Travel: The Hotel Drinks

2022, Mar 06    

On the lighter side of my travel experiences comes an entertaining story after spending months in a hotel, getting to know the staff, and how familiarity and humour can result in a serious hangover (and possible alcohol poisoning, it's difficult to tell).

While most of my work throughout the years involved travelling solo (and in some cases a different hotel each week), every so often a project involving multiple team members would occur and we would be required to spend a few months together. This was one of those times, with three of us working together for 3 months in Western Europe (in a quiet area about 45 minutes from the nearest city). The hotel was one of the main brands and was quite nice (for once), featuring a good balance of spacious rooms and pleasant grounds to walk around (to try and burn off the frequent burgers I ate too many of). While my colleagues would fly home each weekend I would spend a few weeks there before flying home for two days, which gave me time to get to know the staff and have a laugh with them.

As I like a drink on occasion (as did my colleagues) it was inevitable that time would be spent in the hotel bar (given how far away from the city the hotel was). The bar staff were a good laugh, and as the hotel wasn't that busy during the time I was there the service was great too. One of the evenings (after being told by the customer we needed to take a break given the prior days had been very long (and stressful) hours, the three of us found ourselves in the hotel bar once more, eating some food and having the customary rounds of rum & coke / gin & tonic (the latter being mine).

In typical fashion (for us at least), a few jokes were made to the bar manager along the lines of "I thought you Europeans knew how to make strong drinks" and "I've had cough medicine stronger than this". This time around the bar manager decided to play along, stating he would "make up for this grievous mistake" by means of ensuring our next drinks were suitably stronger. A little light-hearted humour to pass the time, and subsequently fill your evening with regret...

My seat had a view of the bar and I could see the making of the two rum & cokes for my colleagues, including the remarkably large glass for them (slightly larger than a pint) and the multiple bottles of rum being used. As the glasses were filled past the 50% mark and there was still no mixer in sight I was treated to my colleague stating "that drink doesn't look fun any more". I continued watching as yet more rum was added, making it around 80% rum and 20% coke (give or take).

The bar manager returned with the two drinks for my colleagues, stating how he hoped "these drinks would be more suitable" for them. He subsequently turned to look at me, smiled, and said "I will go and make your drink now, not to worry", promptly causing my colleague to state "I'd be seriously worried if I were you". Seeing how the other drinks had been made didn't really concern me (a mistake on my part).

I watched as a glass capable of holding an entire wine bottle was placed on the bar, subsequently filled to about 1 centimetre from the top with a mix of different gin (most of which weren't on the shelf with the usual spirits). A single bottle of tonic was added along with some botanicals for good measure, at which point I was greeted by a smiling bar manager and a drink that could be smelt from 10 feet away (confirmed by my colleague as his nose started to sting).

As I took my first mouthful and immediately questioned my life choices and the decisions that had led to this point, I forced a smile while stating to a still-smiling bar manager how the drink was better but still wasn't quite strong enough. I recall him chuckling before walking back to the bar after stating "enjoy your drinks lads", and one of my colleagues telling me that petrol doesn't burn the eyes as much as my drink currently was.

In the spirit of trying not to look foolish (in hindsight, that ship had already sailed) I proceeded to finish my drink over the next 20 minutes while listening to my normally silent colleague declaring how his drink was burning his insides and the room was already starting to spin. With our food and drinks now finished it was time to pay the bill and head to bed ready for the next day. After being graciously offered a free night-cap of the same strength and declining (possibly one of the smartest decisions I have ever made) we all parted ways ready to meet in the morning.

While getting to sleep has always been a tricky endeavour for me, that night falling asleep (or more specifically passing out) was no issue at all. My morning alarm went off, I showered and dressed, had breakfast, and was up ready to tackle the day. I will admit feeling surprised as to how I had no hangover and still felt great, seemingly odd given how strong the drink was.

As the morning hours passed I realised that my colleagues were nowhere to be found. About 20 minutes before lunch they both arrived with what can only be described as a face of regret and a face of severe fatigue. As it transpired they had not felt great in the morning (putting it mildly) and the thought of breakfast to them was the same as asking them to volunteer to be hit by a car. Some lunch was had from a small cafe nearby and the day continued towards what would inevitably be my downfall.

It was around 3pm when I started to feel somewhat unwell with the traditional hangover starting to appear. By 4pm I had determined that at the current rate of decline the rest of my afternoon was no longer viable and sleep would be the best answer. By 5pm I would have taken a hammer to the frontal lobes if it would knock me unconscious to avoid the current level of pain. By 6pm, you get the idea...

A full 24 hours had passed and I still felt as if my head was trapped between the clamps of a vice, with my kidneys and liver now filing for a divorce. It took a further 12 hours to start to feel relatively normal again (and to be able to function in any usable capacity). It appeared that I had drank so much alcohol that the reason I felt good in the first place was due to still being relatively drunk. Thankfully, rest days are just that (and rest I needed!).

The lesson of this story: hangovers hurt, but not as much as seeing the bar manager two days later and being told what was in the drinks...