Hello, and welcome to Kitchen Catastrophes Quick Tips. I’m your Tip O’ Neal When It Comes to Meals, Jon O’Guin. Today’s topic is something near and dear to my heart, and one that I’m certain will be on many people’s minds in the coming weeks: Alcohol, and how BEST to consume it. Yes, we’re not even halfway through the revelry of Oktoberfest, and once that ends, it’s only a short time to Halloween, and after that, certainly there’ll be some game-day get-togethers in November, and then comes the Christmas parties of December. The time of in-door social drinking is upon us! And luckily, I’m here to help you on your own adventures in Alcohol.
My Credentials are as Impeccable as my Credenza.
“That’s a nice idea,” you say, giving me the benefit of the doubt because you’re a hypothetical person I’ve conjured to illustrate a point, “but why should we listen to you, huh? What makes your opinions worth more than anyone else’s?”
Thank you, fictional questioner, let me explain why.
The first reason is, to some, the most important: Dude, do I know how to party. I have had copious and continuous experience interacting with alcohol, particularly in consumption, for over 8 years now. Since coming of legal age, my family has acquired memberships to cideries and wineries. We have filled out pages of “passports” for pubs. I have frequented bars with sufficient regularity to have drinks poured for me before I’ve even found a seat or spoken to bartenders. I’ve had $35 shots of whiskey and $5 fifths of vodka. I’ve drunk 198 proof moonshine, and more liqueurs than most people can name. I’ve consumed cocktails in quart quantities, and made punches for parties whose ingredients cost $300. I have had 26 cocktails in 5 hours, and am currently within 10 feet of multiple bottles of various alcohols myself and my current roommates have consumed in the last week.
We opened this bottle YESTERDAY.
The second, slightly more compelling reason from a safety and legal perspective, is that I am in fact a holder of a Mandatory Alcohol Server Training permit, meaning that I have been trained sufficiently to legally serve alcohol to patrons in Washington State. My knowledge is considered enough to protect and properly serve the drink-desiring denizens of the state. How did I trick them into giving me such power? I wield dark and terrible magics.
The first and simplest reason is, of course, that I’m nothing particularly special. I’m just a man with a blog and some opinions. Take them or leave them. Though, despite the recitation of sins against sobriety I listed earlier, I have never seriously endangered myself or another person with my consumption, medically or physically. (Socially’s another question. And several times I have FELT LIKE I was going to die, but those turned out to be overreactions.) So clearly, I’m doing something right.
That something may or may not be dressing myself. It's hard to tell.
So, those out of the way, let’s establish the basic rules of alcohol consumption!
Rule 1: Keep it Safe, Stupid
You know what really fucks up a party? People needing an ambulance, cops showing up, someone directly ralphing on someone else, and generally, any time someone goes too damn far. So, step one is “make sure you don’t go too far. How far is too far? Good question: basically, if you’re above 0.25% BAC, you’re getting pretty close to too far. (Why have I said “too far” five times now? Do I not know what a thesaurus is for?) To give context to that number, 0.40 is the LD50 of alcohol, meaning that it is a LETHAL DOSE for 50% of the population. How many drinks will get you to that? If you weigh 100 pounds, ten drinks in one hour puts you at 0.45, while five drinks takes you to 0.23. For every 20 pounds more you weigh, add another drink.
Or just make your drinks twice as big!
So the simple answer is: 3-5 drinks per hour will likely get you as toasty as you need to be, probably more. If you’re a big dude, tack an extra 2 on those numbers. Heck, technically, for being a guy, you get a bonus one, because that’s the trade-off life offered humanity millennia ago: women get to live 5 years longer, but men get an extra drink per hour. And it compounds, of course. Mathematically, I have to drink….something like 12 drinks in an hour to be at risk. (Which, I will admit, somewhat diminishes my earlier litany of liquor achievements. It’s not impressive to complete the Boston Marathon if you’re THE FLASH.)
OF course, those are the MEDICAL risks. Let’s talk about how to avoid a more common issue…
Rule 2: Pain Pain, Go Away
Hangovers suck. Doing ANYTHING when hungover is a pain in the ass, and, sometimes, that will mean interacting with disgusting things that make it even worse. And trust me, even a youthful young buck as I am growing to learn just how bad things can get: in the last year or so, my hangovers have started triggering MIGRAINES, a medical issue I’d never had to deal with before, so that’s nice.
So much greater than yours!
So, how do you avoid them? Well, first, you need to understand what a hangover is: it’s you, having had your precious bodily fluids drained, by communist vampires and women and FLOURIDE, CAN’T YOU SEE, CAN’T YOU ALL- Ahem. Excuse me, went full Gen. Ripper there.
But hangovers are basically just a crushing case of system-wide dehydration: alcohol is a desiccant and diuretic: it makes you pee, and it dries you out. The peeing accelerates the drying out. So, when you wake up in the morning, all your organs are pissed. It’s like if your car’s oil, windshield fluid, coolant, AND GAS were all connected, and you added something that drained EVERYTHING. So, how do you stop the pain? With water, dummy. The easy rule is for every alcoholic drink you have, drink something that’s non-alcoholic, preferably just plain water.
Who you callin' plain, asshole?
Another useful tool is the dilution effect, though this only works for hard alcohol: taking your shots mixed with a soda makes them less potent. Weirdly, it’s somehow connected to the actual calorie counts involved: someone drinking a shot of rum with 4 ounces of Coke ends up with less BAC than someone drinking a shot of rum with 4 ounces of Diet Coke. And it makes sense, if you look at the math: a beer is typically around 5-8% alcohol, Wine is 11-13%, and a shot is 40%. But if your drink is 1 shot and 3 ‘shots’ of soda, that makes the drink roughly 10% ABV. (Eww, the math came back.) However, while it ostensibly should work, note that the dilution effect is reduced on wine and beer: both of them have other chemicals that heighten their hangover effects, which is why their hangovers can be as intense despite having lower alcohol levels.
Another huge tip is to EAT before, and preferably during, drinking. Food helps moderate alcohol absorption. Drinking on an empty stomach can make alcohol up to 30% more potent on your system.
Lastly, don’t take aspirin before bed if you want to avoid a hang-over. Aspirin and ibuprofen can upset your stomach lining, and both will actually STOP helping you before you wake up. (Their peak pain suppression is roughly 4 hours post-dosage.) Acetaminophen will actively hurt your liver. Instead, try taking a B Vitamin before bed, which will give you a little more energy in the morning, tricking your body into feeling better, and take the aspirin in the morning if you need it.
Now that we have all the safety shit out of the way, let’s come to the next point
Rule 3: If it Ain’t Fun, Fuck it.
The basics of this rule are simple: if you’re no longer having fun, stop drinking. The drunker you are, the less likely you are to have control over your emotions. So if you get sad, you’re going to end up, taking a completely random idea of an example, sitting in the middle of someone’s kitchen, crying and tearing your own hair out, while people who barely know you discuss where you’re safe to let go back to your own home. If you get angry, you’re more likely to end up starting bar fights, and those are never as fun as they look on TV. Though I did once get a rather long-lasting relationship by being an asshole when drunk, so what do I know?
Be aware of the context of your drinking: I am disgustingly infatuated with the AMF Cocktail (An Acronym for “Adios, Motherfucker”), a drink with an average ABV of 14%, a neon blue coloration, and a general predilection for chaos, as the name implies.
"You know what sounds like fun? Burning your house down!"
Despite my love of the drink, I don’t order it with dinner, or mix it up before playing a board game. The AMF has a time and place, and those are “When I want to become drunk enough to not feel shame about singing early 2000’s rap at karaoke” or “When I want everyone at the table to know that things are getting serious.” The AMF is not a relaxed drink. AMFs are “I will have a sore throat in the morning, and someone will get some great pictures” drinks.
Further, be aware of the context of OTHER’S drinking: I will never hide my love for drinking games in a party setting: I believe that they serve as the lab coats in a Milgram experiment of FUN (Not my best metaphor), by which I mean that people will set aside pretense and personal reservations in the name of ‘the rules’, allowing for a freer and more open experience. I also know people who just like to drink socially, sipping away and chatting. I don’t try to force those people into my Madcap Antics: I’ll invite them, but if they refuse, I nod and move on. Not everything is for everyone, and being super insistent can quickly turn into you looking like a bully.
Wrap it Up, Rambly
So those are some basic rules for safe and enjoyable alcohol consumption. Let me now immediately pitch a drinking game that will make it harder to engage in them.
Drinking games have always been fascinating to me, partly for their immense variety in exact methodology and nomenclature. For instance, I play a game named “Gauntlet”, that I also know is called by some “Big Black Dick.” (Look, I don’t make up the names.) However, Google apparently knows it as “Around the World”, noting THIRTEEN other names for it, none of which are names I know. And Apparently “Around the World” is ALSO a variant name for a variant of King’s Cup that I know.
So, to be precise, this is the Washington State University’s Theatre Department’s version of the game known as Horseraces.
First, break into a racetrack.
Take a deck of 52 cards and remove the aces from it, placing them face up on a relatively long flat surface. Deal 21 cards in a 3 by 7 grid adjacent to the aces, the 7 running down the length of the table. This is the “Multiplier Bank.” Then, have every player pick a suit and an ante; for example, “Five on Spades”. The player must immediately drink their ante in sips from their drink. Once every player has stated and consumed their ante, the game officially begins.
The dealer draws a card from the deck, and places it face-up in a column rising from the ace of its suit. They continue drawing until one of the columns passes the end of the multiplier bank. (Meaning they’ve received seven cards, not counting the ACE.) Then, flip the cards of the multiplier bank, and add up the cards of the winning suit, plus one for winning. (So if Diamonds had 4 cards in the multiplier bank, the total is five.) Everyone who placed a bet on the winning suit multiplies their ante by the result. (So, if I had 6 on diamonds, and the multiplier total is 5, my pay-out is 30.) They then get to distribute that many sips of drinks to other players.
Horseraces is a fast and simple game, that takes roughly 2 minutes of explanation once the aces and multiplier bank are set-up. It can also be a very raucous game, as, in the Theatre department, the tradition is for the dealer to play “horse track announcer”, rattling off the current standings of the suits as they deal cards in a fast-paced energetic pattern. Also, as I start my games by reminding the players, “While mathematics says cheering for your suit won’t make it perform any better, we all know math is a party pooper, so feel free to cheer your way to victory.”
Ugh, that still felt too informative. Are we doing something cool for Monday? Spanish Peasant Soup? Huh. I have no idea if that’s cool or not. Whatever, I need a drink.