Wine for Breakfast (Plus Proven Party Tips)

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Almost there! The consistently upbeat Happy Gang is in week 4 of the Hill Street Challenge to go alcohol-free for a full month. Here’s how the hosts of Zoomer Breakfast Radio with Neil, Sam and Jane have been doing – and how alcohol has impacted their experience at social events.

Adding variety with alcohol-free options

Last week, Neil was extra popular at the radio station. He served a delectable pulled pork dish to his colleagues, using alcohol-free Hill Street Craft Brewed Lager as an ingredient. Now he’s generously sharing his pulled pork recipe with us. Jane’s tweet of an empty plate speaks for itself. “It’s the best pulled pork I’ve ever made,” says Neil.

“While I used to make this dish with Dr. Pepper, [using Hill Street Craft Brewed Lager] is the only way I’ll make pulled pork going forward. It’s my go-to now. The carbonation in the beer breaks down the meat” for a tender, flavourful feast. (Next week we’ll share Sam’s poached pear recipe.)

Meanwhile, Sam continues to share her Hill Street beverages with others, even on her recent vacation. “I introduced everyone I met to the red and white wines, whether they were young and old. They were surprised; they couldn’t tell the difference” between Hill Street’s alcohol-free wines and the alcohol-filled wines they were used to drinking.

“I even had some wine for breakfast on the deck (because I could).”

~ Sam Houston

Always active, Jane says, “I’ve been doing a ton of gardening lately.” To stay hydrated amid Toronto’s heat and humidity, she says, “Although we keep sports drinks in the fridge in the garage, now I’m drinking Hill Street’s alcohol-free Vin(Zero) Merlot for the electrolytes to make sure I’m not feeling woozy in the garden.”

Making social events safe and inclusive

When members of the Happy Gang host an event at their homes, they make an effort to ensure everyone has a good time.

Considering other people’s well-being matters to Sam when she hosts a get-together. “I’m really good at offering alcohol-free options because so many people drive. (Plus, I’m a parent.) So I offer sparkling water and Hill Street’s Vin(Zero) wines.” Since the products look and taste just like regular wines, “No one ever asks if my wine is alcohol-free because it tastes great. And when people do find out there’s no alcohol, they love that they’re drinking fewer calories.”

“Three hours before a guest left our party, I made sure she transitioned to alcohol-free wine.”

~ Jane Brown

For Jane, fun is important yet safety is paramount. “We have dinner parties and we always make sure our guests are taking an Uber or staying over. If they drive home, we make sure they only have one or two glasses of wine – and drink them early in the evening.”

At social events beyond the home, one thing Neil notices is “bartenders’ choice of glassware.” He explains, “When you go to a bar and order a Coke, it comes in a different glass than if you order a rum and Coke.” This distinction could make non-drinkers feel like they stand out. “I don’t want people to know I’m having just a Coke, so I ask the bartender to decorate it with a lemon or lime just as they would for a rum and Coke,” which helps Neil blend in and enjoy the event.

Why booze and business don’t mix Given the Happy Gang’s career in entertainment, we asked about their experiences at industry networking events, including how alcohol played a role on these occasions.

“Each of us has been in the entertainment industry for over 30 years,” Jane states. “A major reason we’re still going and still successful is that we decided early in our career to view networking events as professional events” rather than opportunities to party hard with coworkers.

At these affairs, “You’re performing and you’re representing the station,” so Jane prioritizes professionalism over partying at corporate events. Yet she has maintained a healthy, balanced lifestyle outside of work, as “I knew I could always let loose with my friends.”

Boundaries are essential for Sam, too. “Networking is work. I would never [get drunk at an industry event]. It’s bad for business. People who drink too much are being talked about the next day.”

“I’m turning 52 in February and I’ve never been drunk.”

~ Neil Hedley

Neil adds, “There are people we all know who, at social occasions with colleagues, have earned a reputation for being drunk. We know there will be another legendary story of them being drunk.”

Alcohol-free living is core to who Neil is. “I’m turning 52 in February and I’ve never been drunk. That’s because I made a decision that I never want a story in the newspaper about me being arrested as an impaired driver. I don’t want that to be part of my legacy.”

As for this week’s featured beverage, Vin(Zero) Chardonnay, Neil says, “My wife and I try to cook with the Hill Street products. We’re kicking recipes around for the Vin(Zero) Chardonnay. I’m thinking chicken and possibly pasta.” He notes the Hill Street Challenge “has re-sparked my interest in cooking. We say we need to have people over to try the pulled pork.”