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Drinking culture refers to the customs and practices of people who drink alcoholic beverages.

Although types of alcoholic beverages and social attitudes toward drinking vary around the world, nearly every civilization has independently discovered the processes of brewing beer, fermenting wine, and distilling spirits.

Alcohol and its effects have been present wherever people have lived throughout history. Drinking is documented in the Hebrew and Christian bibles, in Greek literature as old as Homer, and in Confucius’s Analects.

Social drinking

Social drinking refers to casual drinking in a social setting without an intent to get drunk.

Social drinking plays an important (but not traditional) role in such social functions as dating, and marriage. For example, a person buying another a drink at a singles bar is a gesture that the one is interested in the other and often initiates conversation, or at least flirtation.

Bad news is often expressed through a drink, whilst good news is often celebrated by having a few drinks - for example, one drinks to "wet the baby's head" to celebrate a birth. Buying someone a drink is a gesture of goodwill, and can be used as an expression of gratitude or mark the resolution of a dispute--to mark an end to an aggressive relationship. The physical act of going to a comfortable setting with friends is a large part of sharing a drink in the above situations, but the fact remains that people have found as many reasons to meet for a drink as they have to meet for tea, coffee, or to eat.

Binge drinking

Binge drinking is sometimes defined as drinking alcohol solely for the purpose of intoxication, although it is quite common for binge drinking to apply to a social situation, creating some overlap in social and binge drinking. Some researchers use a low threshold definition in which binge drinking refers to a woman consuming four drinks and a man consuming five drinks on an occasion. Because drinking occasions can last up to five or seven hours, many such bingers never become intoxicated. Clinically and traditionally, however, binge drinking is defined as a period of continuing intoxication lasting at least two days during which time the binger neglects usual life activities (work, family, etc.). The concept of a "binge" has been somewhat elastic over the years, implying consumption of alcohol far beyond what is socially acceptable. In earlier decades, "going on a binge" meant drinking over the course of days until one was no longer physically able to continue. The usage is known to have entered theEnglish language as early as 1854; it derives from an English dialectal word meaning to "soak" or literally "fill a boat with water". (OED, American Heritage Dictionary)

University students have a reputation for engaging in binge drinking, most famously in the USAmarker, UKmarker, Irelandmarker, New Zealandmarker, Australia, throughout Northern Europe, Belgiummarker, and Canadamarker. Participants include university athletes, fraternities, and sororities, particularly after final examinations, varsity wins or during spring break. Some common reasons for this propensity for binge drinking is that many university students are living on their own for the first time, are free of parental supervision, and are among peers.

It is widely observed that in areas of Europe where children and adolescents routinely experience alcohol early and with parental approval, such as watered-down wine with a meal, binge drinking tends to be less prevalent. Typically, the schism is drawn between northern and southern Europe, with northerners being the binge drinkers. As early as the eighth century, Saint Boniface was writing to Cuthbert, Archbishop of Canterbury, to report how "in your diocese, the vice of drunkenness is too frequent. This is an evil peculiar to pagans and to our race. Neither the Franks nor the Gauls nor the Lombards nor the Romans nor the Greeks commit it".[48637] Possibly, however, "the vice of drunkenness" was not evenly discernible among nations. The 16th century Frenchman Rabelais wrote comedic and absurd satires illustrating his countrymen's drinking habits and was banned by the Catholic church while Saint Augustin used the example of a drunkard in Rome to illustrate certain spiritual principles.

The Australian phenomenon of the six o'clock swill, in the post-war years, was a form of binge drinking.

Binge drinking is common in Scandinavian countries, even in Norway and Sweden despite their history of high prices of and restricted access to alcohol in recent decades. For example, the Norwegianmarker cultural phenomenon known as Russ provides high school seniors with a socially accepted venue for binge drinking. For younger people, from about 14-15 years and until leaving adolescence, binge drinking may be the main form of drinking. Denmark which has the most lax access to alcohol in Scandinavia unsurprisingly also has the highest alcohol consumption among teenagers, not only in Scandinavia but in the world. Still the alcohol consumption among teenagers in Denmark is still lower than the alcohol consumption of adults in Denmark which is only average worldwide.

Significantly, Northern European countries are among the most stringent in their punishment of offenders driving under the influence of alcohol, sometimes imposing a lifetime loss of driving privileges without appeal.

Some studies have noted traditional, cultural differences between Northern and Southern Europe. A difference in perception may also account to some extent for historically noted cultural differences: Northern Europeans drink beer, which in the past was often of a low alcohol content (2.5% compared to today's 5%). In pre-industrial society, beer being boiled and alcohol was safer to drink than water. Southern Europeans drink wine and fortified wines (10-20% alcohol by volume). Traditionally, wine was watered and honeyed, drinking full strength wine was considered barbaric in Republican Rome. Fortified wine was not common until Brandy was created by distilling Port for transportation purposes. Nor does binge drinking necessarily equate with substantially higher national averages of per capita/per annum litres of pure alcohol consumption. There is also a physical aspect to national differences worldwide, which has not yet been thoroughly studied, whereby some ethnic groups have a greater capacity for alcohol metabolization through the liver enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase.

These varying capacities do not, however, avoid all health risks inherent in heavy alcohol consumption. Alcohol abuse is associated with a variety of negative health and safety outcomes. This is true no matter the individual's or the ethnic group's perceived ability to "handle alcohol". Persons who believe themselves immune to the effects of alcohol may often be the most at risk for health concerns and the most dangerous of all operating a vehicle.

"Chronic heavy drinkers display functional tolerance when they show few obvious signs of intoxication even at high blood alcohol concentrations (BAC's), which in others would be incapacitating or even fatal. Because the drinker does not experience significant behavioral impairment as a result of drinking, tolerance may facilitate the consumption of increasing amounts of alcohol. This can result in physical dependence and alcohol-related organ damage."

Session drinking

Session drinking is drinking in large quantities over a single period of time, or session, without the intention of getting heavily intoxicated. Unlike binge drinking, the focus is on the social aspects of the occasion. A session beer, such as a session bitter, is a beer that has a moderate or low alcohol content - in the UK this would be around 4% e.g. Carling, or a bitter which is generally weaker than lager abv, while in the USA session beers may go as high as 5%.

Competitive drinking (World Drinking Record)

Speed drinking or competitive drinking is drinking small or moderate quantities of beer or ale over the shortest period of time, without the intention of getting heavily intoxicated. Unlike binge drinking the focus is on the competition, or establishment of a record. Typically speed drinkers consume lighter beers such as lagers and allow their beer to go warm and lose its carbonation to shorten the drinking time. The Guinness Book of World Records (1990 edition, p. 464) lists several records for speed drinking. The first is for 2 litres (3.5 imperial pints, or about 66.7 U.S. fluid ounces) set by Peter G. Dowdeswell (born London, July 23 1940) of Earls Barton, Northants, England. Mr. Dowdeswell consumed 2 litres in 6 seconds on February 7, 1975. Steven Petrosino of New Cumberland, Pennsylvaniamarker (born November 1951) consumed 1 litre (33 oz) of beer in 1.3 s to set a world drinking record at theGingerbreadman Pub in Carlisle, PAmarker on June 22, 1977. Neither of these records had been defeated when Guinness retired all drinking records from their compendium in 1991.

Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke held a record for the fastest consumption of beer, consuming 2.5 pints in 12 seconds.

Free drinks

Free drinks is a ritual which has existed in various institutions at various times and within various cultures and traditions. The social effects of this ritual, however, have more to do with sociology and psychology than the more temporary physical effects of the event itself.

For example, during a wedding, free drinks are often served to guests during the reception known as an open bar, as a matter of celebration, or at more serious functions, free drinks may be offered in order to entice greater attendance. Interestingly enough, this phenomenon combines the human need and capacity for ritual societal gatherings and basic greed. Free drinks are also commonly offered to casino patrons to entice them to continue gaming. Free drinks can assume an almost mystical status in the minds of everyday people, who are accustomed to paying for their drinks.

Further examples include the more recent policy of "ladies drink free" at bars; a fairly transparent ploy designed to hopefully bring a bar more female visitors, and hopefully, to thereby bring in more male patrons. Many military bases, as well as large corporations, (especially in Japanmarker) have favoured bars, often locations specifically catering to these institutions; private functions arranged here, while providing free drinks, can often be obligatory. Another view of the free drinks phenomenon is far more basic: the simple act of sharing one's beverage with another, be it from the same container, or bringing a cold beer from the refrigerator for a friend.

In the United States, fraternity houses at college campuses often serve "Free Beer" to attract potential rushees and attractive women (Oleson and Larson 2004).

List of drinking terms

Terms describing drinks, or used in bartending

  • Neat - A single unmixed beverage product served at room temperature.
  • Straight - A single unmixed beverage product served chilled.
  • Down - Any drink served in a tumbler glass.
  • Up - Any drink served in stemware.
  • On the rocks - Any drink served with multiple cubes of ice in it.
  • Shake - Drink ingredients are shaken with ice in a cocktail shaker, then strained into a service glass.
  • Stir - Drink ingredients are stirred with ice in a mixing glass, then strained into a service glass.

  • Shot - 1 or 1.5 ounces (3 or 5 cl) of liquor in a shot glass, to be drunk in one quick motion; in the mouth and immediately down the throat without tasting (shooting)
  • Chug - to drink large volumes of alcohol quickly
  • Nursing a drink - Usually derisively, to imply a patron is drinking too slowly.
  • Scull - another term meaning to drink large volumes of alcohol quickly
  • Chaser - a drink to be consumed directly subsequent to another drink, ie: a whisky following a pint of beer, or, more commonly, in reverse order, eg: water after tequila, or Coca Cola after a shot of vodka.
  • With a twist - served with a twist of citrus peel, either lemon or lime
  • In the face - a term common to Northern England, colloquially meaning "drink up"
  • "Down it" - another term used that proposes the drinker to finish his/her drink quickly.
  • "X it" - another term used that proposes the drinker to finish his/her drink quickly.
  • "Get her done" - another term used that proposes the drinker to finish his/her drink quickly.
  • Spider - A term for a free drink (Midwest America). The very last serving poured from a bottle is usually not a full serving but may be close to it. It may be drunk as is, or be added to a full serving for the price of the next full serving. It is called by the patron and usually honored by the server (sometimes grudgingly).

Drinking terms

  • Happy hour - A period of time during which the price of drinks (at a bar) is reduced or hors d'oeuvres are served free.
  • Last orders - The last opportunity for patrons to purchase drinks before closing of the bar. Typically "called" by the bar tender several minutes before a drinking establishment's official designated closing time.
  • Beer pong - Drinking game played on a ping-pong table, or similar sized table. The object is to throw a ping pong ball into the opponents cup, usually filled about 1/4 the way with beer. The opponent then drinks the beer in the cup. The person who has no cups left at the end of the game is the loser, and has to drink the opponents' remaining cups.
  • Buffalo - A drinking game that is carried through one's lifetime. If you are ever caught with a drink in your right hand, and someone calls you by saying "Buffalo!" you must finish your drink. Any alcoholic beverage that is open and not product sealed is considered to be a drink. If someone calls a false Buffalo, the caller must finish their own drink.
  • Body shot - A shot that is taken off a person's body, usually in the belly button or chest.
  • Cannonball/Strikeout - The act of taking a hit of marijuana on a bong or pipe, then chugging a full beer and drinking a shot. Only after both beverages have been consumed can drinker exhale what is left of the marijuana smoke.
  • Century Club - A drinking spree which involves one shot of beer every minute for 100 consecutive minutes.
  • Shotgun - A term used to describe drinking beer through a hole punched in the bottom of the can, and then opening the top. This method serves to "shoot" the beer out of the can faster thus allowing the recipient to become intoxicated faster. This method is popular among fraternity members, especially at "tailgate" football parties in the southern United States. Shotgunning is also used to describe drinking from a bottle, using a straw to equalise air pressure inside and outside the bottle, whilst not actually drinking through the straw itself. Again the aim is to force the drink from the container more quickly. This is also known as a strawpedo — a wordplay on torpedo — or as a snorkel in Australia.
  • Power hour - A drinking spree which involves one shot of beer every minute for 60 consecutive minutes.
  • Flask - a concealable container designed to hold a small amount of liquor in a pocket

See also


  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Alcohol and Tolerance - Alcohol Alert No. 28-1995
  2. ABC Online Key Stories - 1983


  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol and Tolerance (Alcohol Alert Number 31 from NIAAA). Washington, DC: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1996.

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