Dramuary: celebrating the demon drink
Ignore the sirens of sobriety imploring you to have a 'Dry January', and have a wee drink every day.
Is cava poisoning a thing? Can you actually get that? If so, I think I may have been suffering from it a little yesterday, after a very enjoyable New Year’s Eve party. In normal circumstances, that might be a sign to take it easy on the booze front. But an irritating new trend has got me reaching for the Johnnie Walker.
The model is Movember – the new fad for men growing moustaches in November to raise money for cancer research and other causes, which appears to have begun in Australia a decade ago and spread like bindweed to the rest of the world. In place of ‘awareness ribbons’ and wristbands, we have a month of hairy upper lips. And now we have ‘Dryathlon’: staying off the sauce for a whole month for charidee, as promoted by Cancer Research UK (CRUK). You donate to CRUK the cost of the sherberts you would have consumed between New Year’s Day and 31 January, and you get people to sponsor you to do it. Result? Healthy, non-hungover you and more cash to ‘help beat cancer sooner’.
Alcohol Concern is in on the act, too, with ‘Dry January’: ‘Feel better. Save money. Make a difference. Your chance to ditch the hangover, reduce the waistline, and save the pennies. Your mission: to avoid that cheeky after-work pint, that glass of wine on the sofa, or that big boozy night out, for the whole month.’ And if you want to give the spare cash to Alcohol Concern, that suits the fun-loving ‘charity’ just fine.
Now, most of us do cut back in January, as it happens. After a fortnight of heavier-than-usual boozing, with its climax in the fizzfest that is welcoming in the new year, frankly we’re all a bit skint and a bit hungover. Taking it easy for a while makes you appreciate it all the more the next time you go out for a few pints. But in recent years, the likes of CRUK and Alcohol Concern have devoted themselves so much to the fine art of berating us about our personal habits that the idea of following their lead sticks in the throat as painfully as the olive-sheathed cocktail stick from a martini.
This new year, we’re drowning in alcohol-related advice, from the World Cancer Research Fund’s warning that we discount the calories in alcohol at our peril (one glass of wine equals two biscuits – oh the horror!) to the claim that the UK’s laughably low safe-drinking guideline levels are actually too high. There will be health warnings about wine gums next.
In the midst of all this self-righteous lecturing, I feel a similarly righteous urge to kick back. Yes, we all know alcohol is bad for us if we overdo it. We don’t buy someone a drink by asking ‘what’s your poison?’ for nothing. And there really is no greater waste than someone who spends most of their time blotto. It’s not big and it’s not clever. Fortunately, alcohol comes with a built-in regulatory mechanism: the hangover, the ideal aversion therapy when you’ve had one over the eight.
Alcohol is also a wonderful social lubricant, and an aid to relaxation. That’s why in pretty much every culture on Earth, people like to have a few drinks to wind down, and why almost every social gathering around the world is accompanied by alcohol. The Gospel of John tells us that when the guests at the wedding feast in Cana ran out of wine, the Son of God himself turned water into wine to keep the party going. What greater seal of approval could there be? If you prefer medical to religious validation, it’s worth noting that teetotallers seem to have shorter life expectancies than those who drink in (relative) moderation.
Instead of damning alcohol, we should be praising its role in oiling the wheels of society. And we should raise a digit to the moralisers at the same time. So rather than dodging the booze for a month, how about committing to having a wee drink every day instead? The pub landlords of the nation – who need your support more than ever at this time of year – would no doubt be very appreciative. And if there were ever a time of year when we could all do with a drink, it is the current month of long nights, short days and cold weather.
Let’s call it ‘Dramuary’. Despite the name, don’t feel obliged to drink whisky – any drink will do. Just mark each day with a little snifter of something in praise of the benefits of ethanol. Get your friends to sponsor you by, er, paying for the drink. Save a fortune on the ill-considered gym membership you were going to take out and go to the pub instead. Anything rather than bow down to the sirens of sobriety. You know it makes sense.
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