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Alcohol and the Holidays: How To Be Safe and Merry

alcohol and the holidays

Is it possible to be both safe and merry during the holidays when consuming alcohol? Absolutely, and here are some tips on how to achieve that goal.


The holiday season means many things to different people: family, friends, gifts, parties, singing, and food, and often alcohol is part of the scene. In recent years, there’s been increasing awareness of the need to be responsible about alcohol consumption year round, but especially around holidays. It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of the season and to forget to be aware of the impact alcohol consumption can have on your physical, emotional, and mental health and abilities.

So what’s the best way to handle alcohol and the holidays? How can you be both safe and merry?

According to Dr. Danielle Robinson, Director of Alcohol Policy and Corporate Reputation Management at Diageo, which is one of the world’s largest producers and distributors of Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, and other spirits, everyone can enjoy the holidays happily and safely by taking a few minutes to consider the following tips and suggestions.

Clear up misconceptions about alcohol

Dr. Robinson noted that among the most common misconceptions about alcohol are what constitutes a standard drink and that it’s the amount you drink, not what you drink that matters. One standard drink is considered to be 1.5 ounces of spirits, 5 ounces of wine, and 12 ounces of beer.

She pointed out that it takes an average of one hour to process one standard drink, and that men and women process alcohol differently. Although weight and size are factors, another is that women have less alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) than men. ADH is an enzyme that processes alcohol in the liver. Because women have less ADH, “this means they might drink the same amount [as a man] but feel the effects more strongly.”

Plan ahead

If you plan to consume alcohol at a party or other venue and you will need to get home afterwards, plan your transportation before you go. Designate a driver, plan to get a taxi, share transportation with family or friends, or arrange to stay at someone’s home or at a hotel. Never drive impaired.

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You also should plan your drinks. Decide how many and what you will drink and let your family and friends know so they can help you stay on track. Drink water, soft drinks, or juice between alcoholic beverages.

Eat before drinking

Always eat before you drink alcohol. If you are going to a party or event where you plan to eat dinner, have a snack before you go and drink. Overall, Robinson recommends having a balanced meal before you go out for the evening.

What’s the best thing to eat before consuming alcohol? “Any food is helpful since it will slow the alcohol absorption, but meals with protein and fats (can be healthy fats) are most effective,” says Robinson. She also noted that fruits and vegetables help you stay hydrated and so are important to eat as well.

Engage in other activities

While drinking can be part of the entertainment, it’s best to participate in activities that don’t center around alcohol. Playing board games, pool, ping pong, or performing karaoke are some ways to mix up the party!

Be a concerned host

As the host or hostess of a holiday gathering that involves alcohol, you can help your guests stay safe while they also have a great time. How?

• Provide various types of food to snack on, such as vegetable trays, popcorn, dip, nuts, finger sandwiches, or perhaps a buffet
• Provide a variety of beverages other than alcoholic ones, including soft drinks, juice, water (sparkling, flavored), and nonalcoholic spirits (e.g., Seedlip), beers, and wines. In particular, the non-alcoholic spirits market is growing and offering individuals alternatives to alcohol, whether they don’t drink at all, want to space out their alcohol consumption, or like another beverage option.
• Avoid topping off a guest’s drink because that can result in them drinking more and not keeping an accurate measure of their alcohol consumption
• Prepare cocktails ahead of time using standard drink measures, which can help prevent overconsumption
• Help guests with transportation options (e.g., numbers for taxi and car services) and water to take with them when they leave

What’s the best hangover remedy?

Naturally the best remedy is to avoid getting a hangover at all. However, since the main reason people get a hangover is dehydration, a great way to avoid one in the first place is to stay hydrated before, during, and after the alcohol-consuming event. Carry a sustainable water bottle with you and also consume non-alcoholic beverages. At the same time, don’t overconsume alcohol, space your drinks with non-alcoholic beverages, and be sure to eat before drinking.

In the end

Dr. Robinson remarked that she is “very passionate about providing the information and resources we have such as DrinkiQ.com, which is a one stop shop for educational resources about responsible consumption.” Consumers also can take a mini quiz (DrinkiQ) to discover some interesting facts about alcohol. If you are hosting a party or event that provides alcohol, you might be interested in checking out the Good Host Guide.