Graeme Wood

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The Inebriated Republic of Iran

Modern Drunkard, June 2006.

Before I knew better than to trust my elders, one of them convinced me that Ireland and Russia had no rivals as destinations for a drinking holiday.

He said the subzero cold had forced the Russians to perfect the art of warming the gullet with hard alcohol, and that the Guinness-lubricated merriment of Irish pubs made American bars look like Christian Science Reading Rooms.

What he told me was the truth, but only part of it. Ireland has a pub for every 375 people, which means that on any given evening, once the kids have been put to bed, literally 75 percent of Irish males could be “at the pub” without violating fire codes. And neither medical nor political science can explain how the Russians managed to keep the Soviet Union from crumbling for 70 years, even though the average daily consumption of vodka appears to be (as P. J. O’Rourke once said of Australians and beer) about ten and three quarters Imperial gallons for children under the age of nine. At a good Moscow traktir, if you sit down and order a cheese sandwich, you get a cheese sandwich and a shot of ice-cold vodka. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Modern Drunkard, , ,

The Dry War

Modern Drunkard, April 2005. Also published in the Chicago Sun-Times, 21 August 2005.

Winston Churchill said the Royal Navy promised nothing to its enlistees but “rum, sodomy, and the lash. ”

If you could stand buggery and arbitrary flogging, you could at least look forward to a mug of hot grog at the end of the day.

In the US military, sodomy and the lash are mostly history, unless you’re stationed at Abu Ghraib. But for the thousands of US soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait, gone too is the consolation of hot rum — or cold vodka, or whatever other cocktail the 120-degree desert heat might demand. Rather than being doled out in rations as a meager thanks for their defense of country, booze is strictly verboten, and for US soldiers all over Mesopotamia a sip of liquor is a first step to a court-martial. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Chicago Sun-Times, Modern Drunkard, ,

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