5 Ways to Avoid a Hangover

Pain-free imbibing at Tales of the Cocktail.

If you are going to attend a marathon cocktail convention in New Orleans and spend your time tasting up to 10 drinks and spirits every day, and savor imbibing at some of the most iconic bars and restaurants in America, you’d better have a game plan. 

Papa's Pilar Old Fashioned

An Old Fashioned using Papa's Pilar craft rum. Courtesy of Papa's Pilar/Jessyel Ty Gonzalez

During the four blissful, semi-tipsy days I spent at the 14th annual Tales of the Cocktail convention based out of the gorgeous Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter, my goal, in addition to discovering my next favorite cocktail (more on that in a later post) and talking to fascinating distillers, bartenders, historians and other journalists, was avoiding a hangover. 

The Hotel Monteleone

The spectacular facade of the Hotel Monteleone/Courtesy of the Hotel Monteleone

Hotel Monteleone Carousel Bar

The beloved home to celebrated drinkers from Truman Capote to Ernest Hemingway, the Carousel Bar. Courtesy of Hotel Monteleone

I am proud to say that beyond a general achiness the morning after my first full day of tastings that quickly dissipated, I remained largely hangover-free. So whether you are headed to your own cocktail convention, wine country, a music festival or some other boozy event, I hope these tips for avoiding a hangover will help. Here’s how I did it.

The Diageo Games Event at Tales of the Cocktail

The crowd at Tales of the Cocktail's Diageo Games. Courtesy of Shannon Sturgis

1: Drink water like you’re stranded in the Sahara.

I had a bottle of water in my hand at all times (it helped that chilled water was available at all Tales of the Cocktail seminars and public areas) and nursed that H2O like a thirsty newborn baby. I had sips in between drinks, sips after drinks, with the goal of drinking a full glass of water or more for each cocktail or half cocktail I had. I drank water at every meal, I drank water the second I woke up, I drank water before I went to bed. I drank water in the middle of the night during the inevitable trips to the loo. My colleague in travel, Travel Channel editor Deanne Revel has her own tip for staying hydrated, whether you are at a cocktail convention or a music festival: “I drink at least a quart of coconut juice for the electrolytes before going to bed. I wake up fresh and ready to dance!”

Ping Pong at Tales of the Cocktail

Ping pong at Diageo Games during Tales of the Cocktail. Courtesy of Shannon Sturgis

2: Eat. A lot.

I normally skip breakfast but learned after waking up slightly achy that first morning after my arrival at Tales that this is not wise. You will want a solid, preferably hot breakfast with some protein and carbohydrates to get you through. Seminars at Tales of the Cocktail begin as early as 10 a.m. and the sampling begins early too. I attended a fantastic lecture by Marine Corps lawyer-by-day and cocktail historian and author by avocation Philip Greene “Getting Lit at the Hotel Monteleone,” on the famous writers who have tippled at the Monteleone’s Carousel Bar, including Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Truman Capote and Ernest Hemingway. During his highly instructive seminar (fun fact: Greene’s cousin invented Peychaud’s Bitters) we sampled a Sazerac, Vieux Carre and Hemingway-style Daiquiri. Favorite literary quote of the morning “civilization begins with distillation,” from William Faulkner. In addition to the place where any number of classic cocktails were invented, from the Sazerac to the French 75, lucky for me, New Orleans is a fantastic food town so there was a lot of incentive to strap on my feedbag on at the fabulous James Beard award-winning Peche where I supped and sipped with Highspire head Austin Hope, Arnaud’s, Galatoire’s, Balise, the atmospheric Cane & Table and another well-deserved James Beard winner Shaya, to sop up all those cocktails.

The Moxy New Orleans

The bar at Moxy New Orleans is the hotel's hot spot, check-in desk and social hub. Courtesy of Moxy.

3: Walk it off.

Exercise, even city walking is a great way to get the blood pumping and feel refreshed rather than sluggish and bloated.

4: Sip, don't slam.

When you attend a cocktail convention, often just a taste will do it. Seminar cocktails at Tales of the Cocktail are generally served in a small glass about the size of two shot glasses. I quickly learned I did not need to drink the whole thing, but just have a few sips to get the essence of the cocktail. At a delicious Diplomatico rum lunch at Cane & Table where three fantastic rums were sampled (Tales epiphany: I love rum!), each one better than the last, I savored the flavors of a few sips rather than succumbing to my instinct to finish each one. This rule held true in every case but one: a seminar on hotel bars which served the single most delicious pina colada with toasted coconut I have ever tasted, and I am not even a pina colada fan.

5: Sleep on it.

One of the unique pleasures of Tales of the Cocktail is meeting and comparing notes with learned cocktail connoisseurs like Tales veteran and author Fred Minnick (Whiskey Women, Bourbon: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of an American Whisky) who recommends shut-eye to restore mind and spirit and prepare yourself for a fresh day of cocktail-ingestion. Booking time at a great hotel to make that rest all the more blissful and comfortable doesn't hurt. While its French Quarter location makes it a non-stop party once you step outside the lobby doors, the Hotel Monteleone offers old-school charm and—if you are headed to next year's Tales of the Cocktail—quick access to all the fun. But I really enjoyed the short walk to the Quarter and the plush, restful surroundings at the Moxy and the Q+C Hotel. Both offered stylish, comfortable quarters, easy access to the buzzy French Quarter and the kind of well-outfitted rooms that make for a good night's sleep. “You want to get at least eight hours of sleep a night before, during and after Tales,” advises Minnick.

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