Style

The Hill Life: Rules of Imbibing

At the end of a 10-hour work day, your feet are aching, your mind is numb and all you want to do is crawl into bed for a few blissful hours of sleep.  Unfortunately, you promised your friend that you’d stop by her Boss’ fundraiser before heading home.  So, twenty minutes later, you’re standing in a spartan hotel ballroom drinking a weak Bourbon Ginger discussing legislative policy with an out-of-town donor who wants to know all about small business loans for widget and gizmo makers.    

So you decide to soften the pain with another cocktail, and another, and another.  Before you know it, you’re pouring your drunk ass into bed at 2:30AM wishing that you hadn’t scheduled that breakfast meeting, and hoping that a massive overnight snowstorm shuts down the government.  Hey, it’s happened before.

In many professional environments, networking at social functions and happy hours is common place.  On any given night, the bars in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and D.C. are packed with young professionals who lubricate their boring and tedious business interactions with my good friends Jack, Johnny and Jose.  Unfortunately, a stressful work day, a bit too much “relaxing” and an early wakeup call can lead to a very unprofessional morning after if you’re not careful.

Who amongst us hasn’t boarded the Metro only to be seated next to a man in a rumpled suit who smells like bourbon and Bud?  Or walked into the office to find that one of the junior staffers has come to work with greasy, unwashed hair and that too-much-vodka pallor?  Hangovers happen to the best of us, but they can be avoided, or at the very least, concealed.

Fake it til you make it.  The easiest way to avoid a hangover is to consume alcohol responsibly.  Before I came to work on the Hill, I barely drank, but making it through a three-hour reception without a cocktail not only made the monotony difficult to bear, it made the other attendees downright annoyed.  You see, most people aren’t comfortable drinking in a professional setting unless everyone is drinking.  If you’re the girl without a drink in her hand, you’ll spend the whole night explaining that you’re not drinking, justifying why you’re not drinking or being looked at with suspicion by the people who are drinking.  

So I started having a drink or two, or at least I learned how to make it appear that way.

Here’s how the deception works: You order a vodka-soda with lime.  When you finish your real cocktail, you return to the bar for a soda with lime, sans alcohol.  Everyone assumes that you have a cocktail because it’s in an old-fashioned glass and comes complete with the cocktail accoutrements (lime wedge/tiny straw), but you’re not.  No questions, no justifications, no suspicion.

To pull this off, you have to make sure that either the waitress knows the scheme or you’re getting your own drinks.  Sometimes an overly generous co-worker will return to the table with a real vodka soda, but at worst, this means you had two drinks last night, which is totally doable.

Other good fake drinks?  Cranberry juice and 7-Up, ginger ale in a champagne glass (only works if they’re serving champagne), and any dark colored soda. Just remember the lime wedge and the tiny straw.  

Steer Clear.  You can also stay within your limits by rotating cocktails and water.  This helps you stay hydrated and sober, but admittedly, this is easier at a bar or restaurant than it is at a reception where you’re not seated.  

Also, avoid sugary drinks like the plague.  This means no wine, no champagne, nothing involve syrupy liqueurs, and for the love of God, nothing that requires muddling or blending.  Sugar only makes the hangover that much worse, and do you really want to drink that many calories, anyway?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Know Your Limit.  This should go without saying, but I’ve been to enough post-work events to know that it bears repeating: Do not be the drunk chick at the office happy hour.  Even if you’re the pillar of sobriety 9 to 5, one tipsy, stumbling night out is enough to label you for life.  

My grad school classmate got the nickname ‘Rita (as in Margarita) after too many drinks at Tortilla Coast caused her to vomit on a co-worker’s shoes.  It happened one time, four years ago, and the people at her old job still greet her with, “Hey, Rita!”  It’s her legacy.

So set a limit (I recommend one drink for every hour you’re out, up to three hours, at the most) and stick to it.  And if you have self-control issues, use the buddy system.  Decide what time you and your friend are leaving, and then don’t leave the bar without your buddy.  

Never Surrender.  If you do have too much to drink, you don’t want to show up to work looking (or smelling) like you had too much to drink.  Here’s how to avoid stumbling into the office like Otis the town drunk after a night in the Mayberry jail.  

  • For the love of all things holy, shower.  A nice, hot shower will wake you up and rinse the filth of the night before off of your aching body.  I would rather have an employee who is 10 minutes late and smells like a fresh bar of Dial soap than one who is on time, reeking of gin and juice.  And ladies, if you’re not going to wash our hair, at least dry shampoo the roots.  Your glistening hairline and stringy ponytail are dead hangover giveaways.  Basic hygiene is a hangover necessity, so don’t gloss over it simply because you feel gross.
  • Compensate.  Feel like crap?  Dress nicer.  When I feel awful, I put on my best outfit.  This way, I know that even though I feel like a disheveled ogre on the inside, I look like a sparkly, young professional on the outside.  It helps.
  • Let your makeup bag help you.  To hide a hangover you will need undereye concealer, pink blush for the apples of your cheeks, mascara (lots of mascara), highlighting powder and perfume.  Lighten and brighten your complexion like your life depends on it.  Oh, and exfoliating with your Clarisonic can scrub off even a mojito hangover.
  • Never tell anyone you’re hungover.  Ever.  This is no one’s business, so keep your feelings to yourself.  
  • Don’t think the coffee alone will fix it.  If you’re hungover, you need water, electrolytes and food.  I recommend a glass of water, an Emergen-C, and an egg sandwich.  If you try to push through on just coffee until noon, you’re going to be one miserable cookie by lunchtime.
  • Hiding your hangover is all about productivity. It’s the easiest thing in the world to let a hangover slow you down, but in a busy office, that’s not an option.  So look at your to do list, pick out the three easiest tasks you can accomplish (a memo, phone call, etc.), and do those first.  Finishing a couple of items will make you feel better and help ease you into your work day.

Sometimes a couple of cocktails on a Wednesday night is just what you need to get you through your hectic work week and make those rubber chicken dinners more palatable, but if you must drink, drink like a professional.  And if you do over-indulge and end up with a bit of a hangover, don’t let it get the best of you.  

Stroll into work smelling fresh as a daisy, wearing your best dress and a freshly applied coat of spackle.  Your co-workers will wonder how you managed to take that sixth shot of tequila and not wind up looking like Lindsay Lohan on a bender, and your Boss will never know that you stumbled home after midnight barely able to remember where you live.  

LEAVE A COMMENT

    leave a comment

  1. RMS says:

    My Dad also taught me the club soda with lime trick. Works like a charm for the cocktail hour. What about more formal situations like fundraisers and meetings that include a sit-down dinner? The only times I've run into trouble with drinking in a professional environment is when there are waiters who refill wine glasses. It is far too easy to get lost in conversation and not notice when the waiter repeatedly tops off your chardonnay. Any advice for those situations?

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  2. RMS says:

    My Dad also taught me the club soda with lime trick. Works like a charm for the cocktail hour. What about more formal situations like fundraisers and meetings that include a sit-down dinner? The only times I've run into trouble with drinking in a professional environment is when there are waiters who refill wine glasses. It is far too easy to get lost in conversation and not notice when the waiter repeatedly tops off your chardonnay. Any advice for those situations?

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  3. Nina says:

    This is all great advice especially “Never tell anyone you're hungover” It is shocking how many people not only come to work look like, and smelling like they're hungover, but then they tell the office all about it! They even boast about it! This seems to especially be a problem with young men. Yeah dude, I was at that work happy hour and when I left at 9 you were already smashed. I don't need to hear about the shots you took later, I need you to get [task] done.

    February 16, 2011/Reply
  4. lulu says:

    This is so timely it's not even funny. Well, it's still kind of funny. I just wished you had published this yesterday ­čśë

    February 16, 2011/Reply
  5. LN says:

    I don't drink, but have found that the lime wedge is the key to faking it, even without having to get one “real” cocktail first. Plain Diet Coke? People try to get me (or push me to get) a “real drink”. Diet Coke with a wedge of lime? Not a single comment. Ditto with cranberry juice. Add the lime wedge and no one will comment.

    February 16, 2011/Reply
  6. R says:

    Off topic, but I wasn't sure which post this was origionally from, but the pretty Alexia Admor dress that was posted is on RueLALA today for $79!!

    February 16, 2011/Reply
  7. Adrienne says:

    My first boss after college told me about the faux vodka tonic trick, which is the only way I've been able to survive DC. I also always comment how that's my favorite drink. (After several years, I guess it has become my favorite.)

    I also think it sounds less fussy to order a simple drink. Perhaps it's me, but people with complicated drink orders strike me as high maintenance or are trying too hard.

    Another tip to add is never go to a cocktail reception on an empty stomach. If I start drinking without eating first, even that one drink can make me tipsy. Appetizers won't cut it. I try to keep V8 and packs of 100 calorie almonds with me as a protein boost when I'm short on time.

    February 16, 2011/Reply
  8. C says:

    Any suggestions for bars that give our larger-sized glasses for soda? Just make sure the bartender is in on your scheme?

    February 16, 2011/Reply
  9. A says:

    Also- if your supervisor is asked by your COS to deal with your repeatedly raggedy, hungover appearance, don't tell her that she is just jealous of your amazing social life. Any endearing thoughts of “we were all young once” flee pretty quickly when confronted with that response.

    February 16, 2011/Reply
  10. Belle says:

    A-That sounds like a tragic tale.

    Yes, if your social life becomes enough of a problem that your Boss needs to intervene, then you have bigger problems than perceived co-worker jealousy. And if that's the response I got from a subordinate, I'd be on a campaign for his/her termination. That shows a complete lack of maturity.

    February 16, 2011/Reply
  11. Marie-Christine says:

    I totally agree about the faking it approach – you don't want to have heart to hearts about anyone at work about your lack of ability to hold your liquor, or your alcoholic parent and how repulsive you find the whole thing.. Nothing like an aggressive drunk trying to force you to partake along.
    The lime wedge is a good idea, but don't overlook the underlying advice: don't let anyone give you a soda or juice glass, it must be just like all the others drinks glasses. I've found a virgin bloody mary to be a fine alternative to real drinks, and I've been a happy camper since I realized that all bars have grapefruit juice, and it's less vile than their orange juice :-). But really most waiters are on to you, and will happily participate in your act. One customer at least who'll remain polite and not puke on their shoes..

    February 16, 2011/Reply
  12. RMS says:

    My Dad also taught me the club soda with lime trick. Works like a charm for the cocktail hour. What about more formal situations like fundraisers and meetings that include a sit-down dinner? The only times I've run into trouble with drinking in a professional environment is when there are waiters who refill wine glasses. It is far too easy to get lost in conversation and not notice when the waiter repeatedly tops off your chardonnay. Any advice for those situations?

    February 17, 2011/Reply
  13. JP says:

    Does anyone know if water with a lime wedge would work too?? I hate soda, and juice, basically all drinks other than soda.

    February 17, 2011/Reply
  14. N says:

    JP – Water with lime probably isn't your best bet because it's missing the soda bubbles. It would look like you're drinking straight vodka.

    February 17, 2011/Reply
  15. Professional Freshman says:

    i just sent this to all of my friends, were all “professional freshmen” from a top party school and have all had our struggles maintaining our professional appearance, especially on fridays… the rest of the world does actually funtion that day, who knew!? but absolutely great advice!

    February 17, 2011/Reply
  16. Colleen says:

    Perrier with lime works great. If anyone asks, I just tell them, “I'm hitting the hard stuff tonight – Perrier.” It usually gets at least a smile, and nobody has ever pressed me for more information.

    February 17, 2011/Reply
  17. L says:

    Good lord in heaven I followed these rules like my life depended upon it this morning. I still feel awful, but at least i look decent.

    February 17, 2011/Reply
  18. Legally Brooklyn says:

    Tried the club soda with lime trick at an event last week. Unfortunately, the waiter poured it from the bottle into my glass in front of our 20 person group. I immediately started fielding the question “are you pregnant?” (which I am most definitely not). Most of the time, the club soda with lemon/lime works, but apparently not that night.

    If someone can come up with a non-alcoholic substitute for shots, that would be fantastic. Unfortunately, apple juice doesn't look enough like whiskey to trick anyone.

    February 17, 2011/Reply
  19. pqresident says:

    @RMS – I've told overzealous waiters who want to keep that wine glass full that I will inform them when I need more wine. I politely ask that they not fill the glass without my giving them the nod or say I will do it myself. any professional waiter will comply. wine is a high markup item (usually 100 to 200%) at a restaurant so there may be a bit of a profit motive for them to keep that wine moving.

    February 19, 2011/Reply