“Eyes!” Meg yells, and we all freeze, shot glasses in hand. We take this very seriously, no matter where we are or how drunk we’ve gotten. Eyes, always.
I don’t remember when we started it, or how I even first heard of the rule: you need to make eye contact when you cheers before a shot, or else you’ll have bad sex for seven years.
It’s long enough for it to be a threat—bad sex is a part of life, sure, but for it to be a seven-year guarantee is too much to risk.
We’re at a bar off Brighton Ave tonight, the majority of us dressed in what I’ve dubbed our Allston Fashion Week best: blue jeans and a skimpy black top with a pair of sneakers. Well, Meg is wearing heels, but that’s Meg. Even her Converse have a two-inch platform.
The eye contact takes a few minutes—you kind of need to clink shot glasses with everyone individually, since you can’t make eye contact with multiple people at once—since there’s quite a few of us, but eventually we get through it, and I toss back the shot and grab a slice of lime from the bar-top. I’d never taken a tequila shot before I lived with Meg, but after a semester of sharing an apartment, I’ve gotten used to the process she insists is a ritual.
The boys meet us at the bar when we’re on our second drink—I’m drinking Jameson and ginger, because I’m loyal to my personal brand, and Daniela keeps ordering whiskey sours with what seems to be an entire fruit tray balanced on the rim. Matt orders them each a Guinness, and Peter interrupts in time to get a shot of Jameson along with it, throwing his arm over my shoulders as we lean against the bar. We clink glasses and explain the eyes rule, and Peter clearly wants to take it seriously, from the way he makes eye contact with each of us without blinking.
He takes the shot and immediately starts coughing, giving me a dirty look when I start to laugh. “Your parents named you after a terrible drink,” he declares once he recovers, taking a long sip from his beer. He completely undermines the statement by kissing my forehead, arm sliding back around my waist.
Gab and I get carded every time we go to our favorite bar in Cambridge, but it’s more of a running joke than anything else. The bartender knows us, and he just takes our IDs each time we order because we insist on drinking a hard Shirley Temple every time.
“Maybe if we didn’t order the adult equivalent of a juice box, this wouldn’t happen,” I say, after we trek in, snow on our sneakers.
“Maybe,” Gab says, and then we order the same thing as always: soft pretzels and vodka Sprite with grenadine, because I am physically incapable of ordering a “dirty Shirley” with a straight face.
We like this bar so much partly because of the pretzels, but also because it’s laid-back, and it’s a nice change to show up in a sweatshirt or something cozy instead of spending an hour deciding which cropped t-shirt looks best with the cuffed jeans I wear every single day. For the most part everyone is friendly, and it’s fun to flirt back with the random guys who ask us to rank our top Winter Olympic sports and offer to buy us weird IPAs that Gab pretends to like and I don’t remember the names of long enough to ever plan to order one again.
Regardless of what we’re drinking, we cheers first, the process made infinitely quicker with it being just the two of us, less of the spectacle that comes with a group of us. Eyes, quick before we take the first sip, a habit even if we’re not taking a shot.
During the last Formula 1 race of the 2021 season, Madi and I sit on the floor and drink water for the first time in our history of watching the races together. Usually F1 is accompanied by lots of yelling and a bottle of vodka, but this one started at 8am and we’re both vaguely hungover and eyeing the bottle of champagne on the kitchen table with mounting dread. I’d bought it halfway through the season as part of a running joke about doing a shoey during the last race, but it’s become less and less of a joke as time has gone on. It’s a tradition from our favorite driver, Daniel Ricciardo, who drinks champagne out of his race boot anytime he ends up on the podium. When he won a race for the first time since 2018 this season, I bought the champagne that Madi is now attempting to open.
The race ends, and Madi’s roommates watch in an even mix of horror and uncontainable laughter as we strip off our sweatshirts and rip holes in trash bags until we can wear them like shirts. Madi grabs her “frat shoes,” a pair of beat-up white Converse that have seen things, and we all trek into the bathroom. It all feels a bit overdramatic, but we are about to drink champagne out of the grossest pair of shoes I’ve ever seen, so it might be justified.
Before we start, I’m the one that yells, “Eyes!” and has to explain the rule. It’s not a shot, technically, but I’m not taking any chances. So we cheers with the bottle and the shoe, making extremely apprehensive eye contact, and Madi goes first, standing in the shower just in case it all goes worse than anticipated. I go right after her, and though we both somehow survive, I decide right then and there that it’s the grossest decision I’ve ever made. We use the rest of the champagne to make mimosas—it’s only ten-thirty in the morning, after all—and resign ourselves to feeling just slightly ill for the rest of the day.
Halfway through the summer before our senior year, Meg and I decide to make sangria. Following a recipe from a friend, we come home from Target armed with Moscato, apples, raspberries, a lemon, and the cheapest bottle of vodka we could find. It isn’t until we’re almost finished cutting up the fruit that I realize we don’t have a pitcher or any other sort of container large enough to fit this drink—there’s no way we’re going to be able to fit this in a Hydro Flask, which is about the biggest container I have in my bare-bones dorm apartment.
Meg eyes the plastic jug of vodka with a look on her face that means she has an idea, but even she doesn’t like it.
And thus, jail juice is born. Sangria with a questionable vodka to wine ratio, made and served in the vodka bottle.
“We’re recycling!” Meg attempts, as we roll up slices of lemon to fit them through the narrow bottle opening and pop in the entire container of raspberries one by one.
The process ends with Meg shaking the whole thing like she’s mixing some fancy cocktail and me peeling the label off to write “Jail Juice” in big letters on the sticky surface left behind before we pour it into travel mugs and decide to go for a walk.
“Eyes,” we say, clinking mugs and making the usual eye contact, and we head out into the city.
It’s fun, how this silly ritual that I didn’t even start is now something that I do with just about anyone. It’s bigger than the apartment I first took a shot with Meg in, bigger than my group of drinking buddies. We’ve passed it along to so many people, whether they be friends of friends, hookups, or complete strangers. And it doesn’t matter if we’re drinking tequila at home or annoying Peter into trying another shot of Jameson—it’s a ritual, a constant. It could be champagne in a sneaker or jail juice in a jug—it stays the same: eyes, always.
Favorite Drink: JAIL JUICE (duh)
1 bottle Silver Lake vodka
1 1.5L bottle California Roots white Moscato
1 lemon, sliced
1 honey crisp apple, diced
Pour out at least half of vodka bottle into another container. Add Moscato to vodka bottle until ratio suits your tastes. Add in lemon slices (rolled, to fit into bottle) and apple slices (cut as small as necessary to fit) to taste. Add in raspberries.
Reseal bottle; shake well. Serve over ice in a to-go mug, and go on an adventure.
Jamison O’Sullivan is a senior at Emmanuel College pursuing a degree in Writing, Editing, and Publishing. Her work has been chosen for publication in Schuylkill Valley Journal, The Scarlet Leaf Review, and The Saintly Review, and has won contests such as the Taylor A. Greene Short Prose Contest at CCSU. She lives in Boston.
image: Paul Ruta • paulthomasruta.com • @paulruta