Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Drinks’ Category

So: Soju

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Readers know that I’ve been watching various Korean series (Crash Landing on You, complete in 16 episodes; The Uncanny Counters ditto; both on Netflix), and as a result I’ve become increasingly curious about soju, a distilled spirit of relatively low proof — about 40 proof, or 20% alcohol (compare, say, a typical gin at 86 proof, 43% alcohol).

Soju is a neutral spirit distilled initially from fermented rice, but the leading brand now uses a mix of rice, barley, and tapioca. That leading brand is Jinro and their Classic Chamisul Soju has been their flagship product since 1924, and I just got a small bottle to try.

Jimro Classic Chamiusul soju has a pleasant, neutral taste. It’s very smooth, probably because it’s filtered through charcoal four times. I can see substituting it for gin or vodka in cocktails —to make a lower-proof Martini, for example. They also make a Fresh Chaimsul Soju, which I will also try at some point. Soju is often served chilled, though right now I’m trying it at room temperature.

Jinro soju has been the largest selling spirit in the world for more than a decade. Chum Churum is another big brand, also good (I read). Generally soju is served chilled (or in a cocktail), but it’s not bad at room temperature. Still, I put the rest of the bottle in the fridge.

More info here. It’s worth a try. I have also found several Korean restaurants here, which I’ll try once going to a restaurant is a thing again.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2021 at 5:27 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks, Food

Taiwan cauliflower and Shaoxing wine

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We did a shopping run and I got back to the supermarket with the Chinese veg. I got some Tung Ho, some Gai Pan Mue, some Shanghai bok choy mue, three long onions/Chinese leeks (look like giant scallions), and this head of Taiwan cauliflower. It’s not so evident in the photo unless you look closely, but the tiny florets, rather than being packed closely in a tight mass, are separate on tiny stalks, so it looks like cauliflower with bed hair. I can’t wait to cook it, probably with one of the long onions.

“Mue,” BTW, signifies a size smaller than “baby”: baby Shanghai bok choy (or baby regular bok choy) is small, but mue is smaller. If the bok choy were doing a dance in a Walt Disney animation, the “mue” would be the little guy at the end.

The Shaoxing wine is from a stop at the provincial liquor store. (There are also private liquor stores: a mixed alcohol ecosystem.) This is Pagoda 8 year old:

From the highest grade of the “Pagoda” Brand, Shaoxing Rice Wine has been selected as the drinking rice wine especially for the State Banquet by Zhong Nan Hai and the Great Hall since 1993.

I use it for cooking (a splash enhances soups, stews, and stir fries). It is pretty much equivalent to a sherry — an amontillado, say: fairly dry, with body.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 February 2021 at 5:36 pm

Evolution of the pink power juice slushie recipe

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I started with Dr. Greger’s relatively simple recipe, but gradually it has evolved. The photo above shows what I’m drinking right this minute. It is made as I described earlier. (At the link are three brief videos: Greger’s original, why erythritol is good, and why cranberries are good but commercial cranberry juice is not so hot.) That earlier recipe:

1 lemon, peeled as shown here
1/2 cup frozen mixed berries (blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries)
1 1/2 cups frozen cranberries (or enough to almost fill the beaker)
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts (omit if allergic to peanuts)
2 heaping tablespoons erythritol
3 tablespoons dried mint
1 teaspoon vanillin (artificial vanilla)
hibiscus tea to cover

But this I included several good dashes of Peychaud’s bitters. Very nice.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2021 at 3:32 pm

The Brandy Manhattan from the Upper Midwest

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I have mentioned in a previous post or two, when partaking of a Brandy Manhattan, how my friend Spaeth (from St. Cloud MN) told me that it was a quintessential Minnesota drink. As it turns out, its origins are in Wisconsin, from which it spread to Minnesota and other parts of the Upper Midwest. Unfortunately, the favored brand (Korbel) seems to be unavailable in Canada.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2021 at 5:05 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks, Memes

Enhancing Pink Power Juice; or, Gilding the Lily

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I often make this beverage as an afternoon treat, mixing it in the beaker that came with the immersion blender I use. Today I blended:

• 1 lemon, peeled as shown here
• 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries (blueberries,  blackberries, and raspberries)
• 1 1/2 cup frozen cranberries
• 1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts (omit if allergic to peanuts)
• 2 heaping tablespoons erythritol
• 3 tablespoons dried mint
• 1 teaspoon vanillin (artificial vanilla)
• hibiscus tea to cover

I blended it well and now I’m enjoying it.

After reading the article on vermouth quoted in the previous post, I was inclined to have some red vermouth on the rocks with a twist, but I have gradually come to realize that when I have a drink I almost invariably make unwise food choices (which and how much). So I dug around in my mind for something suitably enjoyable and festive and made this.

I do, BTW, very much like Carpano’s Antica Formula and often have that on hand for an aperitif or to use in making a Manhattan, though right now I have only Martini & Rossi.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 December 2020 at 3:54 pm

A Tale of Two Vermouths

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Laura Fraser has an interesting article in Craftsmanship magazine:

It all started when I was in the mood for a Negroni—a classic Italian cocktail that is herbaceous, bitter but balanced, and made from a combination of equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, with a twist of orange. But I was out of Campari, and wanted something less lethal than a martini, which left only the vermouth.

But who drinks vermouth by itself? It’s the dusty bottle at the back of the liquor cabinet, brought out only for the occasional Manhattan or martini–and viewed, in the latter case, with a good deal of suspicion. Winston Churchill’s instruction for a martini was, allegedly, to “drink a tumbler of gin and bow in the direction of France.” Alfred Hitchcock’s martini recipe called for “five parts gin and a quick glance at a bottle of vermouth.” The mania for the dry martini, beginning in the 1950s, made vermouth unfashionable. Only Julia Child championed the much-maligned, herb-infused wine, inventing the “reverse martini,” where the vermouth took center stage, with only a splash of gin.

Well. In matters of taste—and with nothing else open in the liquor cabinet–are you going to listen to gin-guzzling gourmands or a French-inspired gourmet? I poured some vermouth on the rocks, added a twist, and drank it more or less straight—the way, it turns out, Europeans have been drinking it for centuries. It was surprising: light and refreshing, while satisfying that Negroni-like urge for something complex with a bitterness that bites back. I did glance at the bottle, as Hitchcock suggested, and considered that if I’d opened a fresh one sometime within the past seven years, it might have tasted even better. Vermouth is mainly wine—and wine, once opened, even if infused with herbs and fortified with brandy—doesn’t keep forever.

ntrigued, I began tasting other vermouths, starting in Italy, and spreading out to new artisanal varieties being made in the United States. It turns out that while I was rediscovering vermouth, so were the craft cocktail crowd and small-batch vintners, who have made this old-fashioned drink hip again. “Fifteen years ago, no one in the U.S. knew what a Negroni was, and even in Italy, vermouth was out of fashion,” says wine expert Claudio Villani of InoVino in San Francisco, who is from Florence. “Then the bar became central in restaurants, and you needed a mixologist, seasonal ingredients, and hand-crafted cocktail mixers, including vermouth.” In Barcelona, people have been going mad for vermouth bars, drinking the aperitif during “La hora de vermut,” which usually lasts three hours, not one; Spaniards tend to like their vermouth poured from the tap over ice with an olive and an orange twist, accompanied with a selection of anchovies, olives, mussels, and other savory snacks.

These days, if you take a seat at a bar with a serious mixology program in Brooklyn or San Francisco and ask for a vermouth, they don’t look at you like you just asked for a glass of your grandmother’s sweet sherry. They’ll ask which of the many new artisan brands you’d prefer. There’s even a bar in my neighborhood in San Francisco, the Alembic, that serves Brown Label vermouth on tap, made on the other side of town by a man named Carl Sutton. This made me curious to compare his vermouth—and how upstarts like him make it—with the Italian giants who’ve been concocting secret vermouth recipes since the mid-18th century.


Despite the vermouth revival, most Americans—including me, until recently—don’t understand what vermouth is, nor do they necessarily care to find out. When I opened a bottle of Italian amber vermouth for friends before a dinner party—a delicacy I’d bought in a musty shop in Turin and carried home—it was met with wrinkled noses and a request for white wine. Part of vermouth’s tainted reputation in this country is that it has mainly been made cheaply and in bulk in California, the herb flavors masking poor-quality wine, and it’s often the choice of down-on-their-luck drunks. But vermouth—perhaps the most complexly-crafted of wines—is usually much, much better than that.

Essentially, vermouth is neutral-tasting white wine that has been flavored with aromatic herbs, roots, and bark, and fortified with a neutral grape spirit, like must or brandy. In Italy, the definition of vermouth is stricter, requiring that caramel may be the only coloring, that it ranges between 14.5% and 22% alcohol, and that it contains one essential ingredient: artemesia, otherwise known as wormwood. The word “vermouth,” it turns out, is derived from “wermut,” the German name for the bark of this tree. Artemisia absintheum is the variety of wormwood that goes into absinthe, and all types contain the compound thujone, which has been considered dangerous and hallucinogenic, though recent scientists have ascribed the supposedly psychoactive effects of absinthe to overindulgence in the alcohol itself. In any case, thujone was banned from the U.S. for many years, and continues to be strictly regulated, which has made it difficult in this country to make what the Italians consider a “real vermouth.”

The invention of aromatized wine has been credited to Hippocrates, who used wormwood, dittany, and other Greek herbs to create a medicinal wine to help with digestion; “wormwood” was actually a treatment for intestinal worms. It became known as “Hippocratic wine” throughout antiquity, and the Romans improved the recipe by adding more herbs, including thyme, rosemary, and celery. But vermouth didn’t achieve its modern character until the Middle Ages, when Marco Polo introduced spices to the region, and the Venetians began their monopoly trade in cinnamon, myrrh, cloves, ginger, rhubarb, and other exotic botanicals.

Piedmont, a wine region in the north of Italy, which had been producing Hippocratic wines since the 18th century and grew abundant aromatic plants in its hills, was one of the first areas to begin cultivating the new exotics. In 1786, Antonio Benedetto Carpano, of the Fratelli Branca’s Carpano Antica distillery, took aromatized wine one step further and is credited with creating the modern vermouth. (To this day, Antica Formula remains a popular brand worldwide). The Carpanos’ success inspired others around Turin, including the Cinzano family, which opened its vermouth facility in 1816. Three years earlier, in southern France,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 December 2020 at 3:19 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Drinks

Sheringham Distillery’s Kazuki Gin

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I realize that for most of my readers this incredibly good gin will not be obtainable.

Let the maker, Sheringham Distillery — just up the road in Sooke — describe it:

Kazuki Gin 和輝

Kazuki Gin was born out of love of both Eastern and Western botanicals and gin making techniques.

Alayne fell in love with Cherry Blossoms while living in Asia and Jason became intrigued with Yuzu as a professional chef. KAZU, meaning “harmony”, is the blending and respect for both East and West cultures. KI means “radiance” and is an ode to the radiant flavours of the botanicals as they dance on your palette. Cherry blossom petals and yuzu peel were imported from Japan. From Westholme Tea Farm we procured green tea leaves and flowers. Expect dynamic flavours from start to finish with the unique essence the Kazuki provides.

Made from our Vodka, with botanicals sourced locally and from Japan, including Japanese Cherry Blossoms and Green Tea + Flowers from Westholme Tea Farm in Cowichan Valley.



On that page, you’ll also find descriptions of Sheringham’s Seaside Gin (WORLD GIN AWARDS WORLD’S BEST CONTEMPORARY GIN 2019, among other awards) and their Akvavit (“Notes of dill, caraway, anise & citrus with a hint of the ocean from locally harvested winged kelp.”), also superb.

I don’t want to be a dick and just list incredibly good spirits not available, so let me add one from Victoria Distillers that is exported: Empress 1908 Gin, whose blue color is due to the inclusion of butterfly pea blossome in the botanicals. It’s totally wonderful (though, IMO, not quite so good as their Victoria Gin — but that’s not exported; Oaken Gin is also quite good).

Two other gins worth mentioning: Unruly Gin, from spirits distilled from mead (their slogan: “Fundamentally Against the Grain”) and Wallflower Gin, made from 100% BC-grown barley by Odd Society.

And — also available in the US — Bearface Whisky is worth seeking out, made from 100% corn. In a tasting when I visited The Son, Bearface bested Pappy Van Winkle.

This was a serious tasting, with multiple participants, as we played crokinole.

It occurs to me that I might be partial to single-grain spirits: Bearface (100% corn), Wallflower Gin (100% barley), and Canadian Club’s 100% Rye all seem quite good to me — and Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye is exceptional (though only 90% rye).

Written by LeisureGuy

8 November 2020 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks

Resveratrol not that much help — in fact, no help whatsoever

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Written by LeisureGuy

30 October 2020 at 3:40 pm

Cider from Salt Spring Island

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A nice bottle of local cider. We have several local cider houses. In addition to the above, there are Sea Cider and Merridale, both of whose ciders I have tasted. Merridale also makes spirits from their cider, and their gin is quite good. Sea Cider makes some very nice fortified ciders.

Perhaps I should refer to them as cideries, since they (obviously) their ciders are sold beyond their premises. But they do serve cider at the cidery.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 September 2020 at 6:44 pm

Posted in Drinks

Walkies, cold-smoked fish, and XP

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By the way I saw these flowers, though in fact there was an abundance — perhaps two — of flowers. This was just to show that I did indeed walk  — almost 1 1/2 miles (1.445 miles according to my odometer app) to the Finest at Sea local seafood store, where I purchased several cold-smoked fish. I just had some cold-smoked sable fish with Victoria Distillers Left Coast Hemp Vodka (scroll down here), which drinks very like a Martini from an alternate universe. I take it plain, on the rocks, though a twist would not be amiss. I’m now trying the cold-smoked albacore tuna. I prefer cold-smoked to hot-smoked because cold-smoked is closer to sashimi. And I also tried the cold smoked salmon. In order of preference (most preferred first): sablefish, albacore, salmon. That was a surprise.

And I’m going great guns in Duolingo’s Esperanto course. You’ll never catch me now. Note the trend in daily accumulation of XP. I have to say that I like Duolingo more and more as I understand what they’re up to and how they go about it. Eble mi komencis blogi en Esperanto….


Written by LeisureGuy

13 May 2020 at 4:48 pm

Easy, DIY Perpetual Buttermilk

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I like buttermilk, but I don’t eat much dairy at all any more. Still, I’ve got to try this. From the post at the link:

The proportions to use are 1 part buttermilk, 4 parts milk and 1/8 t. Kosher salt per cup of milk used.  The method is as simple as placing the ingredients in a clean jar, shaking well, and letting the jar sit on the counter for 24 hours.  At that time, the mixture should be thick and smell like buttermilk.  Place in refrigerator to store.

Save some of this buttermilk to make the next batch of buttermilk.  Just keep saving some of the previous buttermilk batch to start the next batch.

I wish you could see how nice and thick this buttermilk is, much thicker than the commercial buttermilk I started with.

Any milk can be used to make this: whole, low-fat (which is what I usually use), skim and even goat’s milk.  To make crème fraîche, stir 2 T. of the buttermilk into 1 cup of cream, cover and let stand 8 to 24 hours or until thick.

In particular, I want to make the crème fraîche.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 May 2020 at 9:59 am

Posted in Daily life, Drinks, Food, Recipes

A good Manhattan

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I usually have a Manhattan on the rocks, but straight up is very nice. The key is that the ice cubes be (a) very cold and (b) complete cubes (not crush or shattered, which would result in too much dilution). The key elements to success:

  1. A good sweet vermouth — Carpano Antica Formula is excellent but even a run-of-the-mill sweet vermouth Cinzano will co.

  2. Good bitters — I usually go with Angostura, but also use on occasion Peychard or Fee Brothers or local artisanal bitters.

  3. About 2 teaspoons of Grand Marnier — smooths the drink and provides a nice hint of orange.

  4. A good Canadian Rye — Odd Society’s Commodore is excellent, or Canadian Club 12 year old or Chairman’s Select, or Crown Royal Northern Harvest, or Lot 40, or … well, there are quite a few of them up here.

The total result is very nice, especially if you use a vegetable peeler to cut a strip of skin off a lemon and twist it over the drink.

I usually skip the cherry. But if I do use a cherry, a Luxardo cherry (the original maraschino cherry) is the only choice.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 April 2020 at 7:11 pm

Posted in Drinks

Beer bottles designed to be recycled as building blocks

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Nifty idea that has not yet taken off. Yuka Yoneda writes in habitat:

Upcycling is a 21st century term, coined by Cradle to Cradle authors William McDonough and Michael Braungart, but the idea of turning waste into useful products came to life brilliantly in 1963 with the Heineken WOBO (world bottle). Envisioned by beer brewer Alfred Heineken and designed by Dutch architect John Habraken, the “brick that holds beer” was ahead of its ecodesign time, letting beer lovers and builders alike drink and design all in one sitting.

Mr. Heineken’s idea came after a visit to the Caribbean where he saw two problems: beaches littered with bottles and a lack of affordable building materials. The WOBO became his vision to solve both the recycling and housing challenges that he had witnessed on the islands.

The final WOBO design came in two sizes – 350 and 500 mm versions that were meant to lay horizontally, interlock and layout in the same manner as ‘brick and mortar’ construction. One production run in 1963 yielded 100,000 bottles some of which were used to build a small shed on Mr. Heineken’s estate in Noordwijk, Netherlands. One of the construction challenges “was to find a way in which corners and openings could be made without cutting bottles,” said Mr. Habraken.

Despite the success of the first “world bottle” project, the  . . .

Continue reading.

It’s clever marketing because it encourages repeat business: “I have almost enough to finish the garden fence, then I’m going to start saving up for the shed…”

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2020 at 8:03 am

Cow-cohol: Vodka made from whey

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Luke Fater has an interesting article in Gastro Obscura:

SO LONG AS HUMANS HAVE enjoyed the bacterial miracle that is cheese, cheesemakers have struggled to make use of its byproduct: whey. Every pound of cheese produces about nine pounds of whey—the translucent liquid you may recognize from the top of a freshly opened tub of sour cream. Excess whey can fertilize fields or feed pigs, but artisanal creameries are often still hampered by massive amounts of leftover whey. They pay thousands of dollars to have it disposed of in landfills.

Luckily, a niche field of researchers and an eager group of craft creameries are taking an unexpected approach: turning all that whey into “vodka.”

Dr. Paul Hughes is an Assistant Professor of Distilled Spirits at Oregon State University, a nascent department and one of the few of its kind in the country. After an aspiring graduate student approached him about fermenting whey into a neutral spirits base, he began running experiments to prove that the solution was both environmentally sustainable and cost-effective for small creameries. His work showed that a cheesemaker selling cheese for $40 a pound could, with a proper fermentation system, make half again as much in retail sales on alcohol. In the last several years, he says, he’s been approached by more than a dozen creameries from across the country looking to ferment their whey into alcohol.

Todd Koch, owner of TMK Creamery in the rolling hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, remembers reading about Hughes’s work in the newspaper early last year. Large, corporate-owned creameries can afford the expensive equipment that converts whey into profitable products such as protein powder. But at his family-owned, 20-cow farmstand creamery, Koch and his wife simply fed their whey into the fields through a nutrient management system. Rather than continue to bury the byproduct, Koch decided to ferment as a means of profitably upcycling the whey while bringing visibility to his animals. He teamed up with Dr. Hughes and a nearby distiller to manufacture the creamery’s newest product: a clear, vodka-like liquor they call “Cowcohol.”

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2020 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Drinks

Alcoholics Anonymous vs. Other Approaches: The Evidence Is Now In

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I have been quite skeptical of the efficacy of Alcoholics Anonymous because of the lack of evidence, but it seems that my skepticism was unwarranted. Austin Frakt and  write in the NY Times:

For a long time, medical researchers were unsure whether Alcoholics Anonymous worked better than other approaches to treating people with alcohol use disorder. In 2006, a review of the evidence concluded we didn’t have enough evidence to judge.

That has changed.

An updated systematic review published Wednesday by the Cochrane Collaboration found that A.A. leads to increased rates and lengths of abstinence compared with other common treatments. On other measures, like drinks per day, it performs as well as approaches provided by individual therapists or doctors who don’t rely on A.A.’s peer connections.

What changed? In short, the latest review incorporates more and better evidence. The research is based on an analysis of 27 studies involving 10,565 participants.

The 2006 Cochrane Collaboration review was based on just eight studies, and ended with a call for more research to assess the program’s efficacy. In the intervening years, researchers answered the call. The newer review also applied standards that weeded out some weaker studies that drove earlier findings.

In the last decade or so, researchers have published a number of very high-quality randomized trials and quasi-experiments. Of the 27 studies in the new review, 21 have randomized designs. Together, these flip the conclusion.

“These results demonstrate A.A.’s effectiveness in helping people not only initiate but sustain abstinence and remission over the long term,” said the review’s lead author, John F. Kelly, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Recovery Research Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital. “The fact that A.A. is free and so widely available is also good news.

“It’s the closest thing in public health we have to a free lunch.”

Studies generally show that other treatments might result in about 15 percent to 25 percent of people who remain abstinent. With A.A., it’s somewhere between 22 percent and 37 percent (specific findings vary by study). Although A.A. may be better for many people, other approaches can work, too. And, as with any treatment, it doesn’t work perfectly all the time.

Rigorous study of programs like Alcoholics Anonymous is challenging because people self-select into them. Those who do so may be more motivated to abstain from drinking than those who don’t.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2020 at 6:37 pm

6 ways to take a break from drinking alcohol

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There really are not six ways — the title is from the NPR article by Allison Aubrey. There’s just one way: stop drinking alcohol for a period. It’s not rocket science: if the drink contains alcohol, do not put it into your mouth.

However, the article does offer some tips to make the break easier. I was not a heavy drinker, but when I switched to a whole-food plant-based diet, I quit drinking, and after a few months I noticed that I was able to persist better in regular tasks, and it became clear that even moderate drinking undermines constancy of purpose.

I am not a teetotaler, however, and I had some bubbly on my birthday and will have wine at holiday dinners. Still, the casual evening drink is out of the picture, and I do notice benefits. And it is not as though alcohol were required for a good diet.

The article begins:

If you’ve decided to take a break from drinking alcohol, you’re not alone. Breaking the booze habit, whether it’s for 30 days or longer, has its benefits. But for many people, the challenge is getting started.

Here are six strategies and tips to get you on your way.

1. Assess your relationship with alcohol

Think about what’s motivating you to take a break from alcohol. To begin the process, consider starting a journal. Rachel Kazez, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist with All Along, says begin with some basic questions to get a little perspective.

  • How often and how much am I drinking? What are the reasons I drink?
  • How do I feel before I drink? How do I feel afterward?

These are all simple questions — but once you start reflecting — your answers may surprise you. “It’s the act of stepping back and looking at one’s relationship with alcohol that we think is where the magic is,” says Aaron White of the National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health. He says here are some more questions to ask yourself:

  • How does alcohol affect your social relationships?
  • Do you get to work on time?
  • Are you hungover a lot?
  • Do you find yourself thinking about alcohol?

There’s no right or wrong answer here, and no judgment. Given that alcohol is so ubiquitous in our culture, some people drink out of habit and haven’t taken the time to take note of its effects. A break from drinking will give you this opportunity.

2. Make a plan

White says if you’re in the habit of having a glass of wine or beer every evening at 6:00 p.m., think about a habit that can replace the drinking.

“Do some yoga, go for a walk, watch something funny,” White says. “In other words, rather than just take away the behavior, replace the behavior with something that is healthier and more sustainable,” White says.

A dry month may lead you to rearrange your social calendar. “I made it a point to seek out social events that had other options,” says listener Elizabeth Greener.

Think about hobbies or activities that you’ve enjoyed in the past (perhaps dust off your tennis racket). Or take up something new: take a dance class, try your hand at painting, go ice-skating, how about curling? And find a friend to go with you, because not drinking may lead you to feel a bit isolated.

3. Notice changes in how you feel

Some people notice significant changes when they stop drinking. “Everything is better,” says Blair Benson. She says her skin tone improves and she feels less bloated. Her anecdote fits with a study of about 850 people who volunteered to abstain from alcohol for one month. At the end, 82% said they felt a sense of achievement. 62% reported “better sleep” and about half reported they lost some weight. Many of the participants said they had more energy, which fits with the experience of listener Sarah Black Sadler. “I definitely have more energy,” Sadler told us. “The biggest thing that I noticed is that I don’t need alcohol to have a good time with my friends.”

As for the health effects, White says it’s been clear for a long time that heavy drinking takes its toll, but now there’s emerging evidence that — even for moderate drinkers — a break from alcohol can be beneficial. “There is early evidence that even taking a one month break from fairly low levels of consumption reduces some burden on the liver,” White says.

What many people don’t realize is that alcohol produces a toxic effect on the body. As it breaks down, a by-product called acetaldehyde is produced. The liver gets rid of [acetaldehyde] pretty fast, but it is toxic and it damages the liver over time,” White says. Over time, it’s a driver of inflammation — and in heavy drinkers — sets the stage for cirrhosis.

“Alcohol is a poison that we happen to enjoy,” White says. It’s OK in moderate amounts — which means no more than 1 drink a day for women — no more than 2 per day for men.

4. . .

Continue reading.

See also “The Modern Mocktail: 3 Distinctive Nonalcoholic Drink Recipes.”

Written by LeisureGuy

2 February 2020 at 9:11 am

America’s favorite poison: Alcohol

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I have cut my use of alcohol from regularly to rarely, and mainly that is because I discovered the degree to which alcohol undermines constancy of purpose. I initially cut back for weight loss, and I’ve not been a heavy drinker in any case: wine with dinner from time to time, plus the occasional cocktail. But it was not rare for me to have a drink, which I enjoyed.

But then when I cut it out, I noticed a difference in how easily I could stick with things—like my diet, for example. The more time that went by without a drink, the more obvious the difference became. I am now quite wary of having a drink, which I’ll still do, but on the order of once a month, and only then for some special occasion.

So this article by Olga Khazan in the Atlantic caught my eye:

Occasionally, Elizabeth Bruenig unleashes a tweet for which she knows she’s sure to get dragged: She admits that she doesn’t drink.

Bruenig, a columnist at The New York Times with a sizable social-media following, told me that it usually begins with her tweeting something mildly inflammatory and totally unrelated to alcohol—e.g., The Star Wars prequels are actually good. Someone will accuse her of being drunk. She, in turn, will clarify that she doesn’t drink, and that she’s never been drunk. Inevitably, people will criticize her. You’re really missing out, they might say. Why would you deny yourself?

As Bruenig sees it, however, there’s more to be gained than lost in abstaining. In fact, she supports stronger restrictions on alcohol sales. Alcohol’s effects on crime and violence, in her view, are cause to reconsider some cities’ and states’ permissive attitudes toward things such as open-container laws and where alcohol can be sold.

Breunig’s outlook harks back to a time when there was a robust public discussion about the role of alcohol in society. Today, warnings about the devil drink will win you few friends. Sure, it’s fine if you want to join Alcoholics Anonymous or cut back on drinking to help yourself, and people are happy to tell you not to drink and drive. But Americans tend to reject general anti-alcohol advocacy with a vociferousness typically reserved for IRS auditors and after-period double-spacers. Pushing for, say, higher alcohol taxes gets you treated like an uptight school marm. Or worse, a neo-prohibitionist.

Unlike in previous generations, hardly any formal organizations are pushing to reduce the amount that Americans drink. Some groups oppose marijuana (by many measures a much safer drug than alcohol), gunspornjunk food, and virtually every other vice. Still, the main U.S. organizations I could track down that are by any definition anti-alcohol are Mothers Against Drunk Driving—which mainly focuses on just that—and a small nonprofit in California called Alcohol Justice. In a country where there is an interest group for everything, one of the biggest public-health threats is largely allowed a free pass. And there are deep historical and commercial reasons why.

Americans would be justified in treating alcohol with the same wariness they have toward other drugs. Beyond how it tastes and feels, there’s very little good to say about the health impacts of booze. The idea that a glass or two of red wine a day is healthy is now considered dubious. At best, slight heart-health benefits are associated with moderate drinking, and most health experts say you shouldn’t start drinking for the health benefits if you don’t drink already. As one major study recently put it, “Our results show that the safest level of drinking is none.”

Alcohol’s byproducts wreak havoc on the cells, raising the risk of liver disease, heart failure, dementia, seven types of cancer, and fetal alcohol syndrome. Just this month, researchers reported that the number of alcohol-related deaths in the United States more than doubled in two decades, going up to 73,000 in 2017. As the journalist Stephanie Mencimer wrote in a 2018 Mother Jones article, alcohol-related breast cancer kills more than twice as many American women as drunk drivers do. Many people drink to relax, but it turns out that booze isn’t even very good at that. It seems to have a boomerang effect on anxiety, soothing it at first but bringing it roaring back later.

Despite these grim statistics, Americans embrace and encourage drinking far more than they do similar vices. Alcohol is the one drug almost universally accepted at social gatherings that routinely kills people. Cigarette smoking remains responsible for the deaths of nearly 500,000 Americans each year, but the number of smokers has been dropping for decades. And few companies could legally stock a work happy hour with joints and bongs, which have never caused a lethal overdose, but many bosses ply their workers with alcohol, which can be poisonous in large quantities.

America arrived at this point in part because the end of Prohibition took the wind out of the sails of temperance groups. When the nation’s 13-year ban on alcohol ended in 1933, alcohol control was left up to states and municipalities to regulate. (This is why there are now dry counties and states where you can’t buy alcohol in grocery stores.) At the national level, anti-alcohol efforts were “tainted with an aura of failure,” writes the wine historian Rod Phillips in Alcohol: A History. Membership in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, the original prohibitionist group, declined from more than 2 million in 1920 to fewer than half a million in 1940. Some Christian groups continued to push for restrictions on things such as liquor advertising throughout the ’40s and ’50s. But eventually alcohol dropped off as a major national political issue and was eclipsed by President Richard Nixon’s war on drugs such as marijuana and heroin.

This dearth of anti-alcohol advocacy was met with a gradual shift in the way Americans began to view alcoholism—and with commercial interests that were ready to step into the breach. When Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935, it portrayed alcoholism as a disease rather than a moral scourge on society, says Aaron Cowan, a history professor at Slippery Rock University, in Pennsylvania. (In time, the medical community would come to agree with the idea of alcohol abuse as a medical disorder.) By emphasizing individual rather than social reform, the organization helped cement the idea that the problem was not alcohol writ large, but the small percentage of people who could not drink alcohol without becoming addicted. The thinking became, If you have a problem with alcohol, why don’t you get help? Why ruin everyone else’s fun?

Of course, many people have a normal relationship with alcohol, which has been a fixture of social life since the time of the Sumerians and ancient Egyptians. But today, what actually constitutes a “normal” relationship with alcohol can be difficult to determine, because Americans’ views have been influenced by decades of careful marketing and lobbying efforts. Specifically, beer, wine, and spirit manufacturers have repeatedly tried to normalize and exculpate drinking. “The alcohol industry has done a great job of marketing the product, of funding university research looking at the benefits of alcohol, and using its influence to frame the issue as one of ‘The problem is hazardous drinking, and as long as you drink safely, you’re fine,’” says Michael Siegel, a professor of community health sciences at Boston University.

During World War II, the brewing industry recast beer as a “moderate beverage” that was good for soldiers’ morale. One United States Brewers’ Foundation ad from 1944 . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

14 January 2020 at 5:36 pm

Why You Should Rethink Alcohol in Moderation

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Ayala Laufer-Cahana M.D. writes in Medium:

Many health conscious people believe that drinking in moderation is good for you.

I, like most doctors, was trained on this advice. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans — and for many other nations — used to recommend 1–2 alcoholic beverages a day, stating that “alcohol may have beneficial effects when consumed in moderation.”

The science has since moved on, as have the nutrition guidelines, but public knowledge has not. The last thing the 2 billion people who enjoy alcohol regularly want to hear is that alcohol’s alleged health benefits stand on shaky legs, and there are too many interested parties that continue to push this belief.

It’s an inconvenient truth, but the time has come to revisit the widely held idea that alcohol promotes health, because better data contradicts it.

The makings of wine as a health food are closely associated with the French paradox. Epidemiological studies in the 1980s reported the paradoxical observation, that French people have lower rates of heart disease, despite their luxurious, butter-heavy diet. A 60 Minutes broadcast on the subject, ending with Morely Safer holding a glass of red wine, suggested that the secret to heart health “may lie in this inviting glass.” Sales of red wine shot up 40 percent the next year, and wine makers quickly adopted the health food halo.

Wine contains antioxidants and resveratrol, and might increase HDL, the good cholesterol. It seems perfectly plausible that it could improve vascular health.

Alas, there probably is no French paradox. Further studies found the paradox to be an illusion, a distortion, a result of inconsistent disease reporting and other factors.

The most persuasive evidence tying moderate drinking with health is the famous J curve, in which studies show that the risk of death declines with low levels of alcohol intake and then rises proportionately with higher levels of drinking. In other words, moderate drinkers have a lower risk than teetotalers.

Better research, however, flattened the J curve. After adjusting for confounders — the most important bias is reverse causality: sick, frail people tend to stop drinking — it looks like the more people drink the greater their risk of all kind mortality. Apparently, the question “do you drink” is very different from “have you ever been drinking.” When you remove recent quitters from the studies the positive effect of moderate drinking greatly diminishes.

A new study that included 600,000 from 19 countries, published in the Lancet looked at alcohol consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, stroke and heart failure. The study included only people who currently drink, in order to avoid the bias risk posed by including sick people who avoid alcohol for health reasons.

Alcohol was associated higher risk of stroke, heart failure, aortic aneurism and hypertensive disease, the greater the drinking the higher the risk, and there was no threshold at which drinking was safe, or seemed beneficial.

When it came to non-fatal heart attacks, however, moderate alcohol intake slightly lowered the risk.

Alcohol consumption was positively associated with all cause death, with the lowest odds of dying among people who drank about 5 drinks a week or less.

The authors estimate that for men, reducing drinking from the current suggested upper limit of 2 drinks a day, to no more than 5 a week, would add on average 1–2 years of life.

This study reached the same conclusion as better-conducted recent studies, and studies using genetic randomization.

As alluded above, it’s very hard to disentangle people’s lifestyle habits, and if you look at populations of never-drinkers, such as Seventh-day Day Adventists, who do have lower rates of heart disease, you can’t really know if not drinking alcohol improved or worsened their outcomes, as they usually lead a healthier than average lifestyle, and don’t smoke or eat meat. There is, however, a gene variant that is associated with lighter drinking that has been helpful in alcohol research. People who inherit a certain genetic variant of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol tend to . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 January 2020 at 2:29 pm

The Unexpected Joy of Repeat Experiences

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If I’ve enjoyed them a lot, I reread books and rewatch movies and relisten to music and repeat meals and drinks — and I would bet that you do as well. Revisiting the familiar can be very pleasurable and surprisingly often one discovers some new aspect of it. Leah Fessler comments in the NY Times on this pleasure:

Scrolling through Instagram can quickly convince you that everyone’s life is more interesting than yours. During a particularly adventurous week on Instagram Stories recently, I saw water skiing in Maui, hiking in Yosemite, and swimming with wild pigs in Bermuda. Wild pigs!

Impulsively, I started Googling flights to new places. Then I ordered pho from the same Vietnamese place I eat at every week and … felt bad about not trying somewhere new.

This fear of missing out is rooted in a common psychological tic: Evolutionarily, we’re disposed to find novel experiences more exciting and attention-grabbing than repeat experiences, according to research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. It’s basically fight or flight psychology — our brains can’t process all the stimuli around us, so we evolved to pay attention to new, flashy, and potentially dangerous things more intently than familiar things, which we’ve seen enough to know they’re not dangerous. What’s more, words like “repetition” and “repetitiveness” — unlike “novelty” — tend to be associated with more negative emotions, said Michael Norton, a professor at Harvard Business School.

“Classic research shows that when we think about upcoming experiences, we think about variety,” said Mr. Norton, who specializes in consumer behavior. “If I ask you right now to select a yogurt for each day next week, you’ll pick your favorite flavor — say, blueberry — a few times, but you’ll mix in some strawberry and peach. Because who wants to eat that much blueberry yogurt? Over the longer term, though, as the original experience fades in time and memory, repetition can become more pleasurable.”

He added: “We’re simply more boring than we’d like to admit.”

Our obsession with novelty is also enhanced by the influencer and experience economies, which confer social status based on how many new things you can do, see and buy, as Leah Prinzivalli unpacks in a recent article documenting the rise of Instagram to-do lists. This can be emotionally and financially draining: Few of us have the time or money to regularly indulge new experiences, which can lead us to feel bad about our lives’ monotony. However, recent research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology about repeat and novel experiences suggests we ought to reconsider how we digest those feelings of monotony.

This research centers on hedonic adaptation — when an identical stimulus provides less pleasure the more it’s consumed.

Some previous research has painted a negative picture of repeat experiences, citing that doing the same thing twice can feel inherently less valuable. But Ed O’Brien, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, wondered whether behavioral science misconstrued hedonic adaptation, and people actually underestimate how positively they react to repeat experiences. Many of us happily listen to our favorite song on repeat, he noted, or rewatch favorite movies and TV shows. This repetition was the whole point of purchasing music or film before the age of Spotify and Netflix. This conflict is why Mr. O’Brien launched a series of studies on the topic. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2019 at 9:45 am

Coffee and health

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Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2019 at 12:30 pm

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