I have approached this subject many times before, but rarely have I expounded on it with the broad base of drinks in general as the target. It’s usually wine-centric or malt-centric, how to pair and how not to douse in water, and so on. But not just these two, every drink requires a certain civil approach, an unspoken and unwritten code of conduct that not only enhances our enjoyment of the beverage, but also ensures that nobody and nothing is harmed in any manner whatsoever—least of all a spirit or brew, which was patiently made and honed over a period of time in a distant cellar. Without further ado then, here are some drink etiquettes that one would do well to imbibe before one attends or hosts a soirée…
Food first: Only a fool drinks on an empty stomach and most Indian parties seem to be geared up as gatherings for imbeciles. We arrive late, starved since lunch, and go on to down copious amounts of alcohol, punishing our innards insensibly and irrevocably. Please ensure that your stomach is well-lined before you touch the first drink. If you are playing host, don’t shy away from serving food at ‘normal o’clock’—your social quotient won’t fall just because you fed people before midnight.
Wisdom of volume: Even the most seasoned of drinkers can sometimes lose count of how much alcohol has passed their lips and the results can be disastrous—drunk dialling your ex being the least potentially harmful scenario. So count your drinks like ramp models count their calories. A safe zone is two drinks in the first hour and one every subsequent hour.
If that sounds painfully slow, retire and call it a night. Any faster and you are buying yourself a ticket to ‘hangover central’. In certain western countries, this is also a safe way to remain within permissible limits to get behind the wheel. In India, I don’t know if that translates to similarly acceptable.
Sip Smart: Never gulp a drink. Shooting or sculling or simply downing shots of alcohol may seem fun and macho, but it’s neither civil nor enjoyable. I have never seen someone shoot back anything and not contort a face of utter disgust—not to mention the nasty looming headache. Tequila is a lovely drink, a national pride for Mexicans. To shoot it down is insulting and ignorant.
Try sipping it once and you will find it can be as hip as gin. That said, following the eastern Asian culture of Kampai (downing whatever is in the glass) as a sign of respect and machismo is about as crude as the dog meat festival. It’s time we upgraded such traditions to be more gentrified.
Catering to constitutions: Not everyone can handle as much drink as others and it may be a smart idea to keep a contingency plan for those who risk getting light-headed. From the usual pills, which promise no hangovers, to an array of probiotics, non-alcoholic juices and smoothies, all work as aides to digesting alcohol and taking it out of our system as quickly as possible. I recently received a set of pills, which promised that I would wake up bright and crisp. I don’t know if the pills worked because I was anyway overtly cautious with my tipple the evening before. That said, a big glass of water between two drinks is perhaps the safest way to waking up fresh as a flower.
Mixing: This is a contra-myth, one that needs undoing. There is no harm in mixing your alcohols. I go from malt to wine to gin all in one evening and without any side effects. The trick is to pace yourself and hydrate constantly. The essence of alcohol lies in enjoying its variety, the various flavours and textures that it extends to us. To confine yourself is to miss the point entirely of drinking in the first place. A drink isn’t just about the high it delivers, it’s about the high you get from enjoying a lovely beverage with people you wish to engage with.
If I am sounding too old and preachy, then I guess it is because I am getting close to the years when Happy birthday songs are replaced with For he’s jolly good fellow… So don’t let me get in the way of you and your good time. Enjoy yourself, but if you can fall back on any of these tips even mildly, you will see why you don’t have to consider giving up alcohol the next morning when you wake up with that massive hangover.
The writer is a sommelier