Booze

How to pace your drinking and still have a good time

By  | 
Drunk young woman with drinking glass

Image: Jiri Miklo

I’ve written a lot about various alcoholic beverages and their charms, but enjoying yourself responsibly is more important than whatever you’re drinking. Yes, having a couple drinks can lead to a pleasant buzz or feeling more comfortable in a social setting, but sometimes a third drink seems like a fantastic idea and a fourth even better and so on, leading you to be the drunk who needs to be put to bed like a child.

This guide will provide some tips to pace your drinking, so you can stay in the jolly zone without slipping into the embarrassing, sloppy zone. But before I get started, if you have issues with alcohol moderation, find help from a doctor, not from a stranger on the Internet.

A Full Stomach

I don’t care how much light beers and Skinny Girl drink mixes tout their low calories, if you’re drinking, you are committing to ingesting a lot of calories because before you drink, you need to eat. Not like a side salad or a cup of yogurt, like a burger or, I don’t know, a big quinoa dish. The point is, when your stomach is empty, booze hits hard.

Having a full stomach won’t prevent you from getting drunk, but it will slow down the alcohol absorption into your system, making it easier to pace your drinking.

Drink Water

Drinking water won’t sober you up, only your body metabolizing alcohol over time, sometimes hours, will do that. However, drinking water will help you pace yourself. In general, it takes about 30 minutes for the full effects of an alcoholic beverage to be felt. Having a glass of water between every alcoholic beverage will give you a chance to fully feel your last drink before starting on another one.

Drinking plenty of water will also help prevent or lessen the symptoms of hangovers. Now that’s a reason to pace your drinking.

Avoid Cocktails and Shots

Technically, one serving of alcohol should have the same amount of intoxicant whether it’s a wine cooler or a Long Island Ice Tea. But with enormous glasses and friendly, heavy-handed bartenders (potentially yourself), it’s a lot harder to make it through a booze-saturated evening with your dignity drinking cocktails than if you go with something pre-bottled.

If you stick to something like bottled beer or wine in small glasses, you have a better chance of keeping your intake steady.

As for shots, I’ve met one person in my entire life who does them responsibly, and it’s not you. Everyone else is trying to get smashed. If you don’t want to be smashed, don’t do shots.

The Mental Check

Before you reach for another drink, take a moment to check-in with how you’re feeling. Look for typical signs of lessening sobriety like a desire to ride mechanical bulls, tell embarrassing, personal stories, or complain loudly about your boss who is also at this party. If you’re not an experienced drinker, there’s no harm in excusing yourself to the restroom to see if you can walk a straight line. Yes, it’s kind of odd, but who cares as long as you’re taking care of yourself?

Maybe you feel barely buzzed, you know you’re not driving that night, and you have another. That’s fine! But it’s worth taking a couple seconds before having the next drink to consider whether it’s a good idea or if you’re about to start senselessly guzzling.

No Competition

Drinking should be enjoyable, not a weird dick measuring contest about whose liver will take the most abuse. I know Americans have made binge drinking both a sign of manliness and a social bonding agent, but trying to drink as much as the other guy for the sake of it is juvenile.

People who aren’t jerks will accept that you don’t want another drink or even anything to drink. But if someone gives you shit, tell them to fuck off with their 24 pack of Keystone Light and crappy attitude.

The Buddy System

It’s your own responsibility to drink in moderation, but a buddy can be a lifesaver when you’re drunker than you think you are.

If possible, when you’re at a boozy shindig, have someone there who won’t pressure you to have another round and give you a reality check when you need to layoff. You two don’t have to be mother hens about it, but when you get water, bring your buddy a glass and vice versa. You and your buddy can agree to order food if necessary. Plus, having someone else there to tell the drink competitor to shove it is helpful, too.

Crystal is a questioner of many things and a writer of essays and fiction. She loves ballet and opera almost as much as football.