MINDFUL DRINKING: A GUIDE BY BARTENDERS
Hangovers, ugh. We've all been there. Waking up and feeling like you're at death's door is never fun, especially because it's self-inflicted and therefore tinged with regret. I've never been a big drinker, but naturally over the years there have certainly been some over indulgences.
When I started doing PR for renowned bars and restaurants in my early 30's, a whole new world of craft cocktails and 'fine drinking' opened up. A dedicated foodie for decades, I began to see parallels with my obsessiveness around good ingredients and proper cooking techniques and bartenders who are equally fanatical about the quality of their mint and the tonic they used. Schweppes? Pah, small batch East Imperial tonic is the only way to go.
With this new job came a whole lot more time spent in bars, for both work and pleasure. So what was dedicated yogi and self-confessed cheap date to do? My guiding lights came in the form of the handsome gents you see below....
Michael Callahan and Zdenek Kastanek are two world-class bartenders with decades of experience serving up top tipples at hotspots in London, Sydney, San Francisco, Singapore and beyond. Tattoos and man buns aside, they defy the stereotype of the bartender, as they are actually two of the healthiest individuals I've ever met. With all those late nights and temptation in the form of some of the finest libations on offer, a proactive approach to well being is not an after-thought, it's a necessity.
We sat down with the experts to get the low down on what to do the night of, and the morning after. No surprise, they had some pretty i.e NOT with reheated pizza and diet coke, which was my university go-to. Today I have a tried-and-tested approach of alternating cocktails or wine with a glass of water to prevent the problem from happening in the first place! Failing that, the next day is all about getting as much sleep as possible, filling up on healthy carbs and my secret weapon - a double whammy massage, focusing on the head and neck, as well as foot reflexology. This is a real godsend and works better than any painkiller.
But what do the experts have to say?
Zdenek Kastanek, aka Zee.
"Simple is best! Stick to few ingredients, and high quality ingredients. If you're partial to boozy cocktails like Negronis, try an Americano instead as it replaces the gin with club soda."
This man always has a smile on his face. Sticking to a vegetarian diet, juicing every morning, running the Spartan Race and meditating with Headspace are just a few of the good habits this Czech relies on to stay in tip-top shape.
Photo Credit: Proof & Company
A fitness buff, Michael is a devotee of the HIIT workouts at Ritual, and very knowledgeable on clean eating. He sticks to a strict schedule of intermittent fasting and a low-carb diet to maintain his physique and energy levels.
So, down to the nitty gritty - how to drink smart. Which cocktails should we order if we're trying to be more health conscious?
Michael: Think about low ABV and low sugar. (ABV is the concentration of alcohol in a spirit/cocktail. You cannot beat a simple spirit+soda mix. Whiskey Highballs are pretty dang low in regards to sugar. You don’t have to use a full 45ml for the drink to taste good (and look like a drink), 30ml is fine and will keep the ABV down. Use a Japanese whiskey plus a touch of mint as a garnish and you are channeling your inner Japanese Salaryman. So it's hip, tasty, and historically a culturally specific classic. Just make sure your soda does not have too high a salt content. The sodium in soda can be alarmingly high. Try Stockton in Hong Kong, they have Whiskey Soda on Tap. Sherry drinks are also great. Bamboo cocktail being one of my favourites; Dry Sherry, Dry Vermouth, and bitter. However variations are super tasty using Palo, Fino, and different fortified aromatized wines. You can get this at Butler in TST in Hong Kong.
Zee: Simple is best! Stick to few ingredients, and high quality ingredients. If you're partial to boozy cocktails like Negronis, try an Americano instead as it replaces the gin with club soda. Otherwise a Tom Collins is a great choice as it's a refreshing, light drink made with gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup in a tall glass with ice and a spritz of soda water. You can always ask teh bartender to go easy on the sugar syrup, or have it on the side and adjust to taste. An Upside Down Martini is another great choice. With just 3 ingredients, it's a variation of the traditional or classic Gin or Vodka martini. The ingredients are the same as in a traditional Gin martini but the proportions vary, almost inverting the proportions of Gin and Vermouth. It's actually the favourite aperitif of Julia Child. As the major ingredient in the drink is the dry vermouth, it is pretty light and refreshing in taste.
Ok, so even if we stick to lighter drinks, if we do have one too many... what should we do the next day?
Zee: Water, water, water, good food and a little bit of exercise. A hangover is the result of your own actions which makes it worse! The good part is that you know its coming if you are drinking. Imagine if you knew you were going to get the flu – you would anything to prevent it, and fill up your body with antioxidants, vitamin C and stay home to rest. Well, do the same after heavy night drinking – drink lots of water, take high dosages of vitamin C and zinc, and take an aspirin before you go to sleep. Oh, and for some reason, sleeping with one foot on the floor tends to help, if you have a bed that's low enough to the ground. Don't ask me why it works, it just does! In the morning wake up slow, drink water again with vitamins (but slowly this time) and have a good homemade broth-based soup to soothe your stomach and replenish your body with nutrients.
Michael: See above! Make sure your fridge is stocked with healthy food, as your willpower will be weak and you'll reach for whatever is closest.
Well there you have it. If you want some face time with these gents, you can find Zee at 28 HongKong Street and Crackerjack, and Michael at Employees Only.