The Things Movies Get Wrong About Alcohol

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Movies love a good drinking scene, and they sure aren’t picky. Cinema and TV are chock full of scenes of drinking, drinkers and drunks. And while there’s no harm in most of it, some of the drinking tropes are passing out bad advice left and right. That stops now.

Grab a drink and settle in: Time to separate fact from fiction.

1. Drinking an Old Fashioned makes you suave, cool and handsome.


Wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy? Look, there’s nothing wrong with knowing your classics or having a go-to drink order. Actually, it’s pretty respectable. What it isn’t, though, is a “one weird tip” trick to becoming Don Draper or Ryan Gosling. If you figure out how to do that, please email us.

2. Shaken, not stirred.

Though James Bond is responsible for bringing us the Vesper, Ian Fleming’s super spy is better known as the progenitor of one of the most widely traveled mixological untruths: that a Martini ought to be shaken, not stirred.
For the record, it shouldn’t. Without splitting too many hairs, just remember this simple rule: if it’s all spirits, it’s all stirred. A shaken Martini is over-diluted, cloudier and just plain wrong. Maybe that’s why Bond has finally given up and switched to beer?

3. It’s possible to win a drinking contest.


In real life, even if you win a drinking contest, you still lose.

Throughout movie history, characters have gone head to head—or liver to liver—in drinking contests, usually as a quick way to show what a badass they really are. One of the best examples comes from Raiders of the Lost Ark, in a divey joint deep in the mountains of Nepal.

This myth has found its way into several other summer blockbusters, as well: Legolas turning the tables on Gimli in Lord of the Rings and Thor downing Boilermakers.

It pops up in many westerns, too. In the great 1973 spaghetti comedy My Name is Nobody, Terrence Hill ups the ante by adding a shooting challenge.

If you’ve ever seen—or participated in—a drinking contest, you know reality looks quite different. Come to think of it, the end of a marathon drinking contest doesn’t look all that different than the end of an actual marathon.

4. Being a career alcoholic is charming and easy.


From Arrested Development’s Lucille Bluth to Walter Matthau in Bad News Bears and Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, the camera has a way of making even the most desperate problem drinkers into something charming or at least comic.

Hell, even when they aren’t charming, they often pull it together at the last minute: remember who finally saved the day in 1996’s Independence Day? Yes, drunk crop-duster and alien abductee Randy Quaid. In real life, Quaid sleeps through Bill Pullman’s speech and Earth is destroyed.

5. Flairtending is cool.


No. No, it isn’t.

6. Bar fights are fun and no one important ever gets hurt.


How could a dark, cramped space full of drunks throwing wild punches, chairs and bottles end badly?

The list of movies that feature bar fights is huge, probably because they are really fun to watch. They come in a variety of flavors, too.

There’s the quick and deadly bar fight: the iconic cantina scene in Star Wars. There’s also the knock down, drag out, two man slug fest. This is best epitomized by the back-alley brawls between Mickey Rourke (doing a solid Bukowski) and his bartender in Barfly (it’s like a whiskey-soaked version of the They Live fight).

Best of all, though, is the total anarchy of the take-no-prisoners “whole room” brawl. It’s so much fun to watch, Patrick Swayze made an entire movie about it, but it also pops up in projects as diverse as The Pirates of the Caribbean, Terminator 2, and the animated children’s film The Great Mouse Detective.

In real life, bar fights are messy and unpredictable. And they make it hard to enjoy your beverage, man.

From our Friends



  • speedydroidgmailcom278300928 posted 1 year ago

    I'm adding a Point #7 of my own...

    7) Pretentious Cocktails DO NOT make you an Impressive or Talented Bartender.

    Here's what I mean by that... I can understand that some people like long, spiral-cut orange peels positioned perfectly on the rim of a glass, and other such frou-frou stuff... But that doesn't make you a Bartender. It just makes you an Art Major, or maybe an Interior Decorator. Garnishes do serve a purpose, particularly for certain drinks, but a simple orange peel or lime wedge will do just fine there, Martha Stewart.

    Here's another example... I do love it when bartenders create new recipes that result in enjoyable drinks. That takes dedication and a lot of trial-and-error. What I don't like is when a Bartender goes a little too far with the recipe, which usually involves a demand for a particularly unusual (and usually expensive) ingredient which is completely unnecessary. I'm being completely facetious with the recipe below, and it's obviously NOT a real recipe. I'm just using it to illustrate my point. I see this kind of nonsense all the time.

    recipe for a cocktail named "PLEASE SHOOT MY EX-WIFE":

    1 ounce Orange Juice
    1/2 ounce Lime Juice
    1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
    pinch of cinnamon
    1 dash Angostura bitters
    Coca-Cola as needed
    1 ounce 1951 Vintage Coy & MacGregor single malt Scotch Whisky
    -- Mix all ingredients except Coca-Cola in a rocks glass with ice, then top off with the Coca-Cola

    Everything sounded great until I got to the part about the 65-year-old $200-per-bottle Scotch. Does it Really matter what kind of Scotch you use if you're going to bury it with all of that other stuff?

  • speedydroidgmailcom278300928 posted 1 year ago

    I bartended full-time for 5 years, and have continued to bartend, off-and-on, for the 25 years that have passed since then. Based on that experience, I can confidently say:

    ALL SIX of the points in this article are Neither RIGHT nor WRONG. It's all a matter of personal style and preference. My personal style is what I call "Professional Drinker." I'm not a fan of any kind of trendy or pretentious stuff. When I say that I'm "Going Out for Drinks", that is Precisely and Literally what I mean. So, from my personal point-of-view, here are the Six Points stated above...

    1) Drinking "XXX" to Look Cool: Some people do this, and it doesn't bother me unless they become obnoxious about it. Occasionally, I'll be at a bar, drinking "XXX", and another bar patron will ask me, "Do you think drinking your XXX makes you look cool?" I'll answer, "Oh... I don't drink anything to make myself look cool. I drink to make you seem less obnoxious, but it's not working yet." If it's a girl, I change the second sentence to, "I drink to make you look attractive, but it's not working yet."

    2) Shaken, Not Stirred: Just once, I wish a bartender in a James Bond movie had told Bond, "Well, Sir... That's not the correct way to make a Martini." Then Bond could have replied, "OK... 'Miss Manners'... I'm the one paying $15 for a funny-looking glass filled with Vodka, so how's about you shut your pie-hole and make my drink the way I ordered it?" Personally, I don't drink Vodka Martinis that often, but when I do, I like to have the crap shaken out it, then poured as quickly as possible into the glass. The first couple of sips have a nice little "Pop" to them, as the trapped air is still working its way out of my little "Vodka Champagne." When I'm bartending, and a customer gives me specific directions on how to prepare his drink... 99% of the time, he's telling me that because that's the way he likes his drink prepared. There's no Right or Wrong way to prepare a drink... There is only the way that the customer likes it. Lots of people "Personalize" their favorite drinks. That's one of the most fun things about drinking.

    3) It's Impossible to Win a Drinking Contest? That's Pure Nonsense! I have been in hundreds of drinking contests in my life, and I have won every single one of them. That's because my only rule for a drinking contest is... If I drink, and I get drunk, I Win! I think beer pong is dumbest game ever invented. Let's see... You're in a bar, and you're playing a game in which the primary goal is make your opponent drink, while you yourself do not drink... while you're in a bar. Hmmmm... YEP! Dumbest game ever invented!

    4) Being a Career Alcoholic is Charming and Easy: Here's my point-of-view on this subject. I don't care if anyone thinks my drinking makes me charming or not, so the first part of the statement is totally irrelevant. As for the second part... Being a Career Alcoholic is certainly not Easy. That takes years of dedication and hard work, and you must practice regularly and frequently, in order to remain proficient.

    5) Flairtending is Cool: From my personal point-of-view, Flair has absolutely nothing to do with Bartending. In fact, Flairtending usually negatively impacts the job that the wanna-be Bartender SHOULD be doing. But I'm really not trying to insult those guys... it's just not my cup of tea. You want to impress me? Have FIVE bar patrons finish their drinks at exactly the same time, and have fresh drinks sitting in front of all five, before a single one of them can even raise his hand.

    Although I think the whole thing is silly, I do understand why many people like "The Show." Hey... If it didn't pull customers into the bar, then TGI Friday's wouldn't let their employees do it. My long-time "Code Phrase" for TGI Friday's is "Cirque du Soleil". For example, I might call up a friend and say, "Yo, Dude. Joe wants to go see Cirque du Soleil tonight. You wanna meet us there around 6 o'clock?"

    6) Bar Fights are Fun and No One Important Ever Gets Hurt: First of all, the ONLY important people in any Bar Fight are Me and My Friends. I don't care who else gets hurt, even if it's the Pope or the President of the USA. As for the other part, Watching 2 or more sloppy drunks "Attempt" to have a fight, when I'm completely sober (usually when I 'm Bartending), is Pure Entertainment that No Amount of Money can buy. My face has literally turned blue while I was working behind the bar during a bar fight... I was laughing so hard that I was crying at the same time, and almost passed out because I couldn't breathe. The fight looked like Seven Newborn Baby Giraffes trying to perform "Swan Lake."

  • Tubbysdrivein posted 2 years ago

    This is a pet peeve of mine. The topic is "The things movies get wrong about alcohol". In virtually all of Hollywood's bar scenes (from the top 5 star films to B rated motion pictures) I find that the bartender invariably pours a drink just plain wrong.

    In these lounge scenes the actor (playing the bartender) grips the "body" of the bottle and then pours the liquor. To any "real" bartender this is an outrage to watch.

    As most of the readers know a real bartender always grabs the bottle by the neck of the bottle while his index finger holds onto the pour spout. This of course avoids the possibility of the pour spout coming off the bottle and wasting precious spirits... And also this gives the bartender complete control of the amount of the pour. I've been asking myself for years, "why can't Hollywood get this right?".

  • skykerslakegmailcom915663405 posted 2 years ago

    The writers here have missed the point with Bond saying "shaken not stirred" . In the sixties, it became trendy - to show how sophisticated you were - to ask for your Martini to be stirred (because it bruised the gin, diluted the alcohol, etc) instead of shaken as was common practice previously. Bond, by going against the trend, was asserting his indifference to cool and proving that he was his own man. Ian Flemming deliberately chose this small thing as a metaphor for Bond's career and life choices.

  • Fartydrinker posted 2 years ago

    Lets not forget that alcohol gives you the really stinky farts!

  • Balllickinggeldoflovingfaggot posted 2 years ago


  • alyssak posted 2 years ago

    being alcoholicsucks

  • clifflivingstongmailcom1394523 posted 2 years ago

    I am always amazed at how often I see people having animated discussions over how a drink "should" be served. However you would like to enjoy your drink, is just the way you should enjoy it. As a thirty year bartender and a 2nd level somm, I have seen countless guests request a drink made "incorrectly." The comfort and desires of the guest should prevail in any argument. If the guest would like to hear some history on a drink or a wine, I am happy to oblige. That being said, is it not my place to "correct" a guest. As the ad hoc host, it is my job to ensure they feel welcomed, appreciated, and love their drink. I like to hear people discuss the right or wrong way to make something, because that is what makes the word go 'round: the sharing of ideas. We each have a favorite way to make certain drinks, and perhaps we should be less quick to pooh-pooh someone else's idea of what is good. I am now going to enjoy my martini, constructed of 2/3 gin, 1/3 vermouth, a dash of orange bitters, and a twist of lemon. BTW, i love this drink shaken and unstrained. I love the sound of the ice in my shaker, and I love the thin frozen layer of ice on the surface of my drink. Many purists might have a problem with how I might enjoy my drink, but I certainly do not.

  • daled79 posted 2 years ago

    I'll stick with the following quote from 82 years ago and shake mine to waltz time:

    The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time.

  • elisher.williams posted 2 years ago

    I don't know where two of these commenters got their info but they're wrong. Shaking absolutely dilutes faster by breaking the ice, therefore increasing surface area, and adding friction between liquid and ice, therefore creating heat. Seriously, try an experiment, shake and stir two separate, but identical, drinks for an equal amount of time. Then pour and measure. I promise you that the shaken drink will have more volume, which would only be possible with more water being mixed in.

    Bruising a liquor (while mostly being a myth) is from shaking NOT stirring.

    The cloudiness does not come from cheap ingredients, it comes from tiny air bubbles that appear while shaking the drink. (This one is SUPER easy to prove. Pour any clear liquid in a shaker with ice. Shake the mother loving eff out of it. Pour the liquid. Watch as the cloudiness slowly disappears, much like the bubbles in Guinness in fact.)

    The misconception for the bottom commenter is that he, seemingly, only shakes the drink once. That woukd have the advantage of cooling and diluting the drink far faster than stirring, given the appearance of a better way to do it. And if that's the way you like it, then all the better. Because that's what this whole debate comes down to, what you prefer. Sure, some douche bartenders and drinkers will tell you that you're version is garbage/wrong/stupid, but if that's the way you like it? Bottoms up and cheers to you and yours!

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