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5 Drinking Games of Yore

Who knew drinking games had such a long and sozzled history? The following are just a few of the stranger games we stumbled into while trying to justify all the kegs in our office.

1. The Dreaded Puzzle Jug

First designed in 1300's France, the puzzle jug was basically created to test the mental agility of people hopped up on happy juice. More importantly, it was an easy way to make drunks look like idiots. The jugs were filled with wine, but also covered with holes. If a genius didn't tilt the jug in exactly the right way, and cover up the right holes, the contents would spill all over him. In addition to the laugh factor, barflies often gambled on whether a new drunk had the mental chops to get the wine from the jug into their mouth. But since the contents more than often ended up on the victim's shirt, the jugs remained a popular bar room feature for the next 400 years.

2. Bloody Fun

Back in 17th century England, drinking and drunkenness was heavily linked to swearing your political allegiance. Much in the way, you'd hug your friends deep into the night and say, "I love you so much, man," roaring Royalists used to one-up their friends in declaring allegiance to the king by putting their arses on the line. Literally. After singing drunken ballads to His Highness and the church, festivities would often escalate to playing a "game" where everyone who was loyal enough would slice off a piece of their rump, and then toast their own blood (instead of wine) to the monarchy. As you can imagine, the game went horribly wrong on a fairly regular basis, seeing how drunks wielding knives and performing elective surgery on themselves is never a good idea.

3. When in Rome

After important dinners, Romans used to indulge in convivium, which were more of an Emily Post endurance test than a game. The rules of etiquette were simple, but strict. Namely, the host determined how much everyone was going to drink (anywhere from 1 to 11 glasses of the good stuff). Then everyone drank in a ritualized form. And while staying in the contest didn't actually get you that much (except the buzz), being kicked out was a huge deal. If you couldn't keep up, couldn't down your drink in one pull, refused a beverage, or let out a burp during the festivities, you'd essentially be banned from hanging out at future convivium. And since only movers and shakers got to participate, a faux pas meant being demoted from sitting at the cool kids' table.

4. Poo-bum-dickie

Still played today, poo-bum-dickie isn't exactly ancient, but it is definitely based on antiquated counting. The game basically involves counting in a circle in Roman numerals, using the word "poo" for I, "bum" for V, and "dickie" for X (until you get to 39, at least). Of course, if anyone says the wrong word, hesitates for too long, or giggles, the penalty is to drink. The game got slightly stranger when some students in Essex changed the phrases to "No", "Daddy" and "Don't Touch Me."

5. Flicking Wine

Like an ancient version of beer pong, one of the most popular games in ancient Greece was kottabos, where participants flicked the dregs of a cup at a target in the middle of the room. Not only were you judged on whether the droplets hit the target (which was generally a disk balanced on a thin stand), but also if you used the correct throwing motion. Prizes, like baked goods and smooches from servers, were awarded for hitting the mark, while improvised penalties (along with copious drinking) were assigned for missing. According to one source, many Greeks "took as much pride in playing kottabos as others did in hurling the javelin."

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Big Questions
Why Do People Drink Mint Juleps at the Kentucky Derby?
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Whether you plan to enjoy the race from Churchill Downs or don an elaborate hat in the comfort of your own home, if you're watching the Kentucky Derby, you may find yourself sipping on a refreshing mint julep this weekend. But, why?

The drink—a cocktail traditionally composed of bourbon, sugar, water, and mint—has been a Kentucky favorite since long before Churchill Downs came into play. In fact, in 1816, silver julep cups were given as prizes at Kentucky county fairs (a change from the stuffed animals they offer today). And before that, a “julep” was considered medicinal, “prescribed” for stomach problems and sore throats.

Though mint juleps have likely been enjoyed at the Kentucky Derby since the beginning—legend has it that founder Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., planted mint for cocktails when he founded the track in 1875—the cocktail wasn’t declared the “official” Derby drink until 1938.

It was just a few years ago that the Derby switched to a more “authentic” version of the mint julep. For almost two decades, the 120,000 mint juleps served at the races were made with Early Times. Based on the aging process, Early Times isn’t considered bourbon (just “Kentucky whisky”) in the U.S. In 2015, they switched to Old Forester, which is also owned by the Brown-Forman Corporation.

Even with the switch to “real” bourbon, what most revelers actually get is the Old Forester Ready-to-Serve Cocktail mix, not a handcrafted mint julep—unless you’re willing to pony up $1000. For the past 13 years, Brown-Forman has served a special version of the drink made with Woodford Reserve small batch bourbon. It’ll set you back a grand, but hey, you get to keep the pewter cup—and proceeds benefit the Jennifer Lawrence Arts Fund (yes, that Jennifer Lawrence). In 2016, the Oscar-winning actress—and Louisville native—founded the organization "to assist and empower organizations that fulfill children's needs and drives art access to positively impact the lives of young people."

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Animals
The Surprising Role Bats Play in Making Your Margarita
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The next time you have a margarita, raise your glass to the humble bat. Long-nosed bats are the main pollinators of agave, the plant used to make both tequila and mezcal. (Tequila is specifically made from blue agave, or Agave tequilana, while mezcal can be made from any species of the plant.) These agave plants open their flowers at night, attracting bats with their sugary nectar, and in turn, the bats help spread their pollen.

One of those bats, the lesser long-nosed bat, just got off the endangered species list in April 2018, as The Washington Post reported. It's the first bat species ever to recover its population enough to be taken off the Endangered Species List. Its revival is due, in part, to tequila producers along the bat's migration route between Mexico and the southwestern U.S. making their growing methods a little more bat-friendly.

While the relationship between bats and agave might be mutualistic, the one between bats and booze isn't necessarily so. Typical agave production for tequila and mezcal involves harvesting the plant right before it reaches sexual maturity—the flowering stage—because that's when its sugar content peaks, and because after the plant flowers, it dies. Instead of letting the plants reproduce naturally through pollination, farmers plant the clones that grow at the agave plant's base, known as hijuelos. That means fields of agave get razed before bats get the chance to feed off those plants. This method is bad for bats, but it's not great for agave, either; over time, it leads to inbred plants that have lower genetic diversity than their cross-pollinated cousins, ones that require more and more pesticides to keep them healthy.

Rodrigo Medellín, an ecologist who has been nicknamed the "Bat Man of Mexico," has been leading the crusade for bat-friendly tequila for decades, trying to convince tequila producers to let some of just 5 percent of their plants flower. The Tequila Interchange Project—a nonprofit organization made up of tequila producers, scientists, and tequila enthusiasts—led to the release of three bat-friendly agave liquors in the U.S. in 2016: two tequilas, Siembra Valles Ancestral and Tequila Ocho, and a mezcal, Don Mateo de la Sierra.

In 2017, when Medellín and his team visited the agave fields of Don Mateo de la Sierra to gather data, they discovered that the project was even more bat-friendly than they thought. The Mexican long-nosed bat, another endangered species, was also taking its meals at the field's flowering plants.

This weekend, raise a glass of tequila to all the bats out there—just make sure it's a bat-friendly brand.

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