A simple examination of the "nightcap" routine was all it took.  

By David McCann
March 04, 2020

After a long day of work, few things make me happier than a glass of wine. It’s a lovely way to unwind, catch up with Charlie (my husband) about the happenings of his day, and (dare I say it) decompress.

It’s also something I enjoy while cooking and eating dinner. I happen to be one of those people who believes that there is almost no point in eating an evening meal without wine. 

But over the years, both Charlie and I noticed that after dinner—when the dishes were finished and put away, the table had been crumbed, the candles snuffed, and we had settled in and started watching a movie or TV—we would have the ubiquitous “nightcap.” This would invariably be a glass of Scotch with a wee drop of water.

Now I need to tell you, we never felt we were drinking to excess. But it had become such a routine, that both of us began to wonder if it was really necessary. Were we having our nightcap because we wanted it, or was it just because we were accustomed to it? A habit. And this got me thinking about what, exactly, it was that we wanted. It wasn’t really the alcohol… we’d had wine. And neither one of us has ever enjoyed being even remotely inebriated, so that wasn’t a goal. Ergo, if it was just a habit, maybe it was one we could break. After all, empty calories are empty calories. But the question was how?

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Neither one of us is very fond of being told what to do. And we are equally uninterested in sticking to rigorous plans, or schedules, or (god forbid) diets. So just saying “OK, no more nightcaps...ever” was not going to work. I then returned to one of my original questions: What exactly was it that we wanted? 

  1. I’m very old fashioned. I love the feel of a heavy crystal rocks glass in my hand. And along with that, I love the sound of ice IN said glass.
  2. I enjoy consuming liquids—pretty constantly. But full strength coffee or tea at night seemed like a recipe for disaster, and both of us would rather die than drink decaf. Unfortunately, herbal tea just doesn’t cut it (for us… but if that works for you, you have my blessing). Plus, none of these options would give me my ice-and-crystal fix.
  3. We tried juice. Nope.
  4. We tried seltzer. Not bad. But buying tons of seltzer and contributing to the world’s plastic glut didn’t seem a great idea. And I wasn’t about to shell out $100 for one of those “make your own seltzer” machines.

So, one night we tried… water. Plain old water. In a beautiful, heavy, crystal rocks glass. With ice.

I’ll be damned if it didn’t work. It ticked the boxes. And as a side benefit, not buying as much Scotch does a budget good. Have we become crazed teetotalers? Are we voting to bring back Prohibition? Absolutely and emphatically no. We have wine before and during dinner; Scotch on the weekends. And, if we really want it on a given Wednesday, a nightcap. This is not a plan written in stone, but I must say, a little less booze has not hurt us one little bit.

I only offer this as something we found we could implement, without pain or a feeling of deprivation. Will we do this for the rest of our lives—I have no idea. But for right now, this alcohol version of “Meatless Mondays” makes sense for us.

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