I’m not going to lie, life feels like kind of a slog right now and sobriety uninspiring. It’s dark (like, 3:30 p.m. sunset dark) and cold in my city, I’m still feeling burnt-out at work in a way that isn’t going to just resolve itself over a weekend, and I’m not having those lovely little ‘why being sober rocks’ epiphanies I’d gotten spoiled by. Feeling blue is not at all uncommon for me at this time of year–it’s hard to find people without some degree of SAD around now–and it’s not like dealing with my drinking problem was going to magically fix that (or maybe I somehow thought it would?). And of course, what used to be my primary coping mechanism (um, drinking–I didn’t say it was a good coping mechanism) is gone, so it stands to reason that this December would feel a little tougher than last. And yet I’m still irritated, and maybe even a little mad at myself for not feeling better. I keep forgetting that while 163 is, yes, spectacularly badass 🙂 , it’s still EARLY. It’s like I just got my training wheels off, and rather than just be happy that I can ride a two-wheeler, I think I should be able to ride it with no hands *and* with complete confidence! This is me in a nutshell, but one of the biggest gifts of sobriety has been finally realizing that holding myself to ridiculous standards really doesn’t serve me. (Hence the job fatigue I wrote about on Day 154-ish.) I’m trying to focus on just covering the basics that I know will get me through this trough safe, sound, and sober: exercise, sleep, 20 minutes with my full-spectrum happy light in the mornings (if you get SAD symptoms try one, it really does help!), quiet time, good food, and all the books my heart desires. And this community, which has become even more important to me the longer I’m sober. Every time I read something about how the Internet is isolating people or killing civility or what have you I think ‘sure, there’s that, but it’s also saving lives.’
Anyway, enough of my psychodrama–I have a new contender in my War Against Infantile Virgin Drinks (WAIVED, and yes, I’m really stretching for that acronym) to share with you! This one is a juniper soda, so if gin was your thing, I can see where this might be triggering for you. But I’m nuts about it–it’s light and herbal-tasting and refreshing and Non-Infantile.
So: to make the syrup, you need a cup of sugar (superfine if you can get it), a cup of water, and about two ounces of juniper berries. I promise that procuring the juniper is the only PITA part of this recipe, but it can be hard to find. My Whole Foods had some, and if all else fails you can get them online. (And by the way, if you ever visit Seattle you have to promise me you’ll visit World Spice Merchants, the store I linked to, in person because it’s the most fun you will ever have wandering around and smelling exotic things.)
Once you’re gotten your 2 oz of juniper berries, you need to kind of lightly crush them–you could use a mortar and pestle, or a few quick pulses of an electric spice grinder. You don’t need to pulverize them; you just want to release the oils. Heat the water and sugar together in a small saucepan to dissolve the sugar, creating a simple syrup; when it is at a steady simmer, add the juniper berries, simmer for about 10 minutes, then take off the heat and let sit for at least a couple of hours.
You now have a juniper syrup that you can strain and mix with whatever you like–with tonic, it will have a remarkably convincing G&T flavor. But what I liked most was mixing it with club soda–about 1 part syrup to 4 parts soda–and adding a couple squeezes of lime juice. So good! The syrup will keep in the fridge for at least a week, so if (unlike me) you are a nice disciplined person who doesn’t have to snarf it all up in a couple of days, you’ll be set for a while. Enjoy!