Not long ago in this space, we considered postcards suggesting that what the average drinking male wanted from his alcoholic beverage was more. Another load of postcards has come in suggesting there is an aspect of this we did not consider.
Anthropologists, as I have mentioned hereintofore, have split the western world into a Southern tradition of drinking—a modest amount of alcohol to facilitate uninhibited conversation—and a Northern tradition—massive amounts of strong drink to blot out a hostile environment. For those interested in the first tradition, bottles of wine and distilled spirits were readily available over the centuries. For those in the second tradition, the keg or barrel was the natural source of beverage. Sipping was the rule of the day for the Southern tradition; Northern style drinking called for straight guzzling. And those who consumed alcohol in the postcard cartoons often STARTED with guzzling and escalated from there.
The chap at the top of this column, like his counterpart below, are not going to be slowed down by something as time-wasting as pouring their drink from the keg into a mug. The second gentleman is too impatient even to bother with the tap.
This kind of drinking could have its side effects, but that was something to be considered later. (“Later” was not really a concern of the dedicated drinker in either the Northern or Southern tradition. The Southern drinker took longer to get there but was often just as surprised by what waited at that end of the spree.)
By and large, the keg of beer was a symbol of a golden good time, without any hint of aftermath. (One of those fine old jokes we did not cover in the Old Joke Quizzes. “What’s the best cure for a hangover?” “Don’t sober up.”)
But in that age when postcards were the equivalent of today’s tweets, the whiskey barrel was a very common artifact, and presented more opportunities for fun than mere beer, which was actually perceived as more of a family beverage back in the day. (It was, I am informed, entirely plant-based and filled with nutrients which the industry has since filtered away.) The whiskey barrel was for your dedicated drinker, and was obviously a single-serving container.
A feller could really wash away his cares and ignore the world if he had a good supply.
While the powers of a truly potent potable were hardly to be questioned.
All in all, it makes the descendants of these blokes, dependent on corkcrews and discussion of shaken vs. stirred seem like hopeless pikers.