Everything in Moderation

How to drink responsibly during virtual gatherings

By Shirelle Williams 
Photos provided by Diageo

Social distancing is still in high effect for individuals across the nation due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, while health professionals and government officials enforce this rule, it is not stopping people from getting together virtually. Celebrations, collegiate commencement ceremonies, socializing with friends and even happy hours are still being conducted in this isolated time. The show must go on, right? Mobile apps and phone features such as Houseparty, Zoom and Facetime have increased in usage more than ever in these past two months. In addition to increased virtual meetups, there has also been a rise in alcohol sales. A common denominator in celebratory and social settings is that people are still purchasing alcohol to keep close to old reality as much as possible. However, consumers are still advised to drink responsibly. Publisher of The Voice-Tribune, Janice Carter Levitch, had the chance to speak with the Director of Alcohol Policy and Reputation Management at Diageo North America, Dr. Danielle Robinson, to ask her a few questions about moderation guidelines and healthy habits when drinking during this time.

Dr. Danielle Robinson.

How do you define moderation while drinking?
Here at Diageo, we go by the NIAAA dietary scale for recommended consumption. The NIAAA recommends 14 grams of pure alcohol or less a day. That is equivalent to 1.5 oz. of spirits, 12 oz. beer (average) or 5 oz. wine. For women, this is 7 drinks per week or 1 per day. For men, this is 14 drinks per week, or 1 per day. For those who choose to drink only on the weekends, I do not suggest that a full week’s allotment be consumed in one day. However, if choosing to drink, it is better to consume the recommended amount over the course of several days for moderate consumption.

What would you suggest to someone drinking who may not have the willpower to drink moderately?
What I would suggest and what I have seen in articles, is to establish a clear schedule. Try to stick as close as possible to your normal routine. Take control of your drinking and drink responsibly. Set a clear schedule of how your day will be structured. This includes selecting different spaces in your home for different types of activities. For example, designate a workspace separate from a space where you might be more inclined to imbibe.

For those who are participating in what we have seen most recently — virtual happy hours with our friends — consider not having an alcoholic drink. If you are a person with substance abuse issues, you obviously absolutely should not have an alcoholic option. We have alcoholic options in our portfolio, but also non-alcoholic drinks like Seedlip, which is a nice mixer for those who do not want to consume alcohol. Information is power as well! 

We also have a platform, DrinkIQ.com. which is a great resource for responsible consumption. Articles and quizzes are available so you can test yourself of the knowledge you have around alcohol and how it’s consumed.

Are some individuals more prone to self-control?
I’m not a medical doctor, however, at Diageo one of the things that’s important to us is to just get these messages out. Drink in moderation and quality drinking over quantity. Be mindful of what you are drinking and how much, that is the key.

Working remotely has become a global shift. How do we overcome the idea every day is the weekend?
Yes! As I said before, I think it is even more prudent for us to try and maintain as much of a schedule as before as possible to create some sense of normalcy. That includes how we consume alcohol. If you are someone who remains really focused on the weekends, you should try and maintain that as much as possible. But again, if you stay within the dietary guidelines the NIAAA has put into place, around the amount per week, you should be okay. That is considered moderate consumption. But keep in mind, that if you go over, you are in the realm of what is considered binge drinking at that point, or heavy episodic drinking. 

Also, continue to hydrate with water! Making sure people keep track of their drinks and measure using a jigger. When I say an ounce and a half, I really do mean an ounce and a half. Have days that are drink free. Board games, virtual coffee dates with friends, it doesn’t always have to be an alcoholic beverage to be considered a happy hour. It should be what you define as a happy hour, it should be whatever you are comfortable with having. 

How can parents set an example of moderation for their young adult children of legal drinking age during this quarantine?
I think they are watching us even more so than ever because we all are together. There are a number of ways for you to talk to young adults about what alcohol can do to the brain and body when you consume under the legal drinking age. We partner with an organization called Responsibility.org. There are a number of resources on their page specifically for young adults.

Including everything I mentioned before, make sure there is a time and place for consuming, make sure it is not all day long and make sure to make conscious choices to not drink on certain days. Make sure you are drinking water, measuring and not free pouring. Young adults will follow and model all the things we do when it is legal for them to consume alcohol, or they may decide they do not want to. If we choose to do so, they will see us openly decide to not drink an alcoholic beverage when everyone else is drinking, and see it is a personal choice and that we have every right to decide this will not be a day of consumption. It is important for us to model that behavior so they will feel confident in making their own choices when it is their time. 

Tell me about the nonalcoholic beverages available?
Yes! We have two non-alcoholic brands in our portfolio. We have Seedlips and Ritual Proof Zero. We have also seen the trend of low alcohol. It is the standard ABV (alcohol by volume) lessened in beverages. However, always remember that you do not have to partake should you choose not to.

Is there anything else to help promote moderation?
DrinkIQ is always steady. It has been there and will always be there. We update information there all the time. For all underage drinking issues, the direction would be responsibility.org. 

Diageo’s most recent tool, the “Virtual Good Host Guide,” was created to help individuals plan for positive and responsible virtual get togethers when including alcohol. The guide’s top eight tips can be found on Diageo’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter social media platforms. To help with alcohol beverage moderation and responsibility, Dr. Danielle Robinson encourages everyone to set clear schedules and designate spaces in their home for certain tasks. This helps you know when it is the right place and time to enjoy! Individuals should also keep in mind that there are nonalcoholic beverages available when participating virtually, and be aware they do not have to participate in drinking at all. Dr. Robinson says this shows control over consumption and implements a healthy schedule. Her hope is for people to be mindful by making mindful choices when consuming alcohol. V

For more information about responsible alcohol consumption or to test your knowledge about intake, please visit drinkiq.com or responsibility.org.