As the mindfulness movement has entered the mainstream, so too has mindful drinking. “I want a martini, but could you put a little less booze in it?” is becoming a more common customer request, says Tristan Willey, a bartender at the Long Island Bar in Brooklyn, New York. “Also, my sherry stock depletes quickly these days.” Sherry and other fortified wines are relatively low in alcohol by volume, clocking in at 15 to 20 percent, compared with gin, which runs around 40 percent. The bamboo (equal parts dry vermouth and sherry) has been popping up all over New York City as low-ABV cocktails gain popularity. Nitecap in downtown Manhattan even has one on tap.
While the low-alcohol thing is about fewer calories and, frankly, fewer hangovers, it can also be about drinking more. “I have the tolerance of a small gerbil, and I like to try a lot of different things,” says Matt Tocco, beverage director of Strategic Hospitality in Nashville. “That’s why low-alcohol drinks such as an americano, made with Campari, sweet vermouth and club soda, work for me.” Smaller doses work just as well. Willey serves snack-size negronis at the Long Island Bar, and in Tokyo, Gen Yamamoto offers omakase flights of four to six two-ounce cocktails. Bonus: You can stay out longer.
Here, then, is how you can drink more by drinking less.
A big California cabernet may go with that rich porterhouse, but with 15 percent alcohol in a 14-ounce goblet, you can’t have more than one without getting soused. Go with old-world European wines, which are typically around 13 percent alcohol.
Working bartenders occasionally do a shot, a.k.a. a shift drink, to take the edge off. A lower-proof amaro (as low as 20 percent ABV) or other liqueur could be just the right strength.
BITTERS AND SODA
Good bars stock good bitters. A few dashes in club soda over ice is a seriously low-ABV cocktail.