I’m getting married this summer, which means, among other things, that I have to register. Like, go to Macy’s and spend hours trying to decide things like what toaster oven we’ll want in a future, theoretical home that has enough room for a toaster oven. This seemed like a terribly daunting task, and I sought advice from married friends.

“Take the time to really think about things, because you’ll have to live with these items for years,” one friend counseled. From another: “Just get a little drunk before.”

These opposing approaches didn’t offer any clarity in terms of registering, but they did raise a bigger question: Is there an appropriate amount of drunk to be for any given situation? To that question, I answer with a resounding: Yes.

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Sometimes it’s clear whether you should be dead sober (delivering a baby) or approaching word-slurring status (attending your high school reunion), but more often, it can be a challenge to determine the optimal level of buzz to achieve.

To save you some trouble (and to put off going to Macy’s), I’ve tackled that challenge for you. Consider this your definitive guide to how drunk to be in 17 common situations. I’ve ranked these situations by their “Optimal Intoxication Level” or OIL, scoring them from zero cocktails to five cocktails. Cheers!

Sitting on a Fire Escape/Roof/Porch

Recommended Drink: Mint Julep

The sun warms your skin, the breeze loosens a kaleidoscope of aromas, the world passes by underneath. Relaxing on a raised, outdoor surface in nice weather is perhaps the archetypal circumstance in which to be pleasantly buzzed. You don’t want to be drunk, lest it decrease your ability to appreciate your surroundings and/or increase the likelihood that you fall, but a soft haze of alcohol heightens how gosh darn pleasant it all is. A sweet sipper like a Mint Julep fits the occasion perfectly.

Making a Fruit Salad

Recommended Drink: Coffee (with – maybe – one splash of bourbon)

Fruit is hard to cut. It’s small, and sometimes requires a bunch of awkward incisions (come on, mango!) with a sharp knife. For this reason, it is not advisable to be buzzed while making a fruit salad. I have the pinkie wound to prove it. If and only if you’re a produce-slicing pro may you add a splash of bourbon to your coffee to make the tedious task of removing orange pith less onerous.

Working Out

Recommended Drink: Water

I had a boss once who swore her running was improved after a glass of wine. As much as I want that to be true, study after study has shown that booze and burpees do not, in fact, mix. Let my post-boozy-brunch elliptical sesh, during which I accidentally dropped my Us Weekly  into the works of the machine, be warning enough for all.

Watching “Independence Day: Resurgence”*

Recommended Drink: Bud Light. Or, really, anything.

Beginning with Will Smith not signing on and continuing through all 129 painful minutes, ”Independence Day: Resurgence” was a disaster. And not even a so-bad-it’s-good disaster, just unwatchably bad. Unless, that is, you’re with a bunch of friends, drunk, and watching it at home. Then, it’s pretty amazing. Keep the Buds flowing to complement the inevitable shouts of “‘Merika!”

*Note: This applies to any number of awful movies, such as “Junior,” “Houseguest,” and “Glitter.”

Having a Serious/Emotional Talk

Recommended Drink: Your own tears

Relationships are complicated. Communicating your own complex and nuanced emotions, not to mention understanding those of another human being, is a tall order. And though booze may make it easier to say the things on your mind, it also makes it way likelier that you’ll misrepresent your feelings, overreact, or say something rash. Save the vino for a romantic dinner after you’ve worked it all out.

Listening to Your Favorite Music and Walking Down the Street

Recommended Drink: Manhattan

Next time you leave the bar, instead of staring at your phone while you head to the subway or a cab, do this: Put on your favorite tunes, turn up the volume, and take the long route. The lowered inhibitions and boosted confidence of the drinks, combined with the energy of your city, will make you feel like a rock star. And when that one song comes on – you know the one –and you start busting a move on the sidewalk, you’ll truly believe that you look good. Choose a Manhattan to warm you from the inside no matter the season.

Online shopping

Recommended Drink: Draft IPA

Being drunk while shopping is a bad idea. In the past, it has led me to buy suspenders and a plaid, fur-trimmed blazer. Being ever-so-slightly buzzed, however, makes you loose enough to consider great items you might otherwise dismiss, as well as treat yourself to things that may be slightly above budget but that you’ll adore and wear forever. Choose a draft beer so that you’ll have a long way to sip while you peruse the styles. Once you move on to drink two, it’s time to put away the credit card.

Going on a First Tinder/Match/Bumble Date

Recommended Drink: Margaritas

First dates are awkward, especially when they’re with someone you’ve never met and of whom you’ve only seen small and potentially misrepresentative photos. At this stage in the courtship process, the risk of awkwardness ruining a connection is higher than the risk of glossing over potential incompatibilities, so by all means – bottoms up! Split a pitcher of Margs – it’s a nice shared experience, plus it’ll allow you to pour yourself more if your date starts to tell you about his credit card points program.

Going on a Second Tinder/Match/Bumble Date

Recommended Drink: Sauvignon Blanc

Once someone has advanced to date two, it’s time to be a bit more discerning about whether he or she is worth your time. That means being more restrained with your imbibing, sipping just enough to stay pleasantly buzzed and not make things weird. Choose a Sauvignon Blanc, as wine adds fanciness to any situation and a white wine won’t stain your teeth purple. The floral notes will perfume the air with romance.


Recommended Drink: Brandy

There’s something about reading a beautiful sentence while under alcohol’s emotion-heightening influence that makes the words seem sharper, the truth more profound, the complex and unforgiving reality of the world simple, understandable, navigable. Though this feeling fades with your buzz, it doesn’t make the moment any less worthwhile. Sip on brandy to feel extra refined, and stop reading toward the end of drink two if you’re not a fan of re-reading entire chapters the next day.


Recommended Drink: Gin & Tonic

Babysitting entails performing some very important tasks that require sobriety; the life of a small, helpless child is in your hands, after all. However, once these tasks are fulfilled, it also entails a lot of just hanging out with a very small human, and, to paraphrase Louis C.K., kids are boring. Unless, that is, you’re just a little bit buzzed, and suddenly blocks become way more interesting. Choose a non-staining drink that doesn’t come in a bottle, like a G&T.

Eating Poutine at 3 A.M.

Recommended Drink: Whiskey ginger

Poutine is one of those things that everyone acknowledges is delicious but nobody wants to be seen eating. You really don’t even want to see yourself eating it. Shed your shame and fully immerse yourself in the joy that is this fatty, greasy, carb-y dish by getting properly knockered beforehand and indulging in the dark of night. Choose a whiskey ginger to slake your thirst, sustain your buzz, and provide your poor, poor digestive system a bit of assistance for all that it’s about to tackle.

Buying Airplane Tickets

Recommended Drink: Herbal tea

Why is buying airplane tickets so complicated? From hidden fees to dynamic pricing to codeshare partners, it can be surprisingly difficult to reserve precisely the trip you want. Given that tickets are expensive, and that presumably you chose your dates and destinations with care, this is not something you want to screw up. I have far too many friends who have accidentally booked tickets for the wrong day, wrong airport, even the wrong city, to recommend that you are even remotely tipsy when doing this. Instead, choose herbal tea to calm the agitation you feel upon navigating these devil-sites.

Being On An Airplane

Recommended Drink: Bloody Mary

Whether you’re a nervous flyer, got stuck in a middle seat, or merely have a long flight ahead of you, alcohol is the answer to all your 20,000-feet worries. Plus, you’re either at the beginning of a trip, which calls for celebration, or heading back to the grind, which calls for drowning sorrows. Don’t go overboard though, lest you exacerbate the plane’s dehydrating effect or start getting too chummy with your seatmate. Order a Bloody Mary, scientifically shown to taste better when you’re up in the air.

Being Sick

Recommended Drink: Hot Toddy, minus the alcohol

I get sick a lot, so believe me, I want more than anyone else to believe that alcohol will make it better. But I’ve hopefully consumed too many a hot toddy only to have my symptoms redouble their attack for me to recommend this approach to anyone. The fact is, your body needs to fight a cold, not process alcohol. Trick yourself into thinking you’re drinking by making a hot toddy minus the booze (hot water, lemon, honey, cinnamon).

Waiting for Brunch

Recommended Drink: Greyhound

The brunch backlash is popular right now, but I’ll proudly declare that I love brunch and have no problem waiting up to 90 minutes for a table. The secret is this: Only wait at places with an attached or nearby bar. Once you’re enjoying a drink with your friends, with a warm buzz bringing new energy to the day, you may even be disappointed when the restaurant calls to say your table is ready. Though the Bloody Mary is the quintessential brunch drink, I recommend a Greyhound; it’s less filling, so you’ll still have room for extra pancakes, and the grapefruit makes you feel better about having booze for breakfast.


Recommended Drink: Tempranillo

There’s a lot of lore about writers and their heavy drinking, and while much of it is of questionable veracity, the notion that alcohol boosts creativity is widely supported. Not to mention the fact that, for many writers, writing is a stressful and painful process, and a drink helps soften the edges. However, being overly tipsy will likely make it hard to distill your thoughts into words clearly, let alone choose the mot juste. I recommend a full-bodied red such as a Tempranillo for writing, largely because, well, that’s what I’m drinking now.


Agree? Disagree? Did I miss anything? Tell me!