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I'm trying to drink less. How can I navigate family gatherings during the holidays?

We have some expert-crafted mocktail recipes for you to try out these holidays.

Happy extended family having New Year's lunch at dining table
If you're thinking of limiting or abstaining from alcohol this year, be transparent with your friends and family. (Image via Getty Images)

The holidays are just around the corner, and the notion of staying sober might seem as unconventional as a snowman in July.

However, while the temptation to indulge in holiday spirits may be strong, there are myriad reasons why choosing to drink less can be a gift to oneself.

From fostering mental clarity to being health-conscious — or avoiding overconsumption altogether — Yahoo Canada spoke with experts on sobriety tips and their favourite booze-free cocktail recipes.

The 'most wonderful time of the year' can be stressful

According to a recent poll by the American Psychological Association, 41 per cent of respondents said their stress is heightened during the holidays. Reasons people listed as their stress included financial concerns, anticipating family conflict or missing loved ones.

Celine Williams-Tracey, a psychotherapist and social worker based in Brampton, Ont., told Yahoo Canada people find different ways to cope with their stresses and anxieties.

"They might want to numb themselves with alcohol use."

woman is massaging her forehead because of tension and stress while a Christmas tree is in the background
It's common to feel especially stressed during the holidays, according to research from the American Psychological Association. (Image via Getty)

Family dynamics can also play a role in indulging in alcohol. Relationships within the family might be strained, or it can be normal for your family to drink together during the holidays, she added, "there's that pressure as well."

Some people simply like to have a drink because it helps them celebrate, gives them confidence and makes socialising easier.

But, while there are many reasons people find to drink, there are also many not to.

Williams-Tracey said people should be mindful of how our body responds to alcohol as we get older. For someone who might be experiencing acid reflux, digestive issues or health concerns trying to abstain will be beneficial this holiday season.


How can I navigate an alcohol-free holiday?

The expert said it's best to be transparent with your friends and family if you're trying to limit your alcohol this year — without guilt.

"It's not about establishing rules for your family to follow. You're establishing parameters for your well-being," she said. "And you're also teaching them how to respect and love you."

To accommodate yourself, you can bring your own mocktails to the party or alcohol-free beer and wine that's available in any most grocery chain stores. For friends and family who are trying to be mindful of someone else's needs, making these options available at a gathering you're hosting is a thoughtful gesture.

Young woman doing a video call/filming/taking photos of the family toasting on Christmas dinner at home
More non-alcoholic beers, wines and spirits are available and on demand. (Image via Getty)

If you have a culturally specific beverage alternative, offering that or making a batch can also help bring people together or induce feelings of nostalgia.

"My parents might make sorrel," said Williams-Tracey. "It's alcohol-free and it's a traditional drink that a lot of people from the Caribbean would drink."

Other ways you can be mindful of your drinking include planning ahead or focusing on activities that don't involve booze. Ask yourself what events you're going to and what options will be available. You can also rehearse in advance how you'll communicate your preferences to others.

Dani Blum wrote in The New York Times, "what difference will drinking make to your time at a party or your night at the bar? And if you're drinking to try to enjoy an event where you're not having a good time, consider just going home."

Williams-Tracey added, if you think it will be challenging to abstain, make sure you have the right support with you or consider connecting with others who are choosing to stay sober or embrace mindful drinking.

But, just because you're not drinking doesn't mean you can't enjoy this season's festivities.


What festive drinks can I have without booze?

The list of delicious Christmassy drinks that don't involve alcohol is long, but some are really worth the try. Yahoo Canada connected with two Toronto-based bartenders, each with their favourite holiday-inspired mocktail recipe.

Winter creamsicle

Steve Navratil's winter take on a classic cocktail (Image via Steve Navratil)
Steve Navratil's winter take on a classic cocktail. (Image via Steve Navratil)

For those craving a winter wonder in a glass, Steve Navratil, a bartender at Bar Isabel, created this holiday-inspired orange creamsicle mocktail. The "Winter Creamsicle" is a fusion of citrus and velvety comfort.

Recipe:

  • 4 ounces of fresh orange juice

  • 2 ounces of coconut milk

  • 1 ounce of syrup (recipe below)

  • 2/3 of an ounce of fresh lemon juice

Syrup recipe:

  • Two tablespoons of white sugar

  • 1 ounce of water

  • 1 tablespoon of whole green cardamom

  • 1 tablespoon of whole star anise

  • 1 tablespoon whole clove

  • 1 vanilla bean pod

  • 1 cinnamon stick

Directions:

  1. Lightly toast the spices all the spices except for the vanilla.

  2. Dissolve sugar in water with low heat.

  3. Cut vanilla bean pod and add to syrup with toasted spices.

  4. Let cool in the fridge overnight and strain off the next day. Add all ingredients to a shaker or blender with a handful of ice.

  5. Shake or blend until cold, then pour and serve.


Winter-spiced tonic

non-alcoholic cocktail
Mocktails can be just as fun, festive and tasty. (Getty)

For a non-alcohol tonic spritz, Linh Phan, a bartender at Civil Liberties put together this recipe for Yahoo Canada. Phan recommends using a Collins glass for this "Winter-spiced tonic."

Recipe:

  • 4 ounces of non-alcoholic bitter (recipe below for homemade — if you're fancy)

  • 1 ounce of lemon juice

  • Top off with soda or non-alcoholic sparkling wine

Bitter-recipe (inspired by the flavours of lighter Amaros):

  • 3 cups of boiled water

  • 3 grams of cinchona bark

  • 10 pieces of clove

  • 1 piece of mace

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 2 lime leaf

  • 5 grams of pink peppercorn

  • 20 grams of grapefruit zest

  • 20 grams of orange zest

  • 20 grams of hibiscus dried flower

Steep it all together for 30 minutes, and blend the strained liquid with white sugar 3:1 by weight.


Creative cocktail mixers have also been sharing their favourite alcohol-free recipes on TikTok, where the hashtag #holidaymocktail has garnered more than 2.2 million views.

Here are some of our favourite recipes:

Let us know what you think by commenting below and tweeting @YahooStyleCA! Follow us on Twitter and Instagram.