Sloshed: How to Drink Before Noon

Not quite right.
Not quite right. Photo: Jed Egan, Photos: iStockphoto

One of my favorite things about drinking in the morning is just how purposeful it has to be. At night, you can simply have a drink without need for any particular reason. But between the hours of, say, 5 a.m. and noon, society demands you explain your alcoholic intake. Given those demands, morning drinking can often be the most well-thought-out kind of drinking there is.

Morning drinking didn’t always have the stigma that it does now. Farmers traditionally drank hard cider all day long, soldiers once woke with whiskey, city dwellers in the nineteenth century invented entire lines of delightfully named cocktails — flips! fizzes! daisies! — to deal with morning headaches. Alas, things change: The industrial revolution reshaped the ideas of “work” and “productivity”; the temperance movement highlighted the social dangers of daylong drinking; and modern science showed us what booze does to our livers. Long story short: Morning drinking isn’t such a regular occurrence anymore.

While downing a shot may have once been a typical way to gird one’s loins and face the day, that practice now fundamentally conflicts with modern American ideas about work.

It’s probably for the best this way, and it means that when you do drink in the morning, you must give the activity its proper respect and consideration. The days when it’s okay to drink before noon are the days when we are specifically not working, and that’s the very essence of the Morning Drink. It’s a celebration of leisure, a well-deserved day off. And a great excuse to take a nap later that afternoon.

That means that there are really only two situations in which it’s socially acceptable to have a Morning Drink: Either you are dealing with a weekend hangover, or it’s one of the approved drink-all-day special occasions (you’re on vacation, it’s the Fourth of July, etc.). And while, yes, you can drink on other mornings and in other circumstances, we’d suggest you stick to these two scenarios. If it’s a Wednesday morning and you’re slugging down a PBR while you get ready for work, you are in trouble. Unless you’re a novelist or something, in which case nobody cares.

Here then, the official Sloshed primer on how, when, and where to maximize your morning-drinking enjoyment.

Scenario 1: You Have a Hangover
I realize some people order Bloody Marys when they aren’t hung-over, but they are the anomalies here: The Bloody Mary was created for America’s bleary-eyed, headache-suffering masses. In fact, it might be one the few drinks, along with perhaps mimosas, that is only okay to drink in daylight hours. For this reason, and because tomato juice pretty much hides the alcohol taste, the Bloody Mary is easily the most common prenoon drink.

The idea of the brunch drink is, of course, the hair-of-the-dog thinking. Without getting into a discussion about the efficacy of this basically unsound technique, we can all agree that it is a super common and long-standing practice. But do not fool yourself: The real value of drinking through a hangover is not that it actually cures anything, only that it gets you sorta drunk again. “The purpose of the morning drink,” Vincent Toscano, a bartender at San Francisco’s Rye told me, “is to get you back to where you were five hours ago.” Five hours’ sleep is pretty hard-core, but the sentiment is right: Hair-of-the-dog is the time machine that brings last night into today.

Nutritionists and other doctors could probably find fault with the strategy of drinking as a means of dealing with the side effects of drinking, but whatever. We don’t get many opportunities to drink before lunch, so we may as well take full advantage. To be handled properly, all hangover-curing drinks should be had in a group setting and preferably in a well-lit public space. Remember, you are continuing the fun from last night, but you shouldn’t try and re-create the actual nighttime. Surround yourself with as many of the same people from your festivities and meet them somewhere on a patio. Oh, and stay away from shots.

How to do it better: Bloody Marys, mimosas, and Bellinis are the de facto drinks here, but they’re hardly the only options. Take a page from those nineteenth-century city dwellers and consider fizzes and flips. A good hangover drink will both settle your stomach and give you at least a few restorative non-alcohol calories, so something like a mojito (bubbly and herby) or a Tom Collins (the Alka-Seltzer of the cocktail world) wouldn’t be a terrible idea.

In fact, the best hangover drink, if you can swing it, is probably the Ramos Gin Fizz, a ridiculously labor- and ingredient-intensive concoction of dry gin, citrus juice, orange blossom water, heavy cream, and an egg white. If you can find a bartender that’s willing to make one for you — you’ve really got to shake the hell out of this drink to make it froth up properly — you are golden.

Scenario 2: It’s a Special Occasion
These moments occur mostly either on vacation (preferably in tropical settings), during football games, or on summer holidays involving fireworks. Being at an airport or on an airplane also weirdly qualifies, as it slides in on the coattails of the vacation-mentality, and everyone knows time is suspended during layovers.
The quality that these seemingly disparate occasions share is that they all occur in spaces outside your everyday life: a hotel patio, a beach, a ship, a stadium parking lot, a park, a pub filled with Irish people — even your own backyard is special when you add coolers and fireworks. The point is that you’re in a place where you become separated from the day-to-day, so you needn’t pay any attention to other people’s clocks. I was once on a cruise ship and watched a friend order a strawberry daiquiri and a plate of French fries at nine in the morning. It was the most stunning and liberating thing I have ever seen.

The drink you order during your special-occasion morning will depend on the details of the activity and will be pretty obvious to anyone who lives in modern-day culture: fruit and rum drinks in the tropics, beer for summer holidays and sports parties, etc. The one exception and fun outlier is the airplane. For reasons probably involving the very common fear of flying, you can drink like a 60-year-old salesman on airplanes and nobody will really care. While I would not advise it in any other situation, ordering multiple double vodkas on the rocks during a 10 a.m. drink service is actually a great idea and at least moderately advisable.

How to do it better: There isn’t really an across-the-board quality upgrade that applies here, and honestly, booze quality is rarely as important as booze quantity here. (You don’t want to be the snob drinking some 9.5 percent ABV microbrew at 10:15 a.m. if everyone else is drinking Coors.) But one nice touch during these events is to make a pitcher of some refreshing cocktail: The Tom Collins would work of course or, if you’ve got the time and ambition, any punch concoction. It is so easy to slide into the “beer-filled cooler” here, but that can often be out of habit rather than preference. Who doesn’t love a pitcher of margaritas?

Matthew Latkiewicz writes about drinking and other subjects at You Will Not Believe. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s, Wired,, Boing Boing, and Gastronomica. Follow him on Twitter.

Sloshed: How to Drink Before Noon