Bar Beat: Election night is made for drinking

Drinking and politics have been joined at the hip since America’s founding—or even before. Sam Adams, as the commercials never cease to remind us, was a brewer, and his second cousin John, along with other Founding Fathers, would make the rounds in taverns, often downing a “flip”—a concoction made of stout beer and harsh New England rum, into which the bartender would shove a flaming hot poker to give it a certain unique flavor. Given the nature and number of the drinks, it’s no surprise that American politics have been, well, a little rowdy from the beginning—all lofty rhetoric about civility aside.

We are drinking Merlot: The red wine went quickly at the Democratic Party victory celebration on election night. Photo by Jonathan Welch

Times and tastes may have changed, but Election Night is still tailor-made for drinks. The stress of watching election results come in combined with the stakes (this is political power people are competing over, after all) encourage a tasty beverage. Once the results are in, celebration calls for another, as does washing down the sorrow of defeat.

Believe it or not, alcohol preferences differ by party. Earlier this year, The New York Times reported on a raft of data assembled by marketing firms to microtarget voters. Interestingly enough, they found that Democrats overwhelmingly preferred clear liquor like gin and vodka, while Republicans usually stick with brown liquors like bourbon and scotch (full disclosure: This bar writer likes all of the above). In wines, Republicans went red while Democrats went white.

Beer seems to be universal.

Buncombe County, however, as in so many things, seems to proudly defy the national trend, or at least it did on the 2008 election night. Over at the Democrats’ gleeful victory celebration at the Crowne Plaza Resort, bartenders revealed that bourbon was the liquor of choice, merlot the wine. There was a lot of Gaelic Ale being downed too.

The mood was naturally more subdued at the Republican gathering at the Grove Park Inn, but there too, the drinks were flowing. The liquor of choice was vodka, the wine chardonnay and the beer Bud Light.

This, of course, is the exact opposite of all that carefully assembled marketing research, which just goes to show that statistics can’t tell you everything.

Of course, party stalwarts weren’t the only ones celebrating (or drowning their sorrows) on Nov. 4. As soon as news of Obama’s victory came, local bars began to fill up. The Yacht Club, to cite one example, quickly invented a “Blue State Bomber” as its drink special. This concoction involved—shades of a Long Island Ice Tea—throwing gin, tequila, vodka and rum into a glass, then topping it off with pineapple juice and enough Blue Curacao to get the desired color. As one can imagine, they were somewhat popular—though not being the taverns of yesteryear, no red-hot pokers were involved.

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