Not to ruin everyone’s fun this holiday season, but AAA Oklahoma reports that 30 percent of all state automobile crashes are caused by alcohol. This number rises as high as 40 percent during the holidays (cue Debbie Downer trumpet — wah waaahh).
It’s a season fraught with celebration and — if your family has just the right Molotov cocktail of dysfunction and wine with Christmas dinner — commiseration. Endless office parties, get-togethers, 10-course dinners and football playoffs give anyone with some kind of social life an excuse to drink. Add in the jewel in the holiday season’s cap — New Year’s Eve — and it’s at least a little likely you’re going to end up needing someone else behind the wheel of your car.
“There’s been a shift in society’s attitude toward drinking and driving,” said Chuck Mai, AAA Oklahoma spokesman. “We’re seeing more and more people utilize designated drivers, and if there’s one in the group that doesn’t drink, they’ll make sure the rest of the group gets home safely.”
For those whose friends can’t teetotal in the New Year, AAA Oklahoma is offering Tipsy Tow. AAA members and nonmembers alike can call 1-800-AAA-HELP and ask for the service, which will provide a ride home (within 15 miles) and a tow, so no one has to be separated from their automobile.
“People want to be with their car,” said Jake Hickman, bar manager at McNellie’s Public House, 1100 Classen Drive. “If they call a cab, it’s mainly because they don’t mind having to get a ride back in the morning and get that taken care of.”
Hickman believes that services like Tipsy Tow drastically reduce the rates of drunk driving, because people don’t want to have to come back to the bar in the morning to retrieve a car.
And for those good Samaritans who will be abstaining for their friends’ sake this holiday, Hickman notes that McNellie’s does have O’Doul’s Amber on tap, “though you really have to like the flavor of beer to drink it. Most people just tend toward water or soda.”
One of the ways AAA is trying to help motorists stay sober this holiday season is by changing the idea that being DD equals the drinking doldrums. AAA recently hosted its annual “Great Pretenders Mocktail Mix-Off,” in which local suds slingers concocted alcohol-free beverages.
First place went to Elias Ramos, of the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City. His concoction, the Red Dirt Mocktail, consists of one and a half strawberries and three small pieces of watermelon muddled with an ounce of simple syrup and enjoyed with six ounces of Sprite and an ounce of grenadine.“A Shirley Temple isn’t a replacement,” said Jason Ewald, beverage director at Good Egg Dining Group. “Soda water isn’t a replacement.” Ewald’s Salty Puppy Mocktail won second place in AAA’s contest this year.
“The gist of it is to make something that’s hard, not overly sweet or ‘dessertish,’” he said. “It has to have some appeal for that first sip or the first couple drinks that you have. You’re looking at an adult drink.”
Ewald’s Salty Puppy starts with two and a half ounces of fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, three-fourths ounce each of fresh-squeezed lemon juice, basil-infused simple syrup and pasteurized egg white. Shake that and pour it through a wide strainer to preserve the foam. Top it with salt foam, which he said is easily made by using a hand blender to mix water, salt and egg whites. His secret ingredient? Soy lecithin, to keep things foamy.
If that sounds like too much work for a designated driver who’s trying to hide keys from his friends, Ewald said an ounce each of lime juice and cranberry juice with a splash of pomegranate juice, topped with soda water, sweetened with agave nectar and garnished with a lime, is an easy and delicious nonalcoholic substitute.
“My advice to people would be to go out there with your garnishes,” Ewald said. “Embellish that aspect. Look for adult flavors, and avoid too much sweet. Look for balance. Make sure there’s enough sour and bitterness to balance the sweetness.”