The Perfect Buzz: The Essential Guide to Boozing, Bars, and Bad Behavior
A wise old man once told me, “If you are traveling in a foreign country, there are two things you need to be able to ask. One: Will you have sex with me? Two: Can I have a beer?” For most of you reading this, the second question will be less likely to get you slapped, and might even get you something to drink. And if being able to order a drink in 26 different languages is your main priority, then The Perfect Buzz is the book for you.
This book is not your usual list of five hundred variations on a cocktail. Instead it has a variety of interesting sections, which, as the cover says, are a guide to boozing, bars, and bad behavior. Though I have to wonder, by bad behavior do they mean cheesy? Many of the things in this book aren’t exactly what I was expecting. For example, although I haven’t tried them yet, many of the tricks in the bar tricks chapter made me wonder if the English are extremely gullible, or just stupid. This book is printed by “Quid Publishing,” so perhaps this is just a cultural bias on my part. In any case, anything that might get me a free drink is worth a try.
The style is definitely different from other booze books I’ve come across, which were dark, reserved and serious. The Perfect Buzz can only be described as, well, fun. The cover is yellow, for one thing. The entire book is glossy and filled with little colored icons of shot glasses, bottle caps and pitchers among others. This book reminds us that drinking is fun. Going to the bar is fun. Tricking your best friend into buying you a beer is fun. Insulting the slobbering horny guy or girl next to you is fun. There are enough pickup lines, put-down lines, pages of cheesy jokes and games to keep everyone laughing and drinking the whole night.
One thing that this book benefits from is a sense that the author speaks from personal experience. He is confident in his reviews of numerous beers, liquors and wines. Though I am still wondering what he has against Australians. In reference to Chenin Blanc he says, “For the worst, try the Australian, which smells and tastes of wet dogs” (54). And perhaps it does. It’s nice to know that the author can be trusted to give us his honest opinion. He is our guide through this ever changing field of barley and rye. If we can’t trust him, who can we trust?
The first half of the book features a breakdown of the major types of spirits, from beer to champagne. Each section has a brief review of the spirit’s past and present, a side bar on the essential points one should know about the spirit, and then information on a few companies or countries that provide the best (or worst) product. A couple sections have a blurb regarding how to make a traditional drink with the spirit in question, like a Bloody Mary, or other small facts, jokes and pop culture references. The instructions on infusing vodka with your own flavors are interesting and simple. It reminded me of how much fun I had mixing every juice in the refrigerator when I was a kid. Now I can mix crazy things and not get spanked for it.
A chapter titled “rules of the game” has overviews of several sports and games traditionally associated with drinking. This section provides the history of, and versions of various games like darts and pool. It also has dominoes, one of my favorite games that people don’t play too often anymore. This is a shame, with the right people dominoes can be an awesome drinking game. There are also standard games like basketball and baseball. These seem a little unnecessary, considering the fact that anyone who is interested will already know the information, and anyone who is not couldn’t care less that in hockey “the puck is a vulcanized rubber disk” (120). Sometimes it seemed like they were struggling to take up space by the end of the book.
But this shouldn’t detract from its value. The small sections scattered throughout this book are what make it really worth reading. The “no-nos and go-gos” page list the minimum drinking age and minimum purchasing age for 24 different countries. For some unexplainable reason, in Denmark you can order a beer at 15, but must wait at the bar until you’re 18 before you’re allowed to drink it! And, of course, the United States has the oldest drinking age at 21. If you plan on traveling, these simple sections on language, drinking age and tipping etiquette, are essential.
The upbeat nature of The Perfect Buzz is what makes it worth having around. Although the humor can be a little heavy at times, it is overall a curious and interesting book. Your friends may get a kick out of it. But watch your back, mate. They may kick you in the ass if you try some of the things in it. —John Hamm