Gin House Blues by Nina Simone, 1961
Though a cover of Bessie Smith’s prohibition-abetted Me and My Gin, Nina Simone’s swinging jazz rendition of the tune showcases the artist’s outstanding vocal abilities and undeniable talent. Simone declares she will always ask for gin regardless if the authorities come to shut down her party. It may sound like an anthem for a die-hard party animal at times, but the song is teeming with lyrics clearly evident of alcohol abuse. Simone states she would essentially pass up everything she owns — clothes, shelter, and even food — for a bottle of gin. Still, leave it to Nina Simone to make you dance to the follies of substance abuse.
Suggested drink pairing: Bootleg gin, like, straight out of a bathtub.
Cold Gin by Kiss, 1974
It would appear juniper-laden gin is a substance often written about in the music world. Perhaps because it goes down smooth, or maybe it’s because it rhymes with sin, him, thin, and countless other words. Whatever the reason, Kiss’ Cold Gin revolves around a man who doesn’t posses electricity or heat, yet he does have enough cold gin to get him through the night. Like nearly every Kiss song, it’s peppered with frequent “woos” and the occasional “ow,” though it is one of the more dance-worthy tracks on band’s debut. Just remember to kick out the first party guest to asks you why you’re doing the “Miley” after you stick your tongue out.
Suggested drink pairing: Cold, bottom-shelf gin with a smidgen of mascara.
Piano Man by Billy Joel, 1971
While Billy Joel does make direct references to alcohol in his timeless classic, Piano Man would be better suited in a sing-along category all its own. If you examine the lyrics too closely however, you’ll soon realize the song isn’t exactly condoning alcohol but profiling a group of lonely people whom frequent a local bar. For some that might set the perfect drinking mood, but if that whole idea bums you out, put your focus on the fact that Joel’s sweet vocals are bringing hope to the hopeless patrons of your friendly, neighborhood bar. Regardless of your feelings toward the lyrics, you can’t help but belt that chorus like no one is watching.
Suggested drink pairing: Scotch, a cigar, and a tip jar.
En El Cielo No Hay Cerveza by Flaco Jimenez, 2003
Flaco Jimenez was using YOLO before Drake was even a glimmer in the eyes of Canadian teen drama writers. With En El Cielo No Hay Cerveza, Jimenez puts forth the idea that you might as well drink as much while you’re living, given that there’s no beer in heaven. A novel idea, sure, but the song makes a point nonetheless. Given Jimenez is primarily a mariachi performer, the song is laden with upbeat horns and accordion, routinely switching between English and Spanish for a bit of bilingual debauchery.
Suggested drink pairing: A light, Mexican beer such as Pacifico or Sol.
Who Are You by The Who, 1978
Who Are You was a song about a drunken and confusing night well before it was prominently featured on CSI. Rollicking in brief harmonies and Pete’s Townshend’s iconic guitarwork, the song highlights the less glamorous side of being a rock star, such as arguing over song royalties and deciding if you should “sell out.” It’s easy to recognize and even easier to sing, providing no better opportunity to say “who” over and over again. And let’s face it, we’ve all awoken from a bender to look in the mirror and ask, “who are you?”
Suggested drink pairing: Whatever you can manage to shove in a brown bag.
You and Me and the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight by Big Bad Voodoo Daddies, 1994
Southern California’s Big Bad Voodoo Daddies are the epitome of modern swing music. You and Me is about a raucous night of drinking, and unlike many other songs on our roundup, it doesn’t exhibit dark undercurrents of despair and alcohol abuse. It’s simply about a man going out with his friends, bumping into their friend named Mo along the way. What the song lacks in lyrical content it makes up for with a heaping of trumpet and saxophone, providing a welcome catalyst on the dance floor and beyond.
Suggested drink pairing: Nice, speakeasy-esque gin or whiskey.
One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer by George Thorogood, 1977
A medley of two John Lee Hook tunes and easily one of the longest songs on our list, George Thorogood’s rendition of One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer really is the quintessential cover. The singer details the harrowing events transpiring after he lost his job, which as expected, culminate with him drowning his sorrows with bourbon, scotch, and beer at the local bar. It begins with Thorogood talking more than actually singing, but it soon segues into a driving blues number featuring seemingly-drunken vocals and real-life homages.
Suggested drink pairing: One bourbon, one scotch, and one beer of your choice.
Alabama Song (Whisky Bar) by The Doors, 1967
Really, any Doors song is excellent to drink to, but this one in particular is weird enough to captivate a room full of people with varying musical tastes. The song’s roots lie in a Bertolt Brecht poem and a German opera, but singer Jim Morrison adapted the song in the late ’60s, changing the melody and the lyrics of several verses in the process. Though it’s encased in carnival-esque demeanor, one teeming with marxophone and keyboard, it’s still a sure fit for any occasion involving fermented grain mash and surly characters.
Suggested drink pairing: Whiskey (and lots of it).
Pass the Courvoisier Part II by Busta Rhymes, 2002
What happens when the likes of Busta Rhymes, Pharell, and Puff Daddy collaborate on a remix pulled from Rhymes’ fifth album? Party magic. It doesn’t matter who you are or what kind of music you listen to, no one can resist the allure of pre-Arby’s hat and Pharell’s smooth croon when paired with Diddy’s awkward rhymes. As expected, the lyrics teeter on the explicit side, but you can always find a clean remix if, you know, you’re catering the song toward your grandmother.
Suggested drink pairing: Something that likely costs more than you make in a month.
Tubthumping by Chumbawamba, 1997
Listening to Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping is like living above a pub where the local soccer team always wins. The song is always loud, typically obnoxious, and usually requires you to drink copious amounts of alcohol just to get through. Everyone feels included when the band names a laundry list of alcohol, and at the end of the day, people who drink together just want to be included. It doesn’t help that you feel like you’re already slurring your speech when you say the band name.
Suggested drink pairing: Please refer to the song lyrics above.
Escape (The Piña ColadaSong) by Rupert Holmes, 1979
Not only is Escape one of the catchiest songs of any generation, it’s also one of very few on our list that don’t discuss hard alcohol or beer. The song was the last U.S. number one song of the ’70s, unintentionally popularizing the under-appreciated vacation that stems from a tall piña colada. However, most people are unaware the song is describing a situation in which a man unknowingly answers his own wife’s personal ad when he becomes bored with his domestic relationship at home. Adultery aside, almost everyone in the English-speaking world knows at least the first line of the chorus.
Suggested drink pairing: A piña colada, preferably with your significant other.
Red, Red Wine by UB40, 1983
Though originally a Neil Diamond song, UB40 covered the somber country ballad on its first covers album, Labour of Love. It’s a slow, reggae-style number encompassing the inevitable aftermath that ensues with the loss of a significant other. The song obviously deals with the act of uncontrollably drinking your troubles away, but to be honest, the song’s seductive nature and added toast verse will likely do more to push away your sorrows than a fine glass of pinot noir ever could. It’s the kind of cover any musician should be proud of.
Suggested drink pairing: Seeing how red wine brings to mind dark memories, stick with white.
Sunday Morning Comedown by Johnny Cash, 1970
Johnny Cash was no stranger to adult beverages. First released on the Man in Black’s live album, The Johnny Cash Show, the Kris Kristofferson original delves in the loneliness that accompanies depression and the subsiding haze we sometimes find ourselves in from time to time. Though somber, it still features Cash’s iconic voice and timber, and represents one of the later highlights of his career. It’s certainly no Ring of Fire, but at least you won’t have the feverish buzzing of trumpets stuck in your head for the rest of the night.
Suggested drink pairing: A mimosa … at least if you happen to listen to the song on Sunday morning. Otherwise, beer.