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July 12, 2006 5:50 AM   Subscribe

Free Lecture On The Wonders Of Social Democracy And The Evils Of Alcohol With Every Bottle Of Booze: Outside sunny Islam, are there are worse places to get a drink than Sweden?
posted by MiguelCardoso (74 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
...and here's an ad Systembolaget ran in Financial Times, at the time (2005).
posted by soundofsuburbia at 6:04 AM on July 12, 2006


Everyone stay calm here. Let's not embarrass ourselves acting like a bunch of school girls.
posted by LarryC at 6:04 AM on July 12, 2006


Atilla the Hun drowned in his own nosebleed?

Cool...
posted by c13 at 6:10 AM on July 12, 2006


Yumpin' Yiminy.
posted by jonmc at 6:11 AM on July 12, 2006


Oh yeah, feel free to check out Alkoholkommitén (The Alcohol Committee), our national action plan to prevent the harmful medical and social effects of alcohol.

Still, it's worth noting that Sweden's not the only country with an alcoholic monopoly. Finland's got Alko and Norway has Vinmonopolet for instance.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 6:17 AM on July 12, 2006


Alkoholkommittén.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 6:18 AM on July 12, 2006


A friend of mine just got back from two and a half weeks in Sweden. Apparently illegal stills are common, and you can buy flavoring agents at the local store to make your homemade alcohol taste like your favorite liqueur. She said the high point was when the neighborhood moonshiner showed up on thier doorstep with a wheelbarrow full of 'shine.
Mmmmm, aquavit!
posted by Floydd at 6:22 AM on July 12, 2006


Floydd: Your friend stayed in Värmland, then? :)
posted by soundofsuburbia at 6:25 AM on July 12, 2006


Utah?
posted by staggernation at 6:30 AM on July 12, 2006


My friends went to a wedding in Sweden last weekend, and were sitting looking very glum over some cheap cheese at lunchtime yesterday. That's some expensive ol' booze over there.
posted by bonaldi at 6:32 AM on July 12, 2006


if you think it's hard to get a drink in Sweden, you probably don't need another one
posted by mr.marx at 6:34 AM on July 12, 2006


Down with destructive hedonism, long live non-destructive hedonism.

(..oh no, I forgot ... it's tradition! Culture! Free choice! *runs in panic from the inebriated holy cow*)
posted by vertriebskonzept at 6:45 AM on July 12, 2006


Such utter and complete bullshit.

This graph from 2004 by the World Health Organisation shows exactly how well the monopoly in both Finland and Sweden has worked to cut down on (dangerous) alcohol consumption. It hasn't. By demonising the very idea of drinking we're never going to develop a 'sensible' culture of drinking. Finns generally don't enjoy a glass of wine with a meal. They buy a crate of beer and bottle of vodka and get utterly shit-faced. And it's getting worse.

And believe me when I say that it's painfully easy to get a drink (or, indeed, get drunk) in both these countries.
posted by slimepuppy at 6:52 AM on July 12, 2006


That is one patronising, self-serving, annoying movie, & it pisses me off that my hard-earned booze-kronor helped fund it.

are there are worse places to get a drink than Sweden?

Err, probably; I’m told the Finnish monopoly is more dourly restrictive than the Swedish one; although having said that, it really isn’t that hard or unpleasant to buy ones booze here, and the set-up strikes me as not that dissimilar to the state-licensed liquor stores in parts of Canada, say.
posted by misteraitch at 6:52 AM on July 12, 2006


*holds hands with LarryC, jumps in circles, giggles*
posted by cortex at 6:58 AM on July 12, 2006


NH has state run liquor stores. Of course you can buy beer and wine anywhere. I guess NH figures you will be ok if you don't drink the hard stuff. Plus it makes the state a chunk of change.
posted by Dr No at 7:02 AM on July 12, 2006


I like the concept of the systembolaget, but based on the disturbingly extreme boozing I've witnessed in Sweden (speaking as someone who lives in Glasgow, home of extreme boozing!), it really doesn't appear to work very well.
posted by jack_mo at 7:06 AM on July 12, 2006




....anybody?
posted by rxrfrx at 7:09 AM on July 12, 2006


Still, it's worth noting that Sweden's not the only country with an alcoholic monopoly. Finland's got Alko and Norway has Vinmonopolet for instance.

And Pennsylvania has the state liquor control board.
posted by three blind mice at 7:13 AM on July 12, 2006


Um, if you want any kind of spirits in Washington you have to go to a weird communist style goverment store that looks like something out of East Germany. Somehow I'd assumed this was the case across America?
posted by Artw at 7:14 AM on July 12, 2006


Dr No, New Hampshire's state liquor stores are definitely not designed to cut down on drinking; liquor is really cheap there, and every weekend sees a pilgrimage of bargain-seekers from neighboring states (especially on Sunday, when, until a couple of years ago you couldn't buy liquor in Massachusetts).
posted by staggernation at 7:21 AM on July 12, 2006


I’m told the Finnish monopoly is more dourly restrictive than the Swedish one
In the letter of the law, this might be true, but shopping in an Alko is more relaxed. I remember a time (correct me if this has changed) where in Systembolaget you had to go up to a counter to ask for alcohol to be brought to you, much like perscription drugs in a pharmacy. At least in the Finnish Alko you walk in actual aisles filled with alcohol and the staff is extremely knowledgable and go through a lot of training (especially re:wines).

Also, if we're talking about perverse alcohol policies, let's mention the alien concept of dry towns.
I mean, What The Fuck, America?

As an aside, my intergration into English culture was greatly aided by our shared culture of alcohol-abuse. Boozy pub lunches got me through uni and made me lots of new friends.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:34 AM on July 12, 2006


Oh and where are your new friends now Slimepuppy? Probably dead.
posted by Flashman at 7:36 AM on July 12, 2006


Argh... Not even 21 and the PA Liquor Control Board annoys me. Good thing I go to school in DE...
posted by potch at 7:39 AM on July 12, 2006


Yeah, this video is weird (There was irony in that thing, right? Attempts at humor and a certain mocking of the prigs calling the shots in Brussles? If not, what a shitty place to live.) but as others have noted, their ain't much of a free-market for alchohol in the states either, although some are much more liberal about it (CA, AZ) than others (in MD, you can buy beer and wine at beer and wine and lottery ticket shops, whilst booze is only available at state-owned shops).

Arizone though--gotta love a state where you can pop into a gas station and buy a bottle of Jack, a rifle, some ammo, and a carton of smokes before heading back to the fallout bunker.

That said, if you can't get affordably drunk in a country as cold as Sweden at will, I don't see the point of living there. Statistics agree with me.

(And you really wanna see a drunk Swede or Scandanavian in general? Share a table with them on their holidays in Spain or Portugal.)
posted by bardic at 7:43 AM on July 12, 2006


This whole thing is a big smokescreen by Big Rhubarb to distract attention from all the problems that they cause.

Oh, and another datapoint: Alabama also has "state stores" that sell alcohol. But in the USA, this is very much a state-by-state (and in some respects, county-by-county) thing.
posted by adamrice at 7:44 AM on July 12, 2006


*and no I'm not as drunk as my spelling skills would indicate
posted by bardic at 7:44 AM on July 12, 2006


Still, it's worth noting that Sweden's not the only country with an alcoholic monopoly. Finland's got Alko and Norway has Vinmonopolet for instance.

Here in Iceland we have the government run Vínbúð (Wine Store); even more restrictive than the Finnish one, as it's the only store you can buy alchohol, regardless of it's alcohol content. And most of the stores close at about 6 o'clock, which means if you can't make it to the Vínbúð in time you have to rely on the overpriced pubs for braincell slaughtering.

The effect this kind of practice has on our drinking culture is often commented upon, as alcohol is commonly viewed as just a means to "get wasted", with people stocking up before weekends and holidays on the strongest drinks they can get their hands on.
posted by aldurtregi at 7:45 AM on July 12, 2006


slimepuppy: Yeah, it used to be that way, but nowadays there are a few Systembolag which operate, ehm, supermarket style.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 7:51 AM on July 12, 2006


haha, alcoholics.

you must admit, this is better than the shadow government trade in other kinds of drugs.

At least they're open about it.
posted by eustatic at 7:55 AM on July 12, 2006


Slimepuppy, I grew up in a dry county. No booze or beer anywhere, although there was a drive-thru liquor store at the county line.

Particularly in the South in America there are some freaky odd blue laws that regulate what can be sold, where and on what days. Some counties it's a free for all, some can't sell booze on Sundays, some can't sell booze until after noon on Sundays, some you just have to go to the next county. Hell, the county I live in right now has a law that you can't sell liquor within 100 yrds of a school or church. And considering there's a church damn near every 50 yrds, that makes it a little difficult.

One of the interesting things about Tennessee getting its own NFL football team back in the late '90s was that Davidson county (where the team resides) had to change the liquor laws to allow the sale of alcohol by the shot and beer sales starting at 10.30 am on Sundays. This was because the restaurants downtown near the stadium were pissed they were missing out on all that tailgating money.

That's the nice thing about the social conservatives down South...they'll change their minds about what's okay as long as there's money in it.

Oh, and Utah?? Is insanely stupid booze wise. Private club memberships, 2.5% alcohol beer, and other crazy stuff...just makes it easier to get hard drugs that a nice beer with friends.
posted by teleri025 at 7:57 AM on July 12, 2006


I forget if it's Mississippi or Alabama where, if you order a cocktail, you get a glass with ice and mixer, but you have to open and mix the liquor yourself from those little 1 oz. bottlettes.

A Long Island Iced Tea takes longer than usual that way.
posted by bardic at 8:00 AM on July 12, 2006


I forget if it's Mississippi or Alabama where, if you order a cocktail, you get a glass with ice and mixer, but you have to open and mix the liquor yourself from those little 1 oz. bottlettes.

Actually, bardic, that was South Carolina, and they fixed that particular bit of crazy.
posted by jedicus at 8:18 AM on July 12, 2006


Well, God hates Sweden anyway.
posted by Decani at 8:19 AM on July 12, 2006


In Georgia, as far as I can tell, you can't legally buy any kind of alcohol in stores on Sunday. Supermarkets can sell only beer and wine, not 'hard' liquor.

Apparently, you can't get as drunk on beer as you can on other forms of alcohol.
posted by Malor at 8:20 AM on July 12, 2006


Montana, I was delighted to discover earlier this year, has combination bar/liquour outlet/video poker establishments freaking everywhere.
posted by cortex at 8:21 AM on July 12, 2006


New Hampshire's state liquor stores are definitely not designed to cut down on drinking

My favorite was always the one right on the Interstate-93. With all the vending machines outside selling any mixer you could think of. That really put the high in highway.

No lime wedges, though.
posted by sacre_bleu at 8:25 AM on July 12, 2006


If you find yourself in Utah, be sure to pick up some of Wasatch's brews. I recommend Polygamy Porter ("Why Have Just One?").
posted by staggernation at 8:45 AM on July 12, 2006


As long as we're trotting out regional alcohol oddities...

In Texas, half of Dallas is in a "dry" county, meaning that they don't have bars, they have "private clubs" (annual membership typically in the $1 range, I think). Bastrop, the next county east from where I live, is similar, but they can have beer/wine/setups bars with no membership required.

Here in Austin, no liquor sales on Sundays, and no beer/wine before noon. One of the local swanky grocery stores (Central Market) that once had a really excellent selection of port was obliged by the TABC to get rid of it in order to have wine samplings in the store. I really, really don't understand that.

There's a bar straddling the Florida/Alabama border called the Floribama. At midnight, they herd all their customers over to the Florida side, where their license runs later.
posted by adamrice at 8:47 AM on July 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Lynchburgh, Tennessee, home of the Jacks Daniell's distillery is a dry county, meaning that you can visit and tour the distillery but can't buy any whisky until one leaves the county.
posted by dov3 at 9:02 AM on July 12, 2006


btw, last time I was in Lissabon, I didn't see any stores that had the selection Systembolaget has (~3000 different wines, beers and liquors)

that said, their PR department can go fuck themselves. (and I don't want to pay for the post-orgy snacks.)
posted by mr.marx at 9:04 AM on July 12, 2006


Wow, I thought drinking in CA was annoying because of the 2am last call and open container laws. Now I feel much better.
posted by Hicksu at 9:04 AM on July 12, 2006


I have nothing to contribute except for singing the glories of NH liquor stores. Tax-free, cheap liquor? O hells yes!

Also, if y'all are ever up for some New Hampshirite spirits, I highly recommend General John Stark vodka -- made with apples, for that old-fashioned Live Free or Die taste.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:05 AM on July 12, 2006


Did I miss something, or was the film's main argument that if you take away the profit motive on alcohol sales, stores won't advertise alcohol and everybody will stop drinking? Because, you know, without a sign telling me exactly where the booze is, I couldn't find it by myself. It's actually kind of funny seeing the film boast that their alcohol control strategy is based on a system originating in mining towns prior to the Industrial Revolution. That sounds like a solid basis for running a developed nation in the 21st century.

I've lived in Denmark and traveled a lot in Norway and Sweden, and my sense is that the only difference made by the state monopoly on booze is that alcohol is incredibly expensive, so people socializing with alcohol often try to maximize their gain by drinking the strongest, cheapest booze available. I've also seen this strategy effectively pursued by homeless alcoholics across the US.

posted by ga$money at 9:21 AM on July 12, 2006


maximize their gain by drinking the strongest, cheapest booze available

see APK (Alkohol Per Krona)
posted by mr.marx at 9:29 AM on July 12, 2006


Gotta love Arizona. I live close to a drive through liquor store. It even won an award. It's a pretty sketchy joint.
posted by loquacious at 9:41 AM on July 12, 2006


Everyone stay calm here. Let's not embarrass ourselves acting like a bunch of school girls.

But what if I am a schoolgirl? Holy smoking jackets, it's Migs, making an FPP!

*shows cortex how the jumping & squealing is really done*

I had no idea there were "dry" areas in the USA. Makes me wonder why some people lose their cool over the nice gov't run booze stores we have in Ontario, as though they were some sort of problem. You can get anything you want and they're open 7 days a week, late on weekends.
posted by zarah at 9:53 AM on July 12, 2006


It is a bit of a pain to obtain drink in Sweden. But they smuggle in all sorts of things from Latvia, Lithuania, etc.

I was in Stockholm a couple of weeks ago and had no problems getting absolutely tanked with friends. In Sweden, this almost always results in a sauna, a naked run through the streets and a jump into the Baltic.

What's really, really, really stupid is that in Stockholm (as well as in Paris and London) the trains stop running before the bars close. Why can't they have 24 hour service like we do here in the states? Damn commies . . .
posted by aladfar at 10:12 AM on July 12, 2006


...anyway, this thread made me thisty so I had to go and visit my local Systembolag. It really wasn't that hard to obtain a few beers. So alert the WHO and close this thread, I'm gonna get drunk! :)
posted by soundofsuburbia at 10:53 AM on July 12, 2006


...and, yeah, there's a sauna in my building, so you are all welcome to join me there later on. :)
posted by soundofsuburbia at 10:55 AM on July 12, 2006


So the choices are A) Selling alcohol cheap, to minors, who binge drink and kill themselves or others or B) Government monopoly where alcohol is exorbitantly expensive which somehow translates to nobody ever getting drunk or hurt. Huh.
posted by tula at 11:02 AM on July 12, 2006


Their site changed the size of my browser window, making them evil in my book.
posted by theora55 at 11:19 AM on July 12, 2006


It's actually kind of funny seeing the film boast that their alcohol control strategy is based on a system originating in mining towns prior to the Industrial Revolution. That sounds like a solid basis for running a developed nation in the 21st century.

You're right. I vote that we of the Modern Civillization throw out all ideas conceived before the year 1993 CE and proceed with a vicissicalendrism centered on that year. Today is July 12th of the year 13 BSBE, Back Street Boys Era.

Dry counties aren't extant exclusively in the American South, there are several dry counties in Yankee Maine, I believe.

Another amusing boozeological quirk is that in Southern New England liquor stores are euphemistically referred to as "package stores".
posted by XMLicious at 11:41 AM on July 12, 2006


In the US, the WCTU can be blamed for preventing easy access to spirits. The demon rum was supposed to be banished by Prohibition.
A later constitutional amendment repealed that bit of nanny government, but the vestiges remain in state control of such beverages. This monopoly brings in funds to the state coffers, and prevents unseemly competiton that might reduce prices.
Thus, travelers from control states often return from vacation with oddly gurgling luggage.
posted by Cranberry at 11:55 AM on July 12, 2006


Lynchburgh, Tennessee, home of the Jacks Daniell's distillery is a dry county, meaning that you can visit and tour the distillery but can't buy any whisky until one leaves the county.
posted by dov3 at 11:02 AM CST on July 12


Except for the single "commemorative" bottle of JD you can buy in the gift shop after the tour.

And the rum cakes! There's a place down the street from the distillery that sells rum cakes in tins in various flavours which could probably get you drunk if you were dedicated to the cause.

It's still deliciously ironic.
posted by joannemerriam at 12:09 PM on July 12, 2006



What's really, really, really stupid is that in Stockholm (as well as in Paris and London) the trains stop running before the bars close. Why can't they have 24 hour service like we do here in the states? Damn commies . . .

The only place in the States -- indeed, the only place in the world -- with 24 hour train service is New York. You might be judging the ferriners a little harshly, there.

Nice post, Miguel!
posted by jason's_planet at 12:11 PM on July 12, 2006


Americans have trains?
posted by Artw at 12:51 PM on July 12, 2006


They're really big and slow because of all the fat people, but yeah.
posted by bardic at 1:01 PM on July 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Hey, the Systembolag has changed immensely in the last thirty years. They do now try to sell you alcohol, rather than dissuade you.
And, however much I loathed and mocked the system when I lived there, now that I only visit, I think it is an improvement over the present British culture. All the commenters in this thread complaining that Swedes drink annilating quantities just to get drunk have not, perhaps, noticed how young Brits drink, without the excuse of a systembolag.
posted by alloneword at 1:06 PM on July 12, 2006


The only place in the States -- indeed, the only place in the world -- with 24 hour train service is New York.

I'm sure it's all the lovely free market liquor that I've had in me at three am that made the one hour wait between trains so tranquil and free of the fetid and assy winds of high summer in the NYC subway. Not to mention the low pressure sales pitches of various hobos, grinning perverts and murderous transvestites so amusing and mellow.
posted by Divine_Wino at 1:12 PM on July 12, 2006


Over the last few years, bying booze over the internet from places like Germany, Spain, and Lithuania has really increased, particularly in the northern parts of Sweden. I know that many of my relatives, particularly the under-35 crowd, has pretty much given up on the Systembolaget and have begun to buy all their alcohol online.

Customs has really cracked down on this habit lately, though, and it will be interesting to see how this issue plays out, given that the EU has said that it's not illegal to import alcohol.

As for a funny story about blue laws... We were traveling in south Georgia, and stopped at a restaurant somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I ordered a Coke, but was told that they didn't serve Coke or Club Soda on Sundays, as they "are used to make mixed drinks, and we don't allow alcohol related consumption on the Lord's Day". We ended up leaving and eating at a Waffle House instead...

Oh, and the site Decani linked above is just creepy...
posted by gemmy at 2:25 PM on July 12, 2006


Another licensing law curiosity for you all: there are (or were?) pubs in Glasgow with special licenses that allow them to open at 8am, to cater to shift workers. A side-effect being that they allow enthusiastic nightclubbers to extend the weekend until Tuesday morning and socialise with alcoholic postmen.
posted by jack_mo at 4:26 PM on July 12, 2006


Heh. That reminds me a terriffic greasy spoon where I used to live that had a happy hour at 8 a.m. for people coming off the night shift at a nearby hospital.
posted by bardic at 5:18 PM on July 12, 2006


Sure, it would make a huge difference if a government could maintain it's monopoly, maybe even to the point where they would produce moralizing videos about it?

Still, for propaganda it was pretty well produced without being obnoxious about it.
posted by delmoi at 6:08 PM on July 12, 2006


Um, if you want any kind of spirits in Washington you have to go to a weird communist style goverment store that looks like something out of East Germany. Somehow I'd assumed this was the case across America?

In Iowa, you can buy booze at supermarkets, up to everclear. The best "Cheap to get fucked up on" stuff is hawkeye vodka, but the wikipedia entry seems to have been deleted or something.
posted by delmoi at 6:44 PM on July 12, 2006


Oxford, Mississippi's county charges 25% tax on liquor--I don't know if that's the case in the other wet counties in the state.
posted by brujita at 9:12 PM on July 12, 2006


"in MD, you can buy beer and wine at beer and wine and lottery ticket shops, whilst booze is only available at state-owned shops"

Bardic, what are you talking about? You can buy anything at the liquor stores and, iirc, you can buy beer at some gas stations. I don't think there are any 'state-owned' shops.
posted by stavrogin at 10:12 PM on July 12, 2006


On the day of my twentieth birthday I walked into a Systembolag and ordered a terribly fancy bottle of Champagne from the man behind the counter. He fetched it, bagged it and informed me of what it cost "cash or charge?".
-"What? You're not gonna card me? You mean I could have come in here yesterday and bought my champagne?" I was terribly disappointed.
posted by dabitch at 12:12 AM on July 13, 2006


Hmm. Must be a Montgomery/Howard County thing. Grocery stores do not sell any alchohol here. There are beer/wine stores, and there are state owned liquour stores. Da truf. I bought beer at one the other day after grocery shopping.
posted by bardic at 1:54 AM on July 13, 2006


In the spirit of European unity, I drank a glass of Portuguese wine last night, a delightfully mellow 2003 Ribetajo that I’d picked up at my local Systembolag last week. Of course, if the urge for a glass of vinho had struck me unprepared (the local store shuts at six on Wednesdays) I would have had to take my chances at a bar or restaurant, with no guarantee that they’d have my specific choice in stock. A certain amount of forward-planning is thus required of the discriminating drinker in Sweden, which can be irksome for those who prize spontanaiety. Also, while Systembolaget's selection is almost always adequate for my tastes, it still falls short of what I'd been accustomed to find in the UK, and I am occasionally frustrated by its limitations. Although in practice the Systembolag is a prescriptive corruption-prone bureaucracy that does its job only adequately, there are some good things to be said for it: profiteering from alcoholism is lessened, quality standards are enforced, etc. On a slightly different note, it's curious how often the state-monopoly model has been proposed for the distribution of other intoxicants, should their sale ever be legalised…
posted by misteraitch at 2:36 AM on July 13, 2006


Limiting the times when alcohol can be sold is stupid. It only punishes light/casual drinkers. The pros all know when they must stock up. When I was in Sweden, I didn't have to buy any alcohol. It was all supplied by the Germans and Danes with whom I was partying.

Leaving Sweden, I took a ferry. Nearly everyone coming off the ferry, as I was getting on, were carrying cases of beer from Denmark. Seems perfectly reasonable to me. Corporations shouldn't be the only beneficiaries of open borders, as is too often the case.
posted by Goofyy at 4:04 AM on July 13, 2006


When I moved from Pittsburgh PA to Mesa AZ last year, the difference that struck me the most wasn't the heat or the flat landscape -- it was the fact that in PA, you could only get booze at a state-run liquor store or beer distributor (and in the latter case, you had to buy an entire case), whereas in AZ they have coolers with single cans of beer in them next to the register at the Quickie-Mart. It was a bit of a shock.

(p.s. I hate sites that resize my browser window. Grr.)
posted by rifflesby at 4:25 AM on July 13, 2006


Speaking of drinking in the UK (and as an Irish woman I do feel qualified to opine here)
Suffolk Police Tell Boozy Women to wear nice knickers!
posted by Wilder at 7:50 AM on July 13, 2006


Whatever happened to the Swedes extreme war on drugs? Did it fail so badly that they dropped back to dreaming of alcohol prohibition? I don't believe the movie for a minute, these types always want prohibition, and will put up with any amount of chaos to get it. And to think that I used to admire Sweden for its liberality.
posted by telstar at 12:12 PM on July 13, 2006


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