Ask Katie: Should I Avoid Desserts With Alcohol In Them?

And what do I do about champagne toasts?

Dear Katie,

Should people who completely abstain from alcohol cook with wine? Should they avoid desserts that have alcohol in them (e.g., bananas foster)? I was recently at a wedding with many sober people, and some took tiny sips of champagne for the toast. How strict do people have to be?


Little Sipper

Dear Little Sipper,

This is a really interesting question, and the answer is going to be slightly different for each person. Here’s the deal for me: I’m fine eating something that has been cooked with alcohol. For the most part (and certainly for my concerns), the alcohol cooks out, so I don’t worry about it. That said, if I were making food at home, I would find a substitute for alcohol if the recipe called for it. Why the difference? I don’t trust myself with a bottle of anything alcoholic. If a sauce called for wine, for example, I could very easily see myself pouring some of the wine in the sauce but then pouring all the rest of the wine down my throat. I even buy alcohol-free mouthwash, because towards the end of my drinking I would wake up with shaking hands from alcohol withdrawal. If I didn’t have any alcohol left in the house, I would drink Listerine to stop the shaking.

It’s worth noting that I have accidentally consumed alcohol in sobriety. I had some cough medicine that I thought was sans alcohol but wasn’t and accidentally picked up an Irish coffee instead of my regular coffee. In both cases, I had a sip and knew immediately that the thing I was drinking was not the thing I was supposed to be drinking. And in both cases, I was supremely freaked out. I didn’t keep drinking it and I got over my freaked out feelings pretty quickly, but I wouldn’t sign up for the experience again. Because for me, if I can’t drink all the alcohol, I shouldn’t drink any of the alcohol. So while your sober friends may have been fine with a sip of champagne, that is not something I, or many others, could do in a million years.

And while it is, to some extent, an individual thing, I would urge anyone reading this who is struggling with alcoholism or who is newly in recovery to abstain completely. I’m glad that I had built up five or six years of sobriety before my accidental sips happened. In early sobriety, everything is new and raw and uncomfortable and something that might only be unnerving five years down the road can throw you off completely with just a couple of weeks under your belt.

Quitting drinking was very hard. It was absolutely the best thing I could have done for myself and my life, but it was difficult. I really, really, really don’t want to have to do it again. So if that means I toast with sparkling apple juice instead of champagne, so be it. At least I’ll remember the wedding.


Every other week I’ll answer one question posed by Anxy readers, based on my experience. This isn’t meant to diagnose or provide medical advice — that responsibility lies with physicians. The author is not a licensed medical professional; if you’re struggling, please reach out to somebody who can help.

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