Debunking Drinking Wisdom

Shortly after I passed the legal drinking age and started drinking adult beverages, I first heard the aphorism “wine, then beer, and have no fear.”  Some years later, I heard the flip side:  “beer, then wine, and I feel fine.”  The idea behind each of the sayings — which are seemingly contradictory, in case you hadn’t noticed — was that if you sequenced what you drank, you could avoid a hangover.

wineandbeerAre either of the sayings true?

No, of course not . . . and now a study has confirmed it.  Researchers from the Witten/Herdecke University in Germany and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom — two countries, incidentally, that are very serious about their wine and beer — studied whether the sequence in which alcoholic beverages are consumed might affect how people who overindulge feel the next day.  One group drank beer, then wine, and another drank wine, then beer.  A third, control group drank only one or the other.

The study found that the drinking sequence made no difference in the hangover impact.  One of the researchers explained: “The truth is that drinking too much of any alcoholic drink is likely to result in a hangover. The only reliable way of predicting how miserable you’ll feel the next day is by how drunk you feel and whether you are sick. We should all pay attention to these red flags when drinking.”  (No kidding!)

And get this:  another of the researchers makes the dubious argument that hangovers actually can have positive effects.  He stated: “Unpleasant as hangovers are, we should remember that they do have one important benefit, at least: They are a protective warning sign that will certainly have aided humans over the ages to change their future behavior. In other words, they can help us learn from our mistakes.”  Boy, scientists are perverse, aren’t they?

I’d never argue that hangovers are a good thing, but I do know this — any perceived folk wisdom about drinking that rhymes and is capable of being remembered after a few drinks probably isn’t that wise after all.

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Stoned On The Strip

Yesterday legal marijuana sales began in Nevada.  Well, why not?  In the Silver State there’s already legalized gambling and prostitution, a tradition of Rat Pack boozing and partying, and a prevailing “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” ethos.   So why not add marijuana to the mix, to ensure that every imaginable mood-altering option is available to people who can pay with the coin of the realm?

They don’t call it Sin City for nothing.

las-vegas-stripNevada now is the fifth state to legalize the sale and possession of marijuana for recreational use.  In Nevada, adults 21 and over can purchase and possess up to an ounce of marijuana, but public use is still prohibited — because, even in Las Vegas, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere.

Some of the Las Vegas marijuana stores, with names like Reef Dispensaries and Euphoria Wellness, opened at midnight, to take advantage of the first moments that the new law took effect, and reported long lines and brisk business.  One purchaser said “you don’t have to hide in the corner anymore and feel bad about it,” and thereby articulated one of the core concepts underlying Las Vegas culture generally.

The trend toward general legalization of marijuana seems pretty clear and probably is close to irreversible, but I’ll still be interested in how it all works out for Las Vegas.  Drinking seems to go a lot better with gaming than marijuana does.  You wouldn’t think that stoned individuals would be particularly keen about going out to gamble, where they probably would wonder whether everyone was staring at them and whether it was their turn to take a hit at the blackjack table.  Maybe Nevada is just trying to stimulate sales of Dark Side of the Moon.

Bachelorettesville


Nashville must be the top bachelorette party destination east of the Mississippi.  You see the bachelorette groups everywhere — pedaling together to power the bicycle bars heading down Broadway, slamming down Jell-O shots, singing along with the band at the Honky Tonk Saloon, and whooping it up on the sidewalk — and always smartly attired in matching shirts and hats with clever slogans about love or being drunk, and sometimes both.  As soon as one group leaves, another bachelorette band arrives to take its place.

Why is Nashville such a popular bachelorette destination?  Well, why not? It’s got lots of saloons and live music and drink specials and pedal bars and all of the features of a modern bachelorette fantasy.  And let’s just say that the ladies we saw were taking full advantage of the chance to cut loose, starting bright and early and hitting it hard.  They were having fun in the bride-to-be’s last hurrah.

I’m guessing that what happens in Nashville stays in Nashville.

Moonshine 


The bar where we ate dinner last night was very well-stocked, but I paused for a minute at the serious collection of jars — until I realized it was all moonshine.  Well, we are in Tennessee, after all, eating in a place called The Stillery, and there wasn’t a revenuer in sight.

The moonshine came in lots of different flavors, like “apple pie.”  I’m sure many party-hearty visitors to Nashville have figured they should guzzle some shine to make their visit fully authentic . . . and then came to regret it the next morning.  I wasn’t tempted.  In college I learned my lesson well that drinking fruity concoctions where the Kool-Aid-like flavoring serves only to mask the crushing alcoholic content isn’t a wise course of personal conduct — especially when it’s served from what appears to be a garbage pail.  

With an inward nod to Granny Clampett, I let the white lightning pass and stuck to a beer.

On Target To Stay Up Late

For the last few years, Kish and I have stayed up late exactly one time each year:  the night of the firm’s holiday party.  Because we want to maximize our opportunity to visit with everybody who comes in for the party, we get a room at the hotel, stay until the party and after-party end, and then head over to the Char Bar next door until it kicks everybody out.

IMG_0100That happens at 2:30 a.m., which is far, far past my normal bedtime.

But somehow, on this one night, that doesn’t seem to be a problem.  For me, at least, it’s much easier to stay up if there are a lot of people around and interesting conversations to be had.  It’s all about your state of mind and a little careful preplanning and pacing.  You make sure you eat and establish that crucial base, you start with wine and then step down to beer rather than powering down mixed drinks, and you make sure that rather than sitting you’re on your feet, taking advantage of the chance to move from group to group and chat with friends.  The next thing you know, they’re rolling the bar away, you check your phone and it’s much later than you thought, and it’s time to move on.

The Char Bar is a good place to end up after a long night.  You’ve got your regulars, you’ve got the tipsy, weaving patrons who’ve had a few too many Long Island Iced Teas, and then you inject a late-night invasion of suit-wearing men and shiny-outfitted women.  It makes for an interesting mixture, and you can play darts, too.  It’s easier to stay alert when you are hurling sharp objects.

Searching For A Hangover Cure

Anyone who’s ever been much of a drinker knows how painful hangovers can be — and they’ve probably come up with their own theory about the best way to dodge them while still enjoying the simple, warming pleasures of a few adult beverages.

If you ask your friends what they do to avoid the dreaded hangover, you’ll find that people swear by all kinds of different folk remedies, with an almost religious intensity.  Never drink on an empty stomach.  Take two aspirin before going to bed.  Quaff lots of water while you’re out on the town.  One of our college friends contended that eating a plate of french fries covered with gravy was a sure cure, and another insisted on going out for chili dogs.  And then there are the assorted “next-day” remedies, ranging from munching dry Excedrin (to maximize its impact), to guzzling an entire pot of coffee (to allow caffeine to counter the lingering alcohol effects), to downing a large breakfast of pancakes (to soak up the remaining alcohol in your system), to sampling the “hair of the dog that bit you” (to start working on tomorrow’s hangover, today).  I’m a big believer in drinking lots of water, myself, and I am convinced that if you wake up with a hangover it’s too late to do much about it other than ride it out and swear you’ll never be so stupid again.

Now scientists have weighed in.  A study conducted by researchers from Canada and the Netherlands looked at 826 students (a perfect control group for hangover analysis if there ever was one) and examined their food and water intake, their alcohol consumption, and their resulting hangovers.  The study concluded that neither food nor water consumption had any impact on the severity of the throbbing next-day headaches and the listless, befuddled feeling that inevitably accompanies them — although those that drink lots of water feel better than those that don’t.  (Told ya!)

Instead, the study concluded, the only surefire way to avoid a brain-crushing hangover is simply to consume less alcohol.

What?  Drink less?  That’s no fun!  You know, pancakes sound pretty good right now.