3 ways to drink less alcohol without feeling like you’re missing out

Emma Bee
4 min readJul 8, 2023

Pints with colleagues after work; wine at the family barbecue; shots on a Saturday night. It’s summer — aka boozing season — and those units are really adding up.

Here are 3 ways you can cut back on the alcohol, without feeling like you’re missing out at social events.

1. Be aware of ABV

This may sound obvious, but how many times have you actually looked at the ABV (alcohol by volume) percentage on the taps when you’re ordering at the bar? Making an informed decision about the drinks you’re ordering will really help when it comes to consuming less over the course of an evening.

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For example: a Carlsburg contains 3.8% ABV in one pint. Therefore four pints over the course of an evening will take you to 8.8 units.

Whereas a Heineken contains 5.0% ABV, which means that if you drink four pints, you’ll be sat at 11.2 units —three units more than the Carlsburg, it adds up!

2. Order a shandy or add more mixer

Whether you’re ordering at a bar, or mixing a drink yourself, it’s easy to change the ratio of alcohol in your drink.

At a bar, I often order myself just a tonic water if I want to break up my drinks for the night, or a lager-shandy if I want to slow down on the pints — and the best part is that no one needs to know you’re drinking anything different.

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When making drinks for yourself, be mindful of how much alcohol goes into the drink. Or on the flip-side, you could pour even more mixer in to make the drink last longer. Here’s what to do with each type of drink:

  • Beer: Turn that beer into a shandy by mixing half beer, half lemonade — you often can’t see the difference.
  • Wine: Summer is the season for a white-wine spritz! Add lemonade and ice for a refreshing twist.
  • Spirits and mixers: Take that double shot to a single, and increase the amount of mixer to make the drink last longer.

3. Lower your ‘drinking days’

The charity Alcohol Change UK says that one of the best ways to cut down your drinking is by having alcohol-free days throughout the week. Decide which days you’re going to enjoy a drink during the week, and when you’re going to steer clear of booze.

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This doesn’t mean that you need to miss out. If you’re craving a drink, there are plenty of non-alcoholic alternatives on the market now. Some of my favourites include Clean.Co — who promise ‘a life less wasted’ — and popular brand alternatives such as Heineken 0.0% and Tanqueray 0.0%.

I recommend using the app ‘Try Dry’. It helped me be more mindful about my drinking, as it meant I could log how much I was drinking, and which days I had on or off drinking.

If you want to reduce your alcohol intake, cutting those drinking days is a good place to start.

Bonus tip: If you’re really feeling the hangover, it might not just be down to the alcohol you drank last night. It might also be due to the other contents of your drink. Was it full of sugar? These are likely culprits for that pounding headache that hits a little harder than normal.

A drastic spike, and then drop, in your blood sugar levels will leave you feeling groggy and shaky the next day. Instead of sugary cocktails (a ‘sex on the beach’ may contain up to 12 teaspoons of sugar!), opt for a gin and tonic for a ‘cleaner’ drink, or a seltzer — vodka and sparkling water.

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I can attest to noticing the difference in my hangovers when drinking sugary drinks vs. those lower-sugar options. My university-days were full of blue and orange coloured VKs aka alcopops (what was in them?) that often left me shaking the next morning, until I switched to drinking vodka and diet lemonade — although this was arguably not much better for me due to the artifical sweetners. Now, I’d say that a lower-sugar wine, or a vodka-soda is the way to go.

These three tips for drinking less alcohol will equip you with the tools you need to drink less booze, without feeling like you’re missing out on social events. Check that ABV, mix your drinks mindfully, and change it up with dry days and alcohol-free drinks.

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Emma Bee

Emma is a London-based writer. She writes all things food, books, travel, and lifestyle.