I’d like to propose a toast…” And so the celebration begins. Weddings, graduations, birthday parties’, business meetings…countless special events are marked by this phrase. The alcohol beverage industry spends $2 billion every year to convince us that alcohol is what makes it possible for us to enjoy the party, relax, create a romantic atmosphere, or cement an important business deal (Source: “Advertising Alcohol – Calling the Shots” video by Jean Kilbourne).
College students and young adults, typically the most responsive audience for advertisers, are the prime targets. But while the young adult population may embrace the image, they have ceased to embrace the product being promoted. Concerned about their health and driven by the desire to succeed, young adults are drinking less.
In 1975, 75.9% of 18 – 25 year olds used alcohol. By 1988, that number had decreased to 65.3 %, and in 1992, only 59.2 % of the young adult population used alcohol. The percentage of adults 26 and older using alcohol has also consistently decreased (Source: U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Household Survey on Drug Abuse: 1992).
Even those people who do use alcohol do not use it in large quantities. In fact, 10 % of the population consumes 90 % of the alcohol. This means that 90 % of the population consumes only 10 % of the alcohol.
Armed with these statistics, and committed to supporting healthful living, college student personnel professionals promote “mocktail” celebrations. Resident Advisors, those responsible for developing programs to foster community, have found that the mocktail contest meets a lot of different needs.
The mocktail contest is a simple program to plan. Invite participants to share treasured non-alcoholic drink recipes with the rest of the school. Recruit judges (the Dean of Students is always a good choice). Obtain corporate sponsors (local businesses are more than happy to offer coupons or small gifts to support a good cause – especially if they rely upon students for their business!). Set the stage. Choose a well-traveled area (the quad, perhaps) and a busy time of day (lunch?). Make sure you have a sound system and play music during the down times. You might even turn the mike over to some of the performing arts students on campus. After the contest, ask the school paper to publish the names of the winners and their winning recipes in the paper.
No one would disagree with the RA who observes that snacks draw a crowd. Although the mocktail contest is initially sport, the spoils of the event are always available for the audience. That’s the draw. To sweeten the treat, make some finger foods available so that on-lookers can enjoy a mini-meal with their beverage. In addition to the treat, there is the lure of the thrill of victory. Competitively minded students are always eager to best one another. Choose your mocktail teams with campus rivalries in mind! Perhaps the chemists could out-mix the physicists. And maybe a fraternity could master the fine art of “cooking” so well that they surpass a sorority. Also keep in mind that students will come out to support their friends (unfortunately, they will care more about supporting their friends than supporting the RA); so be sure to recruit your contestants from a wide variety of groups.
To keep the event alive in their minds, consider using a winning recipe during the next non-mocktail event. Remind the students subtly that the festive atmosphere is created more by the music, the mood, and the mind than by the beverage.
Submitted by Mary Kay Scheid, Freelance Writer and Teacher. Past Employment: Resident Director, California State Polytechnic University