Spicy tomato juice – get one down ya’

SHARE

I’ve become a bit of a connoisseur of spicy tomato juices. 

For no other reason than I like them – and if I’m out on the town and not really drinking then that tends to be what I’ll order. 

They’re non-alcoholic and some people call them Virgin Marys but if made right they can pack quite a kick. 

Not as much of a kick as a Bloody Mary, which is what a Virgin Mary becomes when you add vodka to it. But a decent kick all the same. 

I like my Virgin Marys to have the lot – tomato juice, hot tabasco sauce, Worcester sauce, salt, pepper, and a squeezed lemon or two thrown in for good measure. 

Lone Star bar staffer Julia Lonnerheden makes a damn good one – among the best in town – and so it was that last Friday I found myself at the Loney watching a Super 15 rugby semi and slugging on a Virgin. 

Generally, in my experience, nursing a non-alcoholic drink at a bar in Queenstown tends to attract an inquisition of sorts at some point. 

Party town can be a difficult place to go out and have a few iced lemonades. 

Plenty of people’s default setting is if you’re out, you’re drinking. And if you’re not boozing, you have to justify why. 

I’ve never really understood why that is and I find it mildly annoying – but order yourself a ginger beer sometime and you’ll know what I mean. 

Inevitably, an acquaintance at the bar wandered over, pointed accusingly at my spiced tomato juice and asked: “And what the heck is that?” 

“Spicy tomato juice,” I replied. 

“Why aren’t you drinking?” acquaintance quizzed. 

“I’m in training,” I replied. 

“What are you training for?” acquaintance quizzed. 

“The Olympics,” I said, which drew a bit of a groan although I thought it was quite funny. But it was also the sort of answer that that kind of questioning deserved. 

And it was also kind of true because my flatmates had decided we’d be getting up early at 7.30am the following day for the Olympics opening ceremony and I was the designated breakfast chef. 

But back to this non-drinking thing and our attitude towards it. It’s not cool to make someone justify why they’re not having an alcoholic beverage. We should just leave them be. Anything else is immature. 

I’ll admit right now I’ve had my nights out when I’m trying to encourage everyone around me to party hard and drink like champions – but if someone doesn’t want to join in a shot, that’s their business. They shouldn’t be hassled and they shouldn’t be made to explain why. 

Like Temuera Morrison says in that ad, we should respect their reasons: “That’s what a friend would do.” 

I had all this bouncing around in my mind at the weekend when watching Rugby World Cup-winning former All Black coach Graham Henry do his tell-all interview on TVNZ’s Sunday show. 

Henry told Mark Crysell he found a culture of heavy drinking when he started in the All Black coaching role in 2007. 

“It disgusted me and I didn’t think it was acceptable,” Henry said. 

Then he said something which really resonated with me. 

“This was compulsory drinking, and making drinking compulsory for anybody is unacceptable.” 

Henry added: “… And this was an All Black New Zealand rugby team – totally unacceptable.” 

Asked what he did, Henry simply said: “We just changed the culture. We stopped it.” 

Compulsory drinking – it’s not just a culture inherited by the 2007 All Blacks. It’s an attitude that permeates our social culture, one that tends to start from a position of “Why aren’t you drinking?” instead of “Why are you drinking?” 

You try asking the latter out in the bars and see what sort of funny answers you get.