7 Bar Games To Make Your Holigays Merry and Bright!

One of my favorite things about this time of year is catching up with friends and family. There’s love in the air and warmth in every hug. Everyone seems to make just a little more time to say hello. You catch up with people that you haven’t seen all year. It’s a joyous, magical time.

Do you what helps facilitate all of those things? Booze.

Ugly Christmas sweater parties, friendship reunions, bar crawls, cookie baking jamborees, spending time with your cousins in grandma’s basement while the “real adults” cook upstairs — these are all situations in which alcohol may occur.

Sometimes holiday drinking opens up a whole set of problems. You are often working with a larger group than you would be at other times of the year. That group may include people that you know well and haven’t seen in a while, or people that you don’t know well at all. And even if you are partying with friends, you may find yourself wanting to do something a bit more celebratory, anything to get out of your usual rut. What can you do to that’s a bit different than your usual, keeps the group together, and allows everyone to have fun?

That, my dear friends, is where drinking games can enter the picture.

I’m a vet of holigay drinking and I have complied my vast, deep knowledge for your benefit!

The games listed below cover a variety of group sizes, from as small as two people to as many as your heart desires. They can fit into a variety of spaces, including cramped public bars. Along those same lines, many of these games are designed to not make too much noise (no more than what’s already acceptable in spaces that cater to large groups of drinking adults, that is) and require very few outside skills or supplies.

Bookmark this list on your phone, send it to your friends in your group text. Be the hero who saves The Holigays! (Or at least, be the hero who kicks your party up a notch!)

This next part is super, super important: Always remember to drink responsibly. Respect your boundaries, and respect the boundaries of others. If you are drinking outside of your home, please try to be aware of your surroundings. Oh! And don’t be the obnoxious person at the bar. No one likes that person.

Let the games begin!


1. Twelve Days of Christmas (or The Eight Nights of Hanukkah)

Here Are The Rules: Gather in a group. The first person begins by saying — or, if you’re really brave, singing — the first words in the classic holiday tune, only they substitute the whole “partridge in a pear tree” thing with they something they would personally want their true love to give them.

For example, “On the first day of Christmas/the first night of Hanukkah my true love sent to me: An exclusive party with Queen Bey.” After that, the next player would say something like, “On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me: Two flannel shirts, and an exclusive party with Queen Bey.”

Keep going through the song until someone messes up. Continue past twelve if your group gets good at it. Don’t forget the big pause before your “Fiiiiiive Golden Rings!” knock off! Whoever messes up, takes a drink. And then you start over with a new person and a new itemized list.

Do I Need Extra Supplies: Nope

How Many People Are Needed For The Game: At least three or four, to keep it interesting. But the group can get as large as you want.


2. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”

Here Are The Rules: Write a bunch of holigay prompts on slips of paper (this part can also be done before you leave for the bar). Examples might include: A mug of hot chocolate, a lesbian couple ice skating, a Christmas tree, and so forth.

Then fold over the paper so you can’t read the clues, and pile them together in the middle of a table. When it’s your turn to be the artist, you’ll take a prompt from the pile and draw it on a pad of paper/a bar napkin/etc. while few other members from your group try to guess what you’re drawing. Have someone use the the stop-clock on their smartphone as the timer for up to one-two minutes, the group can decide the time ahead of game play. The catch is that when people guess, they have to yell out: “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like…. [Insert clue here]”.

If the time runs out before someone guesses, then the artist has to take a drink. If a person correctly guesses the clue, but they forgot “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like…” then they have to take a drink.

If the artwork is so indiscernible that the group votes that no one had a chance of figuring out out, then the artist takes a shot.

This is essentially drunken Pictionary with a holiday twist.

Do I Need Extra Supplies: Pens, paper (bar napkins can work), a smartphone, a table top, and elbow room

How Many People Are Needed For the Game: At least three; an artist, a guesser, and a time keep. Ideally this works with three to six people, more than that and some people will be left bored.


3. Would You Rather/Most Likely

These are variations of the same game, so I lumped them together for our purposes. I’m also rounding up to rank them high on the drinking scale. If your friends are anywhere near as competitive as mine, you’ll find that after a few rounds they start wording questions that are custom tailored to make you “lose” and drink on purpose.

Here Are The Rules: First, everyone clusters together enough so that they can hear each other.

For “Would You Rather” a person throws out a suggestion of “Would You Rather.” For example, “Would you rather give up oral sex for a year or give up pizza for a lifetime?” You know the drill, it’s a game as old as time. The difference here is that after everyone in the group answers, the people on the “losing” side of the answer — whichever answer had the least people — all have to take a drink. Then another person asks the question and you keep going from there until everyone is good and sloshed.

For “Most Likely” a person throws out a question such as, “Who’s most likely to be brave enough to ask Kristen Stewart on a date?” or “Who is most likely to eat someone else’s food without asking?” Then, on the count of three, everyone points to the person they believe is most likely to do whatever act was mentioned. You have to take a drink for everyone who is pointing at YOU. So, if five people think you are a food stealer. You need to take five big gulps. If only one person thinks you would woman up and ask K-Stew on a date, you get to take one gulp. And, so on.

Do I Need Extra Supplies: Nope.

How Many People Are Needed For the Game: At least three? For “Most Likely” it’s helpful if the majority of the group knows each other.


4. Tell Me A Story! (True or False)

Here Are The Rules: Write down various nouns on pieces of paper (this part can also be done before you leave for the bar). When it’s your turn, select a piece of paper. Then, tell a true story about that noun or make up one up completely.

For example, if your piece of paper says “suitcase” then you might tell the story about the time your suitcase got lost in the Denver airport and you were forced to wear a “Kiss Me in the Mountains” sweatshirt while meeting your girlfriend’s parents. Or you might make up a story about having your carry-on suitcase opened by TSA and living through the mortification of having the agents go through your sex toys in public. You could also make these holigay themed if you wanted to.

Everyone listens to your story and guesses if it’s true or false. If the majority is wrong, then you win and they drink. If the majority is correct, that means that you lose and then you have to take a drink.

Do I Need Extra Supplies: Nope.

How Many People Are Needed For the Game: Two or more. This game scales down or up exceptionally well.


5. Slip It In

This one is great if you are going to be bar crawling or at a holiday party for a long time, particularly if the people you are partying with have solid memories.

Here Are The Rules: Before your group gets together, brainstorm a small list of “slip it in” phrases for the people who are coming to your party. These are phrases that they’ll work to “slip in” to casual conversations. The phrases should be a bit tricky to make sound casual, for example: “Gryffindor,” “Almond Milk” or “Shiver Me Timbers.”

When your guests arrive, go over the phrase list together BEFORE you start drinking. The goal is for each person to slip one or more of phrases into conversation over the course of the night without anyone noticing. If they are successful and no one notices, they get to call the group on it and everyone else has to take a drink. If they are caught using the phrase, then they have to take a shot.

The game never stops. This is kind of game you play in the background while you are playing other games. You play it while your friend is flirting with that cute girl in the corner. You keep it going all night long.

Do I Need Extra Supplies: Nope.

How Many People Are Needed For the Game: The more the merrier! But, this can be easily pulled off with just two people.


6. I’m The Witch!

Here Are The Rules: Everyone sits around a table with a shot in front of them. Players begin the game with their heads down on the table. On the count of three, everyone looks up and stares at another player at random. If you are looking at someone who is NOT looking at you, congratulations you are safe! However, if you end up looking directly into someone else’s eyes, you both shout “I’m the Witch!” and take a shot.

Keep going until all the shots are gone.

This game has a few names, I’ve seen it also called “Medusa” or “Lucky Ducky.” I’m sure you could give it a cute holigay themed name if your heart desired, but I like the classic “witch” phrase.

Do I Need Extra Supplies: You need enough space for everyone to have a seat and a shot, so essentially a full table and chairs.

How Many People Are Needed For the Game: A group larger than four.


7. Kings and Queens

Here Are The Rules: Kings is a classic bar game with a lot of variations. It’s fun; it’s guaranteed to bring joy and take up a lot of time, but fair warning this is not for the faint of heart.

You start with a deck of cards (leave in the jokers, take out the instruction card that seems to come in every deck). Shuffle the cards twice and then fan them out, face down, on a table. Everyone gathers around the table.

On each turn, a player picks up one of the face down cards. Then that person follows the action associated with said card (Keep a list of the directives handy on your phone or a piece of paper!). At the end of their turn, the player keeps their card.

The game continues until all the cards are drawn.

Now that we have the basic set-up covered, here are the rules that I usually play with. Feel free to adjust them to better fit your party’s needs (i.e. less drinking or more drinking, changing phrasing or directions, etc.). It’s infinitely adaptable. Your only limit is your own imagination!

Card Directives:

  • 2: You – Whoever drew the card decides which friend takes a drink by pointing to them and saying “You!”
  • 3: Me – Whoever drew the card, takes a drink.
  • 4: Floor – Everyone races to touch the floor (Let’s be real, bar floors are super gross. Touching the table will more than suffice). Last person to touch the agreed upon surface, drinks.
  • 5: Alive – When have you felt most alive? What’s a thrilling, dangerous, adrenaline filled story from your past? Share with the group! Can’t think of a story or feeling shy? No problem, but now you gotta drink.
  • 6: Kiss – Tell the story of a memorable kiss. First kiss, Sexiest kiss, Worst kiss, etc. To embarrassed to tell the story in public? That’s ok, you are among friends who will not judge. Your anonymity is safe, but you have to take a drink.
  • 7: Heaven – All players point to the sky. Last person to do so, drinks.
  • 8: Mate – Pick a partner to drink with. Whenever you have to take a drink, so will they. This continues until the next Eight card is drawn.
  • 9: Rhyme – Say a phrase. Everyone goes around saying a word that rhymes with that phrase. First person to mess up or pause, drinks.
  • 10: Categories – Pick a category. Everyone has to say a word that matches that category (i.e./ famous out actresses or childhood crushes or even “types of ketchup”). First person to mess up or pause, drinks.
  • Jack: Never Have I Ever – Each person puts up three fingers so that the table can see. Starting with the person who drew the card, each player says “never have I ever [insert thing you’ve never done here]”. If you’ve done it, put a finger down. First person who has all three fingers down, has to drink.
  • Queen: The ruler of her land! She can decree a rule that everyone must follow until the next Queen is drawn. Example, a queen could decide that a player must take a drink between turns. She could decide that every player must link pinkies or keep a finger on their nose. That every five minutes someone must belt out a little Britney Spears at the top of their lungs. The world is The Queen’s oyster!
  • King: Big Drink! Finish whatever is in your glass; go get another one.
  • Joker: Tell a joke – When I’m with my friends, we usually make it “Tell a dirty joke”, but you should feel free to do you! If no one laughs, you drink. Can’t remember a joke? You drink.
  • Ace: Human Wave – Starting with the person who drew the card, every player begins drinking. You cannot stop drinking until the person after them starts drinking.

Do I Need Extra Supplies: A deck of cards, enough space for everyone to sit and also reach the cards on the table. Folks should be comfortable, you will be playing this one for a while.

How Many People Are Needed For the Game: One of the best things about this game is that it fits your group size, not the other way around.


OK! Get a group together, get out into the world, and have some fun! Play all the reindeer games!

Have a great time, take some pictures, and think of your crew here at Autostraddle. We only want the best for you this Holigay Season!

Carmen is Autostraddle's Associate Editor and a black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 147 articles for us.

9 Comments

  1. My girlfriend and I just sent out invites to our first holiday party and this list is perfect to keep me stressing about how to entertain! I know there will be a sober person or two. Any thoughts on how to tweak the drinking as a punishment games so the sober people can still enjoy the fun?

    • Two basic ways to modify these games are to include points systems or to eliminate people instead of drinking. Some of these games (like Pictionary) had the drinking component added on to make it a drinking game and others I have played as ice-breakers at kid’s camps, so they would still work if you eliminated the drinking altogether or if you added something else on top of it.

      Another idea: You could put a holiday twist on things and use chocolate coins/Hannukah gelt. So, say you’re playing the first game. Everyone starts with 5 pieces of candy. Whenever you mess up the lyrics, you put a piece of candy in the “pot”. When you run out of candy, you’re out. Whoever is the last one standing/whoever has the most candy left when you decide to stop playing wins all the candy. (And if people want to take a drink and put a piece of candy in the pot, go for it!)

      Or: Come up with some other kind of silly punishment instead of drinking. Like, if you mess up you have to put a holiday sticker on your clothes.

      Also your sober people may not mind having a non-alcoholic beverage and just taking a sip of that as punishment instead.

      The important part is to keep the emphasis on having fun and laughing together rather than getting drunk.

    • YES, all of these games can be played sober!

      One of the fun things about these games is that the basic elements of it can still be enjoyed even if you aren’t drinking.

      Pictionary, Twelve Days of Christmas, Would You Rather, and Most Likely in particular work well for this. I think that “Slip It In” can also be adapted well. The fun in those games primarily comes from watching your friends be silly and/or getting to know your friends better in a new way.

      You have a few choices: Your sober friend can either opt out of drinking all together (just play the game as written, and the sober friends can skip any drinking portions) or they can drink a hot cocoa or something similarly delicious.

      I recommend asking your friends ahead of time what they are most comfortable with. I know that when I’ve had close sober friends, they were always willing to set boundaries of what works best for them and were receptive to me inquiring about their comfort levels.

      I think if you approach it with good intentions (and you obviously are!), then it’s going to be great. Everyone wants to have a good, inclusive time.

      Oh, and congrats on your first holiday party, Tessa!! Hope you see this message in time, sorry it took a while to get back to you, I’ve had a busy week. I hope you and your girlfriend have a ball together! Sending you merry holigay vibes!!

  2. I was thinking about how I miss having large groups of people at the bar, but I think my family is to the point where my siblings can go out and play these. This will be great.

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