One for the road

Recently, my English husband and I were invited to a private party. Later in the night, when the first people started to leave, one of them said, ‘Ich trinke noch einen Absacker, und dann gehe ich’. I thought to myself, what a nice German word, Absacker, and asked my husband if he knew what it meant. He said he didn’t, and thus started a lively conversation about German drinking terminology. Here are some examples…

According to the Duden manifesto of German orthography, ‘Absacker’ means ‘am Ende eines Zusammenseins oder vor dem Schlafengehen getrunkenes letztes Glas eines alkoholischen Getränks’. Therefore, there are several possible ways of saying it in English, depending on the context.

By the first definition, which corresponds to the definition in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (‘a last alcoholic drink before you leave a party’), it could be referred to as ‘one for the road’.

However, according to the Urban Dictionary, which is generally more representative of US American than British usage, ‘one for the road’ is ‘Something given to someone when that person is leaving so that he or she may enjoy it during the trip home’, which would in Germany be called a Wegbier, i.e. a bottle or can of drink you take with you and consume on the go. According to the Urban Dictionary, this may also be called a ‘road beer’ – although I myself haven’t ever heard that being used.

If Absacker is meant to refer to a last drink before going to bed, the English word for it would be ‘night cap’. In German, this can also be called a Schlummertrunk (literally ‘slumber drink’).

These considerations took the party guests to the German expression Konterbier, meaning the first beer you have when waking up hung over, which is said to help alleviate symptoms. This is in English referred to as ‘hair of the dog’.

Katerfrühstück is another nice German word. It refers to a special type of breakfast (usually involving pickled herring) said to alleviate the symptoms of a hangover. In English, this can simply be described as a ‘hangover breakfast’ or ‘morning-after breakfast’.

So whatever you do, drink responsibly and beware! In my circle of friends, a positive response to ‘Komm, nur noch ein Absacker!’ is almost inevitably the direct road to versacken, i.e. having one too many and staying out much later than you intended to or getting stuck in place or worse…

The Pommes Buddha says: Beerware of the sack!

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