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Low-alcohol cocktails to help you emerge unscathed from a day of barbecue boozing

At 12pm you’re quaffing a civilised glass of fizz. Five hours later you’re asleep in a flower bed. Here’s how to emerge unscathed from a day of barbecue boozing... 

Words: Caroline Corcoran

The last time I started drinking prosecco in the sun at a lunchtime barbecue, I ended up finding the host’s 60-something mum asleep on the lawn at 6pm. She’d slipped off her deckchair, and with the rest of us too busy topping up our cups to a chorus of Justin Bieber (I refer you to the prosecco) decided to stay there for a nap.

Me? Well, as a result of ‘civilised’ daytime drinking I’ve led an afternoon conga, dusted half of my friend’s flower bed off a dry-clean only dress and boarded a train to somewhere in west London that was very far from my home.

So why does slurping drinks in the sunlit hours seem to hit us so much harder than at other times? Well, there are a few factors at play. Firstly, even at a barbecue, eating is often far down our priority list once the sun comes out. “You’re waiting for the chicken to cook on a BBQ that someone lit too late, and knocking back the drinks in the meantime,” says GP Dr Nick Knight. “And because you sweat in the sun and go to the toilet more as alcohol switches off the antidiuretic hormone, you end up with a higher concentration of alcohol in your blood.”

And it’s not just drunkenness that sneaks up on us in summer. We’re also likely to suffer a worse hangover too, thanks to being more dehydrated by the sun. Yet while we all know the downsides far too well it seems, we’re unlikely to stop doing it any time soon. So unpredictable is the sun during the great British summer, that to not toast its appearance with a Pimm’s would seem, frankly, churlish. It’s virtually a national trait. Just look at Waitrose’s dramatic spike in rosé sales on a hot May weekend this year, up 39% compared to the colder weekend of 2015.

The good news though, is that with a better strategy, you can emerge unscathed from a sunny day’s drinking. “Fizzy drinks cause a faster rate of alcohol absorption because you increase the pressure in the stomach, so it’s a good idea to avoid prosecco,” says Dr Knight. “If you want fizz, adding soda water to cocktails is better because you’re diluting the alcohol.”

Tim Homewood, Tanqueray No Ten brand ambassador, agrees. “Add ingredients such as iced teas to cocktails – the tannin taste is a good substitute for a lower amount of booze.”

So we asked top cocktail gurus for their best low-alcohol, high-flavour recipes to serve next time the sun’s out. Browse the gallery below to discover their best suggestions then eat, drink and be merry indeed!

Photography: Dennis Pedersen



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