Urban legend has it, President Kagame was traveling to the Eastern province and happened upon old sages sipping on local Kanyanga as the cows grazed nearby. The ever pious that he is, advised them to stop drinking so early.
The elders shook their heads in disbelief, the most eloquent among them begun, clearing his throat with one last sip: your excellence, you know we root for you. We routinely vote for you and embrace most ideas that you come up with, which are usually on point. On this particular question, however, we believe we are better seasoned to advise!
Nibyo rwose! The quorum nodded in concurrence.
You see, the herder going on, ‘since time immemorial, alcohol and Rwandans are synonymous…’
Obviously you have little knowledge on this critical matter – with all due respect.
This medicine you see here (referring to the Kanyanga) you must attack it at dawn and stop in due course, all before the sun becomes strong, or else it’ll kill you!
However, no man here is able to conduct social, economic and indeed patriotic business with another man, in full confidence without sipping on this elixir.
Whenever we plan to agitate for you during elections, marry off our children, donate cows and transact land, we must do so in full degustation of the tears of the lion, here present.
Convinced, but mostly amused, he saluted and left them to their devices, not before he paid a full round for the next sunrise..
Now why am I telling this plausible story? Well because not all men are lucky to be introduced to the virtues, but also the vices of the magical, deadly elixir. I had the chance of sitting with elders and being initiated by connoisseurs; I had, if you will, an alcohol mentorship!
- ‘Umva Gate, Mutzig niyo iryoha, ariko imena umutwe umunsi ukurikira…’
I was taught that when you are eating fish you drink white wine. Beef goes with red. When it’s cold you drink red, when it’s hot you drink white – preferably chilled. If it’s on the beach you drink rosé. If it’s brunch you drink sangria. In all you do, don’t mix wines and champagne makes your skin glow, Prosecco is no substitute for champagne and stay away from drinks that have lots of sugar in them. After every three glasses of alcohol, drink water.
And most importantly: you are drunk now: stop, get a bottle of water, drink it then go home!
I am giving you these hints because I suspect you do not sit with elders anymore. And parents nowadays tell their children to never touch alcohol, never to have sex before marriage, and other impractical commandments. I am no parent yet, but I have given reproductive health education to my juniors and teach them to protect themselves – but I digress…
I am giving you this drinking seminar too, because I suspect most of village boys discovered western drinks late in life and do not know how to approach them without burning their livers. So here we go:
If you plan to party, it is best you eat before. And start small, evolve: beer, then wine. Whiskey should be your nightcap. You should drink it in last resort. One or two tots and you are done. Drinking three glasses of whiskey isn’t cool. Red label is horse piss, start from black – preferably double-black (it is a brand not the volume), then customized, forget green and blue labels, you can’t afford them; I can’t – nor can you afford a single malt as old as you.
Jameson and J&B are terrible drinks, possibly disinfectants for bar glasses. Waragi is poison and cursed. It makes you become a person you are not. Don’t drink it!
Tequila shots are only acceptable on specific conditions:
- You have no plans the next day;
- You are not driving;
- You do not care about embarrassing yourself;
- You are among serious, highly reliable friends;
- You are not dating.
As a black backpacker trotting the world throughout my youth, I could never drink tequila. Because I did not know anyone around me and all my trip money was in my pocket. And the next day I had to get up and travel to the next city…
Everyone has their poison. When you find yours, stay there; that’s home for you: do not switch drinks. Some like white spirits, others colored. If white spirits work for you, mix them with tonic or club soda – and lots of ice.
If you go to a party with a big offered bar, don’t get excited; follow your usual drinking pattern. You’ll recognize your drink if:
- You wake up without a big headache (a small one is fine);
- You remember most of what happened the night before;
- You went home with the number of that awesome girl you were talking to.
That said, do not hesitate to try a single malt – it is safe. Don’t drink it though: taste, sip…
The first lesson in business school: Hold your liquor! I have a friend who pitched a big idea to a billionaire. Convinced, the billionaire pledged to invest 200 thousand dollars in the idea. My friend got excited and ordered Champagne all around. A 10 thousand dollar bill came. The billionaire saw him pay and withdrew his pledge. True story… The best way to have fun is to be in some control of the environment you are in: You must enjoy, not be enjoyed.
Some people drink whenever they want to and know when to stop, others can’t even smell alcohol – they go crazy. Alcoholism is an innate condition, likely created by a history of drinking down the family tree. If your dad drunk, and you drink, your kid might be an alcoholic. What to do? Introduce them to Jesus ahead of time: The only efficient cure of alcoholism I know! My grandfather was an Anglican priest, my father a born again, I have drinking mileage. The day my father found out that I drink, he said to me, “you won’t regret the money, you’ll regret the time you wasted”. Since then, I’ve never had a drink with a person who adds no value to me! But I also apply these theories that I am sharing with you.
The coolest drink in a disco is water. Because you stay hydrated and control your dance moves. We aren’t white, our dance must be coordinated.
Drinking is an art, perform it. Also, it is never really about drinking, it is about the conversation or any edifying activity you are taking part into. If, as Chinua Achebe says, “Anecdotes are the palm oil with which stories are consumed”, drinking is the relaxant that enables people to feel comfortable and open-up to one another.
If drinking makes you violent, it isn’t meant for you. However it if turns you into a gracious show off or a comedian, you are good to go. There is no honor in paying expensive bills. If you must impress people by paying a bill, buy them the dinner.
Alright. Don’t go on the rhythm of others. Everyone has their tolerance level, based on body-mass-index, the consistency of the dinner they had, alcohol saturation within their system, and so many other variables such as the fact that they do sports, and get enough sleep, etc. Go on your own pace, and if possible, have a buddy who can encourage you to stop – not go on. Don’t drive. And don’t call the girl who rejected you, she did because you were drunk.
Finally, Hennessey, which I see most of you buy with your mom’s pocket money, is a cognac. Now a cognac is best served hot, as the night winds down, after dinner, wine and great conversations. My sophisticated friend Jeanine puts hot water in a cup, places two fingers of Hennessy in a brandy snifter (Yeah, that’s how the glass is called) on top of it to keep it warm: She adds coffee beans in the hot water for the aroma, then we discuss the latest book she has been reading on levitation…
You ungodly fools hold the bottle and chug it as though it is October beer fest. I have nothing else to say to you, except one last thing:
‘In matters of alcohol, less is more…’