New Year's Eve is a time to tie one on, and that's all well and good. But, really, you don't want to drag a nasty hangover into the new year. Mondays are bad enough as it is. What to do?
Well, the obvious answer is not to drink alcohol at all. Way too easy, right? But it can be harder to do than it sounds, especially if everyone else is partying. (I know, I don't drink.) Not drinking alcohol can have benefits beyond no hangover. A sober you (and we're assuming you haven't traded a cocktail glass for something else) isn't a danger behind the wheel. You'll remember where you were and what you did. And you can discreetly keep an eye on your tippling buddies and get them home safe. There are also some pretty tasty alcohol-free mocktails out there. Ask the bartender or server for something fun and creative.
If you do choose to drink alcohol, drink smartly and strategically. Here are some suggestions you can take on New Year's Eve to eliminate or reduce a hangover on New Year's Day.
1. Pace yourself. "Obviously, moderation is the only surefire way to avoid the next-day doldrums," says Charles Joly, the master mixologist and founder of Crafthouse Cocktails. OK. What might be less obvious is exactly what "moderation" might mean.
Start with the old rule of one drink per hour, says Jason Ewoldt, a registered dietitian nutritionist with the Mayo Clinic's Healthy Living Program, in Rochester, Minn. That one drink would be defined, he said, as 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, a 1.5-ounce shot of alcohol.
Alcohol affects people differently. What might make you tingle could put another person under the table. To get an idea of what a New Year's Eve night out might be like for you, check out the "virtual bar" on the website of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, an Arlington, Va.-based not-for-profit organization funded by distillers that fights drunken driving and underage drinking.
This online guide, which is also available as a downloadable phone app, can give you some idea of how consuming different types of drinks over varying periods of time may affect your blood alcohol content (BAC) and how you might be feeling as a result. This "virtual bar" is not a "scientific tool," cautions the website, which notes the program is not a substitute for your own "responsible decisions about drinking alcohol." Still, the website says it might "help you see how your night could go depending on the food you eat, the water you drink throughout the night, and other important variables. It also helps give you a sense of how long it would take for your BAC to return to 0.00."
2. Choose cocktails with lower alcohol by volume. This is a tip from Joly, who recommends going with long cocktails or highballs where mixers dilute the alcohol. (As one always has to be sipping away on a glass at any party, this idea particularly resonates.) Joly also warns against downing shots. "While celebratory, this is a quick path to pain the next day," he explained. "If you want to raise a glass, consider splitting a cocktail into shot glasses so you're not tossing back 80 proof booze."
3. Order 'lighter' colored drinks. Go with white wine, lighter colored beers, vodka or gin rather than red wine, craft beers, whiskey, bourbon or tequila. Why? "The darker the liquid, the more byproducts," said Ewoldt, pointing to higher levels of congeners, chemicals that add color and flavor, as being more likely to produce a hangover. But before you rush to order that second vodka, Ewoldt was quick to add that too much alcohol, no matter the color, is still going to give you a hangover.
4. Drink water between drinks. It will slow your alcohol intake and help prevent dehydration, said Ewoldt. Joly also encourages drinking water. "Keep hydrated. Drink plenty of water before you go to bed," he says.
5. Eat! Joly suggests you eat a "substantial" meal before heading out, and keep eating all night long. Why? A full stomach slows alcohol absorption, Ewoldt said.
6. Hangover help. OK, so it's Jan. 1, and you're waking up hung over. What to do? Ewoldt recommends plenty of water, a healthy breakfast and some ibuprofen. Joly also calls for water, then "head to your favorite diner and feed your hangover a plate of eggs. Take a nap, and you'll be right as rain when you wake up."