Call For Projects: A Decent Alcohol-Free Option
Recap: Call For Projects is the part of my website where I call upon the generosity of the reader to develop and complete a project idea that I know in my heart of hearts I'm never actually going to get around to starting, let alone completing. Each CfP will probably be an idea way out of my field of expertise. In fact, I'm going to go so far as to guarantee here that each will definitely be out of my field of expertise. But who knows, it might be in yours. And one of us needs to make it happen. And, y'know, it doesn't look like it's going to be me... A drink, or range of drinks, sold in pubs or bars that contain zero alcohol but aren’t ‘buzz kills’. Going out ‘drinking’ of an evening is such an important social activity. At the end of the day the conversation will go to places that it otherwise wouldn’t in any other social environment. It has its own kind of intimacy. Be it with a group, blowing off steam after a hard week, or with just a couple of friends, talking through the things you’re currently dealing with in your life, it is all kinds of therapy rolled into one. But not everyone can drink alcohol all the time, and some can't drink it at all. And there isn’t really a decent alternative for people that can’t. Yes, there’s alcohol-free beer but I find that kind of a social buzz-kill. It only highlights that you are not drinking alcohol, by sort of going through the pretence that you are. It comes with the implication that you are only drinking alcohol-free beer because you want to fit in, not because you actually want to drink it. So it's a far from ideal option. And also, not everyone likes beer. And some people don’t drink alcohol for religious reasons, and to go for an alcohol-free option of an alcoholic drink can still feel like a betrayal of their principles. There are so many times when I haven’t been able to drink, or people in the group I’m in can’t drink. Just being a designated driver is an obvious example. And if there was an option that was actually appealing, whoever produced it could make a ton of money! First off, I think what’s needed is not one alternative option, but many. Because each option is nearly always bad for someone in the group. The more options available, the less likely that is to happen. Such as? Well, Alcohol is a stimulant, obviously, that tends to reduce anxiety and self-consciousness in social situations, so it’s easy to see why it has become the ‘social lubricant’ that it is. It’s a mind-altering drug, basically (which is why you can’t drink and drive). But I don’t think you need a drug to be a social lubricant. A really good meal, for example, can have the same effect. The pleasure from the food can help to relax the diners and help the conversation to flow, even if no alcohol is consumed. But good restaurant meals are expensive, and often you want to eat dinner at home and then go out. I think something like a drink. Or even a smoke, if it’s possible to use vaping technology to come up with a way that has no ill health effects. I don’t know how it will be consumed, to be honest. But the world is full of strange herbs, spices, flavours, substances… Coffee is an option that I’ve often gone for, when it’s available. But I’m a freak who can drink coffee at 11pm and not have it mess up my sleep (or not so I notice at least). And not everyone can do caffeine. But I think that’s a step in the right direction. What I do know is what kind of experience it should be. It shouldn’t be sweet. It shouldn’t feel like candy, because that will just get sickly. It should be a complex flavour. And… weirdly, it should take a bit of work. Drinking, smoking and a lot of foods can seem disgusting when you first try them as a child. Alcohol makes you wince. Smoking makes you cough. Coffee tastes bitter. Mushrooms look like Nothing Good Will Come From Them. But they all have a flavour which takes some getting used to. Which are not pleasurable right away, but once you get used to them you can have them again and again without getting sick of the taste. Whereas an evening of ‘mocktails’… much like alcohol-free beer, it lacks that ‘bite’ whilst simultaneously drawing attention to the thing it lacks. In my ideal world, you’d have pubs and bars that would stock a number of different options you might want for their own sake but that happen not to have alcohol in. But you’d also have late night coffee-house type places, where you can choose to not be around a lot of drunk people - which sometimes I want: still to go out and socialise, but to be somewhere where everyone is loud and boisterous. People of the internet, can you make this happen?