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The Merry Drinker (c. 1628–1630) by Frans Hals

Drinking culture is the set of traditions and social behaviors that surround the consumption of alcoholic beverages as a recreational drug and social lubricant. Although 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.[1]

Alcohol and its effects have been present in societies throughout history. Drinking is documented in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles[2], in the Qur'an, in art history, in Greek and Roman literature as old as Homer and in Confucius's Analects.

Historical perspectives

Alcohol has played a significant role in human history. The production and consumption of alcoholic beverages date back to ancient civilizations. In Mesopotamia, the world's oldest known recipe for beer-making can be traced back to 3400 BC. Similarly, wine has ancient roots, with evidence of production in Georgia from around 6000 BC and in Iran from 5000 BC.[3] [4] These practices were not just culinary but often held religious and medicinal significance.

Social drinking

"Social drinking", also commonly referred to as "responsible drinking", refers to casual drinking of alcoholic beverages in a social setting without an intent to become intoxicated. In Western cultures, good news is often celebrated by a group of people having a few alcoholic drinks. For example, alcoholic drinks may be served to "wet the baby's head" in the celebration of a birth. Buying someone an alcoholic drink is often considered a gesture of goodwill. It may be an expression of gratitude, or it may mark the resolution of a dispute.

Drinking etiquette

Reunion of gentlemen around a table in an interior, by Jacob van Schuppen

For the purposes of buying rounds of alcoholic drinks in English public houses, William Greaves, a retired London journalist, devised a set of etiquette guidelines as a Saturday morning essay in the defunct Today newspaper. Known as Greaves' Rules, the guidelines were based upon his long experience of pubs and rounds.[5] The rules were later recommissioned by The Daily Telegraph and published in that newspaper on November 20, 1993. Copies of the rules soon appeared in many pubs throughout the United Kingdom.

Kate Fox, a social anthropologist, came up with a similar idea in her book Watching the English, but concluded their rationale was the need to minimize the possibility of violence between drinking companions.[6]

Drinking at early times of the day is frowned upon in some cultures.[citation needed]

Noon is often seen as earliest appropriate time of day to consume alcohol, especially on its own, although there are some exceptions such as drinking Buck's Fizzes on Christmas Day morning.[7] Likewise, a mimosa or bloody mary with breakfast or brunch is common in many cultures.[8]

Session drinking

Session drinking is a chiefly British and Irish term that refers to drinking a large quantity of beer during a "session" (i.e. a specific period of time) without becoming too heavily intoxicated.[9] A session is generally a social occasion.

A "session beer", such as a session bitter, is a beer that has a moderate or relatively low alcohol content.

Vertical drinking

Vertical drinking means that all or most of the patrons in an establishment are standing while drinking. This is linked to faster rates of consumption, and can lead to tension and possibly violence as patrons attempt to maneuver around each other.[10]

Social and cultural significance

Drinking customs vary significantly across cultures. In many Western societies, raising a toast during celebrations or milestones is a common practice. In contrast, in Japanese culture, the practice of 'nomikai' – a drinking party among colleagues or friends – is prevalent, reflecting their communal approach to drinking.[11] Similarly, in some Native American societies, alcohol consumption has historically been limited and regulated through community norms. [12]

Binge drinking

Main article: Binge drinking

Binge drinking is defined as drinking to excess.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. For the typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming five or more drinks (men), or four or more drinks (women) in about two hours.[13]

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 late as 1854; it derives from an English dialectal word meaning to "soak" or to "fill a boat with water". (OED, American Heritage Dictionary)

Health perspectives

While moderate alcohol consumption is often cited for potential health benefits, such as reduced risk of heart disease, excessive drinking is linked to numerous health risks including liver disease, cardiovascular problems, and addiction.[14] The World Health Organization categorizes alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen,[15] indicating its causal link to cancer. It is crucial to balance these perspectives to understand the full impact of alcohol on health.

Geographic disparity

Understanding drinking in young people should be done through a "developmental" framework.[16] This would be referred to as a "whole system" approach to underage drinking, as it takes into account a particular adolescent's unique risk and protective factors—from genetics and personality characteristics to social and environmental factors.

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".[17] It is probable, 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.

Some cultures may have a higher tolerance for alcohol consumption, while others may stigmatize it. Cultural practices, traditions, and expectations regarding masculinity can influence drinking patterns among people. [18]

Drinking habits vary significantly across the globe. In many European countries, wine and beer are integral to the dining experience, reflecting a culture of moderate, meal-centric drinking.[19] Conversely, in countries like Russia, higher rates of hard liquor consumption are observed, which has been linked to social and health issues. Furthermore, some Islamic countries have religious prohibitions against alcohol, leading to markedly different drinking practices.[20]

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%).[dubious ] In pre-industrial society, beer was safer to drink than water[dubious ], because it had been boiled and contained alcohol. 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

"Chronic heavy drinkers display functional tolerance when they show few obvious signs of intoxication, even at high blood alcohol concentrations 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."[21]

Speed drinking

Steven Petrosino achieving the Guinness World Record for speed drinking in June 1977 at the Gingerbreadman Pub in Carlisle, Pennsylvania

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 to shorten the drinking time.

Guinness World Records (1990 edition, p. 464) listed several records for speed drinking. Among these were:

Neither of these records had been defeated when Guinness World Records banned all alcohol-related records from their book in 1991.[citation needed]

Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke held a record for the fastest consumption of a yard of ale. In 1954, while he was a student at Oxford University, he drank 2+12 imperial pints (1.4 litres) in 12 seconds.[23]

Alcohol and technology

With advancements in technology, blockchain is now being used to track the provenance and authenticity of high-end wines and spirits. This not only helps combat counterfeit products but also allows consumers to trace the journey of their beverage from production to purchase.[24][25]

By country

This section needs expansion with: October 2023. You can help by adding to it. (October 2023)


Drinking culture is very prevalent in Germany, particularly with beer. As of 2013, Germans drink 28 gallons of beer per capita each year.[26] Alcoholism is also an issue, with one-fifth of the population being labeled as "hazardous drinkers" in a 2022 study.[27]

Islamic World

Further information: Islamic dietary laws

Alcoholic drinks are generally prohibited under Islamic thought,[28] with the Quran including several verses that admonish the consumption of khamr, an Arabic term meaning intoxicants that is interpreted to include most forms of alcohol and psychoactive drugs.

Islamic countries have low rates of alcohol consumption, and it is completely banned in several of them while strictly controlled in others (such as consumption being allowed only in private places or by non-Muslims). However, a minority of Muslims do drink and believe consuming alcohol is not Qur'anically forbidden,[29][30] such as the Alevi Muslims of Turkey.[31] Muslim-majority countries produce a variety of regional distilled beverages such as arrack and rakı. There is a long tradition of viticulture in the Middle East, particularly in Egypt (where it is legal) and in Iran (where it is banned).


Main article: Drinking culture of Korea

Korea's interest in creating its own alcohol came about during the Koryo Dynasty (946–943), when exposure to foreign cultures and the introduction of distilled water created the basis and technique for distilling a unique alcohol.[32]

Alcohol drinking in Korea helps create and form ties between family members and friends. Drinking is very present throughout traditional family rituals such as honoring ancestors. Aside from traditional holiday and family ritual drinking, alcohol consumption has modernized and become a major aspect of everyday socialization in Korean culture.


Main article: Alcohol in Russia

Alcohol consumption in Russia remains among the highest in the world. High volumes of alcohol consumption have serious negative effects on Russia's social fabric and bring political, economic and public health ramifications. Alcoholism has been a problem throughout the country's history because drinking is a pervasive, socially acceptable behavior in Russian society and alcohol has also been a major source of government revenue for centuries.

See also


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  2. ^ "A History of Alcoholic Drinks since the Ancient World". Brewminate: A Bold Blend of News and Ideas. 2021-08-26. Retrieved 2024-01-25.
  3. ^ McGovern, Patrick E. (2009-10-30). Uncorking the Past. University of California Press. doi:10.1525/9780520944688. ISBN 978-0-520-94468-8.
  4. ^ Stewart, Graham G. (2004). "A History of Beer and Brewing: by Ian S. Hornsey". Journal of the Institute of Brewing. 110 (3): 233–234. doi:10.1002/j.2050-0416.2004.tb00209.x. ISSN 0046-9750.
  5. ^ Greaves, William (3 September 2010). "Pub Talk". Gentlemen Ranters (162). Archived from the original on 25 September 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  6. ^ "Watching the English - The hidden rules of English behaviour". 2004-04-22. Retrieved 2011-05-22.
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  8. ^ Food For Net. "19 Cocktails That Are OK To Drink Before Noon". Food For Net.
  9. ^ Jason and Todd Alström (2005-12-10). "Session Beers, Defined". BeerAdvocate. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  10. ^ BBC News
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  13. ^ "Underage Drinking-Why do Adolescents Drink, What Are the Risks, and How Can Underage Drinking be Prevented?". US Department of Health and Human Services. 2006.
  14. ^ Nemtsov, Alexander; Neufeld, Maria; Rehm, Jürgen (September 2019). "Alcohol Policy, Alcohol Consumption, and Attributable Mortality: The Authors Respond". Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 80 (5): 505–506. doi:10.15288/jsad.2019.80.505. ISSN 1937-1888. PMID 31603750. S2CID 204331718.
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  17. ^ Hunt, Tristram (2005-08-28). "Tristram Hunt: We're still failing history". The Observer. London. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
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  20. ^ Neufeld, Maria; Rehm, Jürgen (2013-01-07). "Alcohol Consumption and Mortality in Russia since 2000: Are there any Changes Following the Alcohol Policy Changes Starting in 2006?". Alcohol and Alcoholism. 48 (2): 222–230. doi:10.1093/alcalc/ags134. ISSN 0735-0414. PMID 23299570.
  21. ^ "Alcohol and Tolerance - Alcohol Alert No. 28-1995". Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  22. ^ "Guinness World Beer Drinking Record set in 1977".
  23. ^ Doherty, ben (14 June 2019). "Bob Hawke's beer-drinking record may be marked by Oxford blue plaque". Guardian. Retrieved 28 March 2023.
  24. ^ Merino, Javier (2019), "The Argentinean Wine Industry", The Palgrave Handbook of Wine Industry Economics, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 155–176, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-98633-3_7, ISBN 978-3-319-98632-6, S2CID 169601191, retrieved 2023-12-15
  25. ^ Hasan, Ikram; Habib, Md. Mamun (2022-03-15). "Blockchain Technology: Revolutionizing Supply Chain Management". International Supply Chain Technology Journal. 8 (3). doi:10.20545/isctj.v08.i03.02. ISSN 2380-1204.
  26. ^ Nelson, Soraya Sarhaddi (February 27, 2013). "Germans Are Drinking Less Beer These Days, But Why?". NPR. Retrieved November 6, 2023.
  27. ^ Garnett, Claire; Kastaun, Sabrina; Brown, Jamie; Kotz, Daniel (February 2022). "Alcohol consumption and associations with sociodemographic and health-related characteristics in Germany: A population survey". Addictive Behaviors. 125: 107159. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2021.107159. ISSN 0306-4603. PMC 8642732. PMID 34735981.
  28. ^ Tillier, Mathieu; Vanthieghem, Naïm (2022-09-02). "Des amphores rouges et des jarres vertes: Considérations sur la production et la consommation de boissons fermentées aux deux premiers siècles de l'hégire". Islamic Law and Society. 30 (1–2): 1–64. doi:10.1163/15685195-bja10025. ISSN 0928-9380. S2CID 252084558.
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"Pub Etiquette". Retrieved 22 May 2011. (Greaves' Rules)