All About Drinking Songs

drinking songs

Drinking songs are songs sang during the consumption of alcoholic beverages mostly praising or mocking the latter. Often they are composed as a strophic song or as a canon. Drinking songs can be found in almost every culture on earth. The origin of drinking songs is unknown but they may very well predate the written language. It is documented that the ancient Romans used to sing at their orgies as Cicero mentioned in his texts.

The taberna from the Carmina Burana (ca. 1230 AD, Germany) is one of the first examples of a drinking song that was passed on. With beginning of the Renaissance numerous drinking songs were written by German songwirters Hans Leo Haßler (1564-1612), Orlando di Lasso (ca. 1532-1594) or Oswald von Wolkenstein (1376-1445). Tendencies towards mocking-critical reflection were already noticeable in the early 16th century. One example is “Vitrum nostrum gloriosum” (anonymus songwriter, it appeared in a songbook of 1540), which is designed in the manner of a Gregorian chant, but sings about the enjoyment of wine and makes obviously fun about the Catholic Church music style.

In the late 18th and 19th centuries drinking songs became particularly cultivated in student circles especially adding political-mockery: These drinking songs were collected in so called “Kommersbüchern” specially created books for the purpose of keeping copies of the drinking songs. The tradition of the student drinking songs started to disappear in the Wilhelminism (1890–1914) – and as the tradition faded hardly any new drinking songs were written since then.