Avoid Holiday Booze Blunders

You've made a resolution and you're starting now. Or maybe you or one of your guests made a no-alcohol pledge years ago. Either way, you plan to be merry with the best of them—but without the mulled wine, spiked eggnog or champagne punch. Happily, in these health-conscious times toasting the New Year with a fizzy cider or an alcohol-free wine is more acceptable than ever before, abstainers say. Still, the rules of festive sobriety aren't always obvious. NEWSWEEK asked Lizzie Post, Emily's great-great-granddaughter and author of "How Do You Work This Life Thing?," to advise us on teetotaler etiquette. Here are six of her party tips for guests and hosts who are trying to stay on the wagon.

When you're the host:

1. Never Assume Don't say, "Can I get you a cocktail?" Instead, say, "What would you like to drink?" and list both alcoholic and nonalcoholic options.

2. Turn off the Tap Know the early signs of drunkenness, such as slurred words, obscenities or unusual confessions. If you see insobriety, Post suggests removing the temptation. "Cork it, and put the wine away for the night."

3. Be Subtle Don't announce "Please, no booze" on a written invitation. "Invitations are supposed to be inviting," Post says. "It's not polite. You don't put 'No smoking' on an invitation or little signs around the house." If you plan to keep your house dry, tell guests in person. Here's another option: Post describes teetotaling relatives who invite guests to bring their own liquor—and take it with them when they leave.

When you're the guest:

1. Considerate Gifting Don't bring a bottle of wine or Scotch to a party unless you're asked to. Inquire first, or bring flowers or a dessert instead.

2. Don't Ask Never ask anyone why they're not drinking, even indirectly. It can seem like a harmless ice-breaker, but in fact it's downright rude to hand a woman a Coke and say, "Expecting?"

3. Don't Tell You're not obliged to explain why you're not drinking. "It's OK to just say, 'No thanks, I'm all set'," says Post. (If you feel conspicuous declining drinks, or want to avoid discussing any issues you have with alcohol, Linda Garcia, an internist in Fairbanks, Alaska, who treats alcoholism, suggests saying you're on a diet or need to wake up early the next day.)

If the prospect of facing all that holiday hooch is an unwelcome and potentially unmanageable temptation, consider calling in some professional reinforcements. Now is when people recovering from alcoholism most often slip, says Garcia. Luckily, there are new kinds of help available these days. Your doctor can prescribe an anticraving medication, or you could try sharing anonymously on a support Web site like mywayout.org. Then, of course, there's Alcoholics Anonymous. Any of these can help you enter the New Year hangover-free.

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