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As a whole, America is a compilation of various cultures and nationalities that have adapted and melded together to build a new world. So it should come as no surprise that the USA's drinking traditions are also a hybrid of different customs, tastes, and regions.
You might say that drinking in America is like sipping on a globally-inspired mixed drink. We hope that you're thirsty because this is the Boozy Guide to the USA.
In the 1600s, drinking water in Europe was actually considered to be less sanitary than fermented beverages like wine and beer.
So when the Puritan settlers came to the new world, it said that the amount of beer on the Mayflower was way greater than the amount of water. That's right. The first settlers rolled as shore with a BYOB mindset. And the party didn't stop there.
Once they were separated from Europe, early colonists had to learn how to make their own beer from evergreen branches, fruits, and hop seeds imported from England, brewing was underway, but in the mid 1600s, Rum was imported from the Caribbean, and quickly became a fan favorite among the colonies.
As the appetite for distilled spirits grew, so did concern over consumption.
By 1790, the average American consumed 5.8 gallon of alcohol per year. And by 1830, that number grew to 7.1 gallons. To put things in perspective. There are only about 2.5 gallons consumed today. At the time, there was no standard water treatment system, so alcohol was sometimes considered an alternative to water. We'd argue that on some college campuses, it still is, but that's a video for a different time.
Excessive drinking led to a push for temperance or a limitation on alcohol consumption, which eventually resulted in a national prohibition in 1919. Although consumption was initially reduced by 30%, even prohibition couldn't keep Americans from guzzling down the good stuff.
The illegal production of alcohol, or bootlegging, soared and speakeasies popped up all over. The black market for liquor fed into organized crime, and the attempt to keep the state sober ultimately failed. By 1933, Americans were allowed to brew and distill once again, and they've been drinking ever since.
What do Americans drink?
When it comes to alcohol, Americans have done their part to make sure it continues to flow freely. But what exactly do they prefer to drink? Despite differences in politics, religion, and culture, there always seems to be one thing Americans can agree on, beer.
The country's love for beer started early. George Washington and some of the other founding fathers were known to be home brewers, creating and sharing their own recipes. And today, the United States has more breweries than any other country.
While beer may be as popular as blue jeans and apple pie, you'll find that whiskey, vodka, and rum are also happily consumed coast to coast.
Americans are consuming 2.35 gallons of spirits per capita, while rum and vodka hold second and third place for favorite spirit for.
The most popular Spirit types
The most popular is good old whiskey. In fact, Americans loved whiskey so much, they made it their own. Bourbon by definition is a whiskey distilled in America, born out of necessity and ingenuity.
You see the Scottish, Irish, and other Europeans who had settled in America had many old distilling secrets from their homelands, but were faced with a new, robust crop, corn. They combined what they knew with what they had, and bourbon was born.
Much cheaper than imported liquors. It quickly grew in popularity and Americans loved for it soared into present day like the bald eagle of booze. Today, it's the most widely exported spirit from the states.
While you're likely to find a wide array of drinks in the states, you're unlikely to find any universal customs surrounding your sips.
Because of America's diverse nature, most of the traditions and customs people partake in have originated elsewhere, pass down, and adapted from their country of origin.
Drinking in the USA
The USA can, however, take credit for some of the traditions we attribute to certain cultures. For example, while tequila shots may have been rooted in Mexico, chasing one with salt and lime is an American twist. In fact, in many authentic areas of Mexico, they'd be upset at the thought of muddying pure tequila's taste.
There might be little, you can do to offend an American in terms of drinking traditions, but there are a few universal laws to keep in mind when shaking up a cocktail.
While most laws can vary here and there, depending on the state, it's widely accepted that the legal drinking age in America is 21 years.
Even if you're well over the legal age, getting too boozy in public is a no-no.
In a majority of states, public intoxication is considered a misdemeanor, and can be punishable by jail time, community service, and fines. And you can bet your stars and stripes they take drinking behind the wheel very seriously.
America is a nation that was built by adopting multiple ways of life, and their drinking habits have followed suit.
So the next time you take a trip to the land of the free, bring a little something from your homeland, a new ingredient to add to the globally inspired mixed drink that is America.