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The Most Unique College Drinking Rituals From All Around the Country

Readers share their strangest, funniest and most despicable chugging traditions, from drinking goldfish at MIT to wolfing cheese curds in Wisconsin

It’s called a Blue Guy, and it’s sold at only one place: an old, sticky bar called KAMS on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus. Made of vodka and the blue energy drink Bam!, it’s overloaded with sugar, it’s an instant stain on your shirt and it causes quite the hangover. I fucking love it.

The Blue Guy is the drink that defined my college years. It was my first step into drunken pseudo-adulthood, the stepping stone between choking down Natty Ice in a friend’s basement and forking over an hour’s pay for an Old Fashioned. My college roommate Lillian puts it best about our many long nights with Mr. Blue Guy: “Every college has its signature bar, and each bar has a signature drink that’s some combo of inoffensive well vodka and overpowering technicolor soda. Blue Guys are that for Illinois, and it’s a rite of passage to have your tongue stained blue.”

Today, cheap beer is still a staple of college life, even as hard seltzers like White Claw and Truly are slowly taking over as low-carb alternatives. Beyond the classics, however, some students are lucky enough to be part of campus cultures prioritizes unique beverages and even more unique ways to drink them.

Drinking Live Goldfish at MIT

“At MIT, I’ve seen people drink live goldfish after shots,” says a freshman at MIT who asked to remain anonymous. The process is quite simple: Place your chin and open your mouth at the end of a long ramp “that kind of looks like an aquifer.” Wait for the party’s host to pour liquor down the ramp. Drink. Finally, a live goldfish will be placed on top of the ramp and swim down the tequila stream. Gulp it. You’re done, and now everything is blurry. According to a friend of our source, the goldfish has no taste when swallowed whole — although it helps to be smashed when you inhale it.

Google “MIT Goldfish shots” and you’ll get an entire Wikipedia page on the art of goldfish swallowing. Apparently, downing goldfish isn’t just an MIT nightlight staple. It’s a tried-and-true Ivy League competition dating back to the 1930s. Who knows, your grandpa might have been swallowing vodka with a goldfish chaser.

In 1939, Harvard freshman Lothrop Withington Jr. reportedly took a $10 bet to drop a three-inch goldfish into his mouth and swallow. “The scales caught a bit on my throat as it went down,” he remarked to Life magazine. Thus the craze was born.

Camp Randall’s Drunken Rascals at UW-Madison

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A University of Wisconsin-Madison alumnus writes to tell me about his distinctly UW experience of illustrious tailgate blackouts. “The University of Wisconsin’s favorite drinking ritual involves drinking until you black out, preferably while tailgating a Badgers game and before you make it into Camp Randall,” he says.

But the point system is where the ritual really shines: “Bonus points for friends who have to carry you through security and to your seat. Negative points for spewing on your friends before the game ends. Modifiers include the number of cheese curds and/or brats inhaled and whether or not you’re drinking beer actually brewed in Wisconsin (hint: Nope, they’re drinking Keystones).”

Suddenly, I’m a bit happier I got waitlisted at UW-Madison.

Sinking the Biz at Indiana University

Students at Indiana University head to Nick’s English Hut to play “Sink the Biz,” named after the World War II German navy ship that famously sunk in 1941. Place an empty pint glass, known as “the biz,” in a bucket of beer. Go around the table filling up the glass. Whoever sinks the biz must fish it out and chug.

The celebrity rumor on Reddit: Jon Stewart stopped by Nick’s years ago to sink his own biz.

New College of Florida’s Easter Keg Hunt

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MEL‘s Magdalene Taylor nominated the favorite drinking game of all God-loving Christians at her alma mater. “Kegs were hidden around campus Easter morning,” she explains. “The game was just to hunt around campus and get drunk.” Her senior year, she served as coordinator for the Keg Hunt, tasked with hiding trash cans in obscure locations, including “in a bin on the side of one of the administrative offices.”

Newman Day

There’s nothing weird or funny about binge-drinking, but the tradition “honoring” actor Paul Newman became so popular it transcended just one school — even though Newman himself shunned it. On Newman Day, students at Bates College, Kenyon College (where Newman attended), University of Virginia, Princeton University and others attempt to guzzle 24 beers in a day.

It comes from a “possibly mythical quote,” according to Letters of Note. Newman supposedly said to a campus crowd, “24 beers in a case, 24 hours in a day. Coincidence? I think not,” and in the ’70s, Bates College began celebrating Newman Day on April 24th. MEL‘s Cooper Fleishman, a Kenyon alum, says the strategy goes something like this: eight Keystones after midnight, another eight over the course of the day and a quick eight between 10 p.m. and 11:59, tallying each completed brew on the arm in increasingly sloppy Sharpie and taping cans together into unwieldy “wizard staffs.” It’s quite doable, unless you make the mistake his best friend did and chug Genesee Cream Ale to the point of vomiting.

Newman, whose son died of a drug overdose, called the tradition “abhorrent” and “cruel” and petitioned Princeton to curb the tradition in 2004. 

The Big Blowout at William and Mary

While daylong drinking fests can be found at almost every school, the College of William and Mary takes the cake for the most sentimental. On the last day of every spring semester, students get blackout drunk across campus to commemorate their school year in an event called Blowout. While the student board has been known to hand out free shirts to those who can blow a zero on a breathalyzer, seniors trade shirts for sweet memories. “Seniors will go to their freshman dorm rooms with their freshman roommates and ‘toast’ their old room with alcohol,” says Anna, who graduated in 2014. 

Singing to the Foreign Exchange Student in Canberra, Australia

Sometimes the best drinking rituals are international. My buddy Cole spent the spring of 2017 studying abroad in Canberra, Australia, at Australian National University. There, his Aussie friends play a singing game where they mention the name of someone in the group. Whoever is mentioned has to drink. They sang: “Here’s to Cole/ He’s true blue/ He’s a piss pot through and through/ He’s a bastard, so they say/ Tried to go to heaven, but he went the other way.”

Somehow, Cole’s name was always mentioned. “As far as I know, they only play it with tourists/exchange students, because these assholes would wait for us to grab a new beer and then immediately start belting it.”

Drunk Mario Kart at Marymount Manhattan University

At Marymount Manhattan University in New York City, college senior Felipe plays a game called Don’t Drink and Drive with his college buddies. The official rules (which Felipe claims he originated) are simple: Drink an entire beer before the Mario Kart race is over, don’t hold a game controller and beer at the same time, and “the last two places (and anyone who doesn’t finish the beer when crossing the finish line) take a shot.” 

Don’t Drink and Drive isn’t a universal Marymount game, but it’s unique to Felipe’s crew. With any college ritual, the specificity to one’s experience is what matters most. For Felipe, me and many other college kids and alumni, our games and the fun drinks we down are part of our university experiences, even if they’re not exclusive. My college roommate Lillian put it best: “Did I have an identical drink at Indiana University? Yes. But will I always get a Blue Guy at KAMS? Also yes.”

Do you have a weird college drinking ritual to share? Hit up @josephlongo_ on Twitter.