What to Drink When You're Tired of Drinking

December 30, 2016

It is late December and we drinkers are tired of being drunk.

Even for those who excel at moderation (I… don’t get you), the weight of holiday parties and work events and the extra glass of wine needed to endure the stress of “looking back” and trying to make emotional sense of the past year takes its toll. It turns us into weary, hungover little holiday soldiers looking at the next two weeks of social events and large-scale family meals with trepidation: How will we do it? How will our haggard bodies, our poor livers, make it through to next year?

The answer is bitters. Bitters and soda.

Also a great drink for vampires. Photo by Mark Weinberg

Barely an alcoholic drink, bitters and soda is the support you need for the weeks ahead. When you have already downed three glasses of wine and fear a fourth but don’t want to slum it with tap water, bitters and soda is there for you, making both abstinence and hydration look a lot sexier.

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Call it a cocktail if you like, as bitters themselves lie somewhere around 50% alcohol. But you’re only using a few dashes, sprinkled over a glass of plain seltzer and ice. The effects are negligible; as far as drinking marathons go, it feels much like a walking break.

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Top Comment:
“How much bitters per glass of soda water? ”
— Kevin S.

This charming drink will also come to your rescue when a hangover hits. Bitters are known to ease upset stomachs, relieve heartburn, and support liver function, so you can basically call them medicine, washed down with the extra-large bottle of Pellegrino you’d be buying at the store after a big night anyways. Bubbles contain some sort of hangover-soothing magic. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know.

Photo by Ryan Dausch
Photo by James Ransom

So if you’re hosting a party, or attending a party, or going to be drinking heavily at any point in the next few weeks, stock up on a few tiny bottles of bitters and a few large bottles of soda. Don’t be afraid to bring this duo in lieu of—or in addition to—the requisite bottle of wine for your hostess. Maybe bring some bendy straws too, because it’s the holidays, and straws feel classy, especially when they bend.

And remember to keep a few bottles of seltzer in your own fridge, both for teetotaling friends and your own dumb hungover self.

This article originally appeared in December of last year—we're running it again because, well, we're feeling it.

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Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



caninechef January 4, 2017
Thanks for rerunning this article, I missed it last year. Tried this last night with tonic and it was a perfect after-work drink.
Bec42 December 28, 2015
Slightly off topic, but I found that a couple dashes of bitters & some tonic made a white wine that was way too sweet for me palatable. It ended up being pretty refreshing and with less alcohol than a regular glass of wine which is great for me on those work nights I really crave a glass of wine but can easily have 1 too many.
juliunruly December 27, 2015
This is awesome. Thank you!
Sharon H. December 27, 2015
Kombucha is good too......and practically free if you make it yourself.
Pollie December 27, 2015
How do you make kombucha?
Philip C. December 27, 2015
Great idea, thanks!
Kevin S. December 27, 2015
How much bitters per glass of soda water?
Wallis P. December 27, 2015
I agree.....mine.... Sodasream, and blood orange bitters, little squeeze of fresh orange. Soothing
kate B. December 24, 2015
You just saved (my) Christmas and all subsequent holidays and parties. Thank you.
Panfusine December 22, 2015
Fell in love with the Cecil & Merl cucumber bitters at first sip!
Amanda H. December 21, 2015
Just home from a holiday trifle party and am now drinking seltzer with cherry bitters. No kidding.
Ascender December 21, 2015
Everyone focused on the bar drink but the tip to stock up on seltzer is huge! Buy a case of big bottles. Put one in the fridge and keep the rest in the root cellar. I also make a quart of fresh ginger syrup. It is a great way to add a seasonal kick to any drink -- alcoholic or not.
fiveandspice December 21, 2015
This was my pregnancy drink! Because I decided bitters didn't really count as alcohol if measured in a dash or two.
Theresa L. December 21, 2015
Or for an actual cocktail in this vein but a little more-ish, put an ounce of Amaro on ice and top it with soda. Still sweet, yes, still bitter, slightly more boozy but not exhaustingly so for the buzz-weary drinker.
Jane L. December 21, 2015
I was gifted with bitters for Chanukah and my new favorite is Fee Brothers. Love all bitters.
liz O. December 21, 2015
Why do you feel like you have to have even "a little" alcohol in order to enjoy yourself. If you are tired of drinking and being hungover, perhaps you should rethink your drinking habits.
hardlikearmour December 21, 2015
Judgmental much?
ellen P. December 27, 2015
Why would you mock someone offering helpful & conservative advice? The light-hearted delivery will reach more people than your morally-weighted criticism. This information is timely. Thanks food52!
Sharon H. December 27, 2015
yes....yikes. Perhaps you should re-think your "judging" habits.
Jarofchris December 27, 2015
If society thinks that Liz Okamura's non-judgmental, morally-neutral, helpful comment is judgmental and morally weighted, then we are officially screwed.
FHeller July 26, 2023
I’m wondering whether you might profit my taking your own advice. Uuumm.
amysarah December 21, 2015
It's like a Campari Soda, or an Aperol Soda, minus the hangover. (Though can't say I've ever drunk enough of those to induce a hangover.)
Marian B. December 21, 2015
i have :(
Niknud December 21, 2015
How did I not know of this sooner? My pounding head thanks you in advance......
hardlikearmour December 21, 2015
Angostura all the way :-) !!! (though I'm also partial to tea pot bitters)
mrslarkin December 21, 2015
What are tea pot bitters??????
hardlikearmour December 21, 2015
mrslarkin December 21, 2015
awesome. thank you.
Lauren K. December 21, 2015
Pro tip: this is also a good drink if you are tired of spending tons of money out and about. Many (but not all) bars will pour it for you for free.
Caroline L. December 21, 2015
this IS a pro tip!
Sarah J. December 21, 2015
WOW. Wow. That is my kind of drink (i.e. free).
Lauren K. December 21, 2015
but oh, oh, p.s.: you should still tip.
Marian B. December 21, 2015
this is great and true! the bad part is sometimes bars charge you for plain seltzer and you have to try not to cry
Michael H. December 21, 2015
There is no beverage I'm fonder of. I like to dash the bitters over ice and then pour the seltzer over that. If you're lucky, you get a frothy, pink head. Which is fun!
Marian B. December 21, 2015
oooooh good tip
Mm November 17, 2018
Thanks, I just made one like this and it's perfect!
Great article, my parents used bitters a lot (dad being a bartender) and now I know why!