“Staying away altogether is a stratagem sometimes facetiously put forward at the outset of such discussions as these. To move at once to the realm of the practical, eating has much to be said for it. As well as retarding (though not preventing) the absorption of alcohol, food will slow up your drinking rate, not just because most people put their glasses down while actually chewing, but because you are now satisfying your appetite by eating rather than drinking: hunger makes you drink more than you otherwise would. According to some, oily foods are the most effective soakers-up of the drink already in your stomach, but others point to the risk of upsetting a digestion already under alcoholic attack…
Fatigue is an important element in the hangover, too. Alcohol gives you energy, or, what is hard to distinguish from it, the illusion of energy, and under its influence you will stand for hours at a stretch, throw yourself about, do exhausting imitations, perhaps fight a bit, even, God help you, dance. This will burn up a little alcohol, true, but you will pay for it next morning. A researcher is supposed once to have measured out two identical doses of drink, put the first lot down at a full-scale party and the second, some evenings later, at home with a book, smoking the same number of cigarettes on each occasion and going to bed at the same time. Result, big hangover and no hangover respectively. Sitting down whenever possible, then, will help you, and so, a fortiori, will resisting the temptation to dance, should you be subject to such impulses.
An equally unsurprising way of avoiding fatigue is going to bed in reasonable time, easily said, I know, but more easily done, too, if you allow the soporific effects of drink to run their natural course. This means staying away from stimulants, and that means avoiding coffee, both on its own and with liquor poured into it: the latter, by holding you up with one hand while it pastes you at leisure with the other, is the most solidly dependable way I know of ensuring a fearful tomorrow. Hostesses, especially, should take note of this principle, and cut out those steaming midnight mugs which, intended to send the company cheerfully on its way, so often set the tongues wagging and the Scotch circulating again…
I suppose I cannot leave this topic without reciting the old one about drinking a lot of water and taking aspirin and/or stomach powders before you finally retire. It is a pretty useless one as well as an old one because, although the advice is perfectly sound, you will find next morning that you have not followed it. Alternatively, anyone who can summon the will and the energy and the powers of reflection called for has not reached the state in which he really needs the treatment.
After all these bans and discouragements I will throw in one crumb, or tot, of comfort. I am nearly (yes, nearly) sure that mixing your drinks neither makes you drunker nor gives you a worse time the following day than if you had taken the equivalent dosage in some single form of alcohol. After three dry martinis and two sherries and two glasses of hock and four of burgundy and one of Sauternes and two of claret and three of port and two brandies and three whiskies-and-soda and a beer, most men will be very drunk and will have a very bad hangover. But might not the quantity be at work here? An evening when you drink a great deal will also be one when you mix them.
Well—if you want to behave better and feel better, the only absolutely certain method is drinking less. But to find out how to do that, you will have to find a more expert expert than I shall ever be.”
Hopefully this advice hasn’t found you too late into your Friday evening — from the section “How Not to Get Drunk” in the all-purpose manual Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis.
The photographs are of Amis and his wife Elizabeth Jane Howard.
Read the greatest literary description of a hangover (incidentally, written by Amis himself):