Preparing dinner for a recovering alcoholic? Help!

My stepfather is a recovering alcoholic who’s been sober for at least 13 years. He’s coming for dinner in a few days.

Last night my b/f and I were discussing what to make - we decided on roast beef. He wants to make a favourite sauce/gravy that calls for “port” in the recipe (about 4 oz.).

Then we started wondering if this would cause a problem for my stepfather. (I don’t know him well enough to ask).

Obviously we can prepare the gravy w/o alcohol, but my question is, would this have caused a problem for my stepfather, if we hadn’t known about his disease, or hadn’t thought twice about it and just prepared the gravy the way we originally wanted to, with the alcohol?

My husband is recovering. I wouldn’t serve him anything with alcohol in it. Why tempt fate? Make something else.

The port shouldn’t be a problem, IMHO. However, if you have the slightest problem with it, don’t use it. The gravy can be really great without it.

I would suggest that you have ice cream or something else sweet for dessert. In my experience, recovering alcoholics crave sugar.

Why don’t you ask him?

Graham Kerr, also a recovering alcoholic, I believe, frequently uses de-alcoholized wine in his cooking. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s a TV chef who was famous in the 60’s for liberally lacing his food and himself with booze, and who has been reincarnated as a healthier cooking type, minus the alcohol.

Anyway, you could use nonalcoholic red wine in the sauce, maybe adding a bit of sugar, if necessary.

I wouldn’t use it. Would you be able to live with yourself if you stepfather fell off the wagon because of your boyfriend’s gravy?? It’s not worth the risk.

Theoretically, if the food cooks for 15 minutes after the booze goes in, the alcohol burns off. In practical terms, however, I prefer not to test this – I never order anything with wine in the sauce in restaurants. Plus, I prefer to stay away from the taste of it – I’ve never tried the non-alcoholic beverages.

There are exceptions, though – I use cooking sherry in my shepherd’s pie – but I cook the meat, etc., with the sherry for 15 minutes on the stovetop before it goes into the casserole dish, then it’s in the oven for another 45 minutes or an hour – I’m pretty confident the alcohol is gone by then.

There are lots of other things you can make – I’d pick one of them. Make a different kind of sauce, or go in another direction altogether.

The first dinner at my brother’s after I got out of rehab (this was about a year later, I was living in another part of the country), he made coq au vin, but assured me all the alcohol had cooked out. This still strikes me as one of the most passive-aggressive assholish things my brother has ever done, in a long career of passive-aggressive assholish behavior. There are other chicken dishes, there are other stews, you don’t make effin’ coq au vin for your alcoholic sister.

twicks, sober 17+ years

Thanks for your replies.

I think the port would be used while slow-cooking the roast in a crockpot … then it would be in the juices which would be used for the base of the gravy.

My concern wouldn’t be that he would fall off the wagon because of it … my worry was more that it would somehow offend him, as it might seem thoughtless.

I’m also leery of offending him by asking, so we will play it safe and make a different type of sauce.

I was curious to know if there was some kind of hard & fast rule about any alcohol being left in the dish after cooking. Seems like there isn’t any guarantee, so why chance it!?!

Thanks all …

I’d not be concerned about the presence of traces of alcohol so much as the taste that is imparted. I know two recovering alcoholics who don’t even like to eat items made with a very yeasty dough – like my homemade thick crust pizza – because the taste makes them crave beer, and my father in law won’t take communion in a church that uses wine, even though the stuff in the chalice is only about 2% alcohol.

In short, skip the booze, do another gravy for the roast. There are hundreds of recipes on the web which will work well in place of the port gravy. There’s no port gravy so good that it’s worth risking your stepfather’s recovery.

Oh, and cher3, Graham Kerr isn’t an alcoholic. His switch to dealcoholized wines was part of his adoption of a heart-healthier cuisine after his wife Treena nearly died from a massive heart attack. Since alcohol can raise triglyceride levels in people with certain cardiovascular issues of the type Treena has, he felt it important to show that you can impart the flavor without the dangerous (to some) alcohol.

:smack: Cross-posting is the bane of my existence.

Good choice, Stainz.

It’s astonishing how this fallacy keeps being perpetuated. I’m a chef and a recovering alcoholic. When I was in rehab, I insisted that “the alcohol burns off.” In fact, sometimes 75+% remains.
And you never really get all of it out.

A note on non-alcoholic beverages: many–if not most–alcohol-free beers contain .05-.5% ABV. I have watched my alcoholic brother-in-law get tipsy on the stuff on family holidays, which is the only time he drinks it. He’s been technically sober for over 20 years and this stuff hits him hard.

essvee, thank you for that link. I was under the impression that it cooked away, as well.

For all practical purposes, it does cook off. Unless you just cook it for a few minutes. If you’re cooking something for hours, it cooks off. I serve it to recovering alcoholics all the time and have never had a complaint. They can’t taste the alcohol because there isn’t a detectable amount left.

Wow … essvee, thanks for that link!

Good to know …

Off to search the 'net for more recipes!


Even if you could get the alcohol out chances are they would know the taste of port. So I’d just skip adding the port wine.