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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 refers to casual drinking in a social setting without an intent to get drunk.
Good news is often celebrated by having a few drinks. For example, drinks may be served to "wet the baby's head" (i.e., to celebrate a birth). Buying someone a drink is a gesture of goodwill. It may be an expression of gratitude, or it may mark the resolution of a dispute.
For example, during a wedding reception, free drinks are often served to guests, a practice that is known as “an open bar.” Free drinks may also be offered to increase attendance at a social or business function. They are commonly offered to casino patrons to entice them to continue gambling. In the United States, fraternity houses on college campuses often serve free beer to attract potential pledges.
A further example is the “ladies drink free” policy of some bars, which is intended to attract more women customers (who would attract more men to the bar).
Session drinking is a chiefly British term that refers to drinking a large quantity of beer during a "session" (i.e., a specific period of time) without becoming intoxicated. A session is generally a social 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 no more than 4% ABV. The classic session beer is a bitter of about 3.7% or a dark mild of 3.2%.
In the United States, a recent session beer definition has been proposed by beer writer Lew Bryson. His Session Beer Project blog includes a definition of 4.5% ABV or less for session beer. Followers of this definition include Notch Brewing, a session only beer brand.
Binge drinking is sometimes defined as drinking alcohol solely for the purpose of intoxication. It is quite common for binge drinking to occur in a social situation, which creates some overlap between social drinking and binge drinking.
Some researchers use a low-threshold definition in which binge drinking refers to a woman consuming four drinks, or a man consuming five drinks, in one sitting. But because drinking occasions can last up to 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 the binger neglects her/his usual life activities (work, family, etc.).
The concept of a "binge" has been somewhat elastic over the years, implying consumption of alcohol far beyond that which is socially acceptable. In earlier decades, "going on a binge" meant drinking over the course of several days until one was no longer able to continue drinking. This usage is known to have entered the English language as early as 1854; it derives from an English dialectal word meaning to "soak" or to "fill a boat with water". (OED, American Heritage Dictionary)
University students have a reputation for engaging in binge drinking, most famously in the USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Northern Europe, and Belgium. Some reasons for this propensity for binge drinking are 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, binge drinking tends to be less prevalent. Typically, a distinction is drawn between northern and southern Europe, with the 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".
It is possibly, however, that "the vice of drunkenness" was present in all European nations. The 16th century Frenchman Rabelais wrote comedic and absurd satires illustrating his countrymen's drinking habits. And Saint Augustin used the example of a drunkard in Rome to illustrate certain spiritual principles.
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 Norwegian 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 the highest in Scandinavia but also in the world. Still, the alcohol consumption among teenagers in Denmark is 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. 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."
Speed drinking or competitive drinking is the drinking of a small or moderate quantity of beer in the shortest period of time, without an intention of getting heavily intoxicated. Unlike binge drinking, its focus is on competition or the establishment of a record. Speed drinkers typically drink a light beer, such as lager, and they allow it to warm and lose its carbonation in order to shorten the drinking time.
The Guinness Book of World Records (1990 edition, p. 464) listed several records for speed drinking. Among these were:
- Peter G. Dowdeswell (born July 29, 1940) of Earls Barton, Northamptonshire, England, drank 2 litres (3.5 imperial pints; about 66.7 U.S.fluid ounces) in 6 seconds on February 7, 1975.
- Steven Petrosino (born November, 1951) of New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, drank 1 litre (33 U.S. fluid ounces) in 1.3 seconds on June 22, 1977, at the Gingerbreadman Pub in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Neither of these records had been defeated when Guinness plc banned all alcohol-related records from their book in 1991.
- Beer festival
- Binge drinking
- Dive bar
- Flair bartending
- Six o'clock swill
- BeerAdvocate.com, Inc. - Jason and Todd Alström (2005-12-10). "Session Beers, Defined". BeerAdvocate. http://beeradvocate.com/articles/653. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
- Tristram Hunt. "Tristram Hunt: We're still failing history | Politics | The Observer". Observer.guardian.co.uk. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,6903,1558040,00.html. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
- "Alcohol and Tolerance - Alcohol Alert No. 28-1995". Pubs.niaaa.nih.gov. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa28.htm. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
- "Key Stories - 1983". Abc.net.au. http://www.abc.net.au/50years/news/key_stories_nat/ksn_1983.htm. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
- "In 1954, Bob Hawke was immortalized by the Guinness Book of Records for sculling 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds. Bob later became the Prime Minister of Australia.". omg-facts.com. http://omg-facts.com/view/Facts/3702. Retrieved 2010-12-03.
- Hamill, Pete (1994). A Drinking Life: A Memoir. New York: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 9780316341028.
- 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.
- Houlahan, Jack (2006)A Ghost In Daylight; Making Sense of Substance Misuse, Veritas, Dublin,
- BBC Headroom: Drinking too much?
- Drinkaware - UK advice about responsible drinking and alcohol units
- Modern Drunkard Magazine - A positive look at Drinking Culture
- International Beer Liberation Front - a social organisation