The 50 best drinking songs

Raise a toast to the greatest drinking songs ever recorded about beer, whiskey, wine and white lightning

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30

“(I Was Drunk at the) Pulpit” by the Palace Brothers

Anyone who's ever daydreamed of a little liquid refuge during a high-pressure workday can relate to this 1993 Palace Brothers gem, which tells the story of a preacher who abandons his house of worship "midsermon" and heads out in search of wasteoid oblivion. Will Oldham's voice, still in its quavery infancy, is the perfect vehicle for the tale: Over a numbingly simple guitar drone, he narrates his protagonist's dissolution, which starts to look a lot like enlightenment. "I sucked down a cupful / And God shone within," our hero says before delivering the take-this-job-and-shove-it kicker: "And I saw where I'd been / Was a palace of sin."—Hank Shteamer

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29

“What Good Can Drinkin’ Do” by Janis Joplin

Why do they call it the 12-bar blues? Because it sounds like Mama Miss Pearl hit a dozen watering holes before recording this—at the age of 19. Nineteen! We were picked on in high school too, but it drove us to novels about dragons, not howling soul music that tugs at your liverstrings. Joplin's vocal cords already sound like a public service announcement here. In hindsight, you can hear her speeding to oblivion. It's a cold splash on the spine, enough to both drive us to drink and scare us off it forever.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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28

“En El Cielo No Hay Cerveza (In Heaven There Is No Beer)” by Flaco Jiménez

Ah, the existential justification for drinking beer. Originally composed for a German film in 1956, this song (also known as "The No Beer Polka") has been covered by a plethora of polka bands, translated into both English and Spanish. In our favorite version, 2003’s “En El Cielo No Hay Cerveza” by Flaco Jiménez, we get to celebrate the earthly pleasure in all three languages.—Kate Wertheimer

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27

“Between the Bars” by Elliott Smith

The brilliant thing about this hushed bummer from 1997 is that in the hands of an Irish or polka band, it would be a foot-stomping pub shaker. Here the melody's jiglike lilt is slowed to a glacial pace, spooked by the cold-turkey tremble of Smith’s voice.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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26

“Lived in Bars” by Cat Power

Our drinking list oscillates between the celebratory and the self-loathing, between songs for drinking and songs about drinking. Frankly, I’m not sure where to file this gem from 2006. Chan Marshall’s backstory and the languid first half suggest the latter. But then there are the lyrics—“There’s nothing like living in a bottle!”—and the shoo-wop swing of the upbeat climax, not to mention the bittersweet beauty of her voice. But I guess that’s what makes this song, and Cat Power, great: You can have it both ways, and typically do.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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25

“Kiss the Bottle” by Jawbreaker

With this, punk's most heartwrenching tune about alcohol, the Bay Area trio made living under a bridge and eating dumpster burritos seem utterly romantic in 1992. Hyperliterate squatter-bard Blake Schwarzenbach’s vocals rasp and scratch like a man intimately acquainted with liquor and smokes: “I kissed the bottle / I should have been kissing you.” Aww, my tears are gonna smear the ink on my zine.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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24

“Beer Run” by Todd Snider

Snider, an Americana alt-country folk-rocker from Memphis, penned this jocular anthem, about underage frat boys looking to score some brewskies before a Robert Earl Keen show, in 2002. It's tongue-in-cheek storytelling at its best, and Snider’s spell-it-out chorus has become a universal party cry for—you guessed it—more beer.—Kate Wertheimer

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23

“Tipsy” by J-Kwon

An infectious hip-hop celebration of getting buzzed, “Tipsy” has been setting off parties ever since it dropped in 2004. The hook couldn’t be simpler: “Everybody in the club gettin’ tipsy” (followed by a Ying Yang–style whisper of the same line), repeated four times. St. Louis rapper J-Kwon may have been a fresh-faced 17-year-old when he released this dance-floor classic (public service reminder: teen drinking is very bad!), but he proved wise beyond his years in following hip-hop’s golden rule: club + alcohol = success.—Michael Chen

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22

“Born Slippy” by Underworld

Lyrically, you could dismiss “Born Slippy” as a lout’s anthem: “Shouting lager, lager, lager, lager,” goes its beery chorus. But this 1995 hit, which features in the movie Trainspotting, goes far deeper. “Born Slippy” distills a clubber’s night out into five minutes, starting with a slow, pretty synth refrain, building to pounding tech-house beats and then collapsing back into synthy stillness—a blissful, melancholic brainfuck.—Sophie Harris

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21

“Happy Hour” by the Housemartins

Is this 1986 Brit hit the chirpiest drinking song on our list? We’re going to say yes, based on its jangly Smiths-esque guitars, 200 proof sing-alongability and the fact that it’s officially impossible to watch the video without a smile on your face. Set in a proper British boozer (translation: "pub"), the vid features a sweetly awkward dance routine and Claymation; plus, keen-eyed viewers will notice that the Housemartins’ bassist is a very young Norman Cook, a.k.a. Fatboy Slim. Fancy that.—Sophie Harris

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