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The 50 best drinking songs

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

By Time Out contributors |
50 best drinking songs
Photographs: Meeno (LMFAO); Courtesy Willie Nelson; Daniel Klutznick (Rihanna); Bill Whitmire (KISS)

Musicians have written countless songs about sex, love and breakups, but booze has always been reliable source of inspiration (especially since it often plays a part in those first three acts). Drinking songs run the gamut from Irish tunes fit for a St. Patrick's Day celebration to hip-hop bangers that should probably only be blared at college parties and crowded clubs. There are happy drinking songs, there are sad ballads for drowning your sorrows and there are also plenty of tracks about being drunk. If you need a soundtrack for your next toast, listen to some our favorite alcohol-inspired music.

Written by Michael Chen, Brent DiCrescenzo, Sophie Harris, Oliver Keens, Hank Shteamer, Kate Wertheimer and Zach Long.



“Cheers (Drink to That)” by Rihanna

A toast to our interns, who chided us for overlooking this my-first-reggaetón chillaxer from 2010. "Don't let the bastards get you down," RiRi sings in her patois. Basic Rihanna rule: The more Caribbean she sounds, the better. Jameson Irish whiskey gets plugged heavily over a sample of Avril Lavigne, which reeks of product placement (there's a shout-out to Ray-Bans, too, official hangover concealer of Rihanna), but at least it's not Malibu.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“40oz. to Freedom” by Sublime

The SoCal ska-punks’ 1992 track—off their debut album of the same name—isn’t the band's finest work. Listening to Bradley Nowell (who died of a heroin overdose just four years later, at age 28) croon about finding solace at the bottom of a bottle is just too damn depressing. And in our experience, it’s more like 40oz to the toilet. Still, the song is about as necessary for certain college freshmen as a Bob Marley poster.—Kate Wertheimer

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“Drunk Girls” by LCD Soundsystem

Is “Drunk Girls” LCD Soundsystem’s finest hour? No, of course not. But does it feel like a night of reckless boozing in New York City? Absolutely. James Murphy himself has described the 2010 single as “dumb.” But, he added, “I like dumb, short stuff.” More reasons to dig “Drunk Girls”? The wince-inducing video, codirected by Spike Jonze, shows Murphy and the LCD crew being manhandled by malevolent pandas. Dumb ‘n’ short 4 evah.—Sophie Harris

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“Bubbles in my Beer” by Bob Wills

Eventually covered by the likes of Willie Nelson and George Jones, this 1947 Western swing standard may well have started the sub-genre of woeful country songs about drinking away your sorrows. It’s bit antiquated and a little depressing, but it’s one of the jauntiest tunes about self-absorbed contemplation you’ll ever hear.—Zach Long


“One Mint Julep” by Louis Prima

Fleeting happiness in the haze of a drunken hour: Many songs have trod this path, but in the words of this jazz-pop standard, "One mint julep / Was the start of it all." Originally a hit for ’50s doo-wop group the Clovers on Atlantic Records, the tune tells of stealing an intoxicated kiss from a woman after one sweet, minty cocktail, only to get hitched (at her father's demand) and end up confused, hungover and the father of six kids. Quite the tipple. Though Ray Charles's 1961 instrumental cover made it a hit, Louis Prima's unmistakably comic tone gives his version the edge.—Oliver Keens

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“Warm Beer and Cold Women” by Tom Waits

…makes the rankings on title alone. But this creaky weeper from 1975's Nighthawks at the Diner manages to rhyme vermouth with Naugahyde booth, too. Admit it: Young-barfly Tom Waits totally destroys old-man-in-a-rusty-shed-with-a-mule Tom Waits.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“Whiskey Girl” by Gillian Welch

There are drinking songs to carouse to, and there are drinking songs to listen to at 4am while you pour out another whiskey and your mind turns over what could’ve been, or where you could get cigarettes at this hour. Taken from Gillian Welch’s exquisite, bleak 1998 album, Hell Among the Yearlings, “Whiskey Girl” falls into the latter category—and how.—Sophie Harris

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“Drunk in Love” by Beyoncé

Yes, ostensibly it’s a love song, but c’mon, Beyoncé was likely deep in her cups last year when she blurted the non sequitur hashtag “Surfbordt!” Ditto for Jay Z, who could not have been sober when he wrote, “Your breastesses is my breakfast.” I think he stole that from Bukowski?—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“Nightrain” by Guns N’ Roses

We learned so much about bum wine through the music of our youth. “Brass Monkey,” of course. Singing the jingle “S-T-crooked letter, S-T-Ides!” on the way to school. Busta Rhymes demanding, “Pass the Cisco!” ZZ Top boogying through “Thunderbird.” And yet my naive tweenage self assumed this sleazy Gunners track was about a choo-choo. Or maybe heroin. No, Axl was going on about some Night Train Express, which looked and tasted like a mixture of corn syrup and Slash’s blood. And you just know these scuzzbuckets poured it over their Frosted Flakes.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“Too Drunk To Dream” by the Magnetic Fields

“Sober, life is a prison, shit-faced, it is a blessing,” singer-songwriter Stephin Merritt intones in the opening verse of, “Too Drunk To Dream.” Make sure to listen to this one while you’re still imbibing, because the harsh guitars and squeals of feedback aren’t going to be pleasant when you wake up with a hangover.—Zach Long


“Bound 2” by Kanye West

“Hold My Liquor” by Kanye West

This Yeezus cut has little to do with drinking and just as much to say about pussy and Deepak Chopra. But we love hearing backwoods soft-rock star Justin Vernon and delinquent drill rapper Chief Keef playing two little devils on Kanye’s shoulders. The Bon Iver bro proclaims, “I can hold my liquor”; the Chicago kid retorts, “I can’t handle no liquor”; and Yeezy delivers the punch line: “Slightly scratch your Corolla… Okay, I smashed your Corolla.” It's 2013’s best addict tragicomedy, next to the Lemmon quaaludes scene in The Wolf of Wall Street.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“Have a Drink on Me” by AC/DC

Some might find it morose to include artists like Janis Joplin and Elliott Smith—who died young after wrestling with their demons—on a list about booze. Then there’s AC/DC. Frontman Bon Scott attended his final recording session with the group in February 1980, working with Malcolm and Angus on this track. Days later, he was dead from alcohol poisoning. What did the band do? Mope? No, it hired a new singer and threw this cut on Back in Black.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“Bank Holiday” by Blur

As an American, the closest thing I have to a bank holiday is Presidents' Day, which is hardly a rousing cause for shouting "Prost!" (Note: If Abe Lincoln is an excuse for you to drink, you are a raging alcoholic.) But this 1994 Britpop punker gave me a snapshot of U.K. binge culture in 1 minute and 42 seconds. “Bank holiday comes with six-pack of beer! Then it’s back to work! Ay! Ay! Ay!” Albarn barks in a hops-soaked slur. Funny how Blur and Oasis fans fought. They all wanted a drink.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” by Merle Haggard


Drinking until your problems disappear probably isn’t sound advice, but coming from the Hag it almost sounds like wisdom. Recorded in 1980 on the heels of Haggard’s third marriage, this whiskey-soaked country ballad probably works best when you’re wallowing in heartbreak, but anyone should be able to appreciate the cheesy saxophone solo.Zach Long


“Milk and Alcohol” by Dr. Feelgood

The Big Lebowski may have cornered the market on White Russian references in pop culture, but this (rhythmically) chugging delight from bluesy Brits Dr. Feelgood gives dairy its sonic due. Written by Nick Lowe (after a night spent drinking Kahlúa and watching John Lee Hooker perform), its seedy stomp and heavy riffing positively ooze the illicit joys of a night on the town. Warning: may not be suitable for the lactose intolerant.—Oliver Keens

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“Beer” by People Under the Stairs

This L.A. rap duo is hardly a household name. That seems to be somewhat intentional, as Thes One and Double K never had greater aspirations than to throw a ridonkulous house party, and no desire to take hip-hop beyond the scratch heyday of two turntables and a microphone. God bless ’em. “To my liver and kidneys, your time is near / You like hangin’ on Twitter, and we like beer,” proclaims K. The 2009 video is an homage to Laverne & Shirley. These dudes would make a great sitcom, too.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“I Like Beer” by Tom T. Hall

Gee, this stein-swinging sing-along from 1975 makes drunks seem quaint and adorable. Like commercials with horses falling in love with puppies. Not like raging douchebags who get into fights about football and fall in the street.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“Sweet Lucy” by Michael Hurley

Greenwich folk scene weirdo Hurley is known for his surreal lyricism, but this drinking ballad is fairly straight-forward: The singer drinks too much wine, goes to jail and his mom doesn’t have the money to pay bail. It’s more of a cautionary tale, but that doesn’t make the refrain of “Sweet Lucy” any less infectious.—Zach Long


“Cold Gin” by Kiss

When I think of gin, I think of British gentlemen wearing bowlers and monocles, sipping Bombay or Hendrick’s with their pinkies raised until they get sloshed enough to roll up their cuffed sleeves and box with their fists curled inward. I certainly don’t think of horny dudes from Queens dressed like space clowns. But, whaddaya know, Kiss dropped the gin anthem in 1974.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” by George Thorogood and the Destroyers

This drinkin’ blues song was first recorded in 1953, becoming one of several of its kind to reach the Top Ten on the Billboard R&B chart. John Lee Hooker popularized the tune with his 1966 cover, but Thorogood took it to a whole new level of bitching and moaning in his 1977 version, borrowing another of Hooker’s songs, "House Rent Boogie," to serve as a backstory to explain the sorry singer’s situation. Someone please give the man his drinks and shut him up already.—Kate Wertheimer

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“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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“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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“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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“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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“One Beer” by MF Doom

On an album devoted to his favorite foods (Mm.. Food), British MC Daniel Dumile finds the time to acknowledge his favorite beverage. Beginning with a boast about drinking other MC’s under the table, the masked rapper goes on a stream of consciousness tear atop a Madlib beat. It’s a track that’s meant to be savored, just like the last can of beer in the fridge.—Zach Long


“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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“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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“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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“Let’s All Go to the Bar” by Deer Tick

A generation that can sit on its collective ass and have booze delivered to its door needs a rallying cry, and Deer Tick is happy to provide it. This is the kind of song to play when your friends are dragging their feet and need to be reminded that a short chat with the delivery guy doesn’t exactly count as social interaction.—Zach Long


“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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“Cheap Beer” by FIDLAR

“Beer’s always better with a bag around it,” the skater punks of FIDLAR (an acronym for Fuck It, Dawg, Life’s a Risk—really) proclaim over polluted waves of crust-surf guitar in this 2013 burner. “I! Drink! Cheap! Beer! So! What! Fuck! You!” shouts the chorus. Gotta respect a band whose entire raison d’être is to score shitty brews via tour riders. Would you really rather listen to Animal Collective, hippie?—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“Shots” by LMFAO featuring Lil Jon

We hate this song as much as you do. Of course we do. But the entire belly-shot community would beg to differ. And answer us this: Has any piece of music better simulated the jackhammering headache of a Russian-grade hangover? —Brent DiCrescenzo

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“Drunken Lullabies” by Flogging Molly

When you’re a few drinks in, there’s something about driving rhythms and violin melodies that makes you want to sing along at the top of your lungs. Celtic punks Flogging Molly understand this phenomenon well, so it stands to reason that the title track of their 2002 record is a song about the songs you belt out after a few shots of whiskey.—Zach Long


“There’s a Tear in My Beer” by Hank Williams Sr.

Though only one carried the title outright, all of Williams’s songs were “Long Gone Lonesome Blues” at heart. The Alabama-born legend was tough as an old strip of donkey jerky, yet many of his songs revolved around crying. It made him more of a man—a man with a leather liver. “These last nine beers,” he sings in that high hillbilly whine on this Nashville session, have only convinced him: "I'm gonna keep drinkin' until I'm petrified.” A couple years later, in 1953, they pulled his body out of a Caddy littered with beer cans and lyric sheets.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“It's Five O’Clock Somewhere” by Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett

Let’s raise a glass to the tune that makes us feel a-okay about getting happy hour started just a little early. Or a lot early. Country crooner Alan Jackson enlisted the help of Margaritaville mayor Jimmy Buffett on this 2003 ditty about escaping the doldrums of the workday and tapping into a tipsier state of mind…even if it’s half past twelve on a Tuesday. The song is a tad cheesy for our tastes, but there is no doubt—if our buddies Alan and Jimmy call us down to the cantina, we’ll discreetly punch out and knock back a few. After all, it’s chugalug time in Kuala Lumpur.—Michael Chen

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“Here Comes a Regular” and “Beer for Breakfast” (tie) by the Replacements

From what I’ve heard and seen on YouTube of their early concerts, the Mats made all their songs drinking songs. The gloriously shambolic punk stuff raged like an adolescent who's seen a specter of his older self just ahead, slumped at a local bar and stamped with a gas-station name tag. Conversely, young Paul Westerberg’s ballads carried the sadness of a middle-aged nobody yearning for his salad days. Somehow, the Minnesotans shifted between these two gears without blowing the clutch, as heard in these respective cuts from 1985 and ’87.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“Six Pack” by Black Flag

Next to country, no genre of music covers brewskies like punk. Which makes an easy argument for punk being an evolution of folk, or, conversely, that country & western was the original punk.… Because… See, this is what happens when Keith Morris leaves…though, really? This dumb song about being drunk and dumb is, like, a criticism of being drunk and dumb, because that’s your only recour…recour…option. Because, Reagan… Wait, what was I talking about?—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“All Night” by Chance the Rapper (ft. Knox Fortune)

If you think it’s difficult to stave off acquaintances asking for favors while you’re drunk, just try being famous. Backed by an effervescent Chicago house-inspired beat by producer Kaytranada, Chance pens a party anthem encapsulating all the excuses that tipsy friends will use to bum a ride home. In his own words, “You a goofy if you think I don't know you need a Lyft.”—Zach Long


“Swimming Pools (Drank)” by Kendrick Lamar

You have to laugh whenever advertisers use “Born in the U.S.A.” or “Fortunate Son” to summon patriotism. Similarly, the chorus chant of “Pour up. Drank! Head shot. Drank!” can likely be heard emanating from frat houses across the land, though Lamar’s verses thoughtfully detail addiction and insecurity. The rapper embodies this dichotomy of introspection and mindless raging himself—he goes howling H.A.M. onstage, while on record he muses as if into a diary. Somewhere in Vegas, a swimming pool literally filled with vodka is being planned.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett

While we’re decked out in our Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts, scarfing down "cheeseburgers in paradise" at a Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant in Key West, allow us to pause and tip our straw hats to the lyrical brilliance of Buffett’s 1977 classic. Behind its breezy tropical vibe, “Margaritaville” is, at heart, a tale of a man’s failed romance and the great lengths he’s traveled to cope. We love the subtle shifts in his thinking, from “It’s nobody’s fault” to “Hell, it could be my fault” to “It’s my own damn fault.” Is our protagonist sobering up or stumbling upon progressively drunker revelations? We’re not sure, but we’d gladly order a round of the titular cocktail and discuss.—Michael Chen

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“Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)” by the Doors

Penned by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill for the incendiary 1930 opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, this song was originally performed by a chorus of prostitutes. This more famous cover was recorded by the Doors in 1966 with a carnivalesque sound that perfectly illustrates what it's like to be smashed and along for the ride.—Kate Wertheimer

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“Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks

You can’t help but sing along with the common people at the local watering hole when the jukebox starts playing Garth Brooks’s 1990 ode to drinking the blues away. You’ll suddenly find yourself line dancing with folks you’ve never met and seeing if your vocal register can go to those low places in the song’s signature chorus. And, of course, there will be plenty of whiskey and beer flowing. Fun fact: In the perfect marriage of song to hapless sports team, the Kansas City Royals (two winning seasons in the last 19 years) adopted “Friends in Low Places” as their sixth-inning sing-along anthem. It serves as a constant reminder to beleaguered fans that misery loves company…and booze.—Michael Chen

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“Sippin’ on Some Syrup” by Three 6 Mafia

Cough medicine plus Sprite, plus Jolly Ranchers. Holy shit, people drink that? Sprite? Look, when you’re broke, you have to get creative with your addictions. Anything can become a habit. As Pimp C proclaimed in this song in 2000: “We eat so many shrimp, I’ve got iodine poisoning.” So how did this Memphis hip-hop troupe go on to win an Oscar in 2006, for "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp"? Even pharmacists would have a hard time finding rhymes for promethazine and hydrocodone.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“Too Drunk to Fuck” by Dead Kennedys

Hey, it’s happened to the best of us. This 1981 surf-rock-heavy single was the fourth from the California punkers, who paint an exaggerated party picture mostly to offend music-industry prudes. Although the song reached No. 36 on the U.K. singles chart, it was often banned or censored, leading the Kennedys to supply a sticker for record shops reading “Caution: You are the victim of yet another stodgy retailer afraid to warp your mind by revealing the title of this record, so peel slowly and see.…” Nice touch, Biafra.—Kate Wertheimer

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“Tequila” by the Champs

This two-minute instrumental—an ode to the magical elixir that needs but a one-word introduction—was recorded in 1958 by the Champs and written by Danny Flores, the voice behind the three mischievous "tequila"s spoken throughout and the man responsible for the tune's trademark "dirty sax" solo. We'll say this—the song gets us dancing even quicker than tequila does.—Kate Wertheimer

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“Whiskey River” by Willie Nelson

Some consideration was given to “I Gotta Get Drunk,” a 1970 Willie tune covered wonderfully by Phosphorescent in 2009. But that was the short-haired, clean-shaven Willie. On principle, we went with this classic off of Shotgun Willie, from the dawn of his stoner-cowboy era. Even though it was written by Johnny Bush, the song belongs to Willie, as essential to him as long braids and a bandanna.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“Lilac Wine” by Nina Simone

Originally penned in 1950 for a theater revue, “Lilac Wine” has been covered by such greats as Eartha Kitt, Jeff Buckley and, er, Miley Cyrus. But only the High Priestess of Soul is able to give this moody ode to infatuation the drama and chill its lyrics and melody beg for. In her 1966 interpretation, her voice prowls around the song’s deliciously dark lyrics like a cat, and for the listener, intoxication is inevitable.—Sophie Harris

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“White Lightning” by George Jones

Beer and whiskey odes abound, but there aren't too many moonshine songs. Just this one, really. Perhaps that’s because folks who drink methanol-laden mountain dew end up wearing overalls with one strap and having just as many teeth. Written by the Big Bopper, he of the Day the Music Died, “White Lightning” took George Jones to No. 1 in 1959. Essentially, this was the “Sippin’ on Some Syrup” of the Eisenhower era.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“Gin & Juice” by Snoop Dogg

This was the first rap song to provide high-school parties with a cocktail recipe right in the title. Well, juice can be expensive. But “Gin & Gatorade” just doesn’t have the same mellifluousness. On a side note, when’s the last time you heard someone refer to weed as “indo”? 1994?—Brent DiCrescenzo

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No. 1


“Brass Monkey” by Beastie Boys

It’s an obvious observation, but this song came out before the Internet. Which means that I—like tens of thousands of 12-year-olds in 1986, I would imagine—was unable to immediately figure out what the hell the B Boys were whine-shouting about. I’ll admit it: I thought the rap was about a monkey. Then, in high school, I learned from friends that a Brass Monkey was a sort of gutter mimosa—malt liquor and O.J. Gross. Then, in college, thanks to the World Wide Web, I discovered the source of that funk-skronk horn: Wild Sugar’s deep-disco cut, “Bring It Here.” Rad. And they say friends are better than the Internet.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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