A spirited journey through our drinking memories

Jun 16, 2024
Relive the wild nights, the desperate measures, and the unforgettable memories tied to our favourite drinks. Source: Getty Images.

For many of us, our choice of a social tipple has been woven into our lives. The memories linked to our choice of beverage may not always be great, but good or otherwise, they remain part of who we were.

In the seventies, beer seemed to be the staple alcoholic choice for many. My introduction to this drink was as a 16-year-old at a beer and prawn night at a local footy club. I remember there was beer and there were prawns, but not much else attached to my memory of this night. After this, beer became the go-to drink of our little social group.

In 1978 disaster struck in Queensland when a thirteen-week beer strike saw the two leading local brands, XXXX and Carlton disappeared from pubs and bottle shops. In desperation, publicans began importing ‘foreign’ beer from south of the border. Local tastebuds were tested with strange brews called Swan, Emu, and Tooheys. Even the packaging was alien, with one beer delivered in a little keg-shaped bottle.

At this time, some desperados, sorry, connoisseurs, took to home brewing. There will be numerous stories where one too many teaspoons of sugar in the mix resulted in a mutant hangover or a batch of bottles exploding in the garden shed in the middle of the night. Of course, part of the attraction to home brewing was the need to empty a couple of dozen shop bought beer bottles so you had something to put your home brew in.

With beer hard to get for some time and clever television marketing jingles, cheap take-away bottles like Summer Wine and newly invented cask wines Maroomba (bring your own Maroomba) and Coolibah (where will you hide your Coolabah) became more popular with the 70s party set. I haven’t been to a party where a cask bladder was attached to the rotary clothes line as part of a roulette style drinking game, (the wheel of goon?) but I’m sure it was a thing. More sophisticated television drinking games emerged in nineties. The X-Files game had quite a following. Players would have a drink when, for example, Scully decides to go into a dark room by herself, only armed with a shonky flashlight, or when Mulder delivers a long winded monologue about the existence of extraterrestrials. Both events guaranteed that a drink was inevitable.

The cardboard wine classics had the effect of broadening our tastes beyond beer to the extent that we started to visit wineries. Our favourite destination in the eighties was the fledgeling Stanthorpe wine region in Queensland. With our base camp at the Top of the Town Caravan Park, we sampled the many wine delights at the bar and then grabbed some more from the cellar door. At $3 a bottle or $4.50 a flagon, we were set for a fun night around the campfire.

This opened the door to a range of experimental drinking. Spumante, once reserved for Italian family get togethers, became a staple at twenty-first parties and engagements across the land. However, unlike staid family get togethers, these parties were often prone to excess, with the humble drink getting the unfriendly monicker of Spew mante. As our tastes broadened, other twists on cheap wine based drinks emerged. Pink Sekt was our faux posh favourite to wash down some prawns picked up from a fisho on the side of the road on the way back from the coast.

TV star Jacki MacDonald put us onto some of the trendy tastes of cocktails. Each week on Hey, Hey, It’s Saturday, she would create some exotic drink that invariably ended up being worn by a cast member. Gradually, our little bar grew with the addition of James Bond type alcohol additives such as vermouth, grenadine, and cocktail cherries. In one memorable episode, the show did a live cross to view an Elton John concert in Sydney. By the time the cameras returned to the studio, most of the crew and on screen talent had apparently emptied Jackie’s cocktail cabinet, which made for interesting television.

Sometimes, innovation fueled our drinking experiments. On a camping trip to Great Keppel Island (the one that used to advertise itself as a place to get wrecked), we ran out of coke to go with our Bundy rum. The next barge alcohol run to the mainland was two days away. Someone came up with the idea of using raspberry cordial instead. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it did lead to some colourful creations with the next morning’s hangover.

One Christmas, a milk run customer gave me a dram of Irish Mist liqueur to try. If you’ve never tried it, it’s not actually a drink, as most of the liqueur vaporises in your mouth (hence the mist part of the name, I’m guessing). I promptly went to the bottle shop and bought myself a bottle. Showing enormous self-restraint, I decided to only have a nip on Christmas Eve every year from then on, and I somehow managed to eke that one bottle out for twenty years. Mind you, the last couple of years’ tastings had little bits of disintegrated cork floating in the glass.

The most expensive drink I’ve had was at a friend’s birthday party. The friend’s older brother decided to treat his sibling to a magnum of Dom something or other. With high expectations, we stood in a circle and toasted his good health with the very expensive tipple (about $150 a bottle at the time). By the subdued expressions on the faces around me after our first taste, I got the feeling that I wasn’t the only one craving something out of a cardboard carton instead. I guess it must have been an acquired taste.

As we get older, some of us may tone down our drinking experiences, but there is no doubt that our choice of tipple over the years remains a part of our memories (or perhaps the reason some of our memories are a bit vague).

Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up