is the online portfolio and journal of Australian travel writer Nina Karnikowski.


It may have taken 17 years, but I think I’ve finally learnt to drink mindfully. 

Alcohol has, for better or worse, been a big part of my life ever since I discovered it at age 15. Back then, the aim was to drink as much as possible, to get as wasted as possible, as often as possible. My girlfriends and I would sneak out of our houses and bring whatever spirits we could manage to sneak from our parent’s alcohol cabinets, then combine them to make a ‘rocket fuel’ to knock our socks off. Which it did, over and over again.

At the time, I told myself it was all a bit of fun and experimentation. And I continued to tell myself that when I turned 18 and was partying hard five nights a week – ignoring the alcohol bloat, the constant hangovers, the dizzy spells, and the increasingly common panic attacks. I thought the drinking helped with those.

It didn’t. It actually made them a whole lot worse, especially when I was hungover. But it took me another few years to realise that. Years in which, as ashamed as I am to admit it, I’d sometimes find myself chugging a glass of wine before university in the morning so I wouldn’t panic on the bus on the way there. Still, I didn’t think there was anything really wrong with my drinking.

Drinking was just the thing I did. It was my vice, I told myself. I didn’t do drugs, I smoked a little but not much, so drinking myself into oblivion every other night was fine. Right? Well, if you call waking up in a pool of my own vomit having no idea how I’d even arrived home, with my now-husband standing over me almost in tears fine, then yeah, I guess I was fine.

I’m not exactly sure when things started shifting. I suppose it was when I started seriously getting into my yoga and meditation practices a few years ago. It was only then that I finally started listening to my body, asking it what it needed rather than just forcing things on it and expecting it to behave.

I’ve still continued to party every so often over the past few years. And there have been times when I’ve still gotten completely out of control and have woken up wondering whether I should just give up trying to do better. But then I realise that I’m not perfect, I never will be and that it’s all a process. I try to be kind to myself.

But drinking is no longer the first thing on my mind come 5pm. I have so many deeper, more meaningful ways to spend my time, and I don’t want to hide away in the blur anymore. I want, more than anything else, to be awake for all this magic that’s unfolding in front of me.

I don’t think I’ll ever be a non-drinker. And not just because my husband makes wine for a living. I guess I just like to enter the space that alcohol opens up for me. Only now, I know when to close the door on that space. A couple of drinks and I’m done. And man, do I enjoy those couple of drinks. I sip them slowly, I taste them, I actually notice how they’re altering my state. Best of all, I enjoy them knowing that I don’t need them.

By drinking more mindfully, I’ve really opened up to experimenting with how I do it. I’ve always fantasised about the idea of an elixir cocktail bar opening up somewhere in Australia, but now that we’ve finished creating our little apothecary I’ve thought why not just start my own. I’ve included a couple of the recipes I’ve developed so far below. Hopefully you can also enjoy them mindfully, creating them with presence and sipping them slowly with someone you love.

I like to think of them as relaxation tonics. And when I cheers with them, I cheers to knowing that although the road our lessons take us on can be very, very long, they always get us there in the end.


Organic vodka
2cm knob of turmeric
2cm knob of ginger
Juice of half a lemon
Teaspoon of maple syrup
Two shakes of cayenne pepper

Throw all the ingredients into a blender, and sip mindfully!


1 teaspoon activated charcoal powder
Juice of three oranges
Juice of one lemon
Sparkling water

Whiz it up, serve it out, give some thanks and enjoy.