At what time is it “socially acceptable” to start drinking?
Raise your hand if you have ever consumed an alcoholic beverage before midday.
If your hand is up – either physically or psychologically – well done for being honest (feel free to reward yourself with a drink). If you are shaking your head in disagreement and/or disparagement, please note that nobody believes you.
Disclaimer: before I go any further, I feel obliged to caveat everything in this article with the reassurance that I do not habitually drink in the morning. My daily breakfast smoothie may have almond milk in it but it far from resembles an amaretto sour.
Anyway, the reason I am opining on the somewhat contentious topic of breakfast boozing is because I recently found myself sitting on a party bus, alongside thirty friends, cautiously voyaging to Charlotte in the midst of Hurricane Matthew to watch NASCAR (a slightly less refined version of Formula One).
I heard the first bottle of sparkling wine “pop” at 10.58am just as Closer by the Chainsmokers blasted from the speakers for the fourth time that journey. You could say it was a metamorphic moment.
I contend against the phrase “it’s always midday somewhere” for two main reasons.
Firstly, it is not scientifically accurate: the earth’s rotation and lines of longitude are not at exact parallels as they correspond to time zones; and since time zones are based in hours not minutes, there are times in a 24-hour period where it is by definition not midday somewhere. Secondly, the phrase has arbitrarily assigned an appropriate time at which to consume alcohol without so much as a nod to cultural or situational heterogeneity.
1) Historically, it was acceptable to kick your day off with a bevvie. In the 19th century, malaria was a persistent probem in India, so British officers took to drinking a mixture of water, sugar, lime, gin, and quinine for medicinal purposes. The drink – more commonly known as a gin & tonic – quickly became the iconic drink of the British Empire; Winston Churchill even extolled it as having “saved more Englishmen’s lives and minds than all of the doctors in the empire”. Obviously the man had a lot of respect for the medical profession.
2) Time zones do not exist in airports and on airplanes. Take a gander around any airport terminal or airplane cabin and you’ll see countless people sipping boxed wine (sorry, “Cardbordeaux”) at an ungodly hour. I’m actually typing this on a plane from the UK to the US and I kicked off my 11am flight sipping a sauvignon blanc from a delightfully blue plastic cup (I’m not sorry). Click here to read more about drinking on planes.
3) In some cultures, it is customary to drink before midday. In Germany, the Bavarian tradition of Frühschoppen decrees assembling for a wheat beer and sausage before midday on Sundays and holidays. Obama was actually caught drinking a beer before midday at the G7 summit – let’s hope it didn’t affect his diplomatic decisions. Gammel Dansk, a Danish liqueur resembling Jägermeister, is typically consumed at breakfast during festive occasions. I was in Mexico last week and one day we were served coffee with a shot of tequila thrown in (it turned out to be an effective way to wake up).
4) There are no rules on holiday or at brunch. This point really doesn’t need any substantiation beyond the point that Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas were created for a reason.
If you walk away from reading this with one takeaway, I hope it is that there is fixed time at which it is no longer socially, legally, or morally punishable to have a tipple. The one glaring exception is if you are visiting Ontario, Canada, where it is against the law to sell or serve alcohol before 11am (remnants of the old prohibition law).
Germany is sounding a lot better than Canada right now.