You’re at a cocktail mixer at a business conference or on the first night of your fabulous tropical-resort getaway. You’ve decided to have just one drink.
Why then, when it’s finished, do you find yourself ordering another? “Alcohol produces what is known as disinhibition,” said George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Essentially, drinking makes you drink more.
Having food in your stomach will help your blood absorb the alcohol less quickly and fend off its effects, as will drinking more slowly. “There’s no need to be a gulper,” Koob said.
Your drink can help you pace yourself, said Liquor.com contributor Dan Dao, a who tends bar in New York at Middle Branch in Manhattan and Seaborne in Brooklyn. “If I’m trying to slow down, I’ll opt for a spirits-forward sipper like an old-fashioned,” he said.
Tall drinks with lots of soda can also slow you down by filling you up.
Slacking your pace gives your liver a chance to clear the alcohol from your blood. Koob says most of us clear about half a drink per hour, but it can differ depending on weight. The government’s Rethinking Drinking website has specifics.
Going low-ABV (alcohol by volume) helps the liver in its mission by putting less alcohol into your blood with each drink. Dao suggests the amaretto sour, the Pimm’s cup and the sherry cobbler as tasty, low-ABV options. But any drink built around wine, sherry or amari will do, he said.
Ultimately, though, your best bet is to set a limit for yourself and stick to it. Dao says your drinking companions might help hold you accountable.
Alcohol consumption’s pleasant effects occur with just one or two drinks, Koob said – and won’t get better with three.
Even moderate alcohol consumption can impair your ability to drive a vehicle. Avoid it altogether when you have to get behind the wheel or be sure to have a designated sober driver.
By Christina Elston
Top illustration: Gary Hovland