Singing for Cups and Soggy Heads at Mory’s

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Yale University is steeped in tradition, from the darkly mysterious Skull and Bones society to the melodious Whiffenpoofs. Even when kicking back with a drink from the pressures of Ivy League life, Yalies don’t take a break from their decades-old customs. Since 1849, students have visited Mory’s almost compulsively. There they carve their initials into the tables, slurp down bowl upon bowl of Baker Soup, and engage in the rite of passage known simply as Cups.

Originally an exclusive club for males affiliated with Yale, Mory’s is still members only, but it is now open to male and female students, alumni, faculty and the immediate New Haven community—all for varying annual fees. Old school or new, every good Mory’s member has engaged in a good game of Cups, a booze-fueled, musical ritual that leads to several tipsy customers and one very wet head.

The Cups are giant, silver, handled chalices, filled to the brim with brightly colored, fizzy alcoholic drinks. To get the game started, a group of friends orders one of the six different Cups by color: red (rum and grenadine), gold (orange juice, Champagne and triple sec), purple (Champagne and Chambord), blue (Champagne and blue curaçao), green (a mystery drink) or velvet (Champagne and Guinness). Each person takes a turn, drinking as much as they can from the Cup, before passing it around the table. This continues like a game of Hot Potato, until one person is left with just enough in their goblet to warrant finishing it—then the real fun begins.

This lucky person has the duty of “cleaning the Cup,” gulping down up every last drop. When they deem the cup to be empty, the Cup cleaner flips the trophy upside down over their head. All the while, their group of friends sing Mory’s song, which includes such verses as:

I was lying in the gutter,
All covered up in beer,
Pretzels in my mustache,
I thought my end was near,
Then along came [Name of Drinker]
And saved me from the hearse!

Once the song is finished, the drinker removes the Cup from their head and sets it upside down on a napkin. Three friends place their hands on the base and give it a tap before removing the Cup to inspect the napkin for droplets. If the napkin is dry, the drinker who came before the Cup cleaner in the rotation has to pay the tab. But if the napkin is moist, the Cup cleaner is stuck with the bill.

The tradition, for the most part, has remained unchanged—giving alumni a bridge to connect with enrolled students. Whether he’s an 80-year-old alum reminiscing about the golden days or an eager freshman solidifying her place in a centuries old institution, every Yalie finds the spirit of collegiate communion at the bottom of a Cup—and then pours it right on his or her head.

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