Best pro-tips for managing a five day drink-a-thon
November 24, 2014 5:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm home for the holidays and seeing many friends after years apart. I have five days, each consisting of brunch, lunch and dinner with others, and am looking forward to unimaginable quantities of free alcohol. I am a seasoned (pickled?) drinker that does not normally get hangovers but never have I been on such a social whirlwind with so many opportunities to celebrate. Does anyone have advice for overcoming the potential weaknesses of the flesh to rise to this challenge? Or, how to pace myself when offered so much free deliciousness? Details below

I've already prepared myself in the following way:
- I can drink 4 generous drinks a day (approximately 3/4 to a full bottle of wine) with no ill effects... But I estimate 6-8 drinks a day on this trip and don't usually drink that much unless it's a special occasion. I can handle that maybe once every couple months without a hangover if I have a day to sleep in and take it easy afterwards, but I'm not sure how I will feel if I did this several days in a row
- I don't drink sugary stuff that would upset my stomach. Just straight whiskey and wine
- I've booked one meal each day with a non-drinker
- I know already to drink plenty of water and eat carby things
- I will be taking public transit with companions to the hotel each evening or will have a sober friend pick me up and drive me back

The main challenges I am not sure how to plan for:
- I will be dealing with multiple flights and time zone / weather shifts between current home and former home
- I do not have a day off from work to recuperate once I return to current home
- How best can I moderate my consumption when everyone else (who unlike me will have the next day to "detox") is drinking in celebration... How do you remember to pace yourself once you're tipsy and all your buddies are too?

In summary, is there anything else I can do to 1) maintain a safe pace and 2) keep myself feeling relatively healthy with all this back to back drinking?
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You know, just because it's free, it doesn't mean you have to drink it, eat it or screw it.

You can only finish half a drink, if you're interested in tasting different concoctions.

When I drank I only had two, and I spaced them with water, so that I never lost myself or got drunk.

Flying reduces your ability to metabolize alcohol. You get dehydrated when you fly. Time changes mess with your sleep/wake cycle.

I'm going to suggest that this is not the only alcohol on the earth, and that you can always drink another day.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:46 PM on November 24, 2014 [18 favorites]

Daily B-complex and C vitamins. Those are the water-soluble ones and the diuretic effect of alcohol tends to deplete them.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:47 PM on November 24, 2014

Water is your best friend. I know you say you know, but remember: one glass of water in between each drink. It keeps you hydrated and paces your drinking.

Also, there's nothing wrong with skipping the drinking at a few of these gatherings. Or if that would attract unwanted attention, just nursing one drink all night or afternoon.

Get some outdoor exercise every day. Sleep eight hours every night.
posted by lunasol at 5:49 PM on November 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

B vitamins and eggs. Be sure to take the vitamins on a full stomach though.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:58 PM on November 24, 2014

Potassium (bananas) and water will help you process the alcohol and reduce the hangover.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:59 PM on November 24, 2014

Eat regular meals and make extra sure to get food in your stomach before you start drinking at brunch.
posted by florencetnoa at 6:00 PM on November 24, 2014

Best answer: I wrote a fairly lengthy answer on avoiding hangovers here; some of it may be relevant, and/or you may find other good tips in that thread. All the vitamin recommendations are great; if you can find these Power Paks, they're magical for preventing hangovers and speeding recovery the next day.

Another way I've managed to stop at tipsy rather than wasted when everyone is in that headspace is to take brief walks. Just, "I need to make a phone call, I'll be right back!" (or bathroom, etc.), and then go outside and walk around the block or something if you can do so safely. When I quit smoking I found I was getting a lot drunker, and it was because I didn't have that built-in excuse to put my drink down, walk outside, breathe some fresh air, and do a bodily check-in. Not advocating that you smoke but any chance to take a break from the crowd and check in with yourself and how you're feeling is helpful.

Also, for some reason regular water tastes gross when I'm drinking--I still make myself drink it but soda water with lime and bitters while you're at the bars is pretty tasty and will still serve for hydration purposes.

Enjoy seeing your friends!
posted by stellaluna at 6:04 PM on November 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you find you're overwhelmed (you really might, if you're at all moderate in your day-to-day-to-day habits), I'd say to skip the booze at brunch. It's easy to explain away with a plea for desperately-needed coffee, and ugh, free brunch drinks are disgusting anyway. ;)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 6:07 PM on November 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Once in a while I'll have a work or social thing that's kind of like what you describe (but never for that many days in a row -- that's it's own dilemma, and maybe a more complicated one). The basic trick to not getting trashed and being done at 2pm when everyone else is going until late is to pace yourself, which sounds obvious but people have a hard time doing that.

The tricks I see people doing are pretty simple: picking a drink you don't much like and/or is low in alcohol (light beer, or a deliberately bitter mixed drink, say); alternating drinks with glasses of water; taking breaks (like the walks someone suggested above); and making sure to keep enough food going that you aren't hitting the booze on an empty stomach. And maybe most importantly, don't pace yourself off of the person with the super high tolerance who can drink everyone under the table.

The incentive to getting the pacing right is not just not getting hungover, but even more not being That Guy (or That Woman) who gets ripped and pukes or falls asleep while everyone else is mildly buzzed and planning to keep going all night. Done right, you can drink like this all day without getting excessively drunk or sick, but it takes a fair bit of care.

And no shots. Once people start doing shots you are basically screwed, because that's the opposite of taking it slow and easy, and people get competitive.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:16 PM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Buy a bottle of NAC. Take it before and after you drink, along with a B-C vitamin complex. Take another NAC after a few hours. This is the equivalent of downing some eggs in a Bloody Mary after morning drink. You won't think it does any good at first, but it does. Also get some protein in you and yes, drink lots of water. But the NAC really does work. Keep taking it as you go along. Just when you think you will die, you will all of a sudden start to feel okay.

But avoid brown liquor and hard liquor if you can. Stick to 1 or 2 of each at a session and the rest beer and wine. All the while taking the NAC every 4 hours and water, of course. Then gear up on some protein and see how you do. YMMV.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:35 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

We do a rotating tasting every month and my wife rocks a ~4oz tasting glass that she saved from our last beer festival. Works like a dream!
posted by ftm at 6:45 PM on November 24, 2014

always have some food in your stomach before you start drinking. if you're getting together for a meal, eat at least half of your food before you start boozin.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:57 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ok, first of all, you had to have known about this trip in advance. You should have started training months ago, drinking every day to get to your fighting weight.

Since you didn't do that, the main thing is to try not to be 'that guy' who gets all drunk and acts like a buffoon. The way I typically do this is to start slow and build myself up to a towering crescendo at night. That means no unmixed hard liquor until dinner! You will be hungover as hell the next day, but if you are at brunch the next morning you can suck down a couple bloody marys or bloody caesars (depending where you are from), or if you are really hungover you could go for a michelada or two to get the ball rolling.

If your hangover is so bad you can't even get down a beer and tomato juice you have two options. First, you can just force down a shot of cheap whiskey and then vomit it back up, which will make you feel better, or you can mix up a Literaryhero special: half ginger ale, half water and a splash of Canadian whiskey.

But in all seriousness, if you are only planning on having six to eight drinks a day you shouldn't be worried about the hangover, you should be more worried about falling asleep. If you have a few drinks at lunch and then put the breaks on before dinner, you are going to fall apart. Naps are no good because they will completely throw you off your dinner game and you don't want that. I would advise either slow burn maintenance drinking between lunch and dinner (a beer an hour, no more, no less), or you need to find some kind of activity that will keep you from dozing off on the couch.

As for having no rest day on the return to work, you gotta just pay the piper. Assuming you work in a normal office, there will be lots of people who overdid it during the Thanksgiving holiday, so no one is going to single you out for being the disgraceful hungover one. Bring a big water bottle and a lot of saltines, and just power through.

Good luck, we are all counting on you!
posted by Literaryhero at 8:17 PM on November 24, 2014 [14 favorites]

Yeast, young man. Yeast.

I have tried this, and it works almost amazingly well.
posted by bswinburn at 10:27 PM on November 24, 2014

Milk Thistle!
posted by destructive cactus at 11:53 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

also, if you wake up too early - like, you still have a few hours before you need to get up, but the hangover/booze wakes you up and you feel too crappy to get more sleep - take a gravol with a big glass of water. it will knock you out for a while longer, and settle your stomach. In fact, sometimes I'll take a gravol before going to sleep, it really helps prevent that hangover.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:07 AM on November 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Knit one, purl one.

In other words, alternate your alcoholic drinks with water so that you pace yourself and stay hydrated.
posted by AnnaRat at 4:38 AM on November 25, 2014

I also have marathons like this due to much extended family over Christmas, so I alternate or even switch completely away from alcohol later in the occasion.
This is in the UK where people often consider it a bit odd if you don't drink much, and will refill your glass way too often.

So ideally I try and go for a drink that is not visibly different without the booze. Vodka tonic or gin and tonic is ideal. I always accept the first drink appreciatively, otherwise you feel like a party pooper and it's part of the welcome enthusiasm. Then I locate bottle of mixer, and keep it well topped up myself. If the host pours it too strong, I'm not above going to the bathroom and putting half of it down the sink, then topping up with the mixer.

This is much the best way to avoid those awkward "oh go on, it's Christmas!" moments as everyone will assume you have the original mixed drink, whereas water is obviously water and will lead to more plying with booze. I really like the lime/soda/angostura combination and often have that if I'm in a bar. The rule is really to keep your own drink well topped up so you don't get over-soused. Until you decide it's called for, of course!
posted by tardigrade at 5:18 AM on November 25, 2014

Get all your drinks with lots of ice, and chew or suck on the ice cubes for a while after you finish the drinks. That way you've still got a drink in your hand without getting more drunk.
posted by empath at 7:22 AM on November 25, 2014


And coffee!!!

Consider coffee at brunch instead of something boozy. Coffee is enough of an intoxicant (depending on your constitution) that you might still get pleasantly hopped-up, and it will give you strength for more drinking later on. Also, there's some data out there that it has a cleansing effect on the liver.
posted by magdalemon at 7:33 AM on November 25, 2014

Oh, this is me, every holiday with my drunk ass family!

Everyone else has covered such reasonable advice as "just don't drink this much", which yes, but also LOL. So, assuming that's not an option, here are the two things that work for me:

- As others have said, you must pound water. More than you think. No, more than that. Are you drinking water right now? Go get water. You should be peeing constantly, all five days!

- You have to find a way to protect the quality of your sleep most of the nights. Nothing makes me flag faster than two shitty, drunk, toss-and-turny nights of sleep in a row. For me, this basically means getting close-to-sober before bed. In these all-day celebration situations, I like to do the majority of the day's drinking at lunch or late afternoon/pre-dinner, and then be tapering off after dinner. YMMV. Yes, this might mean you have to switch to water at 10:30 when people are still drinking until 12 AM. This is the price you must pay to continue performing at top level.
posted by superfluousm at 8:14 AM on November 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: On similar trips, I've managed to just stay drunk and awake as much as possible. Then I caught up on sleep and sobriety during the flight back.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 12:04 PM on November 25, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you everyone who answered my question. I am proud to report that I imbibed levels of alcohol beyond my wildest fantasies on my trip, and your answers helped greatly.

The suggestions to just not drink would have been very inappropriate and rude to my hosts (e.g. why is the heavy drinker refusing my free booze but accepting it from other mutual friends - do they hate me?). I triumphed by preparing myself well in advance and eating delicious greasiness.

I also found it very helpful to hang out with the heavy smoker etc. crew. They were all using the alcohol as a break from the smoking etc. so never really drank much before running outside - it was impossible for me to get a buzz on with the fresh air breaks. I spent many a shivery hour outside the bar watching them do their boring thing which helped me get fresh air and prevented me from drinking as much as I could have.

To summarize, the main things I did, which helped enormously, were 1) get drunk two days before the trip - and stay drunk. I took a ridiculous red-eye flight home at 3 in the morning (completely hammered) but thanks to the lateness I easily passed for sleepy. Once I arrived, I continued drinking. 2) eat the greasiest and cheesiest foods known to man. These helped prepare my stomach for the onslaught of deliciousness 3) hang out with smokers / drug users who shun alcohol for they see it as an impediment to smoking / drug using.

I drank about a bottle and a half of wine a day plus several whiskey/ scotch shots (that counts as six drinks - right?), and on the second to last day achieved my personal best of one bottle of red and a bottle of whiskey. Plus some Baileys according to observers (I had to be drunk to even think about ingesting that nastiness).

The day I had to fly back I only had one drink and an advil liquigel. I felt very tired but only slightly hungover. A mild headache - nothing as horrible as PMS. I went to work the next day and was fine. My boss gave me a knowing nod.

I enjoyed the trip but have no desire to drink to that level anymore. I think what I drank in a day back home I now drink in a month!
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 5:05 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

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