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Spare Your Palate with the Best Things to Drink While Bowling

“F**k it, let’s go bowling.”

Wiser words have rarely been uttered. The line sums up everything that is bowling, from slacker hobby to near-perfect drinking sport.

On the surface, bowling has it all. The dive bar atmosphere, the often-Velcro shoes, the satisfaction of hurling a heavy, sometimes custom painted sphere toward ten pins. The sweet, cracking, subtly thunderous sound that resonates when they are struck. It’s like heaven as imagined by a mildly athletic barkeep. 

But there’s more. Bowling is deceptively stylish, a tiny dance routine of sorts that showcases personality and can reward flair. A holy grail is constantly dangling before you — the prospect of bowling a perfect game — and it’s impossible not to imagine what might unfold if you actually did the damn thing. Confetti and balloons! A standing ovation! A lengthy scowl from the longtime alley manager, who flirted with 300 points over the years but never quite got there?

In the intoxicating realm of drinking sports, it is among the best. More involving than corn hole, more serious than shuffleboard, and less dangerous than darts, bowling is a grand cocktail of showmanship, steady nerves, and second chances. It has spawned classic brands like Brunswick and been the inspiration for some truly remarkable tools of the trade. There are even sibling games like Candlepin bowling, basking in their own rich histories and regional genesis stories.

Theatrically, the game is prominent. Bowling has invaded everything from some of the best animated series (The Simpsons) to cult classics (Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama) to downright gems (Uncle Buck). How many of you are still convinced that The Big Lebowkski’s Jesus is, in fact, a divine figure of some kind?

In the intoxicating realm of drinking sports, it is among the best. More involving than corn hole, more serious than shuffleboard, and less dangerous than darts, bowling is a grand cocktail of showmanship, steady nerves, and second chances.

The game has modernized, for certain, as anybody who’s played lately knows. The animated screens, black lights, and blaring tunes of your typical alley testify to as much. But the game actually goes way, way back, before the house music and inflatable bumpers. 

Almost a century ago, an anthropologist was investigating the grave of a child in Egypt. It was estimated that the boy died some 5,000 years ago. What else was found in the burial site? One of the first bowling sets, apparently. Here in the U.S., settlers were occasionally seen playing the outdoor version (something akin to Bocce) well before the country’s founding. It grew in popularity in the years after. 

The lengthy history makes a lot of sense as the game is surprisingly simple. Like golf (put the ball in the hole), bowling generally asks very little of you (knock all the pins down). It only gets messy when you leave the objective undone and end up with near-impossible scenarios like the dreaded 7-10 split.

Close to 5,000 joints still exist from coast to coast, but some are better than others. Indy’s Atomic Duckpin in Indianapolis is about as nostalgic as they come, a bona fide time capsule set to eight lanes and, as rumor would have it, Babe Ruth’s favorite version of the sport. The Silver Dollar Saloon Alley at the Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana looks like a polished version of a place where you might bowl beside Sam Elliott. And although you can no longer roll at the alley featured in the film (Hollywood Star Lanes in Santa Monica has since shuttered), you can feel some of the Lebowski vibe at places like Jewel City, a fairly cut-to-the-chase alley.

Suggested Refreshments for Bowling

While alley food can be confusing (why so much finger food?), the drinks programs are almost always not. You may not be able to find a Negroni served up at your local alley, but you don’t need to. Stick to the genre classics.

Cheap Beer

bowing beer
Bernardbodo/Getty Images

It’s refreshing and it’s plentiful, served by the pitcher. Better still, the ABV will be good and low, allowing you to focus on your spares and outdo your best score.

White Russian

white russian cocktail
Dan Baker/The Manual / Dan Baker/The Manual

Sure, the drink has become a bit of a cliche since the film came out, but it’s fun and iconic. Many alley bars know they have to have plenty of Kahlua and cream on hand to satisfy folks dressing up like The Dude or a pack of Nihilists. The drink is also a nice nightcap, the preferred time of day for all things bowling. (Want to make one at home? Here’s how.)

Seven & Seven

bowling drinks seven and seven
Hero Images/Getty Images

Since you’ll probably be navigating a minimal drinks menu, go with this unfussy highball. The marriage of soda and Seagram’s is refreshing and will offer a sugary kick. Plus, the drink’s signature less-than-appealing color will be veiled by the dim lights of your favorite alley.


Sanny11/Getty Images

Why not? Your senses need to be firing if you’re going to be bowling any turkeys anytime soon so wake up your palate with this herbaceous number. Besides, Jäger, I’m told, is kinda cool again.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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