Photo courtesy of Finlandia.

Hey, Leah. My friend insists on ordering premium vodka in her cocktails and swears it helps her avoid hangovers. Is there anything to it? Or is she wasting her money?

—Laura, Denver, Colorado

Hi Laura,

Vodka is the most neutral spirit there is. It contains fewer congeners than brown liquors and higher end brands tend to be distilled multiple times and have fewer impurities than a cheap plastic jug of rocket fuel. That being said, let’s be real. The only way to truly avoid a hangover is to not consume alcohol, or minimize its affects by eating before drinking and drink tons of water. I’m pretty sure if I drank 10 cocktails with Stoli Elite, I would still feel like trash the next day. But whether your friend is experiencing a placebo effect or the real thing, if she’s drinking premium and waking up without a hangover, I say, let her enjoy her bliss. It certainly doesn’t hurt to drink the cleanest possible spirit.

Moderation is key, people.

Hey, Leah.Me and my friends love to barhop on the weekends, but one girl is getting sloppy drunk, like every time. How to you tell someone they need to drink more responsibly?

—Molly, Lewiston, Maine

Hi Molly,
Hey we’ve all been that girl, but babysitting an overly intoxicated friend is never a good time. Sure, you could pull the bartender aside and ask her to leave the vodka out of her cosmo or cut her off. But the fact is, most problems can be solved by confronting them head-on. Sit your friend down and talk to her like an adult. Tell her you love going out but when she overdoes it, the whole vibe is shot down. She may be defensive, but it’s better to risk hurt feelings than to continue enabling. Even if she takes it poorly, she’ll realize she is bumming everybody out, and  hopefully the seed will be planted that her behavior needs changing. And be supportive. The next time you go out, try something that doesn’t involve drinking. Mini golf, anyone? 

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Leah Pupkin has been a craft cocktail bartender and consultant for the past ten years. She has worked in countless bars and curated cocktail programs all over New York and Australia. She now resides in Portland, Oregon, where she is currently the bar director at G-Love. Leah produces sponsored content for various liquor brands and runs a blog featuring movie reviews accompanied by craft cocktail pairings when not behind the bar. You can find the blog at and follow all her work on Instagram @thebardirector.