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A Bartender Becomes a Campaigner Against Alcoholism

by Gopalan on  April 18, 2008 at 2:27 PM General Health News   - G J E 4
A Bartender Becomes a Campaigner Against Alcoholism
Andy Pearson, a London bartender, has turned into an active campaigner against binge drinking.

His alcohol education website, to be launched in the coming months, would include a history of spirits, their cultural context and their safe recommended drinking levels.
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The 31-year-old Yorkshireman who mixes drinks for the BBC's Something for the Weekend, and is the current UK Bartenders Guild Nation Champion, says he was appalled by a violent quarrel that broke out ten years ago.

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"It was a classic case of it being Friday evening, around closing time, someone has knocked someone's drink over and it has descended into a fight involving around 40 people," said Pearson. "I remember looking at them and thinking if they hadn't been so lagered up this wouldn't be a problem."

"That's the problem with people drinking irresponsibly: people often do things they wouldn't normally do."

Pearson considers it a defining moment in his career. From that point onwards, he became as committed to changing British attitudes towards alcohol consumption as he was to crafting the perfect cocktail.

Drink less, understand the spirit you're consuming and appreciate the flavours, are among Pearson's oft-mentioned aphorisms. An unlikely advocacy role for a barman, one might argue, but Pearson doesn't see a conflict between his two roles.

"I think people would make smarter choices if they were better informed; ignorance of what they're drinking and a lack of appreciation for spirits is the real problem."

High on Pearson's list of targets are off licenses that sell alcohol to minors, bar staff who do not keep an eye out for excessively drunk patrons and supermarkets that aggressively market cheap spirits.

"When you've got a bottle of spirits that is sold at a bargain price it is only going to be drunk by two groups of people: the very young and alcoholics."

In the last two weeks alone, a number of stories have highlighted Britain's worrying relationship with alcohol, particularly among teenagers. Last week, in a 'national crackdown' police claimed they seized almost 45,000 pints from thousands of children across the country in only 14 days.

The government is also pushing supermarkets to raise the price of alcoholic drinks in a bid to cut down on binge-drinking, and more recently, a British teenager revealed that consuming six bottles of wine a day had caused her liver to fail at 14, writes Johanna Leggatt in Daily Telegraph.

This was, of course, an exceptional case but it nevertheless remains the extreme end of what Pearson considers a pervasive problem. "We've really struggled as a nation with the idea that we're a pub-based society that drinks heavily between the hours of 7-11pm."

Pearson contrasts the public's lack of knowledge about spirits with the middle-class enthusiasm for wine. Of the 58 countries Pearson's work has taken him to, he's been dismayed to discover the binge-drinking problem is largely a British one.

"When you're working in high-volume bars, you see lots of people coming out and they're in their early 20s and their intention is to have a few drinks and see what happens next.

"These are the kinds of people that need to be targetted.

"Our continental neighbours don't have this problem with alcohol and it's clearly down to a lifestyle. They grow up and food and alcohol is combined in moderate amounts, and people won't necessarily go out with the sole intention of getting drunk."

ANDY PEARSON'S TOP FIVE TIPS FOR RESPONSIBLE DRINKING

· Eat: Don't drink on an empty stomach, food allows the body to absorb alcohol more slowly. Also feel free to 'top up' by eating small amounts of food during the drinking period.

·  Drink water: This will keep you hydrated lessening the effect of alcohol on your system; it also reduces thirst and therefore consumption of alcoholic drinks.

·  Pace Yourself: Everyone knows their general capacity for alcohol, do not take on board more than you can process.

·  Be unit aware: Know what you are drinking, does a double spirit with mixer contain more alcohol than a pint of beer?

·  Stand up to peer pressure: Don't be encouraged to 'pick up the pace' or get involved in rounds of shots.

Source: Medindia
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