Gin and beer are in – but hold the wine
Student drinking culture is legendary, but is that still the case? Figures differ: some reports suggest most students still drink to excess (note: more than 20 units a week now constitutes heavy drinking), while others say that Generation Z are much more health-conscious – 27% of 16- to 24-year-olds apparently now don’t drink at all, according to the Office of National Statistics, a figure that is hard to credit, given that the booze shelves of my local supermarket were nearly stripped bare after freshers’ week.
This latter impression was borne out by a recent visit to the Bristol students’ union bar, where all the students I talked to said they drank alcohol, albeit not necessarily to excess. There was a lot of enthusiasm for gin, which seems to have overtaken vodka as the student favourite. Beer and cider were popular, too, not least on cost grounds, and the fact that beer is heavily subsidised by big brands such as Carlsberg. Even so, there was surprising loyalty both to local brews (Bristol Beer Factory’s Independence was on tap) and to those from their home towns (one Manchester-born student, a self-confessed “beer snob”, even name-checked Cloudwater).
Cocktails were predictably popular in Bristol because of deals to be had with local app Wriggle, as were – a real blast from the past, these – Jägerbombs, which are still alive and kicking, as they no doubt are in other student bars, too.
But there’s bad news for the wine business, I’m afraid: few of the students I spoke to said they drank wine with any regularity, price being the primary consideration, and struggled even to name the bottles they did buy. Prosecco was regarded as a bit of a treat, but in general these students were more likely to drink out than in. And at Wetherspoons, too, judging by this admittedly small sample.
There are, of course, some students who aspire to drink better – Bristol University Wine Circle has an impressive 500-odd members, mainly, I recall, from the law department, whose intended career should help them sustain their more aspirational tastes – but they are in a tiny minority.
Maybe it’s just that those who don’t drink at all don’t go to the uni bar, but the message that it pays to have a couple of drink-free days a week certainly doesn’t seem to have permeated the student community just yet. Though that’s possibly more likely still to be motivated by cost than by health concerns.