They are the weekend trend that has spread to cities around the UK from restaurants in some of London’s trendiest areas.
But bottomless prosecco brunches are being blamed for making binge-drinking socially acceptable, and, with prosecco and cocktails the drink of choice, target middle class women.
Bottomless brunches are set price deals for unlimited alcohol within a certain time frame, often two hours, with deals typically costing £15 for drinks, or £30 to £40 with food.
Bottomless brunches are being blamed for making binge-drinking socially acceptable
Whereas binge-drinking was once associated with triple measures of spirits and cheap shots in nightclubs, it is high-flying young professionals and expensive fizz driving this new wave, campaigners said.
The timed brunches, which migrated to the UK from America, encourage drinkers to ‘get their money’s worth’ with diners drinkers as much as two bottles in one sitting, a top GP said.
For women binge-drinking is defined as six units, or two 250ml glasses of 12 per cent wine, in one session, or eight units for men, according to Drinkaware, while 14 units is the chief medical officers’ weekly recommended intake for both men and women.
Colin Shevills, director of alcohol charity Balance said: ‘These types of unlimited prosecco promotions are actively encouraging binge drinking where people consume high amounts of alcohol over a short period of time. Their growing social acceptability is concerning.
‘We’re seeing a phenomenon mainly targeted at women with a rise in prosecco as the female drink of choice.
‘A typical bottle of prosecco contains more than eight units, and promoting unlimited amounts undoubtedly makes it harder for people to keep track of how much they’re drinking.
‘What these bottomless promotions aren’t mentioning are the very real harms of drinking, which is particularly worrying when we’re seeing increases in alcohol consumption amongst the female population.’
It accompanies a trend for hard-working young professionals to drink moderately or not at all during the week and make up for lost time at the weekend.
While binge drinking was once associated with cheap shots, it is now middle-class women who think nothing of downing glasses of prosecco at the all-you-can-drink brunches
Dr George Rae, a GP and North East chair of the British Medical Association, said: ‘We are finding a lot of patients who will say “I only drink at the weekend”, and when we ask what they drink at the weekend, it’s maybe 25-30 units.
‘If you are getting the incentive to drink a bottle, two bottles of prosecco, that would undoubtedly be something that, if you were doing it regularly, would be detrimental to your health.’
Dr Omair Ahmed, consultant psychiatrist at Priory’s Wellbeing Centre in Birmingham, said: ‘Brunch is one of those meals that people think justifies alcohol before midday. It is inextricably tied to the drinking culture.
‘And restaurant brunches are communal experiences which appeal very much to working professionals. In busy cities, sometimes the weekend mornings are the only time groups of friends can manage to get together.’
The number of alcohol-related deaths every year among women has increased from 1,334 in 1994 to 2,838 today.
And of these, one of the biggest increases was in women aged 20 to 34, with a rise of 130 per cent.
The last decade has seen a 117 per cent rise in alcoholic liver disease admissions in England amongst the under 30 age group, according to Alcohol Concern.
One 27-year-old, a senior manager at a well-known technology firm in London, said the limited window adds pressure to drink faster.
She said: ‘I would definitely want to get my money’s worth in. It means I would drink a lot in a short space of time, at least a bottle. It’s the bottomless bit that appeals but I think prosecco does make it seem a bit more fancy.’
The restaurants themselves do little to dispel the image of loading up on alcohol. At one restaurant in south-east London the ‘bar is covered with pitchers – brimming with bloody marys and seasonal bellinis galore – for speedy replenishment,’ a reviewer noted.
One article covering the trend in London magazine Timeout from January this year read: ‘What could be a more natural activity for Londoners than the so-called bottomless brunch, which brings together a sociable weekend meal and excessive amounts of booze?’
Some restaurants try to regulate drinking by getting waiters to top up glasses or imposing a ‘no necking’ policy, so patrons are not allowed to down their drinks in one go.