20101221

Do’s and don’ts for holiday partying

'Tis the time of year when inhibitions go out the window.

Office parties, gatherings of friends, family feasts, New Year's Eve ... Ah, how the drinks do flow.

Unfortunately, too many occasional drinkers tend to overdo in such circumstances, to the regret of not only themselves, but those around them who are (a) embarassed, (b) annoyed and/or (c) disgusted by their behavior.

Simply telling people to drink responsibly won't avoid all such negative experiences. But, armed with a little knowledge of one's own alcohol capacity and how well you metabolize what you drink, you and those near you will get through holiday partying in a dignified, enjoyable way. Here's a guide taken from my Spirits Notebook archives.

A few don'ts:

(1.) Don't "do" shots. Spirits are not for "doing." They are for slow enjoying. The only reason to do shots is to get drunk, which mature adults try to avoid.

(2.) Don't assume mixed cocktails are much less potent than straight whiskies, rums or vodkas. Many mixers -- red or white vermouth, for example, in Manhattans, Rob Roys, Martinis, etc.; various liqueurs in other recipes -- have a significant alcohol content on their own, so drinking too many cocktails made with them still lets the impact mount.

(3.) Don't be fooled by how easy a drink goes down. Fruit juices and liqueurs add color and flavor, but they also mask temporarily how much alcohol you're ingesting.

(4.) Don't use diet sodas as mixers. You need sugar in cocktails since it helps metabolize alcohol. Using diet sodas results in a higher concentration of alcohol in your bloodstream.

A few do's:

(1.) Do bear in mind that drinking whiskey can result in a worse hangover than drinking vodka. That is according to recently-released research by scientists at Brown University. They say the reason may be because of the number of molecules called "congeners" which whiskey contains compared to vodka (Their study was just published in "Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.")

(2.) Do order water. In my family, we have a running joke that if you're given water when you ask for something to drink, you should inform the server "I'm thirsty, not dirty." However, alternating alcoholic drinks with glasses of water makes sense on several levels. You'll stay hydrated, important since alcohol tends to dehydrate you and creates a hangover; you'll satisfy the desire to have a beverage without loading up on alcohol.

(3.) Do avoid topping off your drinks. Get a refill only when you've finished so you can keep track of how much you're drinking, something that's easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of a party.

(4.) Do stay aware of calories. A piƱa colada has about the same number as a Big Mac. A straight shot of alcohol has about 90 calories but mix it with orange juice or pineapple juice, for example, and the calorie count climbs to 150.

There are, of course, one major do and one major don't to keep in mind at all times. Do have a designated driver and don't drink and drive. Even if you ignore the other do's and don'ts, following those two will help you have a safe, happy holiday season.

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