To Holiday or Not: Surviving The Family Get Together
Family holidays are the best!

To Holiday or Not: Surviving The Family Get Together

To holiday or not to holiday, that is the question.  Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of Uncle Joe’s conspiracy theories, or to consume booze against Aunt Shiela’s endless aches and pains and by imbibing survive.

It is time to prepare for—wait for it—the dreaded family get together.  We shall not go into the fight unarmed.  We must choose the right weapon, one that will temper cousin Art’s incessant harping about millennials without resulting in embarrassing comments which end up in a post Christmas hangover blog.  But which to choose?  

I Can Beerly Stand The Suspense

On the one hand, there is beer.  The hoppy or malty, dry or juicy, aromatic or tempered favorite of consumers the world over.  The poor mans champagne.  The original Gatorade.  No other beverage short of water is as prolific—and where there is water there is beer.

Beer is consistent.  At a constant velocity—one beer an hour—one remains alert enough to navigate the treacherous waters of second cousin Ellie’s third divorce while embracing a caressing numbness.  Beer is also mostly water, which implies, if not in practice then in theory, hydration, or perhaps less dehydration than the alternatives.  There are a variety of flavors (sours, sweets, juicy, hoppy, dry, pilsner, brown, stout—we could go on for quite a while here) at various octanes (I’ve drank beers as low as 3 percent ABV and as high as 11 percent and those aren’t even the extremes) to satisfy pretty much everyone.  

The problem with beer—other than the alcohol, of course—is it can be filling, high in calories, and isn’t suitable for gluten sensitivities. Twelve ounces of beer consumed every hour—which is a conservative estimate in an Irish family—results in 120 ounces of liquid over a ten hour period.  Sure, we’ll be dehydrating (aka, peeing), but it’s still an awful lot of liquid.  Then there are the calories: 150-400 calories per beer—unless you’re drinking that nasty low-cal stuff—equals 1,500-4,000 calories, not counting all the food we eat.  That’s like two week’s worth of workouts for most people.  Finally, most beer is not gluten free, but this shouldn’t be a deterrent.  There are some really solid gluten free and gluten-reduced—non-rice or sorghum based, which are gross—alternatives.  (A couple of my personal favorites are Estrella Damn Daura, Green’s Amber Ale, Two Brothers Prairie Path Golden Ale, and Stone Delicious IPA.  (Be sure to conduct your own research to determine which are gluten free and which are gluten reduced.)  Consistent, beer is a great weapon for family gatherings.

Wine Happens

On the other hand we have wine. It can be creamy with hints of vanilla and black pepper; bright and fruit forward; bold, oaky, and tannic.  Wine is gluten free—if your drinking wine that isn’t gluten free than you’re drinking the wrong wine—and it isn’t filling.  It has mouthfeel, nose, body, start, finish, texture, balance, intensity, color, and clarity.  People describe wine with terms like road tar, cat pee, cigars, stones, dust, wet grass, wet fur, wet water, smoke, aloe, mineral, blood, leather, and a number of other things one would never put in their mouth but for some reason taste great when poured from a bottle of 2017 Villa Wolf Pinot Noir—a fine example of the varietal.  It goes with everything and looks great when spilled on a white carpet—you know who I’m talking about.  White, red, rose, sparkling, blends, fortified—from Cab Sauv to Sauv Blanc, there is a wine for every palette.

Wine, at about 10-16% ABV, can tend to have a bigger impact on the average consumer.  This occurs because it’s difficult to maintain the constant drinking velocity assumed with beer—which we’ve already determined is a bit slow in Irish families.  There are many reasons for why the average glass of wine doesn’t last as long as a 12 ounce beer.  First, the “normal” pour for a glass of wine is only 5 ounces.  Seriously, who only drinks five ounces of wine an hour.  Second, since there is less volume, wine doesn’t generally make us feel full, allowing us to comfortably consume more.  Finally, there is a strange phenomenon which occurs in extremely dry climes (ie. like those present in heated U.S. homes in the winter) which causes a fair amount of wine in the glass to “evaporate”, thus justifying refills at shorter intervals.  Nevertheless, there is no denying wine’s appeal and flexibility.  It goes with everything.

Wine is Fine but Liquor is Quicker

In the third hand we have liquor.  (I’ve had few opportunities to use my third hand since being stationed here 287 years ago to observe humans.)  Bourbon, rum, vodka, Scotch (which is just whiskey to our readers in the UK), rye, gin, brandy, tequila.  Drinkable alone (even though you really should never drink alone—which is why I have a cat), mixed, ice or not (don’t judge), drops of water delicately added to the cask strength variety, liquor is as comfortable on a wrap-around porch in Georgia as it is lined up on the bar during a Manhattan bachelorette party.  

The cool thing about liquor is it’s variety.  Most decent liquor can be drank/drunk/drinked neat, but it can also be used as a mixer to create some of the most amazing cocktails.  Who from Wisconsin doesn’t like a good brandy Olde Fashioned sour?  Tell me the hot toddy on a wintry night in front of a fire isn’t just about the best way to spend an evening.  Is it possible to improve upon the beachfront Mojito feeling?  Liquor offers diversity.

Liquor is also the quickest of the consumption choices.  Consider the average pour for most drinks is 1.5-2 ounces.  Compounding liquor’s appeal, mixed drinks are often designed to hide the taste of alcohol, promoting increased consumption velocity.  Starting with liquor is a sure fire means of ending the evening in an argument over which Marvel superhero would win in a fight.  (It’s Spiderman, in case anyone was wondering.)

The Obvious Answer is to Drink Everything

Despite several old wives tales purporting to know the answer, there really isn’t any difference in the order of consumption.  An academic studyof which I was not a part but wish I was—found the order in which a study group drank beer or wine had no impact on their post consumption hangover.  Although I was unable to uncover similar studies involving liquor, I doubt there are any differences.  Then what is the correct answer?

We need to remember we are in this for the long haul.  We don’t want to end up debating Star Trek versus Star Wars—Star Wars is totally better—which means everything in moderation.  

Yes, I said everything.  Should we be contributing to the hate in an already divided world?  There is enough societal discourse—as evidenced by the last family gathering—let’s refuse to be part of it.  All beverages—carbonated and non carbonated, hoppy and fruit forward, neat and on the rocks—deserve an opportunity to tickle our livers, dull our senses, and leave us with post binging regret.  

I challenge all readers (not currently suffering from alcoholism) to set aside our differences and accept we are more alike than not.  Embrace the juice, pour some hooch, split a sixer, down a can of liquid courage, and swish some vino.  It is the holidays and nothing fuels Uncle Bill’s passionate political discord or Aunt Sarah’s militant defense of veganism—seriously, we had no idea you were a vegan until you mentioned it last Christmas—nothing adds more raunchiness to Cards Against Humanity or hilarity to Heads Up! than a couple beers, a bottle of wine, and two fingers of bourbon.  Drink em all.

Thus sobriety does make cowards of us all, and thus the native hue of prohibition is sicklied o’er with the pale case of the thought of holiday.  So drink up—and down a glass of water after each cocktail.

Cheers!  Don’t drink and drive.


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