Daily, we're bombarded by a maelstrom of alarming news. The air we breathe is foul, the food we crave rots our insides, and everything we do that's fun is basically hurting us or the planet - or both. Alcohol (which has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years) is a common (and delicious) buffer against all the doomsday warnings routinely monkey-flung in our faces.
I'm not promoting overconsumption, and I definitely don't bury my head in the sand when it comes to the perils of excess - I've been a bartender for a decade; I've seen some shit - but I do think moderate drinking is one of the most enjoyable activities in which we can collectively participate.
Drinking can be great for you, and I'll tell you why.
According to Alcoholism: Clinical And Experimental Research, moderate drinkers consistently outlive teetotalers. Why? We don't really know, but one of the reasons may be that drinking brings people together. Humans need social stimulation; we get depressed without it. A couple of drinks can be shyness's wrecking ball, peeling back inhibitions that might get in the way of a spontaneous kiss or a new friendship. You don't need alcohol to have a good time, but, holy hell, does it help.
If you want to mingle, visit a bar with good vibes and lots of regulars, like 416 Snackbar (181 Bathurst, 416-364-9320, 416snackbar.com) or Pharmacy (1318 King West).
Whether it's the ritual practice of visiting a local or the anticipation of a well-mixed cocktail at home at the end of a long day, imbibing is part of leisure. Alcohol is, after all, a depressant: it loosens muscles, softens perspectives and releases stress.
It's easy to unwind at Midfield (1434 Dundas West, 647-345-7005, midfieldwinebar.com), with its amazing wines, tasty plates and great ambience. Or sink into a plush chair and enjoy the view at the Hyatt Roof Lounge (4 Avenue Road, 416-925-1234, parktoronto.hyatt.com).
Alcohol releases endorphins, lighting up your brain's pleasure centre and making you feel fantastic. I'm no neuroscientist, but I know that a stiff drink from a friendly barkeep can coax a smile from a grump. We celebrate our milestones - graduation, marriage, new horizons, reunions with old pals - by toasting them, and there's a perfect drink for each of our fondest moments.
I love the Black Dice Cafe (1574 Dundas West, blackdicecafe.com) because it's low-key and one of a kind. I can always find a few of my favourite things in house: Japanese dark lager, a range of Nikka whiskies and a vintage pinball table. Sipping quality spirits in an unpretentious setting can be the best thing ever. Hit 1602 (1602 Dundas West, 416-885-9298) for whiskey, and Reposado (136 Ossington, 416-532-6474, reposadobar.com) for tequila and mezcal.