Australia gets a double whammy at Christmas: it's the festive season, and it's summer. For most people this means a month of back-to-back parties, and it's less than fun if you're off alcohol.
The trouble is, there's something so... alcoholic about alcohol. If you've been able to drink it, and suddenly can't, then it's difficult to find anything to replace it. It's hard to watch others enjoy endless champagne when all you've got to replace it with is lemon squash.
Here's your guide to surviving Christmas on the wagon.
One of the best things about Christmas in Australia is the gorgeous summer nights we get – perfect for a party in the backyard or on a balcony. It's harder to bring a bottle along to these events when you're tee-total, but not impossible.
1. Wine. Most people have tried the non-alcoholic 'wines' available at supermarkets. They are clearly sparkling grape juice. Those who have searched further afield may have found de-alcoholised wines, which are genuine wines which have had the alcohol taken out of them. In most instances, they still taste almost entirely unlike wine, but the Edenvale Sparkling is a praiseworthy substitute for champagne.
2. Beer. Yes, there is alcohol-free beer. It's even sold at most supermarkets. It is genuine beer, brewed just like beer, but without the amounts of alcohol involved.
In taste, most alcohol-free beers taste like less-than-par beer. It's essential to drink them cold. They can also taste good in a shandy (half beer, half lemonade).
There is a down side to dealcoholised alcohols: alcohol-free doesn't always mean alcohol-free. Birrell, by Coopers, is 'ultra light', in that it contains a very low level of alcohol (0.5%), low enough to be considered a non-alcoholic drink. Edenvale also answers to having less than 0.5%. To balance this, it's worth considering that there are trace amounts of alcohol in a wide variety of things including fruit juice. If you're not drinking for health-related reasons, though, it's worth checking in with your doctor.
Out and about
Bars and pubs, specialising as they do in alcohol, often don't have much to offer the non-drinker. Soft drinks really lose their charm over a three-hour Christmas party. That's where the cocktail list comes in.
1. Virgin Mary. This is an obvious one, but it's easy to overlook it. The only difference between a Bloody and a Virgin Mary is a lack of vodka, and it makes very little difference to the taste. The great thing about a Virgin Mary is that it's a convincing enough mocktail that you'll want to sip it slowly. It's also not just a jazzed-up version of tropical fruit juice, so you won't be overloaded with sugar at the end of the night.
2. Nojito. Not quite as convincing as the above cocktail, an alcohol-free mojito still hits the spot, particularly on a hot day. It's just muddled mint and lime, a dash of sugar syrup and soda water.
3. Ask the bartender. Any cocktail bar worth its salt should have the ingredients to mix up something interesting without alcohol. Some smashed lime and soda, a bit of sugar syrup, some lemongrass and a dash of chilli and you've got something worth sipping.
Not at a cocktail bar? Try a ginless G-and-T, otherwise known as tonic water. It's still a soft drink, but its bitterness makes it last a little longer. Plenty of ice and a nice twist of lemon make it even more drink-like.
One of the toughest times as a Christmassy non-drinker is watching partners or the rest of the family having a festive tipple without you – particularly on Christmas Day. The answer is to have a special drink of your own.
Any of the above drinks will do, but it's nice to have something extra special up your sleeve. Try an alcohol-free pina colada: two tablespoons of coconut cream, a cup and a half of pineapple juice and the juice of half a lemon. Work it to your taste, but make sure it's good enough to make the others envy what you're drinking.