How To Not Be An A-Hole at Holiday Parties

Advice from six booze professionals on keeping it chill

December 10, 2018 9:00 am

Advice from six booze professionals on keeping it chill

If someone has a story about you the day after a holiday party, there’s a 9 in 10 chance you need to apologize (if the word “office” comes before “holiday party,” make that 10 in 10).

Let’s not get to that point.

But don’t panic — you can still have fun, have a few drinks and maybe make a new friend or three if you follow some simple rules. Rules provided by drinking professionals — namely, brand ambassadors for spirits companies.

These are the people who are paid to be gregarious, thoughtful and accommodating, while staying (relatively) sober in a crowd that is anything but.

Below, 20 tips from these brave souls on surviving and thriving during a holiday soiree.

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Tim Cooper
Head of Brand Advocacy & New York Market Manager, Fords Gin

1. Buddy up with the bartender immediately.
“When the event starts, make a deal with the bartender(s) as soon as you enter the room, and let them know that anytime you order a drink, they give you a glass of water. Tip $20 at the start of the night to build that relationship up.”

2. Fake your shots.
“Group shot celebrations? After the first one, they should all be… water. I know that might not be the proper holiday spirit, but trust the process.”

3. Stick to one spirit.
“If you want to drink gin, stick to drinking gin all night. Scotch? Stick to Scotch all night.”

4. Martinis are your friend.
“I’m generally a fan of going with a 50/50 Martini (half gin, half Dry Vermouth). It’s a clean drink that’s not quite as heavy handed as your baseline martini and not a drink that you’ll consume too quickly.”

5. Talk to people you don’t know.
“Actually, you should have three conversations with people that you don’t really know. And just be real with them. The majority of people will appreciate you letting your defenses down and approaching them in a straightforward manner. Try something simple like ‘I just wanted to come over and say hi. I’m trying to be better about engaging with people in these types of settings.’ The majority of the time it just takes you making the first move in extending yourself and the rest of the dialogue should fall into place.”

6. Watch out for others.
“Put your co-worker in a cab if you see them starting to fade or get sloppy. It’s ok to be responsible!”

7. Dance with your co-workers.
“Always be sure to get in one dance on the company soul train line. After all, people will need something to laugh about the next day.”

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Una Green Goldman
Bacardi Single Malts Ambassador (Aberfeldy, Craigellachie, Aultmore, Deveron, Royal Brackla)

8. Water, water, water.
“Water is key. Sipping water while sipping on your drink is a great strategy in preventing a headache the next day. I’ll have a whisky, neat, because I’m more of a sipper myself, and a sparkling water alongside it.”

9. Keep your drinks simple, but don’t be afraid to try something new.
“I love an Aberfeldy highball with a lemon twist. It’s refreshing, bright, super clean and delicious. Cocktails that are 50/50 with a fortified wine or vermouth are always fun to play around with.”

10. Drink this to cover up bad breath.
“Green Chartreuse, neat.”

11. Stay for at least an hour.
“An hour is the minimum. You can Irish exit on the party if it’s super crazy, but just make sure to say goodbye to the host, always. If it’s a smaller party, that’s tougher to do. I always err on the side of taking the extra time to say goodbye. It’s kind, and I think people appreciate actual human warmth and gratitude.”

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Robert Nieves
Brand Ambassador, Facundo Rum

12. Aim low … in alcohol by volume.
“This is tough, especially being in the spirits industry, but it’s a must. One trick is to lean towards lower ABV cocktails, like spritzes. And a full glass of water for every drink — if nothing else,  it’ll send you to the bathroom frequently enough that you will have to look yourself in the mirror and know you’ve had one too many and it’s time to go home.”

13. Play “Two Truths and a Lie” to break the ice.
“It’s always fun and informative and forces people to put their guard down.”

14. Do/don’t flirt with the following …
“Co-workers are off limits, but you can flirt with their friend/plus-one. But it’s important to keep it light. If they like you, nine times out of 10 they will have your co-worker connect you guys after the event.”

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Chris Hopkins
Senior Portfolio Ambassador: National Accounts, Bacardi USA

15. Be ready when you need to order another round.
“Remember that staff are all busy and everyone else is also there to get drinks. Be polite and respectful and make sure when the bartender does acknowledge you for your drink order, know everyone’s drink without having to keep turning and asking your buddy what he or she wants.”

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Erik Andersson
Hendrick’s Gin Ambassador

16. You can go non-alcoholic and not be boring.
“Many bars now have great non-alcoholic cocktails. Try them! Otherwise, particular moderation should be applied to shots of neat spirits and always make sure to eat well before and during a long night.”

17. Say nice things.
“As an icebreaker, compliments never fail – clothes, hair and, if you want to take it to a more personal level, complimenting someone’s smile is a winner. Also, listening to understand someone instead of just listening to reply to someone provides a deeper, more meaningful conversation.”

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Gio Gutierrez
Brand Ambassador, Havana Club

18. Use your phone to moderate your drinking.
I actually use an app that I keep track of my intake which actually sends me notifications if I’m not keeping up w/ messages like “Choose me [water emoji]

19. If you’re doing shots, Wondermint Schnapps is your go-to.
“It’ll cover up bad breath — very minty and peppery.”

20. If you’re hosting the party, make this egg nog.
“Right now I’m loving the Crème de Vie (Cuban Egg Nog) — it’s my favorite holiday cocktail this season.”

  • ½ cup Havana Club Añejo Blanco Rum
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Mix the sugar and water together over very low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves — about three minutes. The heat must be just low enough so that the sugar doesn’t caramelize but makes a thick, sugary water. Put the egg yolks in a blender and mix with the condensed milk. Slowly add the evaporated milk and mix completely. Flavor with vanilla. Pour the mixture into the sugar-water and combine. Finally, stir in the rum.


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