A frosty cocktail or cold glass of wine sounds so inviting on a summer evening. I’m ok with the summer frequency because come fall, winter and spring-that craving is gone.



Thanks again for this post. I just started cutting back because I’m going to try to get pregnant for the first time beginning next month, and the thought of no daily drinking scares me a bit too much. I just bought a few of the Pok Pok soms, so I’d love to read any future mocktail recipes. Thanks again!


Thank you for writing this, and the Healthy-ish column. I, too, have thought about cutting back my weeknight drinks, but was never able to do it long term. The key word you used that really stuck me was “strive.” This is exactly what I needed to be able to abstain, while not judging myself for the occasional weeknight drink. Thank you!


Thank you for writing this! I’m in a different stage of life … 31, married, no kids. I’ve also been trying to cut back and while I’ve not found it too difficult to give up my at-home drinking, I’m still considering how to navigate my busy social calendar that involves a LOT of opportunities for drinking. I, too, find that the urge on weeknights is most strong while I’m cooking dinner but I’m a La Croix fanatic and pouring that in my favorite wine glass with a dash of bitters or a wedge of lime helps a lot! Anyway, thanks for being so open and honest in this post. Hearing others talk openly about their struggles with alcohol helps so much. I think it’s something that so many people struggle with but are afraid to talk about openly.


oh my gosh I could have written this. having a glass of wine while chopping veggies is one of my favorite ways to unwind after work, but like a lot of people here, I’d like to cut back. i’m definitely going to try some of these strategies!