Years ago, in Russia, I stopped in a ryumochnaya for a shot of vodka.
It’s a Soviet-era relic — a barebones canteen where workers drop in for a drink before heading back into the cold. Some ryumochnaya have snacks like herring or dumplings, and most of them don’t have chairs. They were designed as pit stops (an antonym to the country’s grandiose, old-world taverns). In the time it took me to place an order, a hard hat arrived, took his shot, paid and disappeared. Inebriation, economized.
I remember being impressed, but also a little mystified. I was a student at the time, and while my drinking had become as ritualistic as that of any middle-aged Russian man (or, say, any American man accustomed to buying a sixer of High Lifes on a Friday), it was also far more creative and convivial. We played Dartmouth pong tournaments, made ice luges, dabbled in Four Loko.
In the long run, the college-aged commitment to getting plastered in increasingly innovative ways isn’t particularly healthy or sustainable, but in the moment, let’s not forget, it’s new and silly and thrilling. Carpe vinum.
That’s why we stand with the coeds catching flack this week for their beloved “borging” trend (“borg” is short for “blackout rage gallon”…the hashtag has nearly 75 million views on TikTok). Here’s how it works: buy a gas station-style gallon of water, pour it out a bit, refill it with a combination of hard liquor and hydration flavoring — think of electrolyte powders like Liquid I.V. or MiO.
One TikTok video with 20,000 likes, filmed at a recent University of Wisconsin tailgate, depicts these industrious drinkers in all their borgy glory; they’ve all decorated their gallons, and given them punny monikers like “Pablo Escoborg” and “Ice Ice Borgy.” Some of their visiting parents can even be seen getting in on the action.
Medical correspondents for national news outlets, meanwhile, have been quick to pour cold water on the fun, pointing out that despite the fact that the alcohol is watered down, this still qualifies as binge drinking.
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Well, of course it does. Most borgers make room for a fifth of alcohol in their jugs, which is equivalent to 16 drinks. That’s way too much, no matter how early you start drinking, and will obviously contribute to all the not-great drunken shit that comes with binge drinking without gallon jugs.
But recall that 80% of college students drink, and 50% regularly engage in binge drinking. Excessive consumption is currently a rite of passage for 20-ish-year-olds. For all the get-drunk-quick games or tricks they could’ve invented, though, this one isn’t only on the tamer side — it also has some rare safeguards.
Consider: At a tailgate like the one in the video above, every student has their own personal jug. It’s labelled. They don’t have to pour Everclear jungle juice from a fraternity-owned Gatorade dispenser into a Solo cup they found from a package on a Walmart fold-up table. They can drink their own drink, safe from judgment or Rohypnol or a stranger’s saliva.
Could the presence of water help, too? Definitely. Not to mention, the lack of sugar in those flavor packets could ease the specter of the next morning’s hangover, too, assuming you didn’t borg too hard.
Ultimately, borging is a ridiculous way to get drunk. But that might even be a plus, too. It’s a fantastical, memorable conceit, which might also make it more easily retired. Remember when we used to fill up Poland Spring gallons with vodka? There is no quick borg to be had on the way home from work. Nor should there be. Stay safe, Gen Z. Make good choices, and borg as you still can.
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