Earl Grey’s Orchard

Warm, creamy, aromatic and tart…this one’s a goody!

With a base of fragrant mulled apple juice, topped with a head of chilled Chantilly cream, it ain’t doing your waistline any favours, but it is so, so worth it.

You’ll need:

  • 1 L apple juice
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 1/2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 tsp honey
  • zest of half an orange
  • 2 Earl Grey teabags

For Chantilly cream:

  • 100 mLs full fat cream
  • 1 tsp icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

This will make 4 short glasses or 2 tall ones.

Add your mulled apple juice ingredients to a saucepan and simmer over a low heat for 10 – 15 minutes.

While your apple liquid is simmering, whip the cream with icing sugar and nutmeg. Once thick, leave in the fridge to chill.

After simmering, set aside your apple liquid to cool for 5-10 minutes.

It should still be fairly hot when you pour into glasses.


Dollop your chilled cream on top. It should melt slightly, but float.

The tangy apple cuts through the cream, perfumed with Earl Grey tea and spices. It’ll set your taste buds singing!

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Six Good Things

I like to think that I’m a ‘glass half full’ kinda gal most of the time. I’m a big believer in the power of positive attitude and I try to find a silver lining to any shitty situation. But I’d be lying if I said that sobriety has been a walk in the park so far – sometimes you just can’t force happiness and sometimes you’ve just got to have a big fat whinge.

Lately though, my brain chemicals seem to be falling into line and I’ve been feeling better, feeling steadier. I don’t want to jinx anything, but it feels like optimism is tentatively creeping back into my life. It’s becoming easier to spot the positives, so here’s six good things from me:

  1. I’ve finally started telling people “I don’t drink”. None of this “I’m trying to be healthier” nonsense anymore. People ask “why?” and I tell them the truth (in varying degrees of detail). It just fell out of my mouth one day and i haven’t looked back since. To be clear, I’m not knocking people that choose to be vague, it certainly helped me to be vague to begin with, but these days I’m all for being straight up.
  2. I’m fascinated when I come across alcoholic characters in books or telly. I find myself rooting for them, they’re on my team. I loved how Trixie from Call the Midwife found an outlet in her aerobics classes in London’s East End during the 1950s, similar to how so many of us find yoga to be a huge help these days. And I found myself getting way too emotionally invested in Catherine’s sister Clare’s character from BBC’s Happy Valley.
  3. Coffee. Need I say more? This is an addiction to be dealt with another day.Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
  4. Sober treats! I’ve been able to save more now that I’m not demolishing $100 worth of wine a week. Sometimes though, you’ve got to scrap the savings in favour of treating yo’self.Recently I bought this perfume. It’s a unisex scent that smells clean and powdery. I’ve heard it described as smelling like velvet, or the pages of a book. It smells different on everyone’s skin and I love it!

    Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

  5. Ok, I think this one’s the best of the six. There’s been a big push at my work lately to promote diversity. I guess it’s the latest ‘thing’ in HR circles. There’s been all the expected stuff – trying to get a better male/female balance in top positions, making sure racism, homophobia and sexism are stamped out etc.But at our company’s latest fortnightly meeting a woman from the diversity working group stood up to talk about non-drinkers in the company. Everyone gets wine gifted to them on their birthday, and she explained that you could add yourself to a non-drinkers list and you’d get a gift card instead. I’m already on this list, but I thought it was cool that they are becoming more aware of non-drinkers’ needs, given the extreme boozing culture at my work (and in NZ in general).

    I’m also helping out with organising our mid-year work-do and we were given direction from the big boss to make sure it was less alcohol-centric than years before. It seems like the message is filtering through the company. Great news for me, maybe a bit of a bummer for the drinkers though.

  6. And finally, how good is it when you come across non-alcoholic drinks menus as good as these:Processed with VSCO with m3 preset

    This one’s from the Black Sparrow bar in Wellington. The apple snap was amazing and I’ll be trying to recreate at home. I’ll share if I’m successful!

Picante Pineapple

This mocktail is the perfect accompaniment to any Mexican inspired fiesta.

This came from a recipe from Living Sober’s Drink of the Week section. I like my flavours big and bold though, so I’ve dialled up the chili and it packs a bit more of a punch.

For a couple of drinks, you’ll need:

  • 500mLs pineapple juice
  • 1 medium jalapeno
  • Juice of 1 lime

Slice up the jalapeno and give it a good bash in a mortar and pestle (or with a rolling pin), before adding to a cocktail shaker.

Add the pineapple and lime juice, and a handful or two of ice.

Shake until icy cold and strain into glasses. Make sure you strain out any chili seeds.

Garnish with jalapeno and lime slices.

Fresh, spicy, icy, firey goodness. Perfect with a big bowl of guac!

Sugar Plum Fairy

This mocktail was one of my Christmas creations, hence the festive name, so I’m obviously running ridiculously late with this post.

But who needs the excuse of Christmas to indulge in a mocktail anyway. This one contains fruit, so it’s virtually healthy! (It’s not.)

Done

You’ll need:

  • A tin of dark plums in syrup
  • Elderflower syrup
  • Blackcurrant syrup
  • Vanilla essence
  • Sparkling water

Ingredients

I wanted to make a Plum & Elderflower drink, but I couldn’t find plum juice or syrup anywhere, until I found this liquid gold in a tin of plums.

Drain the plums and reserve the syrup.

I chuck the plums in a ziplock bag in the freezer because they’re perfect for little plum puddings or crumble on a rainy day.

Plums

Each drink contains:

  • 3 Tbsp plum syrup
  • 1 Tbsp elderflower syrup
  • 1 tsp of blackcurrant
  • a couple of drops of vanilla essence

Syrup

And then they’re topped with sparkling water to give a bit of fizz

Sparkling water

Ideal for when you feel like you deserve something a bit more sparkly and special than your bog standard alcohol replacement drinks.

Done 2

Italian Hot Chocolate

Since I spent last night avoiding our Christmas work do in favour of hanging out with my good friends Couch and Netflix, I decided to make an occasion out of it and try my hand at Italian Hot Chocolate.

Finished top

Italian hot chocolate is heavenly. You practically need to take to it with a knife and fork it’s so thick. It tastes like molten chocolate lava and it’s very, very lux.

While it certainly tastes pretty decadent, I’ll let you in on a little secret… it’s not quite as bad for you as you might think because there is a magic little ingredient…

FullSizeRender

Cornflour!

To make one large cup add:

  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp cocoa
  • 1 tsp sugar

To your saucepan:

Dry Ingredients

Fill your cup with milk (full fat) and add a dash to your saucepan to dissolve the cornflour and cocoa.

Milk

Add the rest of your milk and a few squares of dark chocolate. I went for Green & Black’s 70% dark chocolate.

I like my hot chocolate quite bitter and dark, but you could dial up the sweetness by adding milk chocolate or extra sugar.

Chocolate

Heat over a low heat for about 5 minutes , stirring until the chocolate has dissolved and the liquid begins to thicken.

Heating

Once the consistency has thickened up a bit, pour into a big cup for one. You’re not gonna want to share!

Pouring1

Pouring2

I like to add a drizzle of liquid cream, but you could go the whole hog and add whipped cream and marshmallows.

You could also spice it up with ground chili or add some vanilla essence while it’s heating through. Or make it a festive hot chocolate with mixed spice or cinnamon.

Finished side

Perfect treat for a cosy date night with the telly

 

Test passed

Last night went better than I could have expected. Perhaps in part because I went a bit crazy prepping and worrying about worst case scenarios, but I‘m happy to say it’s officially possible for me to have a good time sans alcohol!

A huge contributing factor to the fun was that I had friends there. I’d say it would have been a bit awkward if I didn’t get on with any of my colleagues and had to ‘mingle’ completely sober, but when you’re with your mates and this is the view, who cares if it’s wine or ginger beer in your glass:

venuefilter

On the drive to the venue I felt really awkward and nervous in anticipation of being the odd one out not drinking, but once we got there everyone was so busy with clay bird shooting and archery that no-one even looked twice at what I was drinking. Turns out I’m only the centre of attention in my own head 😉

By dinnertime I got a little jealous of everyone around drinking wine, not because I wanted to get drunk, but because my ginger beer was getting really sickly sweet.

Ginger beer
Trusty mate ginger beer

I didn’t want to start mixing up mocktails at the table because I felt conspicuous, but after everyone had sunk enough wine the maturity levels took a dive. Glasses were being broken and people were playing with their food, so I realised I wasn’t going to be questioned over my mocktail mixing at the table.

It’s been at least 5-10 years since I’ve spent time with a bunch of people getting drunk while I remained sober, so it was an interesting experience to be a fly on the wall. Towards the start everyone got loud and excitable and they were generally fun to be around, laughing way too hard at jokes. But towards the end of the night lots of fully grown adults turned into a bunch of toddlers, bumping into things, slurring and falling over… drunk people also smell really bad. Like stale wine and sweat – ick. I’m sure I was never that bad :/

After hours of drinking, the portion sizes of the food weren’t really enough to line anyone’s stomachs either, and I was glad to not have that feeling of having overdone it with the wine. When you’re not focussing on how much wine you can pour down your throat it leaves a lot more time to enjoy the food too.

Menu

 

dinner1

Dinner2

After dinner we sat around on couches outside watching the sun go down and a couple of people asked what I was drinking, or why I wasn’t on the wines, but no-one seemed to really care. Someone asked if I was pregnant too (of course they did), so I kept self-consciously sucking my tummy in for the rest of the evening.

Sunset

Having people I trusted there really did make the world of difference. I’m sure there will be events in future full of people I loathe, but hopefully I’ll be able to avoid going or at least have an exit strategy in place for those ones instead of being stuck in the middle of nowhere. I’ve also got to remember that awkward sober events are temporary and a bit of liquid social lubrication isn’t worth giving it all up for.

One friend asked if I was not drinking forever, so I said I thought so, but that I wasn’t really thinking years down the track at this stage. I tried to explain how different it is being sober, which is hard to try and explain to a normal drinker. In the end she said “maybe you just like it better because you’re back in control” and I think she hit the nail on the head. Aside from all the health/monetary/emotional benefits of being sober, there is just something better about being sober. You begin to regain your self-respect and you’re no longer at the mercy of your addiction, pandering to its every need. You’re taking back the reins and living life on your own terms once again.

I’m sure this clear-headedness won’t stick around forever, it seems far too easy, but I’ll take it while I can get it and I hope it carries me through the rest of the socialising to be done this season.

First Big Test

Tonight we’ve got a big work party on and I have to go because I’m one of the organisers. This’ll be my first big test being sober in a social setting and I’m absolutely packing it.

I’m not worried that I won’t be able to stop myself drinking, but I am worried that I’ll have a terrible time or that I’ll publically embarrass myself by bursting into tears over the stress of it all.

I’ve read a few ‘festive season sober survival guides’ in prep and they all say “if you’re worried don’t go” and “make sure you have an exit strategy”… Sadly these won’t be an option seeing as I have to go. I volunteered to help organise months ago (probably subconsciously to make sure that there was plenty of booze, or maybe just to be a complete control freak), anyway now that means that I am required to be there to shepherd hoards of drunk, festive people around paddocks. Literally paddocks. The place we’re going is in the middle of the countryside, which means there is no escape.

I’m determined to make the most of my predicament though, so here’s what I have done with Mrs D’s advice and Kate from the Sober School’s advice:

  • Put it in perspective: It is just another day of sobriety. Sober socialising is something that I’m going to have to practice sooner or later. I’m still in a good headspace and I don’t want to drink. I’m more concerned about other people’s negative reactions.
  • Dress up: I’ve bought a new dress. It’s just a cheapy, but it will make me feel a bit better. I’ll also add red lippy and flashing festive earrings.
  • Make the right decisions for you & prepare an explanation: while I have to go to the event, I don’t owe anyone an explanation for my lack of boozing. I’ve told close work friends that I’m not drinking and they’ve been really understanding. For the nosey parkers that don’t need to know, I’m just going to say that I’m doing a pre-Christmas cleanse. I’m sure people will think I’m pregnant, but I don’t really give two hoots.
  • Stay positive: I have some really good friends that will be there, so I’ll hopefully have a good time regardless. If I don’t, it’s only one night. Another positive – there’s no chance I’ll be the one overdoing it and vomiting on the windy bus ride back to the city.
  • Fake it till you make it: At least I’ll have a purpose being there. I can assume my role of organiser and boss people around (fun!). I can look after all the messy drunks and the best bit – I’ll remember all the drunken gossip from tonight in the morning.
  • There’s no shame in leaving early: Well. I can’t do this, but I can lock myself in a toilet and have a cry. I have make-up on hand in case of emergency fix-ups.
  • Plan your drinks: The thought of drinking sugary coke all evening makes me irrationally angry at the venue for not catering to sober folks. I’ve packed up some lime juice, watermelon syrup and mint, so I can put together my own mocktails. A friend has also offered to help me sneakily put these together seeing as there’s the risk that I’ll draw attention to myself by looking like I’m spiking my own drink. Not really the best look at the office Christmas do.
  • Remember you are not alone: Up until writing this, I had a friend (that has been told she needs to stop drinking for medical reasons) who was going to be my sober buddy. She’s just told me that our boss has been hassling her to drink because it’s a special occasion, so she thinks she’s going to cave. I don’t blame her, and it isn’t ideal, but I’ve gotta roll with the punches! I’ll have mates there that I’m crossing my fingers will stay supportive while drunk! And my partner a phone call away. And of course, the knowledge that all the other sober bloggers are going through the same stuff at this time of year.

So there it is, my shaky plan to get myself through the evening. I’ve already been shoulder tapped by the enthusiastic boss asking if my sobriety ends tonight. When I said “nope” he replied saying “aw that sucks, you’re no fun when sober”. He meant it in a jokey way, but all I could think is What. An. Arse. I’m sure I have more of it to look forward to tonight. Wish me luck!

When life gives you lemons…

The lemon tree has been absolutely heaving lately, all that plump fruit has just been begging to be juiced and made into lemonade.

And who am I to say no to a lemon tree?

Non alcoholic drink replacements tend to be a bit dull, so I had a go at rosemary lemonade for a sophisticated spin on your bog-standard lemonade.

For this recipe I used:

  • 1 litre of iced sparkling water
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • A couple of sprigs of rosemary
  • 1/3 cup sugar

New Zealand Meyer lemons have mandarin in their heritage, so they’re sweeter than your average thin skinned lemons. If you’re using lemons that are more tart you may need to adjust your sugar ratio.

Add your lemon juice, sugar and rosemary sprigs to a pan, heat on a low heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

If you’ve got the time (and the patience) wait until your sugar syrup cools.

Or, if you’re like me and have no time for faffing around, just add some sparkling water to the pan and then pour over loads of ice.

Top with sparkling water.

Give it a good mix. 

And pour (obviously).

The rosemary isn’t overpowering, but you get a good whiff and a subtle flavour, so it’s a simple way to dress up a basic lemonade.

Perfect for a sunny afternoon. Makes about 4 glasses.

Candy Floss Fog Mocktails

The other night I watched Jamie’s Sugar Rush and was horrified to see the insane amounts of sugar they manage to pack into one little bottle of soda! I watched slack jawed, feeling smug in the knowledge that I rarely let even a sip of coke cross my lips.

….err and then I remembered I am an alcoholic and will happily let entire bottles of sugar laden wine cross my lips every single day.

But not today! Today is another day of sobriety and tonight I whipped up a mocktail that I created a few weeks ago – the candy floss fog

Unmixed

I’ve found that a lot of substitutes for boozey drinks are far too sweet, but water is too dull – this mocktail is thirst quenching but the watermelon gives it a unique flavour.

You’ll need:

  • Watermelon syrup
  • Soda water
  • Limes
  • Fresh mint

Ingredients

I used Monin watermelon syrup. I love the monin syrups – their gingerbread syrup is to die for – and it also comes in a sugar free version.

MoninWatermelon SchweppsSoda

Pour a good slug of the syrup over ice

Syrup

Squeeze over a couple of limes (I like mine pretty limey so I use a couple per glass)

And top up with soda water (wee hee zero calories!)

Soda1 Soda2

Easy peasy lemon lime squeezy

You can leave the syrup sitting at the bottom for a pretty gradient effect or mix it all up into a pink fog.

Mixed&Unmixed2 Single

As pretty as a picture

SingleAbove