The Search for the Ultimate Low-Alcohol Cocktail

Drink Features Low Alcohol Cocktails
The Search for the Ultimate Low-Alcohol Cocktail

My kids bounce. I watch them every day jumping off the swing or eating shit on their bikes and they hit the ground hard, but pop right back up. Sometimes there are tears and blood, but after a minute, everything’s fine. That’s the beauty of being a child: you’re like rubber. I remember when I bounced. When I was a kid, my brothers and I would take turns jumping off the roof, trying to turn trash bags and umbrellas into parachutes. We knew it probably wouldn’t work, but the risk/reward was in our favor because the ground is soft when you’re a kid. Squishy. You just land, roll and get up. No problem.

I don’t bounce anymore. I know this because I recently broke my arm while playing softball. It wasn’t even a dramatic play. I just landed wrong, and instead of bouncing, I broke. This is my first broken bone, but something tells me it won’t be the last. Because apparently, I’m old and brittle now. I have to start worrying about slipping when I get out of the bathtub.

Every time I have a birthday, some asshole will tell me that my new age is when shit starts to fall apart.

“32, huh? That’s when my knees gave out. You just wait.”

“You’re turning 40? Oh man, that’s when my metabolism slowed down and I grew man breasts.”

I get it. The downside of aging is pretty well documented (see bad knees, man breasts above). But it’s not so much that I can’t do the things that I used to do—it’s that my recovery time has increased significantly. I can still hold my own on the basketball court, but my wife will have to help me get out of bed for the next three days. The risk/reward is no longer in my favor.

Take drinking. I can still drink for hours on end and perform surgery (years of practice). I just can’t handle the hangovers anymore. In my 20s, I could drink cheap beer and Jack Daniels all night, get two hours of sleep then put in a full day at work, as long as I made a morning pilgrimage to McDonalds for a large Coke with extra ice and two Egg McMuffins. The recipe worked like a charm. Also, throwing up in the office bathroom helped.

Now, a night of drinking puts me down for two solid days, no matter how many Egg McMuffins I eat. Forget about working the next day; I can only muster enough brain power to watch episodes of Archer in between naps.

So, I don’t drink as much as I used to, which from what I read is probably good for me, physically speaking. Emotionally, not drinking isn’t really working out, because I really like drinking. Beer is good. Whiskey is good. Cocktails are good. I’m particularly fond of the Boulevardier, which is basically a Negroni for whiskey lovers. It’s more or less equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth and rye (instead of gin, which makes it a Negroni). Put all of it in a glass with ice, stir and garnish with a twist of orange and you have what is, in my mind, the perfect cocktail. And the perfect cocktail is a hard thing to give up, but according to numerous studies and years of scientific research, when I have one Boulevardier I’m 99% more likely to have a second Boulevardier. And once I’ve had two Boulevardiers I’m more likely to keep drinking them until my wife yells at me for trying to go to sleep in our front yard.

And then of course, the next two days is just a blur of Archer and naps. So, I’m getting into low-alcohol cocktails these days. I used to scoff at the notion of a low-octane beverage. As one who was raised on Everclear-based hunch punch, I couldn’t comprehend willingly having a drink with less alcohol in it.

But I’m wiser now. And this new interest in low-ABV cocktails is my desperate attempt at self-preservation while also still trying to cling to my younger self. Call it a journey of personal growth, as I navigate the world of easy-drinking cocktails. I’m just like a character in a Tolkien novel, but this journey has less elves.

And here’s what I’ve discovered about life through this journey:

1)The Aperol Spritz is good. The combo of prosecco, Aperol and a bit of soda is huge in Italy, and rightly so. It’s refreshing and won’t knock you on your ass.

2)When you’re trying not to drink so much, it’s important to always have a drink in your hand. Kind of like when ex-smokers still need to hang onto a cigarette. It just feels right to have a glass of something in my hand.

3)There’s no such thing as a perfect low-alcohol cocktail. When you take the whiskey or gin out of the mixture, the drink lacks depth. It’s like a Wilco show without Jeff Tweedy. But…

4)The Campari-Soda is pretty damn good.

This super simple cocktail has become my go-to drink when I’m trying to keep a handle on things. A couple of ounces of Campari over ice, topped with seltzer water. That’s it. And don’t forget the twist of orange, which helps fool your hippocampus into thinking you’re drinking a real cocktail. No, it doesn’t taste exactly like a Boulevardier, but it has some of the same bittersweet elements and it won’t relegate me to two days of watching a cartoon man-child navigate the world of international spies. And I’ll cheers to that.

So, here’s to low-alcohol cocktails. For those of us who don’t bounce anymore.

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