My First Time: Tales of Drunken Misguidance

Everyone has a story to tell about the first time they got drunk. Whitney Adams revisits those formative "First Time" memories with a handful of professional drinkers.

Do you remember your first time? I do. Or at least some of it. I was 16, on a park bench with a guy named Hogan and a handle of Jim Beam.

In fairness, I’m sure alcohol had touched my lips before then—a kegger at a party, perhaps some Smirnoff Ice or a little Strawberry Hill, a nip from that super-old bottle of vodka in my parents’ liquor cabinet. But I had never been bold enough to go all in—to see what the booze could really do. Until I did, and then there was no turning back. Lessons were learned. Or were they?

I know I’m not the only one with a drunken tale to tell, so I’ve implored my fellow drinkers and drinking professionals to share their respective first times. From a college party gone wrong to too much Cuervo to swimming drunk with a Persian cat, we’ve all been there, and the moment was usually punctuated by a throw-up.

Taras Ochota | Owner & Winemaker, Ochota Barrels
“Sharing a bottle of vodka with orange juice with three other mates in my teens. Then a vase of warm cask riesling for some reason. Then swimming with my friend’s black and white Persian cat. Then passing out. I couldn’t drink orange juice for about ten years, and to this day I still hate vodka. Vases of riesling and swimming with cats are OK, though.”

Garrett Snyder | Food Editor, LA Weekly
“The first time I ever drank with the actual intent of intoxication (sort of) was St. Patrick’s Day during my sophomore year of high school. In a true coming-of-age movie cliché, there was a party for the tennis team at the house of this girl I had a crush on, and a friend of mine had smuggled in a water bottle filled with Popov vodka. We mixed it with Pepsi, and I remember thinking ‘Wow, I thought this would taste a lot worse.’ We didn’t tell anyone we were drunk, but most everyone figured it out when I gave a chair a mock lap dance in the middle of the room.”

Paul McGee | Owner, Lost Lake
“I was 19 years old and bartending in Houston at a popular seafood restaurant. It was the head bartender’s last night. There were shots of Cuervo Gold (it was 1989) flowing, and then someone had the bright idea to do ‘Cherry Popsicle’ laybacks. I was instructed to lay back while one bartender poured Crown Royal into my mouth and the other one poured Amaretto di Saronno, followed by me biting a wedge of lime. I woke up the next morning an hour late to my opening bartender shift with a skillet full of raw, uncracked eggs lying next to me in my bed.”

Keith Shore | Art Director, Mikkeller
“It was the early 1990s. I was 13. My aunt had a pool, and we spent a lot of time there in the summers. Between dips I’d sneak off to the garage fridge and guzzle Seagram’s wine coolers.”

Talia Baiocchi | Editor in Chief, PUNCH
“My first time getting drunk is still the drunkest I’ve ever been in my life. Eighth grade sleepover, Jill Jeranko’s house. Her parents were having a party, and for hours we (there were four of us) took turns going downstairs with Solo cups, and filled them up with whatever was easiest to sneak: Jose Cuervo, beer, abandoned margaritas, red wine, vodka. Needless to say, I slept on the toilet seat. The next morning my mom picked me up to take me back home for a party they were hosting. I sat in the corner of our living room facing out the window and pretended to read some interior design book in the hopes that no one would talk to me. I was still hungover at school that following Monday.”

Alex Raij | Chef & Owner, Txikito, El Quinto PinoLa Vara; author, The Basque Book
“My first time drinking was too early to remember. I was mixing wine and club soda or wine and 7UP by the time I was five, for sure. [But the first time I got drunk], I mixed gin and orange juice at a friend’s house and ended up vomiting while her mom chased us around the neighborhood in her car. So Minneapolis. To this day, I cannot stomach a screwdriver or any drink with orange juice—not even a mimosa.”

Sara Kramer | Chef & Co-owner, Madcapra
“My first drinking experience was a little premature. I was four years old and in Panama for my cousin’s bar mitzvah. There was a Friday dinner before the Sunday event. My uncle likes to really throw parties, so naturally it was a legit, catered event, with a bartender who was clearly a bad hire. When I asked him for a Coke, he gave me a rum and Coke. I drank half of it before asking my dad why it tasted funny. Needless to say, the guy was fired, and I spent the rest of the evening passed out on the couch.”

Colu Henry | Author, the forthcoming Back Pocket Pasta cookbook 
“Growing up, my parents had a large antique linen closet that they used as a liquor cabinet. One summer while in high school, I was waiting to be picked up for a bowling date and thought it would be wild to take a few swigs of gin. I wasn’t much of a drinker (at the time), nor had I ever been drunk, but needless to say, a little went a long way. Unbeknownst to [my date], I was blitzed. And I bowled the best game of my life.”

Erica Blumenthal | Co-creator, Yes Way Rosé
“The first time I got very drunk was the summer before my senior year of high school when I was working as a camp counselor in the Poconos. We drank Icehouse beer on tap and Kamikaze shots. From what I remember, this cute Australian counselor I had been crushing on kissed me and said he had wanted to do it all summer. I died of happiness and then got sick.”

Bradford Taylor | Owner, Ordinaire Wine Shop and Bar
“There was a little gas station a mile from campus. I was 17. I went in, picked up three bottles of cabernet sauvignon (total bill: around $13 after tax), and my girlfriend paid for them. Guys I thought were really cool were hosting a party—my first college party. Twenty minutes later, the bottle of cabernet is open. I find a pint glass somewhere and pour myself a glass of wine. I drink it. All 16 ounces of it. Then, a ping-pong tournament. I’m good at ping-pong. That night, I was not good at ping-pong.”

Flula Borg | DJ & Star of Pitch Perfect 2 and Buddymoon
“In the first time I did suck it up some Fire Juice (a Slangs for Alkohol), I did loose my Lunch as you say! Also, I vomited.”

Tagged: beer, spirits, wine