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When alcohol won't do - MCV - Melbourne Community Voice for Gay and Lesbian Readers

Written by S.M. King


Wednesday, 18 February 2009 14:12

What options exist for those of us who want a big night out without the hangover, asks
S.M. King?

There is little that will madden one’s drinking peers so much as the decision to order something
soft. Starting with ginger beer on a planned ‘big night out’ is divisive. It makes you look like a
slightly tainted extra from an Enid Blyton novel and puts your buddies on alert. You are the
traitor who will sip Christian libations and quietly judge as they start lewd gossip circa Martini
number three.

On the other hand, it sends out a reminder that soft drinks exist. This is something I frequently
forget when I go to a bar. Further, when you do opt for a beer, as if perhaps their witty banter
has converted you, your buddies will feel vindicated and welcome you back to the fray with
renewed enthusiasm. Importantly, if you jump into the drinking circa drink three, you’ll still be

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When alcohol won't do - MCV - Melbourne Community Voice for Gay and Lesbian Readers

Written by S.M. King


Wednesday, 18 February 2009 14:12

sober enough to remember particularly juicy streams of slander when they start flowing.

Oh. And then there’s the whole Surgeon General’s Warning. It is good, but trying, to moderate
one’s alcohol intake.

When I want to change gears while out drinking, I find myself confused. Water is too boring. I’ll
drink water, but it’s not the sort of thing I’m going to nurse as lovingly as I would a beer or fine
bourbon. It doesn’t automatically lend itself to artful conversation. Post-mix soft drinks are bland
and gassy. Cocktails sans grog and dedicated mocktails are pricey for what you get, and
generally too sweet for my liking.

As for those caffeine and guarana charged tipples: these go-fast drinks turn people into inane
chatterers almost as effectively as meth. The best soft option in most pubs and bars is lemon,
lime, and bitters. There clearly needs to be a soft drink revolution.

I’d like to see more variety behind the glass in bar fridges across Melbourne. It’s time to bottle
portello, sarsaparilla and lemonade in stubbies and flog them to an adult, bar-crawling public.
My local is heading in the right direction. They sell ginger beer in stubbies, making the switch to
soft drink an easy gear change.

Gastronomic sodas do exist. Any café worthy of the designation has been vending San
Pellegrino sodas for years. High on acidic zing and relatively low on sugar, flavours like the
grapefruit Pompelmo suit an adult palate.

Another grown up favourite is sarsaparilla root beer. Strangely, local brand Sars was not taken
off the shelves during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome scare. Strangely, we have ironic
humour to thank. It seems that local sales spiked during SARS publicity, possibly saving this
heretofore neglected old softie.

In recent years, locals have turned their attention to ‘artisanal’ sodas and a few old gems have
been recovered. In Beechworth, the charming Murray Breweries churns out fine mixers and
old-fashioned syrups. Decades ago, the Temperance union prompted a business change from

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When alcohol won't do - MCV - Melbourne Community Voice for Gay and Lesbian Readers

Written by S.M. King


Wednesday, 18 February 2009 14:12

beer to innocent bubbles.

I’m not in the habit of thanking Australia’s wowsers. But the Chilli Punch makes me momentarily
grateful.

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