Drinking Games

There’s nothing like a room full of drinking buddies to come up with inventive ways to have fun with booze. Drinking games are enjoyed today in an amazing variety of concepts but they’re not a new phenomenon at all.

In ancient Greece, 2,500 years ago, Kottabos was popular. Drinkers would scoop wine dregs out of the bottom of their glasses and hurl them across the room at targets. Performance was rewarded with special prizes or penalties, as the case may be.

One University of Cambridge expert on the subject says Plato wrote about drinking games sometime around 385 BC in his Symposium, a collection of works about love. He and his buddies filled a bowl with wine, drank it, slapped it, and passed it along to the next in line.

During the Chinese Tang Dynasty, between 618 and 907 BCE, lots were drawn to determine who drank how much or how fast. To minimize rowdiness, referees officiated.

Modern-day drinking games include endurance games, where the last person standing wins. Speed games reward the fastest drinker and even the Guinness Book of Records keeps score. The current record holder is Pennsylvanian Steve Petrosino, 25, who downed 1 liter of beer in 1.3 seconds on June 22, 1977.

Thinking drinking games get tricky. Each player repeats a series of events or verses, adds to it, and passes it to the next player. Players who get forgetful must down another shot or drink. The Trivial Pursuit board game is popular as a thinking drinking game.

Skill games, such as ping-pong and darts, test coordination as players drink to every missed point. Card games and dice games make popular drinking games, too.

Tolerance games, like endurance games, are simple, matching players shot for shot until everyone but the winner drops, or passes out.

Drinking games frequently involve movies, TV shows, and songs. During these games, each time a predetermined action or word is spoken on screen or in the song, players take another swig.

In the movie, Top Gun, each time a character’s call sign – Goose, Iceman, Maverick – is mentioned individual players or teams down another drink. Other movies that enjoy a drinking-game following include Withnail and I, and Dazed and Confused.

On the TV show, Frasier, Frasier’s dad, Martin, drank some beer every time the word ‘veneer’ was said while he and his drinking buddies watched Antiques Roadshow.

The AC/DC song, Thunderstruck, is another such game, with drinks gulped every time the words ‘thunder’ or ‘thunderstruck’ is sung. Roxanne, by the Police, is also popular among drinking-game enthusiasts.

Pennying is a popular pub game in England that involves sneaking a penny in another person’s drink. The player with the penny must consume the drink, bottoms up. The most sober person at the end of the evening is the winner.

Honk = Drink turns drinking games into a little outdoors fun with strangers. Players plant a yard sign that says ‘Honk = Drink’ and that’s exactly what happens. A passing driver honks and the players drink.

Drinking games can be fun but they can be dangerous, too. And they almost always lead to a hangover the next morning. Player beware.