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Summer sips that skip the alcohol

Booze has been the default at social gatherings for generations, but that’s starting to change as more people look to serve zero-proof drinks that allow everyone to feel comfortable.

Being sober is finally becoming mainstream, with the pressure off to justify to others why you’re not drinking alcohol. Perhaps you’re trying out a sober lifestyle or have decided to limit your drinking for any number of reasons – health being one of the biggies.

Testing the sobriety waters
About one quarter of Canadians already choose not to consume alcohol. Canada’s low-risk guidelines for drinking alcohol recommend people limit their consumption to two drinks or less per week. The fact is no amount of alcohol is truly safe, and the more you drink, the more you increase your risk for cancer, heart disease and stroke.

But skipping alcohol doesn’t mean skipping the fun. If you’ve decided to take the plunge this summer, there’s lots of options available so you can still enjoy a cold, fun drink at your next barbecue.

The local connection
The growing demand for zero-proof drinks means you’re no longer limited to soft drinks or juice. More bars and restaurants have creative booze-free cocktails on the menu that are often prepared with the same level of craft and care as other beverages.

You can find lots of pre-made alcohol alternatives sold by the can, including alcohol-free beer and cocktails. Local wineries, cideries and breweries are crafting alcohol-free versions of their top beverages. Try a non-alcoholic version of a drink you already love – you might be surprised how good it tastes.

And don’t forget kombucha – it’s delicious on its own or as an ingredient in your zero-proof concoctions. You can also brew your own at home – an easy, hands-off process that lets you personalize the flavour.

Mix your own
You can source non-alcoholic alternatives to spirits like gin, rum and vermouth that give the same intensity and mouth feel of the original beverages. But you can also do a lot with items that are easy to find at the grocery store or even in your own garden. Experiment with fresh herbs, baking extracts and simple syrups you can make yourself to take your homemade drinks to the next level (keep in mind that many alcohol-free cocktails still contain a lot of sugar, so pace yourself!).

Here’s some recipes to get you started: raid your summer garden to create this Cucumber Thyme Fizz. Mint, lemons, limes and sparkling water are all featured in this sparking mojito lemonade. This watermelon non-alcoholic margarita is a refreshing blend of sweet and tart. Balsamic vinegar is a flavourful and complex swap for booze in this zero-proof Pimm’s Cup. And here’s a simple zero-proof sparkling beer cocktail features non-alcoholic pale ale, tonic water and lime.

For more creative summer drink ideas, check out this Facebook post by Nova Scotia Health Mental Health and Addictions.

Find support
If you’re quitting alcohol for good and need support, check out the Mental Health and Addictions website. For a comprehensive list of the support available in Halifax, check out Sober City. This group has resources for sober and sober-curious people, including a database of restaurants and bars that offer non-alcoholic drinks and an atmosphere that’s friendly for people who aren’t drinking. Keep an eye on social media, too, as community groups across Nova Scotia are starting to host more in-person and online events for people who are exploring the sober lifestyle.

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