Recently my friends threw a baby shower for me. I didn’t want it to be like a regular baby shower—diaper cakes make me want to vomit—so it was just a regular coed cocktail party. It was so much like a regular party that it even included one extremely drunk guest on the verge of passing out. His eyes were half-closed, his speech was slurred, and at times it seemed as if the only thing keeping him upright was the hostess’s priceless antique grandfather clock. He stood too close to people, staring at them, and grabbed several women’s derrières. He also hit on one of the hostesses in front of her girlfriend, and at one point, looking for a napkin, grabbed a stuffed teddy bear and used that instead.
I knew that he was drunk but didn’t realize how far gone he was or how offensive he was being. Or maybe on some level I didn’t want to risk a confrontation if I tried to force him into a cab. So I just sidled away from him and tried to have fun at my party. Afterward, I found out he had harassed my friends and felt bad. What is the best way to handle a drunk at a party? And if you’re the drunk, what can you do to make amends?
—Baby Shower Blues
Dear Baby Shower Blues,
It’s tricky to handle a drunk at a party, certainly much trickier than handling a drunk at a family dinner. That’s because at a large party, guests may not know the person and may feel uncomfortable about reporting his behavior. (For all they know, he’s the host’s oldest friend.) The host can’t be everywhere at once and might not even find out what’s going on until it’s too late. As a teenager, I hosted a party where I asked my guests to remove their shoes, hoping to protect my parents’ carpets. Unfortunately, a sloshed guest thought it would be amusing to throw all the shoes in the pond in the backyard—a prank I didn’t discover until guests were leaving and wanted to know what I’d done with their footwear. Oops.
The responsible guest should inform the host the minute he sees someone acting out of control. The host should then implement this tripartite drunkenness intervention strategy:
Delegate. Hosts are too busy refilling other guests’ drinks to baby-sit those who’ve overdone it. If the host does find out that a friend is acting badly, he or she should ask a trusted friend to handle it, possibly whoever brought the guest or knows him best. Obviously, since the guest in this case was pawing women, the ideal candidate would be a large, strong male who doesn’t mind playing levelheaded alpha dog.
Soothe. Trevor Estelle, a trainer with TIPS, which teaches bartenders how to deal with drunks, suggests avoiding “you” statements. “Saying things like ‘You’re drunk’ could inflame them and make them aggressive.” So the handler should avoid saying, “You’re trashed, so I’m taking you outside to sober up.” It’s better to say, “I need to talk to you.”
Isolate. Ideally, the handler should drive the drunk home and put him to bed, or failing that, call him a cab. But the handler should give the address to the cabbie himself, rather than relying on the drunk being able to remember it. If a ride home isn’t feasible, the handler should take the guest outside, to a bedroom, or even just away from the booze.
When I put this question to readers of The Kitchn, Kaete responded: “One good way to deal with a drunken guest … is to get someone with a rather forceful personality to monopolize his attention [and] drag him off to a quieter corner of the party.” Then, as Kaete advises, “ply him with food and water until the stupidity wears off.”
But if the guest is becoming belligerent and things are really getting out of hand, you can always tell him you’re going to call the cops—and then call them if need be. You don’t want to risk the safety of other guests, and sometimes a visit from the police is a good wake-up call for a heavy drinker.
The best way for the lush to make amends is a round of contrite emails. As Kitchn reader cnslerpa says, “I would identify the people that were offended and apologize to them specifically. For example, the women who had their bums pinched and the hostess.” It’s best to use vague phrasing, as the offendee may not want to be reminded of the exact details of the incident. An email saying, “Sorry I was a jerk,” is better than, “Sorry I grabbed your ass and urinated in your Zen fountain.”