Good afternoon! Let me tell you how to run your wedding. Just kidding, no one cares about your wedding. Now, back to my wedding: We sprung for the all-you-can-guzzle beer and wine buffet, but we didn't serve hard liquor. This is partly because we're cheapskates and partly because we're sane—the reception was at a medium-nice bar stocked with all sorts of expensive booze. We knew it would be soul-crushing to set rules about which colors of Johnnie Walker we'd pay for, and we feared it could be wallet-crushing to declare open season for Scotch trophy hunters, so we decided on an across-the-bar hard liquor embargo.
In retrospect, we probably needn't have worried about the money; our friends are mostly drunkards but also mostly bottom-feeders who are too appreciative of a free indoor drink to get particular about its pedigree; there were a couple dozen beers on tap, but the house yellow seemed to flow most freely. Plus, I don't want to seem immodest, but let's just say we've got a $150 toaster oven. We could have sprung for Rubinoff and tonics.
But that wouldn't have addressed our overriding concern: The unmanageable shitfacedness that shots would have wrought. I need to tread lightly here, because I'm still trying to shake the killjoy reputation I earned with my opposition to drinking games, but the time has come for me to suggest, with great humility and no judgment, that perhaps not every shot you've taken in your life has been a perfect decision.
Shots serve two primary purposes: They get us loaded quickly and they connect us to the people with whom we're looking to share the load. These are both noble pursuits, but you can reach both goals without incurring all the shot's nasty side effects. When was the last time you woke up on Sunday morning and said, "Damn, I feel perfect! I was really hoping to get hammered last night but for whatever reason I just couldn't pull it off"? Hell, when was the last time you woke up on Sunday morning at all?
You're GREAT at getting drunk! You can get drunk on 20 cans of Hamm's; you can get drunk on three 40s of Steel Reserve; you can drunk on two bottles of convenience store wine with penguins, cupcakes, or swear words on the label; you can get drunk on four Manhattans followed by four whiskies on the rocks because who has time for vermouth at this stage of the game?; you can get drunk on eight double IPAs and then regret paying for the last three after your mouth gets hop-numbed and you should have switched to PBR but who cares, you got drunk!; you can get drunk on mouthwash; you can get drunk on the knowledge that you can get drunk on mouthwash.
As for the bonding element, you can get that out of the way by simply drinking the same thing as your real or imaginary comrades. If you're among friends, buy a round of whatever the ugliest one is drinking (pretty people get their way often enough), tap your glasses, and get on with your evening. If you're by yourself, please don't do shots. That makes other patrons nervous. Instead, summon ghost friends by drinking tributes to whoever you wish were there. Sometimes I'll drink a Miller Lite to remind me of my dad, or a Gross Old Sex—Bud draft with a splash of red wine—to remind me of a couple of gross old friends who have sex.
I realize I can't prevent you from doing shots, nor would I dream of trying. But I do want to leave you with a few more reasons to reconsider drinking various popular shots of alcohol.
Irish Car Bomb
This is that big, loud, stupid one that calls for dropping a mixed shot glass of Jameson and Bailey's into a half-filled pint of Guinness. This is a waste of at least two perfectly good drinks. Why not get a Guinness and a Jameson and sip them at reasonably spaced intervals? Furthermore, the very name is offensive. I know you're just fratting around and meaning no harm, but naming a drink after ethnic terrorism rubs some people the wrong way. You know how touchy the micks can get.
What Jagermeister has going for it is that it means "hunt master." That's pretty strong. What Jagermeister has going against it is every single other thing. I was surprised to learn that this is actually an old-time German digestif; it comes across as something invented on the fly after the Cuervo truck crashed en route to the MTV Spring Break 1991 Wet Zubaz Contest. It's alleged to contain 56 herbs and spices; the first two listed on the website are ginger and cinnamon, which are fine foodstuffs in addition to being the names of my wife's childhood cats. This leads me to infer the other 54 are split evenly between various licorices and corpses. And did you know that, on top of being repulsive, this menace is only 70 proof?
Cheesily named waste of cranberry juice with Jaeger and peach schnapps. This will make your tongue sticky and stupid.
Vodka, triple sec, and lime juice wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if there wasn't too much triple sec (there will be) and the lime juice was fresh and real (it won't be).
Vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice; suitable only for people too dignified to order Red-Headed Sluts but not quite dignified enough to maintain custody of their senses or children.
Hennessy's really good! Sip it like a gentleperson.
Southern Comfort and Lime
I like lime, but it can't hide the fact that Southern Comfort tastes like dollar-store children's formula cough suppressant.
Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey
What the fuck?
OK, nobody ever really drinks shots of gin, and that's a smidge of a shame, because while it would surely be gross, it would be a less cowardly way of ordering a "dry martini, neat, and keep 'em coming." I'm going to issue blanket absolution to any gin-shooters out there.
This ghastly minty-herbal mess is big with Boston bartenders and their groupies (I'm told it's the same deal in San Francisco). I've been bullied into it a few times to no good end, as I always end up immediately redeeming my Cool Guy Points for a toothbrush and a puke bucket. Fernet is just pretentious Jagermeister.
This bitter, wormwoody cretin juice is popular among Chicago's less discerning masochists and poseurs. Malort is deep-dish Fernet. Avoid it all costs.
Let me be clear here: I'm not telling you to never do shots. I'm just urging you to think long and hard, or at least short and soft, about your options. Getting drunk is even more fun than being drunk, and there's rarely any need to accelerate the process.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and has visited all of the other New England states, including, come to think of it, Vermont. Find him on Twitter@WillGordonAgain.
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Image by Sam Woolley.