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How to Drink: Festival Edition

Words: Shamim de Brún
Images: Various

As a grown-ass adult, you’ve probably come to realise that having the right booze for the right occasion is pretty much the 25-and-over equivalent of bringing your shiny Pokemon cards to a primary school birthday party in the 90s: fun, classy as fudge and a great way to flex without taking your shirt off.

Festivals, while not just about drinking, definitely features it heavily. And how you drink there is as much tied to your budget as it is to what you can pack mule in on your back.

Packaging

Many festivals will allow you to bring your own booze, but glass bottles are pretty unilaterally a no-no. There are a few ways to avoid this. The perfect container for a festival cocktail is the lightest possible container.

Metal water bottles are much better than the classic reused plastic. Flavours don’t leech into titanium or stainless steel. In addition, metal water bottles typically aren’t weak enough to be impacted by the high alcoholic content. You can grab these at Euro Shops and Penny’s and more high-end camping shops. There really is a version of this to suit every budget, and you won’t be wasting whatever would come in the plastic by pouring it out in favour of the plastic.

You can do the classic decant into a plastic bottle. The cheap plastic won’t completely destroy a liquid. It leaves it giving off lots of the kind of flavours that will make you wonder if this really is the whiskey you packed.

Pack some salt wraps, get ice every morning and chill your beers. This is a well-known wine hack, but it can be used for pretty much any booze. You can express chill much anything by adding salt to the ice. There are two ways to do this, put salt on a wet tea towel, wrap it around the can, bottle or whatever you’re having yourself packaging and put it into ice. Or, the more festival-proof way, add a metric fuck tonne of salt to a pack of ice and dump your booze of choice into it. Your booze will cool much faster than you expect it to.

Top Tip: bring your keep cup, especially if it’s a retractable one or one of those thermas-like ones that have a good lid. That way, you can reduce your plastic waste by reusing it. Also, they clean easily and are pretty durable. You might even get a slightly larger drink from the bar if your cup is bigger than their tiny hundred mill pours.

Batched Cocktails

If Craft Cocktails have taught us anything from their tasty success, well-made cocktails last a bit longer than we expect. So pick your favourite and batch it. I’m going to recommend margaritas. They are the summer cocktail that gives life. If you’re going to buy ice in the afternoon, then pre-mix a negroni. If you know you hate the queuing lifestyle, then skip this. A negroni is nothing without ice.

When batching cocktails, try to keep the proportions even, fucking with the recipe cos you’re in a rush will leave you rueing the day when your drink is too sweet or too boozy, and you have no way to fix it. Don’t forget cups for your batched drinks. In all likelihood, you’ll be all in with mates or want to share your success with the more feeble packers among your friends. So don’t forget paper cups.

If you’re feeling it, you can always make jelly shots. They travel well, are light, and go down easy when warm. But equally, they’re unfulfilling and full of sugar, so the hangovers after them suck. It’s up to you, but they are kind of a first festival right of passage.

I know I’m recommending a lot of fruity shit here. But one, it’s a great way to lead up on vitamin C, so you don’t get as run down while burning all your candles by firing on all cylinders all weekend. And two, we’re all done pretending that fruity drinks suck cos they’re fruity. Boozy cocktails are great. Get me an old-fashioned every time I’m in a decent bar, but at a festival, you want to go for a long time, and long drinks help you go all night. They don’t hit you in the face till you wake up having missed the only band you wanted to see.

Hear me out:

Sangria

There will be beer everywhere at every festival, so mostly, I abandoned the slab of cans to the broke ignorance of my bygone youth, and I do not bother anymore. Waking up to a tent-warmed can of beer turns an on-the-verge tummy faster than stale milk.

I have waxed lyrical about sangria before, but it is the saving grace of a festival morning. Drinking hard spirits is difficult to even conceptualise after a hard night, let alone choke down. But a nice fruity sangria? Now that is breakfast drinking at is best.

All you need is cheap wine, preferably rosé; Lidl has one starting at €7.75, the legal minimum. Secondly, a bag of frozen fruit, as it defrosts, it leaves you with juice that will take the sting out of cheap wine. To make it sparkle, add some soda water, also available from Lidl for around a euro. You realistically won’t be able to make it with prosecco. Unless glass is allowed, the fizzy popper will be strictly verboten. Realistically any sparkler will work, including the likes of 7UP, though they can be a bit nasty at room temperature.

Bag O Wine

There is one booze I get every time I festival: a big bag o wine. It is commonly called ‘bagnums’ in the industry, but that term is technically copyrighted, so unless I lead with this spenny natty wine, I must call them ‘big bao o wine’.

The first thing you need to know about wine bags is they’re not all goon bags. Wine at all kinds of levels can come in a bag. If you are going in on it together, I recommend the five-litre wine bag from Pellehaut in white or rosé. Not keen on the red. Five litres is the equivalent of eight bottles, and the bag in a box has a handy little spout. It comes in a whole ten kilos less than bringing the equivalent in glass bottles and averages out at about eight euros per bottle. Steal.

If you’re more into keeping it for yourself, then a one-point-five litre bag from Chat Fou is beautiful. It hits all the buzz words with organic, biodynamic smashable juice that tastes as good midnight tent cold as it does mid-day tent hot. I have on good authority that it’s available in Greenman Wines though it’s not currently on their website.

Beer

We all know cans are the easiest thing apart from actually getting them there. So if you’re going for the affordable option, here are my top festival can tips.

Go for the smaller cans. Warm cans suck, but that’s mostly what you’ll be drinking anyway. But the end of a warm can is the actual worst. Mostly you’ll find yourself discarding the ends of them anyway. So instead of lugging all that weight, opt for the more compact version.

Go for a low alcohol or session craft beer. Firstly they’ll be cheaper thanks to MUP. And secondly, they have better hops and flavours in them. So if you’re drinking beer after beer, at least this one, even warm, won’t taste like the skunk piss conventional lagers get like when they’ve been hanging round in the sun too long.

The Rallier

When you’re flagging at two am, but you’re not into or have lost your party favours (it happens), you will want a rallier. The best rallier in the land is caffeine with a dash of booze. Make it Irish by adding a whiskey like Jameson. Or add Hennessy for a little sweeter, more French coffee. It will keep you on the party bus but give you the boost you need.

If whiskey is not your vibe, Buckfast should be on your rally list. It has kept Irish parties going since long before clubs were allowed to open till six in the morning. So much easier to drink than shots and fortified with enough caffeine to help you dance the good dance, it’s a festival essential.

There’s always the jager bomb. If you’re really drained, this will blow the sleep out of your eyes, and you’ll only need the one. Just neck it and continue on with the festivities a little more unencumbered by sleepiness. That rave in the woods is calling you.

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