Help me define rulesets for my drinking pacer?
January 17, 2010 5:25 PM   Subscribe

Inspired by last night's hangover, I'm considering developing a web application that I can access from my mobile phone to help pace my drinking in the future. Given my relative unfamiliarity with alcohol, I'll need some help defining the ruleset.

Given the huge variety of drinks possible, from beer to hard liquor to all manner of cocktail, figuring the alcohol content of each drink would likely prove futile, so I'll simply assume that all drinks are largely equivalent (though I may make exceptions for outliers that I consume often, e.g. making margaritas count for two drinks).

This leaves the following variables:

1. Assuming that all drinks will be consumed in full immediately after ordering (since I usually do vodka or whiskey shots, this is most often the case), how many minutes' wait should I require between ordering consecutive drinks?

2. With what frequency should my application require consumption of a pint of water prior to the next drink?

3. On the "order drink" submission form, I'm considering including a one-question survey indicating my current state of inebriation, with the following four choices: Sober, Buzzed (Talkative), Impaired (Unsteady), and Drunk. First, is this list sufficiently granular in its depiction of alcoholic states? Second, how might the different options influence the enforced time gap between consecutive drinks and the frequency of water flights?
posted by The Confessor to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think the general rule of thumb is that you should have one drink per hour.

Also, no, all drinks are not "largely equivalent." There is a big difference between drinking a beer that might be 4% ABV and a cocktail that's comprised of multiple shots of a 80 proof liquor.
posted by Shesthefastest at 5:38 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

There is data online available that can get how much alcohol is in individual drinks, if you want to get that granular.

I think this is a pretty cool idea.

Another feature (pony?) idea: it could tell you to stand up every once in a while, if you're the type of person who just realizes how drunk you are when you stand.
posted by NoraReed at 5:44 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think just a requirement to enter your drunkness every time you're thinking of ordering a drink would be enough. Free form text entry, not a drop-down list. Log it like a twitter feed for amusement/post-mortem analysis later.

Just the active thinking about "how drunk am I? Do I need another drink or should I hold off for a while" should put you where you need to be. Only allow yourself to get another drink if your answer is 'pleasantly buzzed' or less, other than special occasions when you intentionally set out to get smashed (and have a how-I'm-going-to-get-home plan, natch.) You'll know if you're gaming it to get another drink when you shouldn't. That would be a separate problem.
posted by ctmf at 5:50 PM on January 17, 2010

how about a skill-testing question? if you get it wrong you have to wait longer - it would be kind of neat if it were like a game
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:52 PM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

A lot of guidelines for drinking responsibly start from the assumption that a single shot of liquor, a glass of wine and a beer are equivalent.

This breaks down quickly in practice given that "a beer" could be anywhere from a half pint to a pint or more, and anywhere from 3% to nearly 20% alcohol; similarly, wines and liquors vary in strength, and bartenders vary in how generously they pour them.

Still, it's a decent simplifying assumption — and one that most drinkers make anyway; you keep count of how many drinks you've had, not how many mL of alcohol they contained.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:54 PM on January 17, 2010

Perhaps you should listen to your body when you're drinking and not try to compensate for it with a device.
posted by rr at 6:00 PM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

You might find this tutorial for calculating blood alcohol content (as a function of body mass, gender, etc) useful.
posted by forza at 6:02 PM on January 17, 2010

Regarding how the different states of drunkenness should affect the time gap between drinks --- I think you should observe how long it takes alcohol to hit you. Personally, I could have two or three drinks and not feel much difference for a long while ... and then suddenly it'll all catch up at once. Sometimes if I don't wait long enough, even if I feel fine at first, it'll suddenly be WayTooMuch when it catches up to me.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:02 PM on January 17, 2010

I like the idea of a skill-testing game. Kind of like the Gmail Labs thing for drunk emailing - I think it works so that if you try to email between a certain hour range (say, 10pm-6am), you need to answer a few quiz questions to see if you have sufficient capacity to decide whether to send the email or not. I feel like this would work better than self-rating your drunkenness. If you pass, you can have a drink; if you fail you need to have a glass of water, take the test again and pass before you can have another drink.
posted by melissasaurus at 6:11 PM on January 17, 2010

There's an App for the iPhone already. I use it until I get too drunk to remember to put in the drinks I've just had. Might be some info to be gleamed by looking at how their app works.
posted by white_devil at 6:12 PM on January 17, 2010

Maybe you need a hardware dongle, that's a Breathalyzer, or measures alcohol content. People relatively unfamiliar to bars often get into trouble like this: at first they're just a random new customer at some bar, and they get the usual measured doses. After a few visits, some chatting and a decent tip, the bartender notices and "takes care of them," making the second drink three times stronger than usual.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:19 PM on January 17, 2010

The problem with your idea is that it would be so, so easy to just not enter drinks you order into your app, whether out of forgetfulness or "you can't tell me what to do, iPhone!" rage. Maybe a periodic alarm set for every hour that reminds you to think about what you've consumed since the last alarm would work?
posted by oinopaponton at 6:27 PM on January 17, 2010

I think you need more terms. In order of drunkenness:


And no- all drinks are not created equally. You could probably break them down into classes of drinks that are created equally:

Small glass of wine/pint light beer/schooner (half pint) full strength beer/single shot = 1 drink

Pint full strength beer/large glass of wine/ most cocktails = 2 drinks

Generous bartenders/long island iced teas = 3 drinks

Water doesn't keep you sober. It'll make the morning after a little more pleasant though (as will vegemite toast before you go to bed). Drink as much as you can.
posted by twirlypen at 6:47 PM on January 17, 2010 may help.
posted by Maias at 6:50 PM on January 17, 2010

I just read somewhere (here?) that maybe the cost of having machines that think is having people that don't. Maybe this means that we will be permanently at the perfect level of drunkenness.
posted by ropeladder at 8:29 PM on January 17, 2010

Your body will tell you how much you should drink far more accurately than any machine can or will. Unfortunately, sometimes you learn in retrospect, but you still learn. Listen to your body.
posted by pdb at 9:12 PM on January 17, 2010

Here's a simple test.

Ask yourself, "Does a shot of Jaegermeister sound like a good idea right now?"

If you answer "yes, that seems like a fine plan" then STOP DRINKING IMMEDIATELY and switch to water.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:22 PM on January 17, 2010 [10 favorites]

If you are mixing whisky and vodka I don't think your phone can save you.
posted by fshgrl at 9:54 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Since it takes roughly one hour to metabolize approximately one drink unit... perhaps make an app where you input when you want to wake up, and count-down the number of drinks remaining so that you wake up with all alcohol metabolized from your system? This also gives you a hard limit, which eases as time goes by. Say, you "max out" at 9pm, at 11pm, you're "allowed" 1 more drink (does this work? want to wake up at 9am, at 9pm, have already consumed 12 drinks, at 11pm, only 9 drinks to burn, 10 hours to 9, can have one more drink).


1. This depends on your goals for the afternoon/night.

2. Frequency, I'm not sure is very important. Drinking at least as much as each time you 'break the seal'/visit the restroom should be good enough and then "a bunch" before going to sleep.

3. Heh, I like twirlypen's expanded list and melissasaurus's "skill testing question" suggestion.

In fact, I think that this might be more useful if your goal is to make it through the night as opposed to waking up without a hangover. If you can pass a skilltesting question or a minigame, then you can order another drink.

Depending on what your tolerance is (both physical and cognitive), between 15 and 30 minutes between drinks, having to take the test before order the next one?

Back in the day, Saturday was pretty much a $20/hr job - spending, that is, from noon-ish to closing. Damn, but was that ever stupid. The same effects can be achieved at $5/hr at home...
posted by porpoise at 9:57 PM on January 17, 2010

How about producing a rough, predictive graph of drunkenness based off the drink inputs? Then let the user choose how drunk they want to get, and warn them if it's going to go over it.

You could add curves for each drink (examples here) to the graph cumulatively. Then show the graph a few hours into the future, and alert the user if it's going to go over their preset limit. twirlypen's categories of drink would work well. Let the user select a drink to see where the graph goes, then either cancel or confirm it.
posted by lucidium at 3:01 AM on January 18, 2010

Jesus, if you're relatively unfamiliar with alcohol, shots are a really bad way to become familiar. At the very least, start with whiskey on the rocks.
posted by electroboy at 6:56 AM on January 18, 2010

The rule I have used for many years is if I can't remember exactly how many drinks I have had that night and what they were, it is time to stop. So the phone could ask a random variation on "how many total" or "what was your nth drink".
posted by cjemmott at 7:56 AM on January 18, 2010

I would optimize the problem as follows:

1) Your body handles the consumed alcohol slowly.

- Thus, it's far wiser to evaluate the consumption during the entire night. If you exceptionally begin at 2pm, you can then give yourself a few extra drinks.


- Your liver burns alcohol roughly 1 gram per 10 kilos of body mass in an hour. It cannot be made faster.
- 12 grams of alcohol (e.g. one portion) increases your BAC % by 0,2.

2) Create a scale

As stated earlier, it is practically impossible to know the precise amount of alcohol in different cocktails and beers, even if the portions are the same. A Belgian Cloister Beer or UK's ESB are far stronger than your basic Budweiser.

- One of the easiest I have seen is Scandinavian concept of 12-14 gram alcohol portions. It's a good amount, as many ordinary drinks are nearby in alcohol content. Why? Because the yiests die when the alcohol contents get stronger. Thus, wines and beer do not become that much stronger even if strong.

3) Choose a target BAC% you like and drink the number of portions, and create a table of drinks per portion

You can easily calculate the alcohol contents of your favorite drinks. Examples of 12-gram portions are

- Bottle of medium strong beer (33cl), so a pint equals 1,5 portions.

- smallish glass of white, red or sparkling wine (12cl).
- even smaller glass (8cl) of strong wine e.g. port
- one shot (4cl) of hard liquer.

The last 3 are actually easy once you get to know how much a one shot looks like in a glass. The just by doubling or tripling amount you can easily evaluate how much alcohol you will have in your glass.


I hope this help.

posted by Doggiebreath at 9:17 AM on January 18, 2010

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