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How to Sober Up at a Moment’s Notice

Need to get back home? To the office? Just want the room to stop spinning? These are our best hacks for making it seem like those seven beers never happened

Drunkenness is always a temporary state. Even benders have an end point. But there are times when the party must conclude prematurely — generally for responsibilities you’d been getting lost in a bottle to avoid. And in such cases, you must sober up rapidly, no matter how much you’ve been served. This, of course, isn’t always easy. It isn’t, though, impossible. 

Here are our best hacks for sobering up at a moment’s notice — whether it’s to go back to work, go back home or go back to the bar with the ceiling no longer spinning…

Accept Your Fate

Magdalene Taylor, Staff Writer: I do not personally believe in “sobering up.” Once the liquor hits your stomach lining, there’s nothing you can do to stop it or convince your body to metabolize it more quickly. (No, I will not confront the science, but I’m somewhat sure I’m right about this.) The best thing you can do, instead, is to luxuriate in being drunk.

But if that’s not a good enough answer: Go buy a pack of Camel Crushes and smoke three of them, back-to-back. Burst the menthol bubble in each once they’re halfway gone. This will at least have killed time to allow some of the alcohol to dissipate, and you’ll feel spiritually renewed having smoked approximately one and a half menthols, and one and a half non-menthols. 

Get Your Ass to Bed

Miles Klee, Staff Writer: Since I don’t like to stop drinking once I’ve started, the art of sobering up is basically the art of going to sleep. You’ll want a large vessel of cold, filtered water — I use a Hydro Flask so it stays cold — on your bedside table to chug from if you wake up in the night with an extra-dry mouth. I usually take a Tums to preempt heartburn or indigestion, and to simulate the fantasy of an anti-drunk pill. Give yourself a nice, thorough flossing: The minty pain in your gums will bring you back to reality. Take a quick shower (if you can stand up straight), just to wash off the film of booze sweat that feels like it’s soaking back into your bloodstream. 

Moisturize your face, because nothing will sober you up like contemplating your age. Have sex, or, failing that, masturbate, to ensure you’re too exhausted to even consider one more drink. Get comfortable under the covers and try to read a page of a very serious or depressing book. In a few short moments, you’ll be unconscious — let your poor abused body handle the rest while you deal with stress dreams about your old high school theater club. If things are still bad in the morning, there’s always the option of a buttered English muffin. And weed.        

Boot and Rally

Eddie Kim, Staff Writer: As grotesque as it may be, the only real thing that’s helped me truly sober up in the middle of a dark, lengthy spiral into drunkenness is throwing up. I’m pretty convinced nothing else — not cocaine, not coffee, not a greasy bacon-wrapped hot dog from the street vendor outside of the club — has actually done anything to dissipate the blackout edging closer and closer to my consciousness. I’m not proud to admit that, more than once, I’ve disappeared from my friends while waiting for an Uber in order to covertly yak into a storm drain somewhere and return bright-eyed and bushy tailed (relatively speaking), ready for another round. 

But I can’t just sit here and advocate that you deliberately shred your esophagus up as a way to cope with bad decision-making, so I’ll offer the best post-drunk recovery mechanism for the morning after: A caffeinated beverage, a couple of Aleve, and a gigantic bowl of brothy soup. I’m talking pho, ramen, wonton soup, pozole, chicken noodle, matzo ball soup, whatever — just anything nutritious that’s not too heavy or greasy. There are versions of “hangover soup” all over the world, from Eastern Europe to Korea, which gives credence to the cross-cultural value of hydration, electrolytes and minerals when your head is pounding from a party. It’s science, folks! 

Devour a Gyro

Brian VanHooker, Staff Writer: I live in Upstate New York, but most of my drinking is done in Manhattan. I don’t generally drive into the city, so drinking and driving isn’t an issue. But I still have to go to Grand Central and make sure I get on the right train after a night of boozing, which takes a fair amount of awareness and coordination. And that requires a stop at a street vendor for a gyro

I get it with everything on it and smothered in tzatziki sauce and hot sauce. It’s also got to be lamb, not beef and definitely not chicken. As I’m writing this, I’m realizing now that it’s probably looking at the gyro that sobers me up, as opposed to tasting it. Regardless, it’s effective.  

Surround Yourself with People Who Are Drunker Than You

Lauren Vinopal, Staff Writer: I’ve found that the best way to sober up is having a minor crisis to deal with. The panic of a temporarily lost phone, a sloppy friend or a verbal altercation at the bar can quickly jolt me out of a drunken state. To this day, I’ve never fully blacked out — not from a lack of effort, but because my friends always get more fucked up than me, and my brain produces just enough adrenaline so someone can stay in control. Stupid friends are nature’s cocaine, and sometimes more consequential than regular cocaine. But they will sober you up all the same. 

If that doesn’t work, drink some dirty bathroom sink water with your hand and splash some on your face while you’re down there.  

Mix Together Chili Oil, Cayenne Pepper, Horseradish and Ginger with Something Fizzy

Zaron Burnett III, Staff Writer: I come from a drinking culture, and as a youngster, I always assumed one day I’d become a drinker myself. So I gathered remedies and recipes from oldsters who seemed best dispensed to give such advice. Like, I worked at an old folks’ home at 13, and soaked up life advice from those born at the turn of the last century. I’m talking about the kinda folks who drank at work in the middle of the day — for decades. The two-martini lunch set. The “what are you having?” when you walk into their office set. The folks who taught Don Draper how to drink. 

From them, I learned that there are a few tried-and-true ways to sober up. Both extreme cold and a series of slaps to the face offers a solid whole-body reset. There’s also the school of the homemade super-spicy drink — think of ingredients like chili oil, cayenne pepper, horseradish, ginger and something fizzy for them to all swim in and fight it out. If you wanna go hard, serve it in a short tumbler with the oil from a can of tuna as the float. It will either kill or cure — or so I’ve been told. 

My Pop used to recommend that you eat a fresh jalapeño pepper and then go stand out in the cold. Hot on the inside, cold on the outside, your body doesn’t know what the fuck’s going on. That’ll wake your drunk ass up. If a manual or chemical method of shock doesn’t work for ya, properly scare yourself. The rush of adrenaline will sober you up faster than Michael Jordan can say, “I’ll take that bet.”

Smoke a Cigarette

Andrew Fiouzi, Staff Writer: Whenever my cerebellum is whirling in whiskey shots, like Magda, I turn to Big Tobacco. Never mind that I can’t see straight. Or stand straight. Or recite more than a few letters of the alphabet. If I ever need to feel like I could absolutely operate a forklift if called upon, I reach inside my coat pocket and fumble for a Camel Turkish Royal. 

It’s science after all. In a 2006 study published in the journal of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, researchers found that nicotine effectively blocks some alcohol from passing into the intestinal tract, where it goes to be further absorbed into the blood. 

The Camel Turkish Royal blocks my intestinal tract enough that I’m almost always good for another drink. I’m not sure what science says about that, but I can tell you from personal experience that no Camel Turkish Royal can save me from this drink’s consequences. 

Initiate Operation Tactical Chunder

Brit Dawson, Staff Writer: I don’t know if it’s the pandemic, entering my late 20s or my newly discovered penchant for high-percentage pale ales (I know), but over the last two years, I’ve found myself getting way too drunk, way too often. Where once I could flounce out of my office and straight to the pub, sink four, dinnerless pints and wake up feeling rosy and ready to do it all again, this week I had one pint of Guinness before dinner and cried actual tears about being “too drunk” because I didn’t eat dinner.

To avoid the need to sober up in the first place, I’ve learned two tricks. The first is to drink half pints instead of pints — a money-saving and sobering exercise — and the second is to switch between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers, which is also a good tip for when you’re too drunk, but want to keep drinking something “alcoholic.”

But if I’ve ignored both of these tips — as I always do — there’s only two sure-fire ways to sober me up. Both have already been mentioned — having a back-to-reality crisis to deal with, and to excrete the devil’s poison from my poorly lined stomach via puking. Luckily for me — but at the risk of oversharing — I’m an excellent puker. I’ve learned how to do it discreetly and silently, even when in public (that is, until I return to my friends and, for some reason, boast: “I just puked”). The phenomenon is so favored in the U.K. that it has its own name: the “tactical chunder.” 

As Lady Gaga has famously said: “Club. Another club. Puke. Another club. Plane. Next place. Puke. Another club.”