One reason people do not do what they can for better health — let’s face it, most of us don’t when we should — is it takes the fun out of the meet-and-eat gatherings we indulge in. And what are such sessions without a tipple, or two?
Well, now that we are well settled into Sober October, mull on this every time you nurse a drink: There are increasing non-alcoholic options for those who want a good time out without having to worry about who in the party has to stay his hand so he can keep it steady on the wheel when the lights go out.
Better yet, a safe drive home means you could give a cheeky nod to that cop waiting to slap you with a summons after hours of merriment. On top of being easy on the mind and wallet, a liquor-free evening is definitely kinder to your liver, the largest solid organ in the body that performs hundreds of vital functions.
It filters all of the blood in the body and breaks down poisonous substances, such as alcohol and drugs. The liver produces bile, which helps digest fats and carry away waste. It also regulates amino acids and blood clotting and removes bacteria from the blood stream.
This steadfast soldier can develop new cells and regenerate itself, but prolonged alcohol misuse reduces that ability. Excessive liquor consumption could lead to a build-up of fats in the organ, resulting in inflammation and liver cell damage. Symptoms of acute liver failure include pain in the upper right abdomen, a swollen belly, yellowing of skin and eyeballs, nausea, vomiting, disorientation and a general sense of feeling unwell.
Alcohol has also been found to make depression worse and heighten feelings of anxiety once its anxiolytic effects — reducing fears and taking your mind off of your troubles, and boosting your mood — begin to wear off. So, be mindful before waving for another glass.
Sober October began in the UK in 2014 as a 31-day challenge to go alcohol-free and raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support to help people battling the disease.
That good cause aside, taking a break from booze, even temporarily, can boost overall health, medical experts say. Staying sober is a good way to reset the body and reevaluate one’s relationship with drink.
Research shows staying dry for a month improves skin health (skin appears more glowy and feels less dehydrated), boosts mental health from financial security (alcohol can take up a big chunk of expenses), increases physical safety (sobriety makes one feel more safe), and leads to a better diet (alcohol contains more calories per gramme than sugar but these “empty calories” have no nutritional value).
The UK’s National Health Service says on its website that those who regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week risk damaging their health. One unit equals 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. Enjoying a few glasses of wine before bed may help you doze off faster, but a night of bingeing could disrupt your “sleep architecture”, the normal phases of deeper and lighter sleep we go through nightly, resulting in fitful sleep.
There is something about being able to hold your drink, and not mess up, that colours morning-after conversations. In days long gone, colleagues who used to while the night away would crawl in sheepishly the next day and hush-ask what happened when things got embarrassing after one too many drinks. The same goes for those who, senses dulled by that one last sip, could not recall what they did. You can be sure that gleeful booze pals gave them the blow-by-blow details.
With phone cameras always switched on and social media ever ready to pick up and share boo-boos, or worse, spare yourself the blushes and choose ruddy health instead.
Alcohol consumption reportedly spiked during the pandemic, with a higher increase in the number of women reaching for the bottle than men. For those wanting to make healthy lifestyle changes, there is also Dry January, initiated by Alcohol Change UK to encourage people to abstain for a month. Dry July, an Australian charity working across cancer research, prevention and support, has a similar purpose.
Staying dry benefits more than just your body. The Dry July Foundation says the average Australian household will save A$140 (RM419) a month — over A$1,600 a year or roughly 85 avocado toasts! Besides better sleep, more energy and no hangovers, the thought of extending a hand to others is bound to put you on a high.
Raise a liquor-free glass to that. And for ideas on where to go and what to have, check out our suggestions.
The brainchild of Ipoh-born 2022 MasterChef UK Champion of Champions and 2014 MasterChef UK winner Ping Coombes, Bar Micro is a cosy and intimate speakeasy tucked in the first floor of The OOAK Suites and Residence in Mont’ Kiara. But do not let its modest scale fool you — the adept mixologists are masters of big and bold flavours, and alcohol is not a requirement for them to prove their mettle. Bar Micro has categorised their lower ABV (alcohol by volume) drinks and stiff offerings into the Symphony and Indulgence Series respectively, but there is also a Zero Fomo list for the teetotalers present.
Go for the Ruby Fizz, a scarlet concoction with Pearsons Botanicals’ Hibiscus & Rose, cranberry, lemon, elderflower and egg white or the Garden Martini, a refreshing libation that melds Pearsons Botanicals’ White Grapefruit & Lemongrass with rosemary, honey, ginger and lime. Want something off-menu? The bartenders are up for the challenge of customising something unique to suit your tastes. And do not forget to sample the bar bites — plenty of which are vegan. After all, they are MasterChef-winner-approved.
Unit LG2-09, The OOAK Suites and Residence @ Kiara 163, 5, Jalan Kiara 4, Mont’Kiara, KL. Sun to Thurs, 5pm to midnight; Fri to Sat, 5pm to 1am. 011 1218 5950.
Although best known for its innovative cocktail menu and spirited drink customisations, Dissolved Solids in Damansara Kim, Petaling Jaya, serves up all kinds of thirst-quenching liquids and, no, we are not talking about run-of-the-mill juices and sodas. The non-alcoholic options come packed with flavours that mimic the complexity of their boozy counterparts without the buzz.
The substantial craft beverage menu consists of various taste profiles built upon a foundation of tea or espresso. A few to look out for include Black Honey, which offers a sweet and fruity affair laced with aromatic smoked herbs; Peach Blossom, which is Japanese springtime in a glass thanks to the addition of sakura and fresh peach; and Spiked Mango, which presents a slight kick from spice powder with a hazelnut foam to balance things out.
If you fancy a DIY element to your F&B experiences, then opt to create your own caffeinated spritz or latte with your pick of ingredients. Not creative enough? Dissolved Solid’s team of attentive mixologists will be more than happy to put together the mocktail of your dreams from scratch. Make sure to let them know your flavour preferences.
While not for abstainers, those on a night out with teetotalers can support their loved ones’ sobriety by indulging in low ABV drinks.
43-1, Jalan SS20/11, Damansara Kim, PJ. Mon to Wed, 3pm to midnight; Thurs and Sun, 1pm to midnight; Fri and Sat, 1pm to 1am. 011 4008 7607.
Low ABV and zero-proof cocktails take pride of place at Bar Triptyk, the permanent fixture of a food collective by the same name started by veteran bartender Angel Ng. It is an establishment reflective of her current values and caters to a slightly more sensible crowd that does not go out with the goal of getting drunk. While one can, of course, order a tipple here, an extensive zero-proof beverage menu featuring crafted mocktails, zero IPA beer and alcohol-free wines are available for conscious consumption. We suggest trying the Burung Hutan, a creative (sans alcohol) take on the jungle bird, concocted with Lyre’s Italian Orange, pineapple, malted orange cordial and club soda with a dusting of citrus peel powder.
Bar Triptyk is also among a handful of watering holes in town that employ sustainable practices, ensuring their entire business model — from sourcing ingredients to waste management — leaves as little carbon footprint as possible. By using high-end but lower-ABV ingredients such as sake on top of producing their own liqueurs, the bar is able to keep drinks wallet-friendly. We say cheers to that!
First floor, 88, Jalan Tuba, Kampung Attap, KL. Wed to Fri, noon to 4pm and 5pm to midnight; Sat to Sun, noon to midnight. 014 320 8050.
Mediterranean restaurant Bocado is quite the attraction at Damansara Heights. Offering an extensive menu of Latin and Spanish cuisine, the steakhouse is known for its exquisite blue- and white-tiled backdrop in the bar area. With a dedicated sommelier on site, Bocado is commended for its impressive wine list including Unico by Vega-Sicilia and Dominio de Pingus. Another thing worth mentioning is its decent range of crafted mocktails prepared with quality ingredients.
Priced at RM38 each, there are eight drinks to appease different tastes and personalities. Awaken your taste buds with Amalfi Grapefruit Spritz, a combination of Lyre’s Italian Orange Spirit and Classico Grande Sparkling with in-house grapefruit Oleo Saccharum and lemon for the familiar taste of citrus. Or you can try Nueva Tradicion, a perfect blend of sweet and sour flavours made using Lyre’s American Malt Spirit, mixed with cinnamon, five-flavour Schisandra extract and orange zest. Other items on the menu include Bonita en Rosa, Negocio Saludable, Margarita Sobria, Noesun Negroni, Super Almendra and La Gran Manzana. To complete your spirit-free visit to the restaurant, make sure to indulge in its mouth-watering fare.
Ground Floor, Bangunan ECM Libra, 8, Jalan Damansara Endah, Bukit Damansara, KL. Daily, noon to midnight. 012 923 3206.
In recent years, the heritage site of Chinatown has evolved into a bustling nightlife hotspot with multiple bars now calling many of the former shophouses home. Tucked away on the 7th floor of Four Points by Sheraton hotel, Jann’s drinks menu takes inspiration from the location’s rich history and culture. While the cocktail list spotlights unique takes on Chinese-Malaysian snacks and desserts, the non-alcoholic choices are certainly not to be overlooked.
For more regular sips, you cannot go wrong with the Fruit Punch or Peach and Passion for a tame-yet-refreshing experience. It would be amiss, however, to skip the drinks modelled after traditional favourites. The Air Mata Kucing comes with monk fruit and dried longan. Sweetened with wintermelon sugar, this version literally pops, thanks to the incorporation of soda. Another local staple is the Bandung, a sweet and floral beverage with evaporated milk and rose cordial served here with springy cincau, or grass jelly.
Staying sober but still wanting to be adventurous? Take a chance on the Bak Kwa, the 0% ABV copy of Jann’s signature cocktail of the same name. Similar to a milk-washed cocktail, the base of this clarified drink is made of milk, soda, lemon and honey. Soy sauce adds intrigue,
and the glass is topped with a strip of salty jerky to pair.
Level 7, Four Points by Sheraton, Chinatown, 2 Jalan Balai Polis, KL. Daily, 4pm to midnight. 03 2035 7333.
See Cafe, the latest addition under healthy snacks brand Signature Market, is located in the affluent neighbourhood of Mont’Kiara. Featuring biophilic design that plays on natural textures such as green plants, wood and rocks, the shop attracts residents and workers in the area thanks to its warm, welcoming and wide space that allows people to enjoy their cuppa while staying loose.
Although the coffee and tea offerings are sure to please connoisseurs — the baristas are trained by Barista Guild Asia — customers can also find a good list of crafted plant-based mocktails on the menu. There are five drinks to choose from including Muni, Fickle Mistress, Roku 21 and Aki No Ame. Matcha Fubuki is especially unique. It combines the bittersweet taste of Yabukita Matcha with sparkling, sour notes of fresh lime juice and coffee soda, and garnished with dried lemon slices and thyme. Pair your drink with specially created toasts or other noshes and nibbles, as the cafe also has a slew of mains, pastries, desserts and newly-launched crafted alcoholic beverages. Drop by from 4pm to 8pm to enjoy 30% off on all cocktails and wine.
Lot G-06, Ground Level, Arcoris, 10, Jalan Kiara, Mont’Kiara, KL. Daily, 11am to 11pm. 017 348 3288.
This article first appeared on Oct 9, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.