Sound Smart at Parties: Drinking Games of Olde

Kylie Holloway - Tour Guide

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Beer pong, flip cup, quarters, kings cup, slosh ball: what glorious, time-honored partying traditions.

Have you, reader, ever held a ping pong ball in your hand, poised and aiming for that red cup, and suddenly been struck motionless, wondering about the origin of the game? Or, perhaps, been curious about what togaed partiers played in Ancient Greece? How about longed to know who the fastest chugger in history was?

Look no further ye drunk nerds, we’ve got some facts about the drinking games of yore.

Wager Cup

This late 17th century English drinking game was devilishly simple. The only rule: don’t spill.

Silver wager cup by Birch & Gaydon marked for London 1936

Here’s how it worked: a player would tip the silver maiden upside down and attempt to drink from her skirt without spilling the drink in her pail. If the player failed, they would have to repeat the process again and again until they drank successfully.

For the romantic souls out there, this could become a two player game at weddings. Wager cup eventually made its way to Germany, where those saucy Bavarians turned it into a marriage ritual. The groom would drink from the skirt and the wife from the pail with the aim of working together to not spill. If any of our readers are looking for a wedding present for their old college drinking buddies – look no further.

Dudo

Dudo is a great game if you want to drink while also finding out which of your friends are f*cking liars.

The game’s origins are debated, but the most likely sources of the game are the Incan rituals huayru and pichca, both of which involved rolling carved bones and making guesses based on how they landed.

Keros, or Incan Drinking Vessels. Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art

When the Spanish came to Peru, they brought dice with them and the bone-rolling rituals became a game played by colonists and natives alike. Whatever the game’s origins, its a hell of a lot of fun. This game is essentially “Bullsh*t” with dice. A player rolls a set of di, looks at it, and then shares how many dice of a certain number they have (five threes for example). The other players then either challenge that claim or pass. If you challenge incorrectly or are challenged correctly, you drink!

Yard of Ale

Yard of Ale is simple and not-so-elegant. Players are given a yard-long glass full of beer and (we’re sure you can see where this is going) they see who can chug it the fastest.

Origins of this game are sketchy – both Oxford and Cambridge claim to have invented it, however, we know that it’s been around since at least the 1800s. Yard of Ale has a long and storied history. Notably, the former Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke, holds the Guinness World Record for downing the yard of ale in less than 12 seconds, like a f***ing legend.

Puzzle Jug

Puzzle Jug is the only puzzle in history that is fun to do while drunk.

Courtesy of Australian Times

The Puzzle Jug originated with the Fuddling Mug, which was an entertaining toy used to keep children busy around the house and keep adults from having to talk to each other at parties. The Fuddling Mug was designed to leave guests befuddled – the host would pour a drink into one mug and it would appear in another connected mug. The guest then had to track down and drink all the ale without spilling any.

The Fuddling Mug eventually morphed into the Puzzle Jug, a drinking vessel with secrets. The jug was covered in holes. Players would attempt to drink, using their hands to cover the holes, without spilling. Some of the holes were super sneaky and hidden to make the game extra complicated. If an uninitiated player didn’t find all the holes, not only did they not drink, but the booze that should have gone in their mouth went all over their outfit.

Honestly, this game sounds super fun, but also a little lame- it’s the only drinking game in the world where you stay stone cold sober if you’re bad at it.

Courtesy of Islington Education Library Service

Pitch Pot

Pitch-pot, known as touhu in Chinese, originated in ancient China sometime during the Warring States period and is way more badass than beer pong.

Players would sit on mats and take turns hurling 12 arrows at the pots, scoring points based on where the arrows landed. Whoever had the least amount of points at the end of round had to drink. The Tang Dynasty Chinese took this game very seriously (it was seen as training for hunting or warfare) and started training their kids in the game at a young age, even though it was definitely not originally intended for children.

Touhu was taken to the next level when it traveled to Korea and became Tohu. Players now had to drink every time they missed the pot, but could opt out of drinking if they elected to sing a song instead. Players who never missed were called hyeon, which literally translates to “wise.” So if you decide to try this at home, play with wisdom, people.

Kottabos

We have a lot to thank the Ancient Greeks for: philosophy, theater, geometry, and a drinking game where you get to throw wine.

Greeks dabbing while playing Kottabos. Courtesy of Museo Nacional de Madrid

In Kottabos, Players each held a kylix (a saucer-like drinking vessel) that held their dregs of wine They then tossed the dregs at a disc balanced on the kottabos pole. When players knocked the disc off the pole, they were rewarded with wine and, sometimes, sexual favors. Heather Sharpe, the greatest professor of all time, reenacted this game with her students at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. She noted that the game required a certain flick of the wrist (like in beer pong) and that fellow players got soaked with wine at every toss.

This game sounds like a grand old time and we here at Museum Hack see it as our civic duty to return Kottabos to the partying tradition. We may be 2,000 years late to this party, but we’re still gonna enjoy it.

Which of these drinking games will you be trying out at your next party? Tell us in the comments!

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