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Drinking culture is the notable customs shared by groups of people around the world involved in drinking alcoholic beverages.
Although the type of alcohol, social attitude toward (and acceptance of) drinking varies around the world, nearly every civilization has independently discovered the process of brewing beer, fermenting wine or distilling liquor.
Alcohol and its effects have been present wherever people have lived throughout history. Drinking is documented in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, Greek literature as old as Homer, and Confucius' Analects. Given its continuing popularity and the failure of alcohol Prohibitions, drinking may remain a part of human life interminably.
Purpose of drinking
Generally, people drink for one or more of six reasons; to quench thirst, to get drunk (binge drinking), to enjoy a social setting (social drinking), to enjoy the taste of the beverage, to feed an addiction (alcoholism), or as part of a religious or traditional ceremony or custom.
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 the English 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, especially in the USA and even more so in the UK, as well as generally throughout northern Europe, Canada and Australia; participants include university athletes, fraternities, and sororities, particularly after final examinations, varsity wins and 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, free of parental supervision, and among peers -- especially those of the opposite sex.
In much 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 of a problem. The longstanding exception is Britain and Ireland: 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". Possibly, however, "the vice of drunkenness" was not often as easily discernible in one's own nation as in others'. The 16th century Frenchman Rabelais wrote comedic and absurd satires illustrating his countrymen's drinking habits, yet was banned by the Catholic church.
In South Africa a large percentage of the population between the ages of 18 - 35 engage in binge drinking. Most recently the Zulu word 'Phuza' (directly translated as Drink) has been adopted by many so-called binge drinkers to describe the well publicised 'Phuza Thursday'. This term was introduced by the breakfast show team of 5FM a national radio station. If one is suffering from visible after-effects of a 'Phuza Thursday' they are said to have a 'Phuza Face'.
Binge drinking is also very common in Scandinavian countries, with their long tradition of high alcohol prices and restricted access. For younger people, from about 14-15 years and until leaving adolescence, binge drinking may be the main form of drinking. Reasons cited are Viking heritage or the fact that one tends to buy alcohol in bulk, and thus consume in bulk. Yet similar consumption is observed in other northern and eastern European countries.
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-industrialized society, beer being boiled and alcoholic 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". The person who believes himself or herself 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.
According to the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the heavy chronic drinker who develops alcohol tolerance "does not experience significant behavioral impairment as a result of drinking." This is so "even at high blood alcohol concentrations (BAC's), which in theirs would be incapacitation or even fatal."
Social drinking refers to casual collateral drinking, usually without the 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 delivered over a drink, good news is often celebrated by having a few drinks - we drink 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 bury the hatchet, so to say. 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.
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 liters (3.5 imperial pints, or about 68 U.S. fluid ounces) set by Peter G. Dowdeswell (born London, July 29 1940) of Earls Barton, Northants, England. Mr. Dowdeswell consumed 2 liters in 6 seconds on February 7, 1975. Steven Petrosino of New Cumberland, Pennsylvania (born November 1951) consumed 1 liter (33 ounces) of beer in 1.3 seconds to set a world drinking record at the Gingerbreadman Pub in Carlisle, PA 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, he consumed 1.7 litres in 11 seconds.
- Main article: Beer festival
Alcohol expectations are beliefs that individuals hold about the effects they experience from drinking. They are largely beliefs about how the consumption of alcohol will affect a person’s emotions, abilities and behaviors. To the extent that alcohol expectancies can be changed, it may be possible to reduce a major social and health problem, that of alcohol abuse (Grattan & Vogel-Sprott).
If people in a society generally believe that intoxication leads to aggression, sexual behavior AKA "beer goggles", or rowdy behavior, they tend to act that way when intoxicated. If the society teaches that intoxication leads to relaxation and tranquil behavior, it virtually always leads to those outcomes. Alcohol expectations vary within a population so outcomes are not uniform (Alan Marlatt & D. J. Rosenow).
People tend to conform to social expectations and a common belief in most societies is that alcohol causes disinhibition. However, in those societies in which people don’t believe that alcohol disinhibits, intoxication virtually never leads to unacceptable behaviours because of “disinhibition” (McAndrew & Edgerton).
Alcohol expectations can operate in the absence of actual consumption of alcohol. Research in the U.S. over a period of decades has shown that men tend to become physically more sexually aroused when they think they have been drinking alcohol, even when they haven't. Women report feeling more sexually aroused when they falsely believe the beverages they have been consuming contain alcohol, although a measure of their physiological arousal shows that they are physically becoming less aroused.
Men tend to become more aggressive in laboratory studies in which they are drinking only tonic water but believe that it contains alcohol. They also become relatively less aggressive when they think they are drinking only tonic water, but are actually drinking tonic containing alcohol.
The phenomenon of alcohol expectations recognizes that intoxication has real physiological consequences affecting perceptions of space and time, reducing psychomotor skills, disrupting equilibrium and a number of other behaviours (McAndrew & Edgerton).
The manner and degree to which alcohol expectations interact with the physiological effects of intoxication to yield the behaviour that results is unclear.
Advertising and marketing of alcohol
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, 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 make women more amenable to casual fornication, aimed somewhat at swingers, 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 Japan) 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
Some terms describing drinks or used in bartending:
- Shot - 1 or 1.5 ounces (3 to 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)
- Neat - said of liquor taken alone in a short glass, no ice or water
- On the Rocks - said of liquor taken in a short glass with ice
- Chug - to drink large volumes of alcohol quickly
- Scull - another term meaning to drink large volumes of alcohol quickly
- Chaser - a drink weaker than liquor intended to be drunk immediately after a shot
- Straight-up - served chilled, by shaking with ice, then straining
- With a twist - served with a twist of citrus peel, either lemon or lime
- Shaken - referring to the method of mixing or chilling of alcohol(s), using a cocktail shaker
- Stirred - referring to the method of mixing or chilling of alcohol(s)
- 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.
- Shotgun - 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. The same term is 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. The latter definition is also known a Strawpedo - a word play on torpedo - or a Snorkel in Australia.
- Strike out- the act of taking a hit of marijuana on a bong or pipe, then chugging a full beer and drinking a shot. once both beverages have been consumed the drinker exhales the smoke.
- Body shot - a shot that is taken off a person's body, usually in the belly button.
- Beer bong - use of a funnel to drink large quantities of beer rapidly.
- Keg Stand - When the drinker is held upside down from his ankles over a keg and drinks the beer from the tap.
Types of drinking glasses
- Highball glass - tall thin glass, used for Bloody Marys and the like
- Yard Glass - an even taller vessel, often used for the sculling of beer
- Lowball or Rocks Glass - shorter glass, used for sipping liquors, esp. Scotch, whiskey, etc.
- Champagne Flute - very slender, tapers at the opening; used for champagne
- Wine glass - shallower and rounder than a flute; used for wine
- Stein - large mug traditionally with a hinged lid in which beer is served
- Pint - either 16 or 20 fl. oz. (473 or 568 mL resp.) glass, generally used for beer or cider (The larger glass is also known as an Imperial Pint, named for the British Empire in which it was widespread.)
- Schooner - 425ml (15 fl. oz.) Australian beer glass
- Middy - 285ml (10 fl. oz.) Australian beer glass
- Pot - 285ml (10 fl. oz.) Australian beer glass
- Martini glass (more properly a Cocktail glass) - inverted cone with a long stem; used for martinis
- Shot glass - 1 or 1.5 ounce, used for shooting straight liquor
- Double - as implied, a double shot, or 2 to 3 ounces.
- Collins glass
- Snifter - Similar to a wine glass, except with a significantly smaller taper at the opening. Stemware used for Brandy or Cognac. It is usually exposed to fire while the spirit is inside to keep it warm in cold weather.
- Party Cups / Solo Cup - a disposable plastic cup, usually with a 12 ounce capacity, often colored bright red or blue on the outside and white on the inside. Often called a keg cup, since they are most commonly used at "kegger" parties, where a keg of beer is provided (or the partygoer must pay a small fee for the cup).
- List of alcohol-related topics
- List of iconic drinkers
- Cannabis culture
- Smoking culture
- Biphasic curve
- Islam and alcohol
- Corbin, W.R., Bernat, J.A., Calhoun, K.S., McNair, L.D., & Seals, K.L. The role of alcohol expectancies and alcohol consumption among sexually victimized and nonvictimized college women. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2001, 16(4), 297-311.
- Grattan, K. E., and Vogel-Sprott, M. Neurobiological, behavioral, and environmental relations to drinking - maintaining intentional control of behavior under alcohol. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 2001, 25(2), 192-197.
- MacAndrew, C., and Edgerton R. Drunken Comportment: A Social Explanation. Chicago, Illinois: Aldine, 1969.
- Marlatt, G. A. & Rosenow, D. J. The think-drink effect. Psychology Today, 1981, 15, 60-93.
- 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.
- Ortner, C., et al. Alcohol intoxication reduces impulsivity in the delay-discounting paradigm. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2003, 38, 151-156.
- Drinkaware - UK advice about responsible drinking and alcohol units
- Modern Drunkard Magazine - A positive look at Drinking Culture
- Uk Barblog - A 21st Century voyage through UK Drinking Culture
- International Beer Liberation Front - a social organisation
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