Drinking, especially that of the binge variety, has become the great evil of our time.
Drinking, especially that of the binge variety, has become the great evil of our time. We fear not the steady encroachment of Islamic fascism in Arab Spring states, nor the illiberal theocracies and autocracies that constantly threaten the international balance of power, nor the cliffs and crunches that world economies weather on a weekly basis. Well, obviously we do, but we also fear binge drinking.
Understandably so, too. Every year, thousands of people die in the UK from alcohol-related illnesses. Teenagers, barely beyond childhood, become alcoholics, illegally buying so-called “special” brew or the ubiquitous “alco-pop” to consume in vast quantities before crashing into a haze of undue self-respect. Minimum alcohol pricing has been walked back by government recently, however it was never going to be the cure for the excessive British fondness for drinking most of an £15 bottle of “Smirnoff” and jumping around a room full of flashing lights and loud music. The solution is not nearly so draconian (or regressive).
It is time to revive the great, and distinctly British, tradition of bibitory snobbery. There is as much art to drinking properly as science or quantity. If you know your stuff, a far greater pleasure can be unlocked with a very few drinks of sufficient quality. I am of course not advocating habitual drinking or excessive drinking. Use of alcohol can be extremely dangerous and harmful. But Brutus is an honourable man. Aside from as “beer goggles” alcohol does in fact have its merits, you just have to enjoy them not only responsibly, but intelligently. I offer, therefore, my favourite bits of boozey wisdom on a few important matters.
There is no shame in restricting your drinking to during or after enjoying dinner with your friends. Don’t feel pressured to go to a club, where you probably won’t be enjoying their company and personalities at all. If you can’t bear to sit with your friends for a few hours and just chat, then I’m sorry to tell you, but they probably aren’t very good friends. You can also more easily fit a wider selection of drink types in with a meal in you, if you insist on doing so.
The best way to prevent hangovers is to stick to one variety, or a select few types of the devil’s drink, and pick carefully. Make it something you know and like, something that you would happily drink all night. Don’t be afraid to become known as a snob for booze, you’ll come out on top in the long run. As your friends nurse force ten hangovers, you’ll skip, carefree, to breakfast (Disclaimer: your experience may differ). If it can have a brand name, then you need to have a favourite brand. The house red is probably that great French variety, ‘Pipi de Chat’. No shots either, except possibly for special occasions (I don’t want to stop you having any fun).
Widening the selection of mood-altering substances.
Certainly no narcotics. Ever. What would be the point? They won’t improve your experience or conversational ability at all. They will make you boring and probably force others to deal with you when it all goes awry, as it usually does (speaking from personal experience of having to bodily lift someone into their own house). They also, in the long run, force you to choose between things like sex or having your own nose, and using the drug.
Discounts are convenient if you’re buying something that you actually know. However, if you are buying something because it’s cheap you can leave the room now. You have no reason to believe it will be anything that you like. That is a tragic waste of your hard-earned cash. Educate yourself, even in the four or five most common types of wine you drink regularly.
Put the enjoyment back in alcohol by removing the binge element. When people complain of a headache or a hangover, is that not the clearest indication that they have been drinking because of social pressure and not for the enjoyment of a substance that has few harmful side effects when enjoyed in moderation? That isn’t to say that there is no room for a ball or a good night out every once in a while. But it certainly is time to break the idea of clubbing for its own sake being cool.
Why not try something different this weekend?
Gordon’s gin and tonic. (I have already converted many of my own friends to the old ‘mother’s ruin’ as it is so mistakenly called.) A highly underrated drink.
Red: Nero D’Avola. This Sicilian wine is light and drinkable, even to a Chardonnay lover. It is not common, but most varieties are worth the cost.
White: NZ Sauvignon Blanc. Always easy, very common.
Port. Yes, it has a nasty association with Oxbridge types, but if you learn to appreciate it, it never leaves you. A single of Dow’s or Cockburn’s Ruby is a warming end to a cold winter night. [Warning: will exacerbate hangovers!]
Image courtesy of Flickr user Loz Flowers.