There's plenty of evidence to suggest we're all drinking a bit more often than usual, but - if you tot it all up - is it really more? It also seems we're now upgrading the quality of our consumption too.
Remember right at the beginning of all this, when the World Health Organisation warned that drinking was an “unhelpful coping strategy” in the face of the pandemic? Good one, eh?
In a surprise to precisely no one, Britons are apparently drinking more in lockdown. Waitrose says 25 per cent of us have reported drinking more in the past few weeks. Meanwhile, sales of liqueurs are up by 78 per cent, cocktail ingredients are up 48 per cent, and tequila sales have almost doubled, as people fill the evenings creating ever more elaborate “quarantinis”. And we’ve all been knocking back the rosé like it’s about to run out (please, God, don’t let it run out).
“The unseasonably warm weather pushed up demand for rosé,” says Becky Hull, wine buyer at Waitrose, “with many people choosing a glass of something pink to relax with in the sunshine. We've also seen strong demand for versatile, food-friendly wines, as people looked to recreate a restaurant experience at home.”
The trouble is, during lockdown, while we are swimming in this sea of sameness, there is very little that mark the transition from day to night quite so successfully as a drink. Nothing hits the spot quite like a beautifully mixed quarantini or a chilled Chablis as the sun starts heading towards the horizon.
If you’re managing to abstain, good luck to you. There are bound to some who manage to emerge from lockdown with immaculately hydrated skin and the liver of a 14-year-old. But then, even among those of us with wetter whistles, are we really drinking more? It is, of course, difficult to tell, because in the absence of being able to go to the pub or out for dinner, supermarket booze sales are bound to rise. But are we really drinking more per week than before?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that, actually, even though we may be enjoying a tipple more frequently, overall we are not drinking more; or not too much more. In BC ('before covid'), we might have held off Monday-Thursday before 'going for it' on a Friday and Saturday night. Now, we're more likely to enjoy the odd glass of something nice during the week, and perhaps mix up a few cocktails or open a special bottle at the weekend, without getting too blottoed.
There is also, it has to be said, a certain amount of “well, what else are we going to spend money on?” about the whole lockdown drinking thing. Particularly as weddings, holidays and big birthdays are cancelled and social lives remain on hold for the foreseeable. With so much uncertainty in the air, there isn’t an awful lot to look forward to. A booze delivery could provide just the sort of frissant you’ve been yearning for.
If the experience of the handful of wine merchants we've spoken to is true elsewhere, it seems we're spending about twice as much per bottle of wine than we did before lockdown started. Well done to everyone lucky enough to be able to do so! It shouldn't be too long before we can ease off the workload on our livers.... but, when we do, will we keep the quality up?