11 months ago

The Allure of the Summer Sundowner


Oh summer, how we love thee. Longer days and lingering sunsets are cherished, if not always bestowed. While we may not be blessed with the assuredly balmy summer evenings of our Mediterranean neighbours, we still relish every fleeting moment of sunshine that graces us and every slight elevation in temperature that an Irish summer brings. Winter can be long and dull, and like a chrysalis emerging from a cocoon, we abandon the much loved distraction of television and embrace the light with a passion usually reserved for, well, the return to the couch for the long awaited higher caliber TV viewing that usually begins in September.

We are seasonally jaded creatures and with the emergence of summer, we happily turn our backs on dark wet evenings and take to the garden with gay abandon. Lawns are mowed, patios swept and hedges manicured in anticipation of the elusive Irish summer we so thoroughly deserve. Dusty garden furniture is retrieved from the shed and fairy lights draped around our gardens. Backyard barbecues and al fresco dining become a regular occurrence with the assistance of Mach One patio heaters while summery salads are all we want to eat – at least that’s what we tell ourselves. Google goes into overdrive with daily searches for the best restaurants with a terrace (or even a couple of tables perched on the footpath) and neighbourhood bars with a roof terrace or a beer garden are thronged with summer lovers.

Undoubtedly, along with all this sunny merriment comes the perpetual summer entertaining and of course the summer tipple, the ubiquitous glass of something chilled and ideally, ever so slightly effervescent. Summer drinks are so much more visually appealing than their wintry counterparts, and who can resist the lure of a silver ice bucked filled to the brim with crystal clear ice with beaded bottles of fizz submerged within just waiting to be released. If prosecco is too passé, then what about a frosé? A rosé wine based slushie that had our summer selves drooling last year. Too lazy to drink your alcohol? A prosecco ice pop is the one for you. Or perhaps your pleasure is something a little stronger. The gin and tonic revolution has revealed an entirely new subset of devotees who think nothing of parting with upwards of €14 for a decent G&T, although you might need a degree in botany to distinguish one from another. For the coffee lovers among us, perhaps an espresso martini is the way to go. Traditionally considered an after dinner cocktail, this potent concoction is fast becoming the drink of the moment.

Of course our holidays abroad allow for daytime drinking that we would never usually permit ourselves, and the allure of an ice cold glass of Greek wine over lunch in a vine clad taverna clinging to a cliff overlooking the bluest of water is just too hard to resist. And why should we? Holidays are fleeting after all. As a nation, it would seem we have well and truly evolved from the occasional backyard bottle of icy Bulmers or a chilled glass of Lambrusco, although the latter appears to be making somewhat of a comeback. Come summer, our daily water intake is replaced with exciting concoctions that enhance the carefree and relaxed summer temperament and while we may only have one or two on a summer’s evening, how much is too much?

As a rule, it’s all rather grown up really, the new moderate drinking us. With age comes a shift in priorities and our interests change. We still enjoy well-earned fun but our perception of fun is more fluid. Sometimes it’s a night on the town (or indeed an evening), and sometimes it’s an indulgent bath and a good book. Drinking alcohol in middle age is not at all comparable to our younger selves. We enjoy a drink or two but the old adage of drinking to get drunk has been rescinded and replaced by a more social and convivial aspect. The heady days of youth and the challenges they brought are behind us and the late nights and throbbing heads from partying are (mostly) a distant memory. These days we are far more likely to be scheduling a fitness class followed by a ramen bowl than hitting a bar after work, and abstinence in all shapes and forms is widely encouraged and indeed lauded.

Never before have we been so aware of our bodies’ needs, or more specifically, our health needs. What we consume and how it affects our overall wellbeing and indeed appearance is paramount to us, but when it comes to summertime libations, it appears all bets are off. The vegan movement is going strong, as are ‘Meat Free Mondays’ and the Fitbit challenge, but culturally we are conditioned to celebrate every occasion with a toast or a glass of something fizzy and let’s be frank, a sunny day in Ireland is usually considered an occasion.

As the evenings stretch, so it seems does our capacity for midweek sundowners and while we may fondly look back on our more youthful selves with a sense of relief that we no longer have to struggle through a work day with a throbbing head from excessive indulgence, there is still a slight sense of unease at the insidious nature of our summertime imbibing. Luckily for us, Irish summers are notoriously short lived and once the darker evenings descend, we will no doubt retreat back to our winter cocoon remote control in hand until our next emergence. Roll on the festive season …

Ciara McQuillan

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