How to Drink All Day at Tales without Getting (Too) Drunk

Kirsten Amann (LUPEC Boston) is a freelance writer, lifestyle publicist, and founding member of the Boston chapter of Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails (LUPEC Boston).

“Surviving Tales intact is definitely a challenge but its also part of the fun. Everywhere you turn there will be someone you know either less drunk than you or more drunk than you. Often, you’ll be surrounded by some of each. If you can’t tell which is which, you’re the drunk one.”
- John Myers, Tales veteran and 2009 moderator

For the uninitiated, unaccustomed, and those with un-primed livers, long days and nights of endless drinking in hot, humid New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail may seem daunting. Seminars begin at 10 a.m. each day and every waking moment of the event is paired with drink. If not properly prepared, the neophyte could wind up passed out by mid-afternoon.

It is for these first timers (and veterans who can’t remember a thing about Tales’ past because they were too hammered) that we offer this primer for drinking all day at Tales without getting (too) drunk, culled from some of the brightest stars (a.k.a. biggest boozers) in the mixology galaxy.

1. Just because it’s in front of you doesn’t mean you have to drink it.

As Paul Clarke advises: “There’s no shortage of booze at Tales — you can skip a dozen free drinks, and there’ll still be another one coming your way.” Chuck Taggart suggests “using the provided spit buckets, no matter how much it hurts.” As Cocktail Nerd Gabriel Szaszko reminds us, “The tasting rooms are for tasting, not lounging. Yes, there are 3-4 sirens of spirits calling your name in each of them…and yes you want to try them and by all means you’re there to *report* on your findings…but, hey, stop touching the drinks on the bus tray!”

Now that you’ve survived the seminars & tasting rooms, how will you manage the Carousel Bar? Misty Kalkofen of LUPEC Boston advises low-alcohol sips like the Half-Sinner Half Saint to allow an even, glowing buzz that can last for hours. Or try a mocktail for once – The Liquid Muse Natalie Bovis-Nelsen will teach you how to make a delicious one at the Virgin Mixology(R) seminar.

Jeffrey Morgenthaler swears by “lighter spirits such as silver tequila and white rum” as ideal morning or early afternoon refreshers (“aged spirits can significantly weigh you down during peak summer hours”) and advises you bring a flask with you since “there are no glass containers permitted in the Monteleone rooftop pool area.” He suggests hitting the Carousel Bar “during the more popular, or ‘informative’ sessions’” so you’re well situated when throngs of people crowd it afterwards. And be sure to tip heavily during that slower time “so as to secure your top position in the bartender’s list of customers.” Mr. Morgenthaler misunderstood the question. If you wish to drink all day at Tales without getting drunk, don’t listen to him.

2. Eat often, eat wisely.

Still buzzed from your morning session and eager to get a good seat at your afternoon ones, it’s easy to convince yourself that lunch is optional. Says Paul Clarke: “my first year at Tales I skipped lunch one day and nearly wound up sleeping under the tables during the Cocktail Hour.” Sloshed writer Marleigh Riggins suggest you plan around lunchtime seminars “or stock up on Clif Bars.” Dr. Bamboo will keep a “breakfast stash” in his room, so as to start the day off with something besides booze in the stomach. In the words of Tales moderator John Myers, “All the culinary delights in New Orleans for dinner are great, don’t get me wrong, but you need breakfast and lunch too.”

Some believe the solution itself to be in the food. Guillaume Vialle, Western USA Regional Director at Cognac Ferrand, totally knows people who swear by drinking “olive oil to coat the stomach,” and also swears he’s never tried. A Boston-based source (also French) speaking solely on the condition of anonymity attempts the same by eating “a huge, so-fudgy-it’s-sick brownie.”

“Magic food” suggestions are as varied (and arbitrary) as hangover cures, including raw bar, oatmeal (“sticks to your ribs and soaks up the booze”), good fat foods like smoked salmon, whole grains, cheese, and avocados and bad fat foods, like haggas topped with fried eggs. Jamie Boudreau advises you “eat three kitchen sponges at the beginning of the day, drink everything in sight and take it like a man!” And videotape the event, so you come out with some memories.

3. Get your beauty rest.

Operating on a hot tip from an endocrinologist, Charles Munat advises “the absolute most important thing is to get a good night’s sleep every night.” RumDood Matt Robold agrees: “There are tons of parties and after-parties and bars and drinks” and it’s tempting to try to see and do it all. Don’t. Get “a good night’s sleep between the hours of 4 and 8 a.m.,” says Drinkboston founder Lauren Clark.

Even if you don’t sleep, John Myers suggests availing yourself of your hotel room often. “Take a shower when you’re there–you’ll be surprised at its ability to re-boot you.” He also speaks to staying “off campus”, which will absolutely have to do if you haven’t already secured a room at the Monteleone as they’re all booked up. “The 5 or 10 minutes it takes to ‘commute’ really can assuage that niggling feeling that you could be missing something. You probably are, but no matter how hard you try, you’ll always miss something at Tales.”

4. Take herbal remedies as a preemptive strike.

Milk thistle before you start (for your liver), B12 & B6 (for your hangover). One source swears by activated carbon pills: 2 with the first drink, one per each additional drink. All can be purchased at Whole Foods.

5. Drink Water.

It’s there for the taking at every event and is the only thing you shouldn’t moderate. Dr. Bamboo took a bottle wherever he went last year: “Between the heat and the booze, it was a lifesaver.” A glass with each cocktail is not a bad idea.

Also not a bad idea is John Myers’ suggestion to “Get out of the Carousel bar. This is a tough one and you’ll have to make a concerted effort to do it but you gotta! People will ply you endlessly with drink here but you’ll just end up drunker than you wish earlier than you’d have liked.” Once beyond the threshold, “keep moving…having one or two drinks per stop will put you back in the sweathouse that is the outdoors but it will help you metabolize some of that good tasting poison.”

Myers also offers his double-secret-extra-special-ace-up-the-sleeve-last-all-day prescription for drinking all day at Tales without getting (too) drunk: “while the sun is up and you’re between seminars, sidle over to the Napoleon House for a Pimm’s Cup with an espresso back. Repeat as necessary.”

As Virginia Elliot and Phil D. Strong observe in their 1930 volume Shake ‘Em Up “[E]ven the soberest of men will sometimes wake up and wonder what hit him after the second highball.” If this happens to you, head directly to John Myers’ cocktail seminar, Paying the Piper: Your Hangover and You Sunday, July 12, 2009 at 10:30 AM in the Riverview Room. He will certainly have your cure.

  • jonas

    Terrific advice. I always attempt to follow such a prudent drinking regimen, but unfortunately I am drinking.


    • thetruth


  • Shelly Brisbin

    Thank you for the excellent and thorough post. I attended my first Tales last year, and really could have used the help then. I survived, but am so much wiser now. The water bottle will never leave my side, and I’m laying in a stash of snacks. I did sign up for a 10:30 AM seminar that I feel sure will involve whisky. Maybe I haven’t learned so much after all.


  • laurat

    wow love all the input from all the bloggers.ill have to try the milk thistle idea. and just what time exactly is morgenthaler suggesting is a good time to hit up the carousel bar?

  • ishakeitup

    As our fearless leaders the Cocktail Chicks, Ti Martin and Lally Brennan say, “Drink Better, Not More.” And it helps to stop and have a meal at one of their fabulous restaurants. However, my mama’s advice was always, “drink every other one,” meaning have a glass of water inbetween. Now if only we could remember that! Oogy WaWa! See you in NOLA.

  • The Intoxicologist

    Many thanks to Colleen Graham for sharing the link on this one! I’m always up for the water with every drink rule.

  • Emma Davis

    I love this! Thank you, most useful.

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  • mick

    Hilarious and delightful, Kirsten! And? Educational, even—

    I swear to attend TOTC 2010, dammit. If I weren’t going to Burning Man and obsessed with preparations for that, I’d be in NOLA this year..

    cheers and jeers,


  • Pamela Irving

    This will be my first TOC. I plan to intersperse a walking tour of the French Quarter, Cajun music and Katrina tour-so will need to be upright for those. That should help! And yes, milk thistle, and tasting vs. imbibing. We’ll see how I do.

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  • Warren Bobrow

    This is a completely accurate article. My experience taught me, however, not to stay at the Monteleone if you want to do any sleeping. Sure their rooms are lovely, historic, close to the pool and great for networking.. But a man must sleep if he wants to drink all day, every day for a week and not be a complete falling down drunk lush! I recommend in this case copius draughts of the local ale as a counterpart. (liquid bread)

    Eat lots of Coop’s Fried Chicken or their salubrious, stick to your ribs Jambalaya.

  • Warren Bobrow
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  • Raquel Remy

    Thank you! I had been wondering about this!!! I just booked my flight from LAX, and am staying at the double tree on canal. Expedia package seems to be a good deal at only $1000. It’ll be my first time.

  • Joel Bunker

    Dude, you start with a sixpack of coorslight, and some pills. Have a cheeseburger. Go about your day sipping beer, till about 5pm. Slam three beers, as you have to go to the gym. Sweat out all the beer and vodca you drank… Come home, take a dump, eat, and get another six pack. Drink at home till about 11pm or 12am. Hit the bar, when everyone is already buzzed, you saved money drinking at home, and swoop in on the girl the dorks been buying drinks all night by being a freaking God!!!! Lol. Oh… It can, and does happen! I know some one who’s done it quite often in fact!

    • Joel Bunker

      Totally classes by the way… But it can and does work. Don’t try it at home. Lol.

  • Joel Bunker

    What????!!!! Just because it’s in front of you doesn’t mean you don’t have to drink it. Ok… I must have been buzzed yesterday. What kind of messed up, half-ass, want to be booze hound says a thing like that?!? If fact, I think that’s the only rule. If it’s in front of you, you must drink it. The only rule’s are (1) don’t drink another man’s last beer. (2) If you bring home a fatty, kick her out before the neighbors wake up and see her leave. (3) If she’s a working girl (It happens), hide your wallett. (4) Don’t puke in the bar, at least have the class to go outside. (5) If you get beat up… No, bitching! You probably were to drunk and started the darn fight. (6) Don’t grab women, unless they want you to (7) Always make fun of the dooshbag wearing those tight-ass hipster looks like their girlfriend should be wearing them pants! I hate that style. Every time some trendy new gay designer makes it big, men’s fashion has to suffer for a couple years. Look… I have balls, those suckers need to breath OK. Finally, if you don’t like my brand of humor, have another shot, I’m sure you’ll forget about reading it as sure as I will writing it by tommorrow. Be safe. -Joel Bunker

    • jussayin

      douche-bag not doosh

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  • Jair

    I find when I’m feeling some type of ache of any kind the morning after, I just chug a Naked Fruit juice. Just pureed fruit, nothing fancy or secret. Works.