If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that bottomless brunches are great. Whether you’re a traditionalist who enjoys mimosas and eggs on a lazy Sunday, or drag brunch is the first of many stops on your big night out, it’s not hard to see why the culture of bottomless brunch has soared in popularity in the last few years—it’s incredibly fun.
I personally love it because, one, it combines both of my favourite things: alcohol and breakfast food—yes, in that order, don’t judge me. And secondly, because there’s so much variety. Not in the mood for a drum and bass brunch? Just go to a Beyoncé-themed one instead. Bored of prosecco? Try unlimited rum punch for a change. Went a bit overboard with your number one order, avocado on toast? Switch to bottomless dim sum to be able to stuff your face while still feeling somewhat ‘healthy’. The options are truly endless, so it’s no wonder why it’s fast becoming a weekend staple.
But like all good things in life, there’s a catch. While we may revel in the thought of free-flowing booze, in practice things can turn sour pretty quickly—if you dare, search ‘bottomless brunch’ on TikTok and you’ll see what I mean. Whether it’s videos of brunch-goers downing their freshly poured cocktails to make way for their next, or the dangerous Dutch courage a few too many glasses of prosecco afford others, everyone’s favourite hobby is concerning experts. Is bottomless brunch essentially normalising binge drinking?
Doctor Olivia Maynard, lecturer in Psychological Science at the University of Bristol and co-director of the university’s Tobacco & Alcohol Research Group, believes so. “The Chief Medical Officer defines a binge as anything over 6 units of alcohol in a day,” she said. “With a bottle of prosecco coming in at 8 or 9, it’s easy to imagine that bottomless brunchers could very easily exceed the threshold for a binge within their typical 90-minute window.”
But it’s not just the amount of alcohol we’re drinking that’s worrying. Often, the concern at brunches is whether we’re getting our money’s worth of booze or not, which eggs us on (no pun intended) to drink faster than usual. “It’s certainly the case that the faster you drink, the faster you’ll become drunk,” Doctor Maynard continued. “Our bodies can only metabolise alcohol at a certain rate, regardless of how much is circulating.”
Sure, this might not sound shocking, especially when you consider that bottomless brunches are literally designed to get those who partake in it drunk. And yes, I agree, we all deserve to let our hair down every now and again. But Doctor Maynard argued that we’ve become just too reliant on alcohol to lubricate our social interactions.
“Alcohol is a powerful psychoactive drug, and experts agree that it’s one of the most harmful drugs available. While over-consumption of most other drugs isn’t generally culturally acceptable, over-consumption of alcohol is almost exclusively lauded and encouraged,” she explained.
I know, this is exactly the opposite of what you’d like to hear—and I’m not trying to rain on your weekend plans, promise. Most of us are aware that binge drinking is detrimental to our health, both physically and mentally, but it seems this knowledge isn’t enough to stop us.
Last month, a survey found that the UK is the only country in Europe where alcohol consumption increased during the pandemic—and our favourite bars and restaurants have been listening to our increased demand. Alongside the usual trendy Instagrammable spots, high street chains like Turtle Bay and All Bar One have recently jumped on the bottomless brunch bandwagon, offering two hours of free-flowing bubbly with a meal for under £30.
Long gone are the days where bottomless brunch was reserved for special occasions and boujee birthdays. Instead, it’s become the norm to guzzle your body weight in prosecco before midday on any given weekend, often before food has even made its way to your table. It’s this normalisation that’s worrying experts, and not just from a health perspective.
There’s also the social aspects of bottomless brunches to consider, said Doctor Maynard, “While many people clearly enjoy bottomless brunches, others invited along may not want to drink very much, but are peer pressured into doing so.”
So, how can we make bottomless brunches a safer and enjoyable experience for everyone involved? Not getting too ahead of yourself seems the obvious answer, but putting that into practice when your glass is constantly being topped can be harder than it sounds.
Making sure we keep an eye on how much we drink is essential. “Say no to top-ups and only refill your glass when you’ve finished your previous one. That will help you keep a track of how much you’re drinking,” Doctor Maynard added. Who knew you could do such a thing? You could also record your drinking on an app that allows you to set and stick to a limit.
It’s also important to ensure that you get your money’s worth of food and non-alcohol drinks, too. If you do decide to sit out for a few rounds, small things like asking for your soft drink to still be served in a champagne flute can help avoid some serious FOMO.
That being said, Doctor Maynard stressed that, ultimately, the responsibility of being safe doesn’t sit solely on our shoulders: “It’s the role of the venue hosting the brunch to make everyone feel welcome and included, like making sure alcohol-free alternatives are attractive and good value for money.”
Let’s be honest, when we book a bottomless brunch, we know what we’re signing up for. But that doesn’t mean every brunch needs to result in a deadly hangover. And as someone who considers themselves quite the brunch connoisseur, let me tell you: the best bottomless pursuits are the ones you can actually remember.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been under fire due to a controversial statement made in the first draft of its 2022-2030 Global Alcohol Action Plan. In the plan, which has been called “medieval”, WHO suggests that there should be a “prevention of drinking among pregnant women and women of childbearing-age.” It is the latter half of this statement that has caused the stir. Since the ‘childbearing age’ for women and people with female reproductive organs spans from the ages of 18 to 50, it’s obvious why the organisation was slammed for its ignorant and patriarchal rhetoric. The story of our lives, isn’t it?
Before I continue with how obviously problematic this is, there must be a clarification made on behalf of WHO. In spite of some of the incendiary headlines you may have seen, the Global Alcohol Action Plan does not call for a ban on drinking for women in this age bracket. In a statement, WHO explains, “The current draft of WHO’s global action plan does not recommend abstinence of all women who are of an age at which they could become pregnant. However, it does seek to raise awareness of the serious consequences that can result from drinking alcohol while pregnant, even when the pregnancy is not yet known.”
Despite this, it’s still pretty bad. Okay, it’s really bad. Most people are aware of the dangers of alcohol and introducing measures to improve people’s health isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We could all try to be healthier, right? However, where a woman’s health is concerned, it’s never really about her, but about the hypothetical non-existent child she may have in the future. Chief Executive of abortion rights charity British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), Clare Murphy, released an official commentary on the action plan, “By treating all women—for 40 years of their lives—as little more than vessels, the WHO reduces women to little more than their reproductive capabilities.” Murphy continued on Twitter, writing, “We absolutely have to stand up to an agenda which increasingly treats every woman as ‘pre-pregnant’.”
This controversial statement from WHO, for many, continues to fuel the anti-abortion fire that has been spreading these past few years. With the US Supreme Court passing an anti-abortion decision and Poland passing a near-total ban on abortion in the first months of 2021 alone. But what if WHO is just actually concerned with the health of the future generation? Is it really about controlling women’s bodies? Yes, it is. Let me show you another reason why.
Ironically, WHO’s suggestion sits alongside its own statistics that showcase how alcohol misuse is much more prevalent in men than it is in women. Its statistical findings illustrate that around 700,000 women died globally of alcohol misuse in 2016. When comparing this to men, the number is over three times higher—2.3 million. It also removes men from accountability in childbearing. There have been numerous scientific studies that show the adverse effect alcohol consumption can have on sperm count. In one 2014 study, Professor Tina Kold Jensen of the University of Southern Denmark concluded “that even modest habitual alcohol consumption […] has adverse effects on semen quality.” They found that “alcohol consumption was also linked to changes in testosterone” in general.
If WHO really cared about the health of make-believe babies, then surely there would be fertility advice for men? No. Nothing. It’s almost laughable when you think of the real dangers women face in the environment of alcohol. The Institute of Alcohol Studies highlights “the strong relationship between alcohol and domestic abuse, violence and sexual assault. While alcohol should not be used as an excuse for those who perpetrate violence and abuse, neither should its influence be ignored.”
So maybe, just maybe, we can focus on the lives of actual real, alive women instead of human beings that don’t even exist yet. And hello? What if we don’t even want them to begin with. I don’t. I’m popping open a bottle right now.