A Bartender’s Guide to Other People’s Drunkenness
Eddy Buckingham is the owner of New York cocktail den The Liberty and Kempt’s resident Fernet Branca expert. Periodically, he offers us wisdom gleaned from his years behind the bar.
There’s an old adage that it takes a village to raise a child. And in the bartender community, a lesser-known adage: it also takes a village to raise a dickhead.
In other words, drinking is a village activity. So if you were cheering on your buddy’s seventh Manhattan an hour ago, you share a little responsibility for where he is now.
We all have nights that get away from us—due to exuberance, sorrow or just the pernicious “happy hour martinis in lieu of dinner” syndrome. Next time it’s someone you love, remember:
You were comrades when you rode into party-battle. Leave no man behind.
#1: Discern that it’s time to call time. If your friend is nearing one-too-many territory, they might not need to go home yet. The ideal is having them sit out a couple of rounds, sober up a little and continue to enjoy the revelry. Order a “tall vodka soda, hold the vodka” for your friend and see what happens.
But there is a fine line between “Roguish, Raconteur Tipsy” and “Danger to Himself and Others Wasted.” There are the clichéd signposts of drunkenness: slurred words, dropped drinks and falling about oneself, but now that we’re out of high school, inebriation can manifest more subtly. The rules are different at a beer-pong pub than a silver-service restaurant, but if it becomes apparent that your friend is upsetting or offending other guests, it’s time to move on. (It goes without saying that this applies double for female patrons.)
#2: Get ’em out. The first option available is that preferred by cowards and underage drinkers everywhere: leave it to the bartender to cut off your mate. This annoys the bartender, pisses off your buddy and makes you look worse than that guy in the corner still doing the “Gangnam Style” dance.
If it needs to be done, do it yourself. First thing: are we going to kill them with kindness (proverbially) or operate with stern authority? Your best line is something like: “This has been fun, but nothing good ever happens after 2am.” (This is a harder sell at 8pm—but he’s the drunk one. Make it work.)
You want to move swiftly and discreetly. Collect your friend’s belongings, make sure his check is fixed up, toss an arm over your shoulder and go. Once you’re walking, beeline for the door. This is not the time for goodbyes.
#3: Get ’em home. Every bouncer has used the line “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” You’re not a bouncer—get him home.
Unless you’re roommates, skip the train and hail a cab. Make sure the cabbie has the correct address and pay him cash up front (with a generous tip, of course—this stranger has just assumed your headache). You are now free to resume hitting on that cute cocktail waitress.
#4: Bonus. Before piling him into the cab, grab his phone and set an alarm for an hour or so before he’s due in the office. Add a note: something along the lines of, “You’re a dickhead. Go to work. Text Eddy to tell him you’re okay. You owe him $40 for cab fare. Brush your teeth.”
I can assure you the ensuing text message will have at least one “thank you” in it.