Happy Friday the 13th! Oh wait, that isn’t what we say? Oh yeah, sorry. Joyous Friday the 13th! Or, if you’re Canadian, a Gigglesome Friday the 13th to Ye.
OK, so we don’t say any of these. In fact, we don’t say much of anything on Friday the 13th except “Oh shit. Yeah.” And then silently hope the bad luckiness of it all leaves us perfectly alone. Some of us might read horoscopes, leap over cracks, or avoid black cats and brunette spectrum felines generally. Whatever works.
But we figured we could at least acknowledge Friday the 13th with some tidbits from the worlds of booze superstition and bad luck, thereby distracting you from any anxiety you might have surrounding this dreadful collision of weekday and calendar date. (Because yes, every other day of the year we all have ridiculously good luck.)
Don't Miss A DropGet the latest in beer, wine, and cocktail culture sent straight to your inbox.
Bad Luck Because of Booze
In Italy, it’s apparently bad luck to toast in anything that isn’t glass. “You can still toast and bump cups but you have to touch back-of-the-hand to back-of-the-hand instead of cup-to-cup.” Meaning don’t wear weird spike rings if you’re drinking in Italy.
As for spilling in Italy, “spilled wine should be dabbed behind the ears” to avoid bad luck, and to make sure the Italian police know you’ve been drinking if they pull you over. However, if you spill on a new dress or table cloth, fear not, that’s good luck. (We’re assuming that rule was made up by some Italian dry cleaners.)
In Russia, it’s bad luck to put empty bottles on the table, but not because it looks cluttersome. In fact, the origins of this custom are pretty awesome. Story goes some Cossack soldiers were driving Napoleon and his forces back into France in 1814; while in France, “the soldiers worked out that Parisian restaurateurs charged customers per empty bottle left on the table rather than per bottle ordered.” So, naturally, they started keeping their empties on the floor, and brought the custom back to Russia, where it became superstition.
Also in Russia, the last person to leave the party has to take a final drink. The term, “na pososhok” roughly translates to something like “small walking stick,” i.e. something to get you home. Or, more likely, to get you face down in front of your friend’s house.
There are plenty of toasting traditions and superstitions, some of them more polite suggestion and some presumably your only defense against imminent doom. In the Czech Republic, for instance, not only are you supposed to do the “intense stare” during toasting, but you should “never cross arms with anyone” in the meantime. If you do, well, that’s seven years of, um, less than stellar sack time.
You’re in Hungary? Great. Don’t cheers with beer. Ever. Apparently the Austrians cheersed with beer after they repelled the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. The country vowed to not cheers with beer for 150 years. In theory, they could’ve resumed in 1998, just in time for the debut of “Dawson’s Creek.” But by that point, it had become superstition. And tradition.
Bad Luck in the Booze World
In January 1919 in Boston, a giant tank of molasses burst, releasing two million gallons of molasses in a “15 ft-high, 160 ft-wide wave that raced through the city’s north end at 35 mph destroying everything it touched.” The three-year-old Purity Distilling Co. tank—which had never been tested—was filled to capacity with molasses destined to be distilled into grain alcohol in Cambridge. Instead, the leaky tank burst, sweeping the streets of North Boston, killing 21 people, injuring 150, and costing about $100 million in damage.
If getting struck by lightning is the pinnacle of bad luck, it seems like Jim Beam was the unluckiest distillery in September of 2015, when a bolt of lightning struck one of its warehouses, releasing 800,000 gallons of bourbon into a nearby lake and igniting a “firenado” (yes, that is a tornado of FIRE, you can actually watch it spin and burn here).
Not sure if this is bad luck or just total incompetence (or a testimony to the power of Scotch?) but in 2005, three U.S. air marshals heading to the G8 summit in advance of White House and State Department aides decided to take a fun little detour to Glengoyne Distillery (and how can you blame them?). All was well and good until they realize some sensitive, “For Your Eyes Only” kinda documents had been stolen.
And yes, it sucks to lose confidential government documents, but there’s been worse luck in Scotch. In 1847, Daniel Johnston of Laphroaig died; according to The Island Whisky Trail, he was “popularly believed to have drowned in a pot of his own burnt ale.” (Ale being the stuff they turn into whisky. And yes, if true, this would be a terrible way to go.)
Think we’re done with people falling into scalding batches of Scotch ingredients? Nope. In April of the next year an Excise officer working at the Port Ellen distillery fell into a vat of spent wash (the stuff leftover after the Scotch has been distilled). Again according to The Island Whisky Trail, he was burned all the way up his thighs, “so severely scalded as to baffle every medical attention to save his life.”
Just to end things on a fun, and entirely non-fatal note, watch this hilarious, ridiculously-bad-luck Champagne fail by what appears to be a groom, or else some poor sap in a nice tux. Enjoy, and be not afraid.