Whether you consider yourself an established craft cocktail mixologist or prefer to stick to light beer and hot dogs, chances are you’ve learned a thing or two about booze, and about your personal drinking preferences along the way.
As with any particularly enjoyable pastime, however, drinking alcohol is still filled with an abundance of fascinating historical traditions as well as its fair share of mystery. Fortunately, we’re here to uncover a little of the mystique with our collection of lesser-known facts about all things booze.
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Booze
#1 The average minimum legal drinking age in the world is 15.9 years old.
The United States, however, along with Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Iraq, Kiribati, Micronesia, Mongolia, Nauru, Oman, Palau, Samoa and Sri Lanka, have the highest minimum drinking age in the world at 21 years old.
The majority of countries – currently approximately 116, in fact – are set between 18 and 19 years of age, while 19 countries have no minimum legal drinking age at all.
#2 Malaria is partially responsible for the modern day gin-and-tonic.
British colonists in the late 19th century were plagued with malaria, often due to the exploration of tropical territories. During this period, quinine, a drug obtained from the bark of a South American tree, was the only known treatment. Unfortunately it was extremely bitter, so several companies began producing an easier way to drink the concoction: enter tonic water. The colonists soon discovered that not only was tonic a more acceptable mixture for quinine, but also worked well with the naturally flowery flavors of gin. Thus, the gin-and-tonic was born.
#3 Alcohol “proof” levels began with sailors igniting gunpowder in alcohol.
A tactic employed by the British Royal Navy, sailors would once mix gunpowder with their rum to determine whether a certain alcohol was worth purchasing, and not too watered down. When lit, drinks with a favorable proportion of rum-to-water would catch on fire, offering ‘proof’ that it was, indeed, up to their standards of acceptable alcohol content.
#4 Ferdinand Magellan supposedly spent more money on sherry and wine than weapons during his round-the-world voyage in 1519.
Though he didn’t survive the journey, the 5 ships that set off on Magellan’s expedition were stocked with over 400 wineskins and over 250 kegs of sherry. While only 1 ship made it back to Spain, Magellan’s legacy is still celebrated in the Phillipines every year on the day of his death – April 27th – as Lapu-Lapu Day, where residents and visitors partake in a booze-fueled celebration.
#5 Drinking rituals of Russian Tsar ‘Peter the Great’ are largely responsible for ambassadors traveling in pairs.
In the early 1700s during the reign of Peter the Great, it became a tradition for foreign dignitaries who arrived late to the feast to drink from a goblet – named the ‘Big Eagle’ – which contained more than a liter of vodka. Custom dictated that you finished the drink in one gulp, which prompted many ambassadors to begin traveling in pairs so that at least one of the attendees could discuss politics while the other one could pass out in peace, if necessary.
#6 Walgreens may not have succeeded without Prohibition.
During Prohibition, the government ban on the sale of alcohol did not include whiskey that had been prescribed by a doctor and sold in a pharmacy. Walgreens, which stocked whiskey at the time, grew from 20 stores at the beginning of Prohibition to over 525 stores by 1929.
#7 Hangover cures have existed almost as long as alcohol (and still don’t work).
The ancient Greeks ate boiled cabbage, the ancient Romans consumed wild boar or the ashes of a burnt swallow’s beak, the English had a barrel of oysters, the Americans drank cold clam juice and the French may still put a dab of salt in their morning coffee, but there’s one thing that’s for sure – hangovers still exist, much to the dismay of humans around the world.
#8 The saying “mind your p’s and q’s” began in English pubs.
This still-popular phrase has its roots in the pubs of England, which served drinks in both pints and quarts. When customers became obnoxious and unruly, the bartender would tell them to “mind your own pints and quarts,” meaning mind your manners, which was eventually shortened to p’s and q’s.
#9 Prohibition is partially responsible for the ‘booze cruise.’
By the early 1920s, boat trips, often dubbed a ‘Cruise to Nowhere,’ would take passengers out to international waters, or even on longer journeys to the Bahamas or Havana, Cuba, to circumvent the drinking laws. Guests could drink to their heart’s content, and thus began the wondrous modern day activity of booze cruises. Mahalo, Prohibition.
#10 President Harding liked to drink at home.
While technically a violation of the 18th Amendment, 29th U.S. President Warren G. Harding transported his entire inventory of alcohol into the White House prior to Prohibition. Who says drinking at home can’t be just as fun.
Thanks for reading, and if you have a fun drinking fact we have missed, be sure to let us know! Also remember to browse our available craft tours and book your spot early.