Binge-watching a favorite television show is a universal hobby, and that was true even before the pandemic. While we wouldn’t recommend binge drinking while doing so, pairing a can’t-miss series with a must-have drink is a natural combination. With moderation in mind, of course.
As it happens, many of the best television shows of all time are also the booziest. We’ve seen everything cross our screens at this point, from iconic television bars to cartoon characters who would handily drink anyone under the table — and even entire drink revolutions spawned by popular shows. The Cosmo, anybody?
Pull up your streaming service, find your favorite show below, and get ready to pop open a bottle or mix up some cocktails with these perfect TV-drink pairings.
Viewers of “Succession” were likely introduced to the idea of “hyper-decanting” (read: blending, as in, with a blender) your wine prior to serving. But beyond that questionable idea, the show has plenty to offer. “We think ‘Succession’ is the best show television has seen in a long time — from the acting, script, and the epic music, it’s a winning combination,” says Joseph Mintz, co-founder with Amanda Victoria of Siponey canned cocktails.
“Amanda is a huge fan of Scottish actor Brian Cox, who plays Logan Roy, and I would love to share a dram with Mr. Cox,” Mintz says. Not a bad idea, considering that Cox enjoys enduring internet fame for the video pronunciation guides for Scotch brands he made with Esquire. Pair with a hard-to-pronounce single-malt Scotch — only the best for the Roys!
14. ‘Dead to Me’
The Liz Feldman-produced dark comedy has gone through two seasons thus far, with a third en route. And while many shows have unofficial drinking games, “Dead to Me” and Netflix posted an official one before Season 2 dropped this spring. Highlights include drinking twice if someone drinks on screen, or finishing your drink if “Karen almost ruins everything” (trust us, it happens).
Wine is very much what’s being glugged on screen, though you’ll find a cast of characters willing to open a bottle of just about anything on this show. But for a pairing, go with a gluggable red or an orange wine, which gets name-dropped in the first episode of Season 2 by way of a sub-Reddit about menopause.
13. ‘BoJack Horseman’
Everything you need to know about “BoJack Horseman” the show, and BoJack Horseman the, uh, horse man, can be summed up with a scene where he’s looking for a drink to forget his problems, gets served vodka, and taunts the bartender in response, “What is this, breakfast?” For Ben Rojo, brand ambassador for Don Papa Rum, such a scene encapsulates the show’s ethos. “’BoJack Horseman’ is my favorite show of all time! It’s such an honest and human depiction of depression, through the lens of a giant cartoon horse-person,” he says.
For Rojo, the ongoing theme that setbacks are not the opposite of progress is a highlight, and one of the best reasons to watch. “The characters’ sublimation of trauma through substances is a little on the nose,” he says, “but there’s something oddly gratifying about watching Princess Carolyn down a bottle of ‘Catbernet’ after a rough day while sitting on your couch and doing the same.” “Catbernet” it is, though Cabernet will do in a pinch. Just don’t try to go drink-for-drink with BoJack.
“Entourage” was either the show you loved or the show you loved to hate. But either way, you probably watched. And the freewheeling, big-spending lifestyle certainly lends itself to some fun drink pairings.
“So, with ‘Entourage,’ there’s one guy making all the money and a bunch of other people orbiting him and starting shenanigans; it’s like Seinfeld only everyone is super hot, and like all my favorite trash TV, it’s easy to get hooked whether you want to or not,” says Erica Long of Sourced Craft Cocktails.
She suggests going just as big as the characters might. “Watching ‘Entourage’ screams an occasion to be a little over the top to me and that means bubbles,” Long says. “A bottle of Moët and a bottle of Dom because Vinnie Chase would never pick just one.”
11. ‘The Simpsons’
“The Simpsons” doesn’t pull many punches with its social commentary, and the world of drinking is taken head on, too. Barney Gumble is the poster boy for a love of drink gone wrong, as is Duff for the ubiquitous big-brand beer that will sacrifice all for more profits. We’ve heard there are one or two scenes where Homer indulges in a few of the beers himself.
Then there’s Moe Szyslak and his eponymous Moe’s, a neighborhood dive if there ever was one. Until, that is, the smash success of the Flaming Moe, a drink Moe stole from Homer. Duh duh duh. If you’re feeling fancy (and have a fire extinguisher handy, just in case) make a flaming cocktail and you’ll feel like you’re right there at Flaming Moe’s, too. Otherwise, channel your inner Duff with Schlitz or Natty Boh.
If James Bond drank even more than he already does, followed even fewer rules, and generally caused even more mayhem, the result would be Archer, Sterling Archer. The title character of the show by the same name is famous for his one-liners, and none more so than, “All I’ve had today is, like, six gummy bears and some Scotch.” The man enjoys himself a drink or 12.
In the show’s world, Glengoolie is Archer’s Scotch of choice, a drink known as being “for the best of times.” At other times, though, Archer lambastes the use of sour mix in a Margarita, and praises the virtues of the Bloody Mary, saying: “Forget the glass, Woodhouse, just give me the pitcher. For I am a sinner in the hands of an angry god. Bloody Mary, full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now, at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon.”
You have plenty of options, clearly, for your drink of choice while watching. Of course, if you want the evening to be the best of times, Scotch is the way to go.
9. ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’
Pull me a pint at Paddy’s Pub and I’ll be a happy man. Just don’t make me do any Charlie work for the privilege.
“’It’s Always Sunny’ is the greatest show in general but drinking might help you get on the gang’s level a little easier,” says Nick Sadowski, distiller at Philadelphia Distilling. “The show comments on every hot topic in society, usually with some part of the gang taking one side and the other taking the other side.” The show is edgy, delving into controversial conversations that others might steer away from. What makes it work is that the characters have these un-P.C. conversations in a way that showcases their ignorance and obliviousness to the rest of society. “All the jokes are ultimately on them — with them or without them realizing it — and it’s the reason they’re still making the show 15 years later.”
Sadowski says he doesn’t want you to overthink your pairings here. “Rip some shots and drink a Coors or Hamm’s, or whatever you can find, bud,” he suggests. “Eat some rum ham and a hard-boiled egg while you’re at it.”
8. ‘Game of Thrones’
Raise your hand if you own an “I drink and I know things” T-shirt. There’s a few of you, at least. Meanwhile, in Westeros, the only thing more common than a dead royal is a dead royal who liked to drink too much. Siblings Tyrion and Cersei Lannister enjoyed more than their fair share, as did, of course, Robert Baratheon. But few characters didn’t imbibe heavily in the show, and who could blame them? Living in a world rife with betrayal and back stabbings, murders and coups, dragons and White Walkers and … yeah, that Dornish red looks pretty appetizing.
With the popularity of the show and its penchant for booze, some official options for your pairing pleasure were made available, including partnerships with Ommegang beer and Johnnie Walker Scotch. When you don’t want to go corporate, though, just fill up a beer stein with the strongest suds you can find — all the better if you opt for an old-school barleywine or mead.
In the “Futurama” universe, robots must heartily consume alcohol as fuel, and the underpinnings of that metaphor are fairly clear. “Looking at Bender as a character representing the ‘working class everyman’ it’s easy to see why he’s literally fueled by alcohol,” says Sother Teague, beverage director of New York’s Amor y Amargo. “For him, it’s an absolute necessity to perform optimally. For us, it’s often a crutch to help cope with the things we either can’t change, disagree with, or don’t understand. Obviously this is an exaggerated characterization but one worthy of a little navel gazing.”
Even so, there’s room for bartenders in the show. “It’s also comforting to think that the role of bartender is still a valuable member of future society as portrayed by iZac, a parody of the beloved ’70s era barman of TV’s ‘Love Boat,’” Teague says. He’s going everyman with his suggestions, too, calling for you to find your favorite lawnmower beer, or what he prefers to call hammock beer, more properly fitting how he’d partake. “And on the side, Jägermeister! Plus, there’s a scene where iZac pours Jäger.”
6. ‘Absolutely Fabulous’
For Aubrey Slater, a bartender who’s worked at many New York bars over a 25-year career, British sitcom “Ab Fab” is the perfect call back to the neon-tinged ’90s, when “the economy was great, everyone had money to spend,” she says. “I was also a go-go dancer at Limelight and Palladium, and had a lot of friends in the vogue-ball houses. One of them introduced me to “Absolutely Fabulous”!
Slater describes the characters as icons who epitomized the decade as independent businesswomen, who were also fashionistas and party girls. “They had a frosted glass double-door refrigerator constantly stocked with Veuve and Bollinger, and they drank Stoli Martinis like water,” she says. As a perfect pairing, Slater recommends the Stoli-Bolli, a tall glass of Stolichnaya on the rocks topped with the Bollinger Champagne, which was created on the show.
In “Billions,” the only thing more important than having entirely way too much money is ensuring that the world knows it. Then there are a few subplots, like achieving those perfect moments of comeuppance, and planning new ways to screw over your rivals.
Both Bobby Axelrod and his cohorts, as well as Chuck Rhoades, know their way around a bar. Most typically, a whiskey bar, stocked with absurdly expensive bottles like Michter’s Celebration, or highly touted imports such as Kavalan. By all means, feel free to join in with a bottle of either. Or, just grab your favorite special-occasion whiskey from the shelf and pour yourself a dram of that.
4. ‘Sex and The City’
“Sex and the City” launched the Cosmopolitan to stratospheric heights, of course leading to its inevitable crash back to Earth. The Toby Cecchini-created drink is now often wrongly derided as a symbol of the darker years of cocktailing (when Appletinis and Long Island Iced Teas were the most interesting cocktails you could find).
Of course, there’s more to it than that. “’Sex and the City’ is the ultimate grab-your-girlfriends, veg-out-on-the-couch, and finish- off-your-favorite-bottle-of-booze show,” says Effie Panagopoulos, founder of KLEOS Mastiha. “That show was directly responsible for a huge increase in Cointreau sales in the ’90s, since it was a love letter to the Cosmopolitan and the city it was created in, New York.” For a classic combo, pair a “SATC” viewing session with a Cosmopolitan.
3. ‘Mad Men’
Ah, the good ol’ days of corporate life, when the two-Martini lunch wasn’t merely acceptable, but expected. From costume to set design, “what I loved most about ‘Mad Men’ was how incredibly detailed and on point every aspect of the show was,” says Alex Jump, head bartender at Death & Co Denver. “Of course, as a bartender, too, I appreciate how much attention they paid to the drinking trends and fads of the time, from how vodka was perceived, to Heineken’s role as a newer beer in the U.S. market.”
The bottle of whiskey at the desk channels Don Draper better than anything, and points us to the best show drink pairing. “Of course, I mostly drank whiskey while watching the show, particularly American whiskey for me,” Jump says. “I wasn’t trying to keep up with the guys on ‘Mad Men’ though, so sometimes I’d even enjoy mine as a Highball rather than slammed back in one quick gulp.” A modern solution!
“Scandal’s” Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington, lives a very stressful life, putting out one political fire after another. And in times of need, wine is her friend indeed.
Crystal Sykes, a cocktail and culture writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, says she thinks about “Scandal” every time she writes a story with a personal element. “There’s no Black woman alive who hasn’t felt gutted by being a superwoman placed in the shadows,” she says. “So, whenever Olivia Pope, at the brink of mental and emotional collapse, took solace in a glass — or bottle — of Bordeaux, I could almost swear it was cascading down my own throat as she gulped it down. And so did my homegirls.”
Sykes says that “Scandal” gave her friend group a reason to meet up on Thursday nights. “[We’d] drink wine and talk about how no matter how hard it may be to be a Black woman in today’s world, we’ll always be standing in the sun together,” Sykes says. A bottle of Bordeaux it is, then.
“Cheers” depicts the platonic ideal of the neighborhood bar, the local, the “third place.” Sometimes — and we cannot stress this enough — you really do want to go where everybody knows your name.
“’Cheers’ is the ultimate drinking show because, well, it’s entirely set in a bar!” says Paul Hletko, founder of FEW Spirits. “It’s a caricature of bar tropes, sure, but the characters are all lovable but flawed, and, to a large extent, ‘Cheers’ was my first view into ‘bar life’ as a youngster unable to go to bars.”
Surely, this is no time nor place for a craft cocktail. No sir. “I would drink old-school for ‘Cheers,’ with a shot of FEW Spirits Straight Bourbon Whiskey and a High Life,” Hletko says. Beer and a shot sounds about right.
Published: September 27, 2020