Since the holidays are upon us, I fear it's time to start preparing ourselves for the myriad of half-assed parties we'll attend. Between people bringing the cheapest bottle they could find at the liquor store and concoctions made by those who have clearly watched too many Sandra Lee segments on the Food Network, holiday parties can be an exercise in hangover avoidance.
Let me first be very clear: This is in no way an indictment of drinking on the cheap. Quite the opposite, actually. I may be a mixologist, but I'm the first one to look for the bargain, and also the first one to point you to the value on the menu when you're seated at my bar. Now that we've gotten the assurances out of the way, let's get to the part about how to drink on someone else's dime, and minimize the very real danger of suffering the next day.
First rule of Free Drink Club: Don't knock the wares!
That is to say, don't criticize the hooch you're about to unabashedly pour down your functional (for now) alcoholic gullet. This is truly bad form, and while this tip will in no way prevent you from having a throbbing cranium the morning after, I have to take this chance to mention it because there's nothing that gives me a headache more than a whining, entitled freeloader. If you can't drink gracefully, go in the kitchen with the dogs. The only critique that is even remotely above board is that of inadequate quantities—and even this complaint should be buttressed with the offer of fetching more (if only to go pick up something better).
Second rule of Free Drink Club: Always go clear.
When it comes to spirits of questionable origins or quality, your best bet is to gravitate towards the clear, or unaged, spirits. I am in no way advocating you make a night of vodka sodas, because at that point you're my ex-girlfriend—and well, that will just lead to you calling me callous, and me saying you're being all ass-chapped, and... I digress. Anyway, the clearer the spirit (think gin, vodka, aquavit, light rum, etc.), the fewer congeners (hangover-producing impurities) you're imbibing. Basically, at the "buy it by the pint" end of the quality spectrum, the clearer the contents of the bottle, the clearer your head the next day!
Third (and most important) rule of Free Drink Club: The booze is free, and so is the water!
Everyone tells you this, but three drinks into a tear, the idea of downing a glass of water sounds just about as appealing as eating anything not fried. Take it from a pro, though: drink that shit! If there is anything that will make you feel like a genius the next day, it will be having drank a few pints of water throughout your night of tippling. Dehydration is your leading cause of using a sick day for no good reason. Nick Keane is the bar manager at Tilt.