What do the U.S., Indonesia and Palau have in common?

If you guessed a drinking age of 21, you are correct. It’s the oldest drinking age in the world. I couldn’t find the reason for the high drinking age in the island nation of Palau (population 21,000), but I’m guessing it’s because the country only became independent from the U.S. fifteen years ago and still hasn’t gotten around to changing the law. (Though Puerto Rico’s drinking age is only 18, so who knows.)

Cognac.com has gathered a list of 80 countries and their minimum drinking ages, which range from 14 (Spain) to never, as in many Middle Eastern countries.

Most interesting — especially to young summer vacationers — are the countries with no minimum age. More than 25 nations have declared alcohol available to everyone; these countries include advanced European players such as Italy, Greece, Portugal and The Netherlands. The problem is getting someone to buy it for you. As commentators on the article have noted, because of convoluted laws there is often a minimum-buying age even if anybody can drink. In the Netherlands, one must be 16 to purchase low-alcohol spirits and 18 to purchase the really good stuff.

In spite of (or because of) drinking stereotypes, Ireland has one of the stricter drinking ages, at 18. That said, when I visited the country I did not see it rigidly enforced. Or enforced at all. I spent an Easter brunch in a pub in the south of the isle, where the family next to my table included some pre-pubescent children drinking Bulmers’ hard cider. No one batted an eye.

Back in America, many college kids are trying to get us to revert to Ireland’s supposed standard. But despite the colleges’ concerns, it doesn’t look as if America is going to lower its drinking age anytime soon. The issue has fizzled out after making headlines earlier this year when 100 college presidents signed a letter to re-examine whether a drinking age of 18 would cause less binging. Change would require federal intervention and Congress and the new administration seem hesitant (or just plain too busy) to bring up the issue. GoogleNews shows no articles on the minimum-age debate in nearly a month.

But take heart Americans tweens, you can still buy all the fireworks you want.

Categories: Dining, Food & Drink