One of the worst things to ever happen to the liquor industry was the health craze. Those seeds were planted in the Seventies, grew in the Eighties, and have been harvested more and more every decade since. I still remember being stuck eating carob-covered banana chips while my mom was in Jazzercise class at the Elks Lodge – and the place was packed. People suddenly kinda went nuts for healthy living all around the same time.
One of the very first things you toss out the window when you’re trying to be healthy, right after smoking, is drinking alcohol. Because, as we all know, drinking is not super great for you. And if drinking a lot is super unhealthy, then drinking nothing is the only alternative. Right?
So, obviously this is super bad news if you’re in the business of selling alcohol. Because what you need to do is keep people drinking. So, if everyone’s looking for healthy ways to live their lives, and they want to have a drink in the process, that’s a win-win situation.
Diet sodas were probably many people’s version of dipping their toes in the river of healthy drinking. You could take the boring highball that you were already drinking (rum and Coke, 7 and 7) and simply replace the mixer with diet soda. It’s still bizarre to think that alcohol and aspartame was once somebody’s idea of healthy living.
Then came the idea that anything with color was somehow less healthy than drinking something clear. I sucked down an unhealthy share of Clearly Canadian wild cherry sodas back in my day, and Crystal Pepsi was a real thing. But what really hurt the world of cocktails was this idea that vodka is somehow a healthier alternative to any spirit with color or flavor. It took some serious work to undo that sin of the past, believe me.
In the early 2000s, we all learned that carbohydrates are literally Satan, and soon everyone was afraid of beer. Light or Lite beers were traded in for new “Ultra Light” beers, whatever in the hell that is supposed to mean. But that was just an appetizer for the next – and current – wave of “healthy” drinking: because apparently, anything containing gluten is bad. Listen, if you’re not actually celiac and you’re trying to stay away from gluten, what you’re saying is that you’re trying to eat-low carb, but ashamed to admit it because people stopped talking like that a decade ago.
So the next time someone’s trying to sell you on liquor flavored with whatever the latest antioxidant berry is, ask yourself this: would sacrificing what you really want to drink and trading that in for some ridiculous fad be better than showing some restraint and maybe just stopping at one or two?