How to Drink Like a Brit
Here's your guide to getting pissed without being a dickhead this summer.
All photos by Bob Foster
Is there anything more beautiful that the near-silent inflection that turns the word "drink" into a question? In this country, we don't even need to say it; we can just mime it: an open hand, held to the lips, swivelled in place three times up and down. A hand gesture that says: lager? A movement that says: same again? A plea that says: one more?
Drinking is everything here. We drink when we're angry and we drink when we're sad. We drink when England win and we drink when England lose. We drink when we catch up with pals. We drink when we're waiting for a train. Is there anything more British than the concept of "pre-drinking", drinking to get you in the mood to drink? There is not.
Mostly, though, we drink when we're out to have a good time. What are you doing this weekend? You are going out on the piss! What will you drink? Whatever they've got! Who are you drinking with? Mates! And that's it: the spiritual joy that comes from smiling, and holding a drink above your head, and maybe getting it a bit in your hair, and being with the people you like.
I mean, it can get a bit much when you find yourself opening a tin of Tennent's on a shitty sofa at 10AM in the morning for the hundredth day in a row, but let's not dwell on that side of things.
Here's how to drink:
On one hand, you could say: etiquette is the only thing that differentiates us from animals, and if we do not let our fellow man get served when he's blatantly been at the bar for longer, then are we any more evolved than chimps? Are we not just dirty, thirsty chimps?
But then, on the other: hold on, that cunt just butted in. And he's just ordered ten different drinks! And he's paying with a complex combination of hand-counted money and an arbitrary payment on his soon-to-be-declined card! And then you get the red mist, as barmaid after barmaid looks past your wanting eyes and goes to the nearest person holding a £20 note out, and you're 40 minutes in to your first round of the night without once being served, and you remember you have elbows.
Rule of thumb is this: if everyone else is being polite at the bar, be polite: firm eye contact, smiling, patience. If some fucker storms in like a gakked-up General Custer, turn it into a free-for-all: patience out the window. Single hand winding through the crowd and resting on the bar. Audible shouts of "Yes!" when a barman asks who's next. Fanning yourself with a crescent of £50 notes. Whatever works. Get that booze.
Drinking games are for children. Drinking games are for children who cannot drink without clear rules and instructions.
THE RIGHT TYPE OF MATES
Oh yeah, here they come: the #squad. The literal embodiment of #squadgoals. That's you and your mates, isn't it? You can tell. Everyone on the platform opposite, watching you drink your warm tins, going: I very much wish I was in that #squad. Going: that #squad is my goal. I want that. I need that. Knuckleheads who got each other's backs. Because you do, don't you? You'd beat up a small child if you saw it get its filthy jelly sandals on your mate's pristine Air Max. You'd beat anyone up, in fact, if it was for the direct benefit of the group. Because these are your people: this is who you need to be throwing down shots and ordering large wines with.
You need the kind of people who will keep you out of trouble, even if it causes trouble for them. You need the people who know when to get the Ubers in. You need the people who, with one perfect look across a dark room – it is 5AM, in this room, and you're at a shitty house party again, and some overgrown student type has taken advantage of the DJ's piss break to put a "really funny" YouTube video on – who with one perfect look can communicate to you the words, "Let's blow this tripe hole." Like a sorority sisterhood and their synced periods, your drinking companions must be all in tune with each other, finishing your drinks at an equal pace, not shirking rounds, not dawdling. That's the #squad. That's the team. Cherish it.
THE WRONG TYPE OF MATES
Oh no, here they come: the Dickhead Brigade. That's fucked it. You've fucked it. Because often, the worst mates you can have for drinking aren't even your mates; they are some gaggle of Kasabian tribute act-looking motherfuckers who are only sat with you because their main one knows your mate Michael's cousin. These guys are shouting at the barmaid to turn the music up. These guys want to know if "you've got any trim coming along".
Dickhead Brigades come in many shapes or forms – Girl Dickheads are all about scarily hogging the mirror in the bathroom, clunking their heels on the table and passive-aggressively calling people "babes" – but their MO is always the same: monopolise the vibe. Ruin your night. Really loudly ask how long it's going to take for the cocaine to turn up. Be really racist to the toilet attendant.
A fully-fledged member of the Dickhead Brigade is likely to be the one to get secretly, silently really pissed and cause trouble, too. You thought it was all fun, and then you're outside McDonald's at 3AM, explaining to the police that your half-mate "isn't a bad guy, really" while he pisses in a bin to put out the fire he started using discarded burger boxes as kindling. Avoid these people. They are a human plague.
SEXY SEXY DRUNK SEX
Drunk sex is exactly like normal sex, really, just way messier and with someone whose name you might not necessarily remember in the morning. Here's a checklist to make sure it goes as it should: rubber up, try not to step on your open MacBook while you're clumsily switching positions, and if you wake up and their name has escaped you, don't try to ad-lib it; just smile politely and leave.
You're going to do some stupid stuff when you're drunk. This is a given. You are definitely going to break something. Breaking things is a natural consequence of having fun. And you're going to say stupid shit, too: you're going to shout "BOOYAKASHA!" or agree to go on holiday with someone or tell someone you just met that they are your best friend. You're going to tell the police you didn't mean it, or call your mum to tell her you always knew she never loved your dad.
Write these off: these are not events from your rational mind, but rather your drunk one, a far more animalistic and truthful representation of yourself. That's the fear, isn't it: what if all the stupid shit you do when you're drunk is the real you, straining at the leash to get out? What if licking a urinal on a dare is actually a really apt commentary on where your head is right now? What if you're a prick?
Hi guys, just a friendly 11PM knock-on-the-door from the fun police: if you're feeling a bit drunk, throw in a cool, refreshing glass of Coca Cola™ or an off-brand equivalent for every two drinks, and maybe have a little sit down outside for a minute. The party won't stop, and you'll be about 60 percent less likely to vomit into a pint glass.
KNOW YOUR FIGHTING BOOZE
Theory: every human alive has one particular strain of alcohol that makes them extremely lairy and up for punching things. "Oh," says science, "no, but, because, no – because all alcohol is the same!" Say that to me after I have had some rosé wine and a bit of sunstroke, because I will fight the living fuck out of you, son, so help me I will flip you.
It's pretty useful to know which particular booze will shut off the necessary brain functions that stop you from turning into a fist-swinging dumb-dumb, because face it: you won't survive a night in jail, and you're probably not hard enough to really win a fight, so staying out of trouble is important for your general longevity. Sadly, the only real way to find out is trial and error. Drink some tequila in a safe environment with your friends, see if you get punchy. Try a dab of whisky and see if it makes you shout at policemen. Know your fighting juice and avoid it.
Here, officially, is a vague list of things you should and should not be feeling regretful about when you wake up. Because it's a dark, murky feeling, is guilt, one that gnaws at you as you pick your shoes up, and flashes before your eyes later when you remember that girl you vomited on. It's OK in small doses, but you wouldn't want more than two weeks of it, would you? You would not. Don't do these first few things; don't feel bad about the others:
FEEL BAD IF
You drunkenly confess to someone that you hate them. People really tend to remember and become obsessed by that, in my experience;
You break one of your bones or the bones of someone else;
You shit yourself;
You got arrested for a crime;
You end up the subject of one of those viral BBM things where the central crux of the message is pretty much: "LOOOOOOOOOOOOL LOOK AT THIS DRUNK FUCKER GET ORAL SEX OFF OF A DOG."
DON'T FEEL BAD IF
You drunkenly confess to someone that you love them. There is no need to truly worry about this, because love isn't real;
You wake up and you have sent some romantically inadvisable texts. No bad can truly come of a text, especially if it's '999e9333 3£THERE. WANT TO FUCK. WANT TO FUCK IT SO BAD.';
You piss yourself. The light to shitting's dark, pissing yourself is a fun anecdote, while shitting yourself is more "key point on the path to an intervention, plus one of your mates is going to have to clean you up with wet-wipes, and there's not really any coming back from that, friendship-wise";
You got away from a round without buying someone a drink. Just PayPal it to them, or something;
You tried to fuck someone and got knocked back;
You tried to fuck someone and you did not get knocked back, but lo, in the cold light of day, that person looks like ASDA reduced a whole mess of pork;
You went up to whoever was DJing at a house party and literally pressed pause on the laptop screen and then insisted they put Backstreet's Back on instead;
You danced an incredibly tite routine to Backstreet's Back.
Regrets are for the weak, and Backstreet's Back is a stone-cold banger. Those are the only two truths in this cold and lonely universe.
"Eating's cheating," your mate's howling, juddering into a bus-stop, waving in front of a cab as it honks its horn. "Eating's for pussies!" He falls into a bin. "Eating, is it?" A single slither of piss trickles down his trouser leg. "Didn't know I'd wandered into a GAY CONVENTION." He falls at an acute angle into a police car. "COMBINATION OF COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES AND SIMPLE PROTEINS, IS IT?" he says, eyeing up your kebab. "DIDN'T KNOW I WAS OUT WITH MY GRANDMOTHER, WHO ALSO NEEDS REGULAR FOOD INTAKE TO REGULATE HER INSULIN LEVELS AND GENERALLY PROVIDE HER WITH NUTRITION." He's up in court now, in chains. "OH, DOTH M'LADY WANT A HANDKERCHIEF TO MOPPETH HER FACE UP AFTER SHE GOT GARLIC SAUCE ON IT?" You would quite like that, actually. "EATING'S FOR CUNTS."
I mean, eating's alright. Maybe check the hygiene rating of the restaurant before you touch the grey meat, but it's otherwise OK. It's just a bit of food; no need to get weird about it.
Shots are a social construct, a tiny unit that demands you have more fun. Nobody bangs their fist on the bar and then goes, "Right lads, home time now. Time to go home." Shots are the adrenalin that keeps your night going forever. An invitation to do a shot is an invitation to have two more hours of fun. Anyone buying you a shot is purchasing your time and your entertainment. Do not take the shot unless you are willing to bring your A-game and end up saying things like, "Woo!" and, "Yea-heh!" and, "Karaoke actually sounds like a good idea!" Don't take a shot unless you fucking mean it.
TIP: Here's how you take a shot. You're welcome.
Eventually, you're going to end up fighting, but such is the beauty inherent in the British drinking system: it's rare you're going to end up in a one-on-one street brawl, glassed to mince by some brick shit-house called Neil; Neil sprinting into the night with blood on his shirt and his mates going, "Neil no, not again, Neil. Neil, not with your parole!"
No. Instead, if you're a boy, you and all your mates will stand as tall as you possibly can, staring menacingly at a group of dudes doing similar over some slight that happened between two of the guys about 45 minutes ago that everyone has forgotten the exact details of. The smell of men fighting is an enhanced antiperspirant smell. The sound of men fighting is someone taking their ring off and a low voice whispering, "Is it going to rain? I think it's going to rain. I'm going back inside, lads, my pint's warm." Drunk girl fights, as best I can tell, are two girls holding their tits in while another points and goes, "She just called you an UTTER SLAG" while some guy tries to capture it for a Vine.
Because that's the thing, isn't it – nobody really wants to fight; it's just sometimes a single raw emotion gets a bit big and out of hand, and everyone has to make the right noises and enact the correct animal dances so they can go back to their mates at the bar without a single punch being thrown and say, "I definitely won that."
ENJOY THE ACTUAL ACT OF BEING DRUNK
Because we don't really think about that beautiful, woozy, altered state of mind we get into, of loosened inhibitions and buttons undone – normally because we're too busy talking excitedly about "countries we've always wanted to visit, but never have", or how "Liverpool will do this year without Gerrard", or "memories, in general" to focus on that quiet, warm, honey-coloured buzz, that deeply-relaxed state, those close-your-eyes-against-the-sun-and-breathe-deep moments that make low-to-mid-level drunkenness feel so good.
Remember around drink four to push your arms out from the side of your body, then close your eyes, then try to feel your body from the inside of your fingertips. Remember to breathe deep and enjoy that dopey lull in brain activity. Especially if you're on the Stella and imminently liable to go full radge.
And then you bump back down to earth, howling back to the land of living through that scratchy, erratic, itch-in-the-back-of-your-head drunken sleep, and there is at least 45 minutes towards the end of the night that you don't remember – like did you change your pants? Before getting into bed? Really? Why? – and you are here, the duvet sweaty and knotted, the light so bright it burns you, and you go: ohfuckingjesuschrist, my fucking head.
A knot of adrenalin hits you in the middle of that thought: Shit, what day is it? Do I have work? Chill. You do not have work. Drag yourself onto the sofa. Make someone else go to the supermarket. Order literally any food you want. Doughnuts, Domino's, milkshakes, breakfast baps, bacon, pancakes. Demand an entire bag of pork scratchings and some Haribo. Revel in some sent-from-the-heavens eggs on toast. Mango juice. Coconut water. Bananas. Netflix marathon. Change your pants again. Some crisps. You feel your strength coming back. A pint of Cola. A very shit film. Put some comfy socks on. You are blooming back to life. You can stand up unaided. You are a superhero. You can jump over buildings. You should literally be in the next Avengers film. More crisps. A multipack. You're back on form. Your phone is charged again. You are human. It is 4PM. Would. You. Be. Adverse. To. A. Cheeky. Corona. Right. Now.
And then you go again.
More VICE Guides to things:
- Vice Blog
- Stupid stuff
- DRINKING LADS AND BANTER!
- #s q u a d
- getting in fights
- sometimes cider
- irritating the police
- pissing in bins
- splintering the legs in your bone like an old stick against a firm farmhouse wall
- modern etiquette
- cunts barging in front of you in the queue for the bar
- fun laughs