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.
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.