The Health Benefits of Social Drinking

Social interaction while out for a drink is important for our mental and physical health
Social interaction while out for a drink is important for our mental and physical health

Recent studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption in pubs could be linked to better wellbeing because of the social experience. However, what about those who don’t drink, who are the designated driver or who are trying to make mindful choices when it comes to alcohol? What could improve their social well-being?

In a previous article on the foodful blog, we advised what to drink when you’re not drinking when you’re in the Scottish Borders, but what about when you’re not drinking in Northumberland?

Northumberland offers many local tea and coffee producers across the region, but there are also some sophisticated soft drinks on offer too. Why not ask at your local pub to provide some delicious, local, non-alcoholic alternatives?

Traditional, local pubs have been struggling over the past decade as a result of the financial crash in 2008. Since 2010, there have been 40 pub closures across Northumberland[1]. In order to keep pubs as important social hubs in the community, we need to support them and request local, non-alcoholic alternatives to keep us going back.

Mindful Drinking

Mindfulness, a buzzword of millennials. is practised to increase awareness of our thoughts, feelings and actions.
Mindfulness, a buzzword of millennials. is practised to increase awareness of our thoughts, feelings and actions.

Recent statistics have confirmed that nearly 30% of the younger generation[2], 16 – 24-year-olds, are snubbing alcohol as the health and well-being industry expand, as well as increasing financial instability. Compared to previous generations sobriety seems dull, but it goes beyond simply not drinking because of insufficient funds. Mindful drinking isn’t about abstinence, it is about enjoying alcohol rather than bingeing. Also, mindful drinking allows you to be aware of what you are putting into your body.

Drinking alcohol quickly loses its spark in a world where everything is documented on social media and the likelihood of terrible hangovers. Safety concerns are also one of the tops reasons for young people avoiding drink. However, if people aren’t going to go out to drink and enjoy non-alcoholic beverages, then the pubs aren’t going to provide them. Schemes such as Club Soda are promoting sobriety with a positive Mindful Drinking Movement and showcasing non-alcoholic alternatives so that you can feel comfortable not drinking in a pub.

It isn’t just alcohol people are trying to avoid, it is also sugar. Sugar is the new enemy in the food and drink industry. The new Sugar Tax is an attempt by the government to ‘nanny’ us, however, it is us, the consumer, who is punished, not the businesses who have loaded their products with sugars and other artificial sugar alternatives including the sinister saccharin, which was a banned substance up until a few years ago, and alarming aspartame. Dietitians recommend that people avoid artificial sweeteners and refined sugars. Some of the local drink makers in Northumberland create products without any added sugar or artificial ingredients.

Soft Drinks Saints & Sinners

Unlike alcohol, soft drinks can be a refreshing drink to increase fluid intake and reduce symptoms of dehydration such as headaches and poor concentration. Freshly-pressed, not from concentrate juice can be a great way to get 1 of your 5-a-day and local spring water is one of the healthiest drinks on the planet. Spring water naturally contains an abundance of minerals and it is believed that it is better for you than drinking straight from the tap.

Many popular soft drinks on the market contain a significant amount of unnecessary ingredients that leave a bad taste in your mouth. By purchasing locally made soft drinks you know what you are drinking and have the peace of mind of a well-made product.

Here’s The Juice

Here is a selection of locally-made Northumberland soft drinks, perfect for whatever mood you’re in.

Hexhamshire Organics Apple Juice

'Real' apple juice can be an easy way to get 1 of your 5 a day!
‘Real’ apple juice can be an easy way to get 1 of your 5 a day!

Hexhamshire Organics is an organic farm that has a focus on bringing locally grown organic fruit and vegetables to the public. They have a veg box scheme which is available to customers living in South-East Northumberland to towns such as Morpeth, Blyth and Ashington, and you will also find them at Jesmond Farmer’s Market every 3rd Saturday of the month with their beautiful, bountiful cart of organic fruit and veg.

The apple juice can be an extra added to the fruit and veg box scheme. The juice is available in a 1-litre glass bottle, and it is encouraged that it is recycled or given back to Hexhamshire Organics to be reused.

The juice came about as an idea after a bumper crop of apples one year. The juice can boast being 100% pressed apple juice, not from concentrate, and its taste is as natural as you could get straight from the tree. The apple juice is a mixture of apple varieties meaning you can enjoy different flavours and aromas with each sip.

Next year, Hexhamshire Organics will offer a service to press your apples for juice.

Kitty’s Ginger Wine

Kitty’s Ginger Wine started over 10 years ago and is based in Blyth and is a favourite drink among locals. This family-run business uses an old family recipe to create an old-school recipe for modern times. This versatile drink can be used as a cordial, as a mixer or enjoyed on its own. It can be served hot or cold.

The ginger wine is non-alcoholic and can accompany many drinks as well as being enjoyed on its own. When you purchase a bottle of the ginger wine, you also get a handy card with suggested recipes on how to enjoy the ginger wine such as Kitty Koffee a mixture of your favourite coffee and a shot of ginger wine and Kitty’s Gin Fizz a cocktail with a shot of your favourite gin and Kitty’s Ginger Wine topped up with soda, lemon juice and a lemon garnish.

The product is made from scratch using high-quality and natural ingredients. It is not a spicy drink, instead it has a warming, semi-sweet finish. The flavours change depending on whether this drink is served hot or cold. However, the main flavours of fresh ginger and citrus flavours and eastern spices aromas are present in various degrees.

Serving the ginger wine with ice will cool down the ginger notes, and if served with a wedge of lemon or lime it will bring out the citrus notes to make a highly refreshing beverage. Warming the wine on the stove, however, will intensify the ginger and is a flavourful substitute to traditional beverages served at this time of year such as mulled wine and mulled apple cider. Serve it warm with a cinnamon stick.

Ginger wine is a purported health tonic boasting many benefits including easing digestions and travel sickness as well as promoting better circulation.

Kitty's Ginger Wine is a sophisticated non-alcoholic alternative
Kitty’s Ginger Wine is a sophisticated non-alcoholic alternative

Marlish Water

Another notable Northumberland-based drink is Marlish Water, who use local spring water at the base of all their products. The range includes sparkling and spring water but also tonic water, soda water, ginger ale and pink tonic. Also available is flavoured sparkling water in either lemon or orange. All the drinks are free from sugar and saccharin and only natural ingredients are used.

Marlish Water is sourced in the hills of Northumberland at source on Marlish Farm near Morpeth. The water is filtered by a 150-year process through rocks and minerals in the Northumbrian hills.  The plain still and sparkling spring waters provide a natural, pure taste of Northumberland.

Fentimans

A national icon in the soft drinks field, Fentimans is a family-run business that has been brewing botanical beverages for over 100 years and started with the classic botanically brewed Ginger Beer. The botanical brewery is based in Hexham. The family recipes, going back over 100 years, have been passed down to each generation.

Botanical brewing is a technique with allows the flavours to infuse by blending and fermenting the ingredients, such as bark, flowers and natural roots. Back in the day, botanical beverages were believed to have healing properties, although this could be disputed these days.

Fentimans is a popular soft drink and is found in many pubs, restaurants and shops. Although the company has expanded to include the House of Broughton, craft beers and pre-mixed alcoholic drinks, the company is best known for its non-alcoholic, sparkling beverages. These include:

  • Ginger Beer
  • Rose Lemonade
  • Gently Sparkling Elderflower
  • Dandelion and Burdock
  • Curiosity Cola
  • Mandarin & Seville Orange Jigger
  • Victorian Lemonade
  • Cherry Cola

Everything in Moderation. Except for Flavour.

As we draw towards the final hurdle of Sober October what have you learned? Keep a mindful approach and enjoy locally-made beverages. What’s your favourite Northumberland drink? Join the conversation on social media. Follow Foodful on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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References
  1. Pub Closures in Northumberland
  2. Young People's Drinking Habits