Early August is one of the only times the Culinary Institute of America campus truly closes. Students and instructors alike take a couple weeks to themselves to relax, organize their plans for the courses ahead, and cut loose a bit. This burst of leisure and the looming presence of Games-We-Cannot-Name-Lest-A-Certain-Committee-Get-Very-Uptight put us in a mind to examine one of humanity’s greatest communal achievements: drinking games.
We should note up front that we always encourage responsible drinking. We also happen to believe that friendly drinking games can peacefully co-exist with competitive elements. Literal eons of booze-fueled competition attest to the bonds formed by these games, and we think they deserve more respect than being dismissed as fratty nonsense. That sort of behavior is an occupational hazard, not a requirement.
And so, to commemorate prime leisure season and competition worldwide, we present a selected history of drinking games:
Greece, 5-4th Century BC: The first recorded drinking game emerges as Greeks compete in Kottabos. The game was played by throwing your wine lees across the room at a small statue, hoping to knock a small disc into a larger one to produce a ringing sound. Skilled players were revered alongside those who threw the javelin; amateurs were undoubtedly relegated to mopping duty.
China, Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD): A risky game of rules and chance emerges in China. Players would take turns drawing slips from a silver canister, dictating how many drinks certain players (youngest, loudest, last player, and so on) would have to consume to stay in the game. Historians disagree on this forming the roots of the modern game of Kings, but we like to think it’s true.
Europe, Middle Ages: Early iterations of the game Quarters begin to show up at pubs and taverns. Players are tasked with bouncing coins into certain targets, making opponents drink. While this game has dipped in popularity recently, it is still played around the world.
Europe, 1700s: The spread of card and parlor games lays the groundwork for several modern classics. 10 Fingers, or Never Have I Ever, has been traced to early high-society games of Truth or Dare. The classic bluffing game Cheat, more commonly known as “Bullshit” today, was first recorded by Edmond Hoyle in the 1700s, and versions of Kings sprang up at about the same time. We could refer to this as the Bronze Age of Drinking Games.
Dartmouth, 1950-1960s: Beer Pong, the modern titan, emerges from fraternities at Dartmouth to ruin ping-pong tables worldwide. Later versions would eschew the traditional paddles for simply throwing ping pong balls into your opponents’ cups, or “rack.” Beer Pong has become a staple of backyard parties and teen slasher flicks worldwide and shows no sign of slowing down.
American Colleges, 1980s: Flip Cup emerged as a sort of spinoff of Beer Pong, required similar dexterity without spending your pocket change on ping pong balls. Players empty their cups, then place them on the edge of the table and attempt to flip them over with a smooth, practiced flick. This game is usually the messiest, and should not be attempted on any flooring you want to be remotely clean ever again.
Germany, 1990s: Stump, or Hammerschlagen, takes the lighthearted fun of drinking games and adds the thrill of a flying hammer. Traditional Hammerschlagen is played by flipping and catching a hammer before attempting to drive your own nail into the head of a stump. The Americanized version, Stump, keeps the flipping but encourages players to aim at the nails of other players. Drinking is governed by a set of arcane rules that should be agreed upon before someone picks up the hammer.
With technology hurtling forward and humanity growing increasingly clever, there’s no telling what other drinking games are out there and which will be the next big thing. No matter what, remember what we said earlier: drink responsibly, and don’t be a jerk. Enjoy your games!Back to all blog posts