According to The Daily Beast, which collects clicks by annually compiling a list of the nation's drunkest cities, Seattle shot up the drunk-o-meter in 2011. Residents of 29 cities were drunker than Seattleites in 2010; last year, only 18 cities could make the same claim.
But Seattle's 19th place finish is somewhat suspect. First, The Daily Beast changed the rules: The scoring system no longer takes into account deaths from liver disease, and the stats are weighted differently this year. The average number of drinks consumed per person each month now counts more than the percentage of heavy drinkers, meaning adults who comply with the common recommendation to improve heart health by drinking one glass of wine a day - a very Seattle thing to do - are considered bipedal evidence of drunkeness. (The average Seattleite has 14.1 drinks a month, up slightly from 12.59 drinks a month in 2010. In Boston, the very drunkest city, the figure is 15.5 drinks a month.)
And second, in addition to cities shimmying all over the drunkeness gauge, a few cities vanished altogether in 2011. How reliable is a list of drunken cities which doesn't include New Orleans?
More reliable than one might think, says a drinker who should know. Cocktail writer Wayne Curtis, a resident of New Orleans, protests that the term "drunken" is pejorative, and suggestive of an amateurism that might prevail in Reno (the nation's fourth drunkest city) or Burlington, Vt. (tenth) but doesn't characterize the Big Easy's boozers.
"If people know how to do anything here, it's drink and stay in control," Curtis e-mails. "Most locals know how to hold their liquor -- compared to visitors who get giddy and stupid when they first discover 24 hour bars and lax open-container laws. New Orleanians are not drunk. They're genteely inebriated."