It's the weekend, which means it's time for a pub crawl! Yes, in January. And no, I'm not careering off the wagon already, because this month (and beyond?) it's all about the Mindful Pub Crawl.
What's the best thing about a pub crawl? Think about this. It's not actually the booze (you can get that down Tesco) but the pub atmosphere and the friends you're crawling with. The drinks are just there to oil the wheels of social connection over dodgy carpets.
So do you actually need to drink on a pub crawl? Absolutely not says Laura Willoughby, founder of Club Soda, a movement which aims to help people cut down or go alcohol free and has just launched the Club Soda Guide, the first ever pub guide for mindful drinkers.
There are lots of reasons to be more mindful about your drinking. You could be on a diet, hungover from the night before, cutting down on booze and/or sugar, have a big day tomorrow, be driving, be trying to get pregnant or maybe you just don't fancy drinking tonight. But that shouldn't mean you have to hibernate or miss out on fun times with your friends in a good old British boozer.
Today one in four young people are teetotal, 30% of people in the average venue won’t be drinking tonight and there are one-and-a-half million Londoners actively trying to moderate their drinking in some way. And with four pubs closing every day, there is a need for these old-school venues to step up and tap into this new modern drinker audience if they want to survive.
The Club Soda Guide features some of London’s best bars and pubs for low and no alcohol options, so that punters can find venues that are good for both socialising and their health. Genius.
The guide, just launched in East London, lists nearly 200 of the best pubs and bars in Hackney and the City, each marked out of five based on their range of low and no alcohol drinks (the start-up plans to go nationwide with the guide later in 2017).
Use it to create your own with the help of their mindful pub crawl pack, or join one of the official Club Soda ones which are free but you have to buy your own drinks. 60 people turned up to the first one last week which took in The Draft House and Plough Place in Hackney and Ye Olde Cock Tavern on Fleet Street, all of which rated 5/5 in the guide.
Laura and co-founder ex-City banker Jussi Tolvi said: “If we want our pubs to stay on the high street, we need to stay friends. You want them to stock a great tipple: they want to know what drinks will keep you coming back. We created the Club Soda Guide to help everyone discover good places for mindful drinking and we are convinced everyone can go to the pub and stay healthy."
Yes, there will be some willpower needed, but the more people you get involved the easier it will be, and January is the perfect time to start the conversation about more mindful drinking with your mates. Possibly in a pub over a Virgin Mary. They will definitely thank you the morning after.
WHAT TO DRINK - with thanks to the Club Soda Guide
1. APER-LOW SPRITZ
Aperol is actually quite low in alcohol at 11% ABV and if you use 50ml in a glass and top that up with lemonade (220ml) and a dash of soda water then it’s down to 2-3% (less than half a unit). Add a handful of ice and a slice of orange, and you’ve got a great refreshing drink.
2. CLEAN AND DIRTY FLOWER
This is a non-alcoholic version of Dirty Flower. Mix an alcohol-free wheat beer with elderflower cordial. Simple and light.
3. STEELWORKS COLA
Combine cola and ginger beer with a dash of bitters (even the oldest old man pub has a little bottle of bitters somewhere) and add lemon juice to taste. Bitter, spicy, with a hint of sharpness.
4. A B&T (BITTER & TONIC)
Add a dash of angostura bitters to tonic water for a simple drink with a big, punchy flavour.
For more information on Club Soda and mindful drinking