With the onset of spring comes the beginning of tornado season, that magical time of year wherein your regularly scheduled programming is preempted and your skies turn a foreboding shade of green. Dust off your beer glasses and spray down the rim of your toilet: It’s time for the Gary England drinking game.
Invented by then-University of Oklahoma student Ryan McGhee — and not officially affiliated with England nor his station — the game has become something of an Internet phenomenon, at least ’round these parts. Findable through a quick Google search, the rules encourage each over-21 participant to choose a storm chaser other than Val Castor and a county other than Pottawatomie County and to drink every time Gary cuts to your storm chaser or mentions your county. Other rules include taking one drink for each county Gary lists and — get ready for this one — take a whopping four drinks if “Ranger 9 must land to refuel.”
above Tiffany Poye, bar manager at Cafe Nova, with the restaurant’s Thunder cocktail.
While this game is not at all advisable when one’s personal safety may be threatened — whether it’s the onset of a tornadic thunderstorm, possible alcohol poisoning or imprudent lawbreaking — we’re all looking for an especially entertaining time-filler when favorite season finales have been supplanted with wall-to-wall, commercial-free news coverage of a rampaging storm.
But all that YouTube footage of whacked-out Okies filming funnels that have come to carry them off to Oz raises a question: What’s the appeal of drinking when there are wall clouds afoot?
“I think it’s to calm the nerves,” said Philip Burchett, owner of Quicker Liquor, 9109 S. May Avenue.
Burchett’s store is in a unique location not far from where the May 3, 1999, tornado hopped Interstate 44 before devastating Moore. For those hoping to ride out the storm and pay homage to Gary England with something a little stronger than beer, he recommends a drink whose name says it all: the Tornado.
“It’s whiskey, rum, tequila, vodka, Coca-Cola, sugar and ice,” Burchett said.
Richard Sauve, co-owner of Prohibition Room, 1112 N.W. 23rd, seconds Burchett’s reasoning behind drinking while storm watching.
“It helps you not sit on the edge of your sofa,” Sauve said. “It’s better to sit and have a drink and hope everything works out fine.”
Sauve notes that the Prohibition Room’s home in the historic Gold Dome includes a basement — just in case a storm forms while the afterwork crowd is enjoying drinks. Sauve recommends a Fog Cutter, a potent mix of rum, gin, brandy, lemon-lime and sugar with a cherry-brandy floater. The strong drink may actually add more fog than it cuts through, but is a delicious way to wait for the “allclear.”
Sit and have a drink and hope everything works out fine.
Spring thunderstorms that spawn twisters are common in the early evening, and for the commuters hoping to avoid encountering a rain-wrapped funnel on the way home, many local restaurants offer happy hours.
Cafe Nova, 4308 N. Western, features a drink inspired by Oklahoma City’s storm-themed NBA franchise. Bar manager Tiffany Poye recommends the Thunder, made from Stoli blueberry vodka, gin, blue curacao, white rum, sour mix and a float of Sprite.
During happy hour, celebrated weekdays from 4 to 7 p.m., Nova offers appetizers like gourmet tater tots, sliders, chimichangas, loaded french fries and bruschetta.
Of course, the most important thing in an actual tornado is to remain calm — and sober. But if all the stations insist on airing weather coverage instead of the latest installment of “Criminal Minds,” by all means put your feet up and knock back a few, all while paying homage to one of Oklahoma’s very own living legends.
And if there are no storms brewing, there’s always Gary’s appearance in “Twister.” Just note that you may need more than a few storm-themed drinks to see your way through it. You’ve been warned.