Top 10 drinks of choice for gamblers

Whether you’re sitting at a high stakes table in the Salon Privé or having a game with mates around the dining room table, gambling and drinking go hand in hand. Gambling is a leisure activity, a fun way to pass the time for a few hours, and in most cultures this downtime with friends is accompanied by a drink or two.

Gambling is no different, especially at casinos. Online gamblers tend to be more focused on the games and less on the socialising so the data doesn’t really show whether they play with an alcoholic beverage close to hand, but casinos definitely make a big margin on their alcohol sales.

It’s almost a trope: the whiskey drinker at the poker table, the champagne drinker at the roulette wheel, the beer drinker at the slots.

What’s really interesting is that the different types of gamblers (tables vs slots, for example) don’t favour any particular drink. Beer is really popular, due in large part to the fact that casinos often comp free beers for players.

The CasinoPlay crew took a turn around our local land-based casinos to get an idea of what people were imbibing. Bear in mind that this audience was largely South African gamblers but we did get to speak to players from the slots to the Salon Privé and the results were as expected – except for the really serious players.

Beer

As expected, beer was a huge favourite among the different players. Most players pointed out that a beer can be enjoyed over quite a long period (even if it does start to go a little flat), has a lower alcohol percentage than the fancier drinks and the casino is usually happy to comp you a pint or two while you’re playing.

Back in the day you were given the choice of four or five mass-produced beers from the big breweries but, with the rise of the craft beer industry, the choices are now literally limitless.

Jack and Coke

Also not unexpected but surprising that this bourbon and cola drink is more popular than the Saffer staple of Klippies and Coke. A lot of players enjoy the sweetness of the drink with the slightly sour hit from a good bourbon and America’s favourite export certainly delivers for them.

This drink was enjoyed by players all across the casino and seems to give them a bit of a Vegas vibe while they play.

Mojito

Definitely one of the favourites from the cocktail menu, the muddle of rum, mint, lime and soda water is refreshing and tasty. Hailing from Cuba and the favourite drink of Hemingway, the mojito gained huge popularity in the early 2000’s and has become somewhat of a staple with players who are socialising at the tables and really enjoying their casino experience.

Gin & Tonic

Aahh, the old Gn’T. Once seen as a drink for old ladies but now coming in to its own as a popular and well-crafted liquor. Like beer, gin has seen a refreshing makeover to its image thanks to the craft gin industry. No more pouring gin into a glass of tonic, throwing in a slice of lemon and pretending to be suave. Now we have hundreds of variants of finely crafted gin, each with a distinct profile like blood orange or fynbos to tempt our refined tastebuds.

And, like the mojito, a refreshing and fun drink in our hot climate.

Champagne

This drink was particularly noticeable in the Salon Privé as we watched a few games of high stakes roulette. A group of obviously well-off players were having an absolute ball at the table, laughing and chatting and dressed to kill. And enjoying a rather expensive but (we were invited to try a taste) quite delicious bottle of Taittinger champagne.

Champagne (proper champagne – not sparkling wine) is definitely a drink for the high rollers but we South Africans can still enjoy a local variant of champagne that is just as good as the best on offer from the Champagne region of France. Our suggestion? Try Pierre Jourdan Brut from the Haute Cabrière vineyard in Franschhoek.

Whiskey

From the dusty saloons of the wild West to the high stakes poker tables of Macau, whiskey (or whisky to some) has been a go-to tipple for gamblers around the world. Whether you take it on the rocks, with water or soda, or as a whiskey sour, you know you’re joining illustrious company with a fine glass of the ‘water of life’.

Whiskey does have a bit of a spotted reputation amongst gamblers though. You do have the wealthy player sipping a glass of single malt while looking super snazzy, but you also have the down and out drinking cheap hooch at a dingy dive joint playing with the last of their cash. It’s all about the surroundings we guess?

Martini

What is the most iconic casino drink in the world? It has got to be the martini. A symbol of elegance and sophistication, it truly can into its own when a certain Mr. Bond, James Bond, ordered his to be prepared “shaken, not stirred” while playing baccarat in the early 007 books and movies.

Martinis have a special place in the casino world especially in Las Vegas where you need only look at the ‘Rat Pack’ of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop in 60’s Vegas where the martini ruled supreme.

Vodka Redbull

From iconic cocktail to casino fuel. Vodka Redbulls are popular drinks for late night or long session players. The alcohol gives a buzz while the caffeine give a boost to help keep players awake. While mixing alcohol and caffeine may not be a great idea over the long term, the combination (in moderation) does allow players to keep their wits about them.

This drink is really popular in nightclubs and other late night entertainment venues as well.

Bloody Mary

For those players looking to get a bit of an added boost, Vodka Redbull is not the only drink you can try. Bloody Mary’s are also popular for giving tired players a bit of energy and the mix of vodka (or gin or tequila) with tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and Tabasco is a great pick me up – and full of vitamins too!

Coffee, tea, soda, water

Our biggest eye-opener was when we watched some really serious high stakes play going down. A group of players were hitting the Texas Hold’em table for some large bank and we were curious as to what they were drinking.

Turns out that when you’re playing for big bucks you don’t mess around. These players were all hitting the waters and the coffees (and, for one particular player, a pot of tea!). According to them, this was not just a fun evening out at the casino but a regular gathering and quite a serious endeavour. And alcohol was a big no-no. They were not about to give up an edge because they got sloppy drunk or dulled their abilities with booze.

Our favourite

For a fun night out, gamblers are spoilt for choice when it comes to drinks. Beer was the most popular choice that we could see but whiskeys and Gn’Ts abounded. The CasinoPlay crew had differing opinions on most drinks but we all agreed that the mojito and the craft gin cocktails we had were definitely the winners for us.

What really surprised us though was the coffee and tea high roller table. It brought home the fact that gambling is fun and you should enjoy it responsibly but, as with any occupation, if you are serious and you are playing for big stakes – avoid the alcohol.