A Brief Boardgaming & Cocktail Primer
While William Faulkner famously quipped that “civilization starts with distillation,” he easily could have added boardgames to the beginnings of the ‘modern’ world.
Games like Senet and Backgammon go back thousands of years, and picturing ancient cultures thoughtfully analyzing moves and pawns with a libation close at hand isn’t difficult to do.
Millenia later, a good cocktail or spirit still pairs well with a fantastic boardgame. The biggest change is the sheer number of games now on the market. As the ubiquitous website Boardgame Geek recently posted, the volume of games printed has skyrocketed.
So to help shepherd you through the thousands of possibilities to making your next game night a success, here are some perfect boardgames to pair with a Bourbon or cocktail.
Since we have established that society was built on the backs of game and drink, combine both with the card driven Innovation. Published in 2010, this simple card game allows you to bring your own civilization out of the Stone Ages and into the modern world. Innovation has seen a myriad number of expansions, but really, the base game has all you will ever need. Each game will feel like a magic trick as you can’t imagine how things can go so differently within the constraints of a few decks of cards, but Innovation pulls it off with a flourish.
And like the game itself which is best played with two players, a simple two main ingredient cocktail like a Manhattan would pair nicely. After all, fermentation is one of the cards you can play, so adding some vermouth and whiskey seems like a natural fit to add some civilized imbibing to a tense back and forth game.
The next pairing takes the art of a good simple syrup and mixes it with a simple ‘engine builder’ of a game called Century: Spice Road. To best enjoy this card-and-cubes infused deckbuilder, embrace its theme of trading and acquiring spices by making a cinnamon simple syrup for a classic Old Fashioned. Published in 2017, this game has seen two more expansions that can build on its base game to make a more complex version of itself; but like a good Old Fashioned, the original has enough going on and scales well to different player counts. As you upgrade your spice cubes and try to get those more valuable cinnamon cubes, those tokens start looking like sugar cubes that have soaked up some Angostura bitters and are ready to be muddled a bit (if you go old school instead of a syrup).
Sometimes you need the perfect game for a bar when out with friends. Something small to carry, demure in table space, yet ferocious in back-stabbing and selfishness. Look no further than Deep Sea Adventure. This pocket-flask size game packs a punch, and you need a drink to match. This game of push your luck and psychology will have you seeing red as you jockey with your fellow pirates for little things like treasure and oxygen. With a game that invokes such simple bitterness, an easy to make drink that has a touch of the same elements like a Boulevardier fits the bill. The Campari-red hue will invoke the blood-in-the-water vibe this crowd-pleasing game always brings to the bar or table, and using a high proof Bourbon will match the high stakes of always going just a bit deeper for more loot.
While Deep Sea Adventure’s components could probably fit in a flask, a game like Parks requires one and is our last recommendation for a good spirits and game pairing. Parks is a show-stopper to look at, with gorgeous art and components. It begs to be packed and taken out camping at Red River Gorge or any of the United States’ many national parks. This condenses the peace and turn-order mechanic of the classic Tokaido into a game of its own–and the new Nightfall expansion adds some welcome twists. So pick this one up for your next outdoor adventure and fill up your flask like the canteens in the game with a nice Kentucky Bourbon for some carefree sipping. But if you need a cocktail recommendation, check out the Flask cocktail book for some more inspiration.
Just like in the whiskey world, the boardgame community likes a good “shelfie” post for social media to show off one’s burgeoning collection, so hopefully this post will get you on your way with a few good drinks in hand.