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December 5, 2012

The Holiday Drinks Guide

Stick to your diet, avoid a scene, and skip the hangover on the party circuit this year with our three-point December imbibing plan.

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Photo Credit: Last Resort/Getty Images

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BEFORE THE PARTY

Scope Out the Scene Drinking in a new setting heightens the disorienting effects of alcohol, according to a recent study. So unless the event is at your local pub, says Suzanne Higgs, Ph.D., one of the study's authors and a research psychologist at the U.K.'s Birmingham University, expect to get tipsy faster.

Identify Trouble Spots Holiday gatherings are land mines of emotional trauma, from icy bosses to sworn frenemies. To avoid a meltdown, says Dr. David Sack, CEO of Promises Treatment Center in Malibu, California, visualize a sticky scenario: Your ex shows up. Then ask yourself how you want to be remembered the next day, and act accordingly.

Eat Smart Have a high-fiber dinner — e.g., whole-grain pasta with veggies and beans — to impede the absorption of alcohol. Avoid salt, which contributes to hangovers, says Rania Batayneh, nutritionist and author of The 1:1:1 Diet. On the way there, eat a handful of raisins, says Nicole Glassman, a New York — based nutritionist. They're full of potassium, an electrolyte diminished by alcohol; low levels contribute to hangovers.

AT THE PARTY

Stay Clear The concentration of congeners — hangover-inducing toxins resulting from fermentation — is highest in dark-colored drinks like bourbon, brandy, beer, port, and red wine. Instead, try a festive shot of pomegranate juice mixed with vodka or gin, or dry white wine. Most cocktails made with muddled berries or herbs, like mojitos, are loaded with simple syrup, so you'll drink them faster. Eggnog, packed with sugar and fat, is another no-go.

Mix Mindfully A bad mixer can mean the difference between a bedridden morning and an early-bird workout. The carbon dioxide in soda speeds alcohol's absorption, says Dr. Alexander Mauskop, director of the New York Headache Center. Use juice instead.

Garnish With Care Squeeze a lemon slice into your drink; it will have an alkalinizing effect on your stomach and act as a digestive aid. Martini fan? Throw in a few olives — if there aren't any hors d'oeuvres around, it'll curb your hunger and the residual oil will provide some healthy fat, says Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian and author.

Double-Fist It To counteract nerves, which cause people to drink faster, sip from a glass of water between slugs of wine.

THE MORNING AFTER

Act Fast Skip the sunrise breakfast; by the time you order pancakes, the alcohol's been digested. Instead, chug Gatorade or water — at least 8 ounces — before bed.

Pop a Pill Take two Alka-Seltzer when you wake up to stave off nausea. Headachy? Swallow an Advil with your first meal. And throw down vitamin B and C supplements to make up for the reserves depleted by alcohol.

Eat Breakfast A greasy brunch will cause indigestion. Make white or wheat toast with honey to flood your cells with quick energy. If you're a coffee drinker, have just half a cup today. Caffeine is a diuretic and a vasoconstrictor, so it increases your blood pressure, which can intensify a hangover.

BEST BETS

THE LEMON BALLA Muddle lemon wedges with basil; add gin and 2 ounces of muscatel. Top with crushed ice, lemon zest, and a basil leaf in an old-fashioned glass. Thanks to the sweet muscatel, no sugar is necessary, says Paul Sanguinetti, the bartender who created the drink at L.A. hot spot Ray's & Stark Bar.

EVE'S APPLE Mix hibiscus-tea-infused vodka and pomegranate juice with splashes of cranberry, clementine, and lemon juices for a "bomb of vitamins and nutrients," says Pascaline Lepeltier, beverage director of New York's Rouge Tomate restaurant.

MODIFIED MANHATTAN Order a Manhattan with pear vodka and less whiskey — it's lighter and will satisfy your sweet tooth, says Sviatlana Sapeha, a mixologist at St. Felix, an L.A. lounge. Or get a seasonal shot of pumpkin pie vodka over ice.


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