Day-drinking is fun and easy. It’s indulgent, even—what says I don’t have a single worry in this world better than a chilled bottle of rosé on a friend’s roof in the sunshine or skipping out of work early on a summer Friday to drink Aperol Spritz out of red cups in the park and keep your fingers crossed that there’s no police presence?
What is not fun, and not easy, is when 7 pm rolls around and your pleasant buzz and joie de vivre takes a turn for the groggy, with a dull headache to match. That’s it; you’ve been defeated. Game over, go home, pass out on the couch, wake up at midnight filled with self-loathing because you missed “Game of Thrones.” (The fact that you need to be ready for work in eight hours pales in comparison to that misstep.)
But there’s a better way to approach day-drinking that helps to avert the likelihood of an afternoon spent in a fugue state. You must know going into it that a spirit of adventure and reckless abandon does not apply here (well, alright, you might be able to swing it in small doses). Thoughtful planning beforehand is key, because most rational thought starts to go out the window real fast once the keg is tapped.
Sure, you could also not drink, but if that’s just not in the cards, then take some of the sting out of the morning/early-evening after by doing it right. Here, 5 crucial pieces of wisdom from the people who know best:
You need to stay hydrated. Anyone and everyone—your mom, your most responsible friend, the volunteer paramedic in the medical tent at the second-tier music festival where water is $3 a bottle—will tell you this, because it’s true. “Having a glass of water in between drinks has always been my trick,” says culinary nutritionist and health consultant Mikaela Reuben. “A hangover is largely due to dehydration from alcohol,” confirms nutrition expert Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD, so staying on top of your water intake is essential.
Co-owner of East Village cocktail bar Goodnight Sonny Peter Canny prefers potassium-rich coconut water mixed with some cold-brew coffee for maximum hydration plus a hit of caffeine to keep you on your feet. Reuben also swears by a B complex vitamin before and after drinking: Alcohol prevents the body’s absorption of B vitamins, which are key for general mental and physical well-being, so replacing those nutrients is very, very important.
Eating to your advantage makes all the difference. The two huge slices of pepperoni pizza you devour three hours in may sound in theory like an effective way of sopping up alcohol and keeping the ball rolling, but having one large, carb-heavy meal isn’t the best way to do things—in fact, it’s basically like the food equivalent of taking an Ambien. “Start off by eating something healthy before you head out,” recommends Spano. “An empty stomach means you’ll get drunk sooner and make poor food choices later.”
A big, boring salad will do the trick and help to boost your nutrient intake, too, but it still isn’t enough to sustain you for a long day that turns to night. “Eating small plates throughout the day always helps,” says Canny. That’s right: Instead of waiting until you’re drunk and ravenous to order French fries and mac and cheese, keep yourself satiated with reasonably-sized, fairly nutritious snacks. Nuts, some pretzels, hummus, fruit salad, some sad rice cakes, a sandwich, whatever—just eat throughout the day to avoid that late-night binge, which will only make you feel shittier come morning (and by morning I mean when you wake up dizzy and disoriented in front of the TV at 3 am).
Your drink of choice matters. Alcohol is alcohol, but a glass of wine affects you differently than a shot of tequila. Here’s a rundown: beer’s comparatively low alcohol content makes it a decent pick for all-day drinking, since you can down a lot of it without getting too smashed provided you pace yourself. It is awfully filling, though, so the bloat is the real downside. Wine is super acidic, which is irritating to the stomach, and the carbon dioxide in sparkling wines speeds up alcohol absorption so you get drunker faster, so if you think you’re being virtuous by taking a pass on the hard liquor, you may want to reconsider.
Clear spirits—vodka, tequila, and gin—are actually your best bets. (Avoid darker ones, they’re the worst; studies have shown that hangover severity from bourbon is twice that of vodka.) Steer clear of anything too sweet—and not to speak badly of your favorite $3 well drink spot, but the quality of the liquor also contributes to how bad your hangover will be, so it’s up to you to decide whether saving money by drinking the cheapest booze on the menu is worth the suffering later on. Problems also arise when you change up your drink frequently—”I make sure not to mix too many different types of drinks,” says Canny, because drinking all the alcohols means reaping all their unique ill effects.
There’s no shame in a power nap. Sometimes the best thing to do is take a breather, which can help stave off a much more serious must-sleep-now situation later on. “I work behind the bar enough on the weekend to witness people in full day-drinking mode,” says Canny. “Some should definitely go home and pass out, but others hold it together.” If you’ve already had too much and haven’t paced yourself properly, go home and pass out. You may not waking up feeling fresh, but you’ll at least have slowed your roll enough to rejoin the general public.
Canny’s game plan, for when you find yourself dragging but can’t skip the party: “I start early, take a disco nap before dinner, shower and throw on some fresh clothes, eat a good meal, and throw back a shot of tequila or mezcal to get me back in the game.”
Then, the only thing left to do is to treat the aftermath accordingly. It’s very rare, practically unheard of, to wake up in the morning after a day-long excursion feeling like the world is your oyster, so even the most minimal hangover will require some triage. “The best way to recover the next day is to drink fluids,” says Reuben. “Adding lemon to water and eating citrus can help replenish vitamin C, and fresh coconut water and bananas are good for replacing potassium.” Eat smart, drink smart (hair of the dog is never a good idea), and make rest and hydration a priority. “We have to rehydrate and flush some of the toxins from the body, replenish the vitamins we lost, and catch up on sleep.”
Oh, and wear sunscreen! It’s not going to help your hangover, or give you a second wind after you fall asleep under a tree, but it will save you the trauma of getting a gnarly sunburn to complement your throbbing headache.