Welcome to spring, A.K.A. wedding season, A.K.A. the wonderful time of the year when you're expected to stand around drinking champagne, then wine, then straight whiskey—with or without canape—for like six hours straight. Can you feel the hangover just thinking about it? Well, I can't. Because, after five years of writing about drinking, I've developed a few tricks to make it through the night— and the next morning— without having to worry about the room spinning.
Now, look: This is the type of advice I usually only give to close friends and confidants. But the time is right. Every day, I get pitched on a new miracle hangover remedy, each one more ridiculous than the last. There is an easy way to avoid a hangover, folks. It doesn't involve taking six pills before you drink and three after, and you don't have to wear a stupid patch on your bicep all night. I've discovered the cure, it's really simple, and I'm going to let you in on it.
So, first of all, a warning: This isn't for everyone. If you have a drinking problem, or your nights tend to end in a drunk tank, you need to address that stuff with a professional. But if you're like me— somewhere around 30, in reasonably good shape, with reasonably good impulse control— there are 10 simple rules you can follow that'll save you a lot of headaches.
Here they are:
Drink frequently. I'm sorry, I never said this was easy. Just have a glass of something with dinner. If you're under 25, you can probably do it everyday. Over 25, then every other day is a little more reasonable. Doctors— well, some of them anyway— say this is good for you.
Have another, but then stop. Two drinks should be the high end of your daily average.
The third drink is for special occasions only. It's your bro's birthday? Cool, go nuts.
Fourth drink? Only after four hours. Very important. But wait: How do I do that without standing around drinkless for half the night? Glad you asked...
Memorize this: Fast, slow, fast. Drink the first drink like water. There— now you're kind of tipsy. It's fun, right? Everything's awesome! You're incredibly charming, and everybody loves you. Now, work on the second drink for like two hours. Just nurse that thing. When you're done with it, maybe fill the same glass with water and nurse it some more. This part is very important. If you make it three hours into the night and have only had two drinks, and you think it'll be a late one, go ahead and have your third now. If it's a wedding or something and you make it to the fourth hour, go ahead and get that fourth drink. But …
Never finish the last drink. I know, the idea of leaving a drink half-full seems like an indisputable violation of an age old Bro Code. It's a "Party Foul." But sometime around my mid-20s, I realized something: That last drink is always, no matter what, the drink that does you in. So I stopped finishing it. I'll order drink number four, take a sip, pay the bill, and leave it sitting on the bar as I walk out. Or I'll finish most of drink number three but depart before I get the chance to drain it completely. Is it a waste of money? Only if you think what bars charge per liquid ounce is reasonable. It's not— the mark-up is huge. All alcohol purchased in bars is technically a waste of money. What you're actually paying for is the environment, a seat at a table in a dimly lit room, preferably with friends. Buying a drink is like buying a ticket to hang out for however long it takes to drink however much of it you want. When you throw down your $8 for a pint of artisanal craft beer and then only drink half of it, you're not wasting $4; you're spending $8 to hang out. Getting your money's worth isn't about how much you drink; it's about who you're with. Stop drinking that last drinking as soon as the ice melts.
Lots of water. You should have more glasses of water than anything else.
Cocktails shouldn't taste like candy. If it has loads of liqueur in it, move along. If it looks kind of like fluorescent kool-aid, don't order it. Drink simple cocktails that taste like alcohol. The less bartenders do to disguise the booze, the less likely it is to give you a pounding headache.
Look for the words "Pot Distilled." Column distillation is the norm for most spirits, but pot-distillation— though much less efficient for distilleries— is infinitely better on your head. That's because pot distilling makes it easier for distillers to cut out and discard the byproducts that'll make you feel like crap. Most bourbon is either column distilled or a weighted combination of column and pot distillate. Liquors that use 100 percent pot distillation tend to flaunt it on their labels. (I have some suggestions, too: Familia Camarena tequila; Hillrock bourbon; Green Hat gin) Single malt scotch is, by law, entirely pot distilled. It's one of the reasons why it's more expensive— and generally more flavorful— than other types of whisky. If you're going to drink a lot, make it single malt scotch.
No Shots. I know, your bros are always trying to get you to do shots. And when you start saying no, you're going to be crazy-unpopular for a while. Everyone's going to hate you, you buzzkill. But nothing screws up the aforementioned pacing like taking a shot. So learn to say no. This might just be the hardest part. But you'll thank me tomorrow.