Pace yourself. Start by pre-setting a limit before you head out, says Peter Nathan, a community and behavioral health professor emeritus at the University of Iowa in Iowa City who has studied alcohol consumption for 40 years. He advises telling yourself: "I'm going to have no more than two or at most three drinks during the three hours of this party. And if I do more than that, that's an error in judgment and I can't make it." Don't let peer pressure think you need to keep up with a binge drinker, says Nathan, who has researched binge drinking among college students. "It's important that they not keep up," he says. The body can typically metabolize an alcoholic drink—a glass of beer, a one-shot mixed drink—each hour. Women are generally in hangover danger after three to five drinks in a night; for men, it's five or six. If you're prone to get to these thresholds, try "mocktails"—tonic and lime, water, juice—between drinks. And keep eating. Food slows down alcohol absorption and provides a little distraction.
Customize your request. Ask the bartender for a little more orange juice and a little less vodka, suggests Bonci. "Nobody's going to think you're a wuss if you do that," she says.
Choose wisely. Darker-colored alcoholic beverages—bourbon, scotch, tequila, brandy, ales—have a greater amount of chemicals called congeners, which are more likely to cause a hangover, according to the Mayo Clinic. But light or dark, excess alcohol can lead to a perfectly awful day after.
Ditch the cigarettes. Recent research suggests that people who smoke cigarettes on the same day they drink suffer worse hangovers than those who stick to booze alone. Kick the habit, and you may be kicking the headache, too—or at least taking the edge off.
Updated on 1/1/13: This story was originally published on December 1, 2010.