Policy Research

Drinking in the US looks very different from drinking in Europe, where I grew up. Here, it is both sociable and a source of shame.


Annually, companies spend over $1,000,000,000 on ads for alcohol.1 These ads typically emphasize the social aspect of drinking. Alcohol brings people together for various purposes.

The purposes are usually twofold: relaxation...

...and parties.

Given these purposes, drinking etiquette presumes that you should drink with others in particular settings: bars, beaches, parties, and—occasionally—over a fancy dinner.


In 2002, it was estimated that treatment for alcohol abuse costs the U.S. $167,000,000,000 annually.2 Drinking carries stigma; how many Americans are uncomfortable sharing with their doctor the average number of drinks they have per week? Entire PSA campaigns have been created to encourage people not to drink.

Bringing It Together

Of course, as the age of the drunken partier in the PSA shows, much of the tension between sociability and shame is rooted in the phenomenon of underage drinking. There is a sense in the U.S. that at age 21, teenagers magically become adults and are able to drink responsibly, in line with social etiquette, avoiding the behaviors they should be ashamed of.

In the South

Drinking in the South means beer, and lots of it. It also evokes moonshine and Jungle Juice and chewin' tobacco. Less obviously, drinking in the South is subject to blue laws: no liquor sales on Sunday, no beer sold before noon. Again, we see the tension in the legalities. Everyone does it, but do it right or be shamed. Go to church before you get your drink on.

Drinking in Seminole Heights

I live in the Sulphur Springs neighborhood of Tampa, FL, just on the border with Seminole Heights. The bars in the area include

Of all those options, the Mermaid Tavern is by far my favorite. It serves beer, wine, mead, and sake. Recently, they began serving a small but delicious–sounding menu. They have a big, wooden, dog–friendly patio. The patrons and bartenders are outgoing. It serves those in search of both relaxation and partying.

Just a few weeks ago, I met a fellow, Pete, at the Mermaid through another fellow had struck up conversation with a few weeks before. Pete is a graphic designer by training and in need of some projects to flesh out his portfolio. I happened to need a graphic designer to help with a project for school. We agreed to work together, to each our mutual benefit.

I cannot imagine such serendipity happening anywhere outside of a drinking establishment. Two complete strangers come together in relaxed atmosphere and learn that they can help each other's professional projects. No shame, just sociability at its most enjoyable and productive.

  1. According to the FTC's 2007 report.
  2. According to non–profit group Drug–Rehabs.org.