There's a common misconception that actually going out is the best part about going out. It isn't. The best part about going out is almost always the bit before you actually go out and the bit after you get back from actually having gone out. Nine times out of ten the part of the evening actually spent in a nightclub will whizz by in a brief blur of reverberating kick drums, rushed come-ups and frantic smoking area chats. Despite feeling like you've only just arrived, you'll be back in a taxi rattling towards a living room before you know it.
But of course the pre is the best part, because during the pre everything still exists in the realm of promise. Everything is yet to happen, and as such, yet to disappoint. The nightclub could still be a dark, velvet pleasure arcade, the sun might still rise on your glistening bodies still dancing at 7AM, and everybody might still want to fuck you. You might be huddled on a leather sofa passing a CD case of bad gak between you, but the air is sweet with the not-yet-written.
Now, we've talked before about how to handle yourself at a crack on—or more specifically how to get-the-fuck-out-of-there before things go rogue—but up until now we haven't shared any wisdom on what to do in those precious hours before you set foot in the club.
A pre-drink is very different to a house party and should be treated as such. A house party offers you the opportunity to unspool your funtime. Pre-drinks are a contained, precision engineered operation. They are hedonism with an objective. Tinnies with a timestamp. You need to get them right, for the rest of your night is counting on them.
1. WHEN TO START
The science here is beginning your partying early enough to dull the senses but without peaking too early and ending up face down in a toilet bowl. This is the most perilous threat of any decent pre-drinks; get too settled, treat this thing too much like the main event, and any number of your guests could find themselves curled up on the floor dribbling an apology to the rest of the group, crying about how they "always ruin everything," vainly reassuring you that if you give them five minutes and a pint of water they'll be fine.
Let's briefly explore the maths. In most cities you won't want to arrive at a nightclub until around midnight. Depending on your stamina you probably want about three and a half hours of leisurely drinking before you leave the house. That takes you back to half past eight. Add in a half an hour journey to the club, and another half spraying aftershaves, brushing teeth, smoking cigs, hiding drugs, and dodging group photos, and you've rewound to the start time of 19:30. Problem solved, right?
Not quite. There are other considerations to take in mind, namely when to invite other people over. As a general rule, it's best to get your core squad with you from the get go. Nobody likes a solo tinnie drinker—even in your best going-out clothes, you'll still come off a bit "fat bastard" if you're slumped on the sofa slugging cheap vodka on your own. After that it's probably best to start drip feeding your other guests in order of likeability in half an hour windows leading up until 10.
Which brings us onto our next category.
2. WHO TO INVITE
Important note here: you need to invite some dickheads.
Alright, maybe not dickheads, but bear with us. Obviously you're going to invite your best friends. They are the people you want to drink with, the people you've got your in jokes with, the people with whom your banter has become a shared idiolect, people with whom the word banter becomes an acceptability because truthfully, there's no other word for it.
Trouble is, when you get together, all those shit-hot chats you're having about Brexit, or Eggheads, or vegetarianism, or something stupid one of you did last time you went out, can become pretty alienating to anyone there who's not in on your cabal. That much good energy can become suffocating. You need tension. You need variation. Some rogue elements. Get some red hot radish in that friendship salad, eh?
With that in mind, invite the following people:
Your Mate Who Has Spotify Premium
Your Mate Who Always Brings Loads of Drinks
Your Mate Who Always Brings Loads of Drugs
Your Mate Who Stays Sober and Sometimes Drives to the Club
Your Mate Who Makes Alarming Right Wing Comments as a Mode of Attention Seeking
Your Mate Who Always Has a New Boyfriend/Girlfriend That They Spend the Entire Evening Weirdly Avoiding
Your Mate Who Gets On Really Fucking Well With Everyone
Your Mate Who Gets On Really Fucking Well With No-one
Your Mate Who Plays Rugby
Your Mate Who Went to Drama School
Your Mate Who Went to Prison
Your Mate Who Can't Swim
Now you've got a party.
3. WHAT TO EAT
Nothing. No food. What do you think this is? Don't put out bowls of crisps, or dips, or three different types of lasagne. Food at a pre-drinks creates the wrong tone: cheese powder on the finger-tips and garlic breath. You don't want people to think you're gurning in the club when actually you're just dislodging a bit of carrot from between your teeth. One bag of Snyders pretzel bits is acceptable though. Just the one.
4. WHAT TO DRINK
There are a few basic options here.
- Cans: Simple, iconic cans. Six cool cans of lager.
- Something mixed with some other shit: I don't know. Vodka and pineapple juice or whatever. Maybe Disaronno and coke, apparently that tastes like Dr Pepper. I think I saw somebody mix gin and Rubicon once.
- Punch: Pour all of the above into a massive bowl and drink that.
It doesn't really matter just don't throw up or drive.
5. WHAT TO LISTEN TO
Obviously you'll need more than six Youtube videos but these should set the tone.
NB: I asked everyone on my desk for suggestions, so don't blame me for the slight lack of coherence.
6. DRINKING GAMES
The best drinking game goes like this: Ask everyone in the room if they want to play a drinking game. Whoever says yes has to go back out through the front door and onto the street and then go home. That's the game.
MDMA: Can be nice to get a tingle going but don't forget: you've got a nightclub to get into. If you arrive looking like a bush baby you've probably fucked it. The last thing you want is the panicked early come-up, the creeping, then searing, realisation that no, you haven't just "got a bit of a buzz on," and in fact you're about to go totally stratospheric.
Coke: Gak is definitely the most readily consumed narcotic at pre-drinking for very good reason. A pre-drink exists to get everyone buoyed up and brave enough to slosh around in the dark for a few hours and cocaine is a method of achieving that in a matter of minutes. That said, don't get ahead of yourself and forget to have normal conversations outside of "I really want to get some sort of photography portfolio together by the end of the year." You're not at a BAFTA after-party, you're in a one bedroom flat in Dulwich.
Ket: Are you alright? You're going out, not over and out.
Weed: See directly above.
Balloons: Everyone does balloons. Balloons are the Graham Norton of narcotics. Impossible not to love.
Heroin: Very addictive. Avoid.
That all said, drugs at a pre-drinks are never actually as great as you'd think—you haven't really got the time to get settled into any kind of buzz. Sure, a few lines in somebody's bedroom will get you all debating Yeezus with renewed zeal, and that's not such a bad thing, but beyond that you'll be in danger of turning pre-drinks into a house party. Then again, maybe just do that. House parties are better than nightclubs anyway.
8. LEAVING THE HOUSE
Okay, this is it, you've hosted an adequately enjoyable evening for a group of like-minded individuals and now you're now ready to hit the club. Sadly this will never happen, because everybody knows that rounding people up at the end of a pre-drinks and getting them into taxis is a literal impossibility. It cannot be done. It is like attempting to sculpt water, or in some way communicate with the wind.
"Taxis," you will scream into the abyss.
No sound will come back.