This year, more than before, however, a contrary message has been put about: drink if you must, but why not make it milk or fizzy water? Especially if you mean to drive. There is a new puritanism about drinking.
While it fits in with a wider Nineties consciousness about healthy living, it has also been spurred by a recent series of alcohol-related deaths on student campuses.
Two deaths of young students this autumn, one at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and another at the University of Louisiana, have spawned a national fit of soul-searching about alcohol consumption at universities. Both deaths occurred at binge-drinking parties for freshmen.
Indeed, there is debate in some states about making entire universities dry in the way that whole counties are dry in many areas. One such could be Michigan State. "Going dry is being discussed," admitted a university spokesman. "Based on what's going on around the country, that's clearly not an overstatement".
Meanwhile, drivers who take a tipple before taking the wheel know they do so at increasing peril. The highways in many states, for example, will be punctuated tonight by road-blocks where drivers will be stopped randomly and tested for alcohol. North Carolina, for instance, has a bus called the Blood Alcohol Testing Mobile Lab that roams the state, giving instant tests to wobbly drivers.
Of course, a backlash is surely only just around the corner. In New York, it may already have started. Just as cigars have made a stunning comeback in the city, so have bars selling wildly expensive martinis. What is the favourite drink at the Four Seasons Bar, not far from The Independent, nowadays? A single glass of very special port. Cost? One hundred dollars.
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