10 Rules for Surviving the Drinking Holiday Known as Thanksgiving Eve

The Foobooz guide to the biggest bar night of the year.


Did someone say shots? Read rule No. 9.

If you’re of a certain age (meaning you’re not spending your Thanksgiving Eve polishing the good silver or trying to herd cranky toddlers through the TSA metal detectors), there are two ways to look at the night before Thanksgiving. It’s either that one, wonderful night of the year when all your old childhood friends are back in town and looking to escape their families to reconnect over drinks at the local bar; or that one, terrible night of the year when your local bar is overrun by a bunch of idiots from out-of-town looking to reconnect with their childhood friends while you’re just trying to get drunk enough to deal with your family waiting back home.

Either way, it’s a big night. A festive night. A heavy-drinking kind of night that comes with its own unique challenges and potential pitfalls. But lucky for you, we’re here to help out with a guide to making it through one of the biggest party nights of the year unscathed, unashamed and without some pesky felony charge following you home to your normal life.

So let’s begin, shall we?

Rule No. 1: Be Prepared

Just like the Boy Scouts say, right? Know what you’re getting yourself into before you walk into the bar. Bring some extra cash, your phone, a good attitude, enough meth for everyone, a spear gun — whatever you think you might need, depending on the crowd you roll with and the odds of everything going sideways at the worst possible moment. Eat beforehand. Bring ibuprofen (NOT ASPIRIN). Oh, and from personal experience, let someone who won’t be drinking with you know where you’re going to be in case you end up staying a little later than you planned. That point at which your loved ones begin calling hospitals after you go missing is also the point at which your night out goes from “delightfully blurry romp” to “thing that’s going to be brought up at the divorce hearing,” so keep that in mind.

Rule No. 2: You Are Not an Alcoholic Superhero

Sure, this sounds obvious when you’re sober, but I’m going to say it anyway. Just because you have this sort of mid-week bonus night where it feels like all bets are off, your body still just thinks it’s a Wednesday. You haven’t suddenly been granted a super-efficient liver or any other magical powers that make alcohol not effect you in exactly the same way it does on any other night. If you’ve spent the past 10 years calling it quits after two glasses of pinot grigio, that 5th shot of Fireball is going to hit you like a hammer. Maintaining an intelligent control over your speed and volume of cocktail consumption is what separates the pros from the amateurs.

Rule No. 3: It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

You don’t have to have a drink with everyone you know the minute you walk through the door of the bar. This is Philadelphia, not Ireland. All those people you’re there to see? Most of them will still be there an hour later. Pace yourself, sunshine.

Rule No. 4: Thou Shalt Absolutely Mix Thine Beverages

That old rule about beer before liquor or whatever? Bullshit. Mixing wine and spirits? Totally fine. You know who comes up with these old wives tales about drinking? Old wives. Be smart and you’ll be fine.

Rule No. 5: Hydrate

One glass of water for every two fun drinks. Doctor’s orders. You’ll pee a lot, but you’ll thank me in the morning.

Rule No. 6: Tonight Is Not the Night to Try New Things

Never shotgunned a beer before? Don’t do it tonight. Never had a shot? Take off the training wheels in the comfort of your own home. There’s this thing among people who drink as part of their job that’s called a “Work Drink” — the one simple cocktail or single alcohol with which you have become so intimately familiar and so wonderfully comfortable that your body just absorbs it like happy juice and goes on about its business. And while you might not think you have a work drink, if you consume alcohol with any sort of regularity, you do. It’s the thing that you order without thinking whenever you step up to the bar. The drink you know better than any other. Stick with that on Thanksgiving Eve and you’ll have far less to worry about. Start downing straight mezcal or Vietnamese snake wine and suddenly the odds of you waking up on a bus to Tijuana the next day with a fresh face tattoo and a super-interesting new venereal disease just skyrocket.

Rule No. 7: Buy a Round (or Two)

It’s a party, ferchrissakes. Spend a little so you’re not the guy everyone is talking about next year.

Rule No. 8: Don’t Get Stuck Buying the LAST Round

Because that’s always when some asshole (usually me) asks the bartender to see that special bottle up on the top shelf …

Rule No. 9: A Martini Is Classier Than Three Shots

Same amount of alcohol (roughly), but if you’re planning to end the night vertical and still loved, this is a good rule of thumb because swanning around the floor with James Bond’s drink in hand just looks better than being the dipshit at the oak trying to get a busy bartender’s attention so he can order another round of Jäger.

Rule No. 10: Time Is the Best Hangover Cure

Know what cures a hangover? Nothing. Everyone has to pay for their fun eventually. But if you want to cut down on the severity of your Thanksgiving Day misery, here’s what you do. Don’t go to bed. No, really. That’s it. So long as you’re upright and conscious, your body is doing its best to process and flush out all those wonderful poisons you’ve been pouring into it all night. But the minute you fall asleep (or, you know, black out), that process slows down. So what you want to do is stop drinking a couple hours before you’re planning on going to sleep. Or, more realistically, what you want to do is stay up for a while after the drinking is over in order to give your body a head start on sobering your drunk ass up. And trust me, an hour of half-drunk time at the diner listening to your buddies talk shit about the guy who never bought any rounds last year is way better than three hours of hangover time the next day, listening to your wife, your mother, or your parole officer telling you what a disappointment you are.

Bonus Rule: The Cops Know What Day It Is, Too

And yes, you are too drunk to drive. Yes, you look it. Yes, I can smell the alcohol on you. No, you can’t bluff your way though that checkpoint. No, the police aren’t going to be fooled by your Tic-Tacs or menthol cigarettes. No, I’m not bailing you out. Got it? Call a cab. Call Uber (beware the surge pricing). Call a friend. Have a designated driver. Get a room. Whatever it takes. Because as difficult as Thanksgiving with your family might be, I promise you that unless you’re Charles Bukowski or Shane McGowan, Thanksgiving spent in jail will be worse.