Ok, so you are heading to New Orleans and you don't want to end up on the floor of your hotel bathroom swearing you will never drink again. We have all been there, do not worry, I can help you navigate Bourbon Street and help you maintain your memory and self-respect.
A few weeks back my wife Rachel and I went for a joint bachelor-bachelorette party in New Orleans, and I made it a point to stay sober(ish). I wanted to keep my wits because I was a good five years older than the guest of honor (and perhaps more importantly, 20 years older in spirit). I knew that I wouldn't be able to keep up with these young guys if it came down to a shot-for-shot game. So I came up with five surefire ways to say semi-sober in the city of booze.
1. Pace yourself
This may seem obvious, but parties only peer pressure people with empty hands, so the slower you drink the better off you will be.
2. Don't do shots
I find you can make up a story about how you hate shots. The story can take two angles depending on your group -- either you tell them that you had a bad experience with shots and you get nauseous every time you see that little glass, or shame your group by saying, "I stopped doing shots in college." However, the latter may be tough because odds are while you are trying to act sophisticated, you will be holding a giant fishbowl of booze or a cup that says "HUGE ASS BEER." Which brings me to tip number three.
3. Be careful where you get your booze
The guys I traveled with claimed to have found the "hook-up" for a great hurricane, which meant the dude just off Bourbon Street in the dark alley, under the tarp. Needless to say, this sketchy vendor's libation somehow got them all really wasted.
Stick to the credible bars that regulate their pours. A place that looks shady will be known for heavy-handed pours so that people will buy their drinks, but that can throw off your count. It can be hard to know how many drinks you have had if the alley dude gave you a six-count pour (typically 6 oz. of alcohol) versus what should have been a four-count (4 oz.).
4. Sit out a round of drinks when you can
When it's your turn to get the next round, take a break and buy a soda. Most bartenders will be appreciative of the "sober friend" and normally your Coke will be comped.
5. Go for the "skinny" versions of drinks
Some drinks really do have a skinny version. Example: In the picture above I am holding a less alcoholic version on the same cocktail as the other guys. The way the sweet drinks work is it loaded with sugar to dilute the burn or harshness of cheap alcohol. The "skinny" drink has the less sugary mixture, thereby also having to decrease the alcohol.
Remember these five easy tricks and you too can stay sober and laugh at your drunken friends. Plus, you can embarrass your group in the morning with pictures and tales of what they did the night before, and isn't that just as fun?
P.S. Avoid all the rules to end up with the other 90 percent of Bourbon Street revelers, dancing in the street to the hourly parades that will inevitably take place. However, I would still avoid the alley dude's fishbowl drink, just for health reasons.
Booze News Insider Josh Hart is an amateur reviewer, but a professional drinker. He has been sipping and learning about whiskeys for a more than a decade and hopes to help you sift through the basics, to find the best bottles for you.