I tried the new Fearne Cotton-approved mindful drinking trend, and it’s changed how I feel about wedding season

Semi sober-curious? TikTok’s mindful drinking trend might be for you.

UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1960s: Woman at party, wearing party hat and winking, holding glass of wine.
Mindful drinking
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Like 8.5 million Brits, I started the year sober, as is my Dry January tradition. Buoyed by a month of insomnia-free sleep, I became so sober-curious that I interviewed Millie Gooch, founder of the Sober Girl Society and ambassador for Alcohol Change UK, to see if I could change my drinking habits for good.

And then February hit, and I started that month with a stonker of a hangover. Since then, I’ve run the gamut from abstinence to ardently believing that some hangovers are actually great (hear me out on that one), but as a Libra, I need balance, so I’ve been searching for a less erratic approach to drinking. I’m not alone; more than one in four of us want to reduce our booze intake.

Enter: ‘zebra-striping’, also known as the ‘1 for 1 rule’. As Fearne Cotton recently explained to me, “Zebra striping is drinking one alcoholic drink followed by a non-alcoholic drink followed by another alcoholic drink—if you wish—and so on.”

At 33, according to ONS data, I am entering prime wedding season. Looking at my calendar, I feel my liver shrink in horror at the engagement parties, hen dos, and weddings ahead of me.

Speaking at a panel hosted by Seedlip, Fearne Cotton recalled her own “journey towards mindful drinking” (although she said she cringes at the word ‘journey’). Since “burning the candle at both ends” during her Top of the Pops years, she hasn’t drunk much in over a decade, but she admits that weddings are the trickiest to navigate. It’s a feeling shared by Katie Simmons, 28, who has never much liked drinking, something her friends largely understand - until it comes to weddings. “Everyone gets it until I’m at a wedding, and then it’s as if I’m somehow shading the happy couple. I’ll toast to them, just not with an alcoholic drink.”

Millie Gooch had a similar experience when she first became sober. She remembers her friends all being supportive, and then came the ‘but you’ll drink on my hen do, won’t you?’ question. This echoes research from L.A Brewery, which showed that 43% find staying sober at a wedding the most challenging social event, second to dinner parties (31%).

@milliegooch

♬ original sound - Millie Gooch

Gooch, who is now six years sober, remembers feeling “so abnormal” when she first gave up drinking. Fortunately, since founding her community for sober- and sober-curious women, attitudes towards drinking—especially binge drinking—have changed.

#Sobertok has 75.3M posts, and 67% of Gen Z of drinking age say they have reduced their alcohol intake after seeing mindful drinking content on social media. As Sarah Hawke put it in our Gen Talks series, “To be honest, I’d rather spend my money on soul-nourishing experiences.”

For Cotton, zebra-striping allows for a “much nicer evening and a much nicer day without a hangover the next day.” Like most thirtysomethings who, at some point, have to accept the cruel truth that you can no longer chug Glen’s Vodka all night and not expect to be a husk of your former self the next day, I’ve panicked at the potential number of ‘lost days’ ahead of me this summer.

Zebra-striping offers an alternative; it’s not committing to going fully booze-free, but there’s a chance that you might not totally write off the next day. There are other mindful drinking trends on the horizon, too. ‘Sober sipping’ and ‘hydration hacking’ are both gaining traction, while new research from Harrogate Spring Water indicates that 45% of us plan to ‘double up’ this summer. Gone are the days of a double equalling a wince-inducing whammy of spirits; today, the term refers to ordering water or another non-alcoholic option along with your boozy drink.

Patricia Bright, an entrepreneur and content creator, says she often orders just water with ice (an entrepreneurial move if ever I heard it) because it raises fewer questions and “it’s nice to have something in your hand.”

As someone who genuinely enjoys alcohol (both the taste and effect - help me!), I can’t imagine myself abstaining permanently, but zebra-striping? I’m nothing if not a sucker for a trend, and this one feels like it has staying power beyond one season. Just don’t hold me to it.

Shop my ‘zebra-striping’ picks

Mischa Anouk Smith
News and Features Editor

Mischa Anouk Smith is the News and Features Editor of Marie Claire UK.

From personal essays to purpose-driven stories, reported studies, and interviews with celebrities like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and designers including Dries Van Noten, Mischa has been featured in publications such as Refinery29, Stylist and Dazed. Her work explores what it means to be a woman today and sits at the intersection of culture and style, though, in the spirit of eclecticism, she has also written about NFTs, mental health and the rise of AI bands.