“I Dare You to Drink That”
After the inauguration of a President, who basically looked at 1984 and said “challenge accepted,” I figure it’s time for some relatively comedic filler material. Things are only going to get weirder, and we’re going to need to adapt to a changing world, lest we get left behind. In light of that observation, I suspect a good place to start would be adapting in a time-honoured coping mechanism that unifies people from the Bay Street executive to the guy with a bottle of mouthwash in an LCBO bag: getting hammered.
And so, here is a review of the weirdest and/or foulest alcoholic beverages I’ve ever consumed. I poison my liver so you don’t have to (though if something’s surprisingly tasty, I might sincerely recommend it).
Andre’s Almond Crème Sherry: 18% abv, $7.95 for a 750ml bottle
Ever heard of Thunderbird? How about Night Train? Well, for those of you who haven’t, they are two infamous brands of fortified wine from the United States, generally associated with vagrancy. Both are incredibly cheap, close to 20% alcohol, and known to get you a special kind of drunk. They’re not available in Canada; I can’t say we’re lesser for it.
However, we do have equivalent beverages, which brings me to Almond Crème. As a young lad with no taste and an obsession with finding the cheapest way to get drunk on my drug store paycheques, I found myself in the fortified wine section of my local LCBO. It was there I noticed that in servings of alcohol per dollar, nothing was nearly as cheap as the so-called “sherries” in plastic or green glass bottles. “Grandma drinks sherry,” I thought, “and she can barely even look at a bottle of actual liquor. How bad could it be?” Well, dear readers, I must say that Grandma’s mid-range sipping sherry is a far cry from the sickly-sweet abomination that utterly demolished several teenagers and an unfortunate bathroom that warm July afternoon. I only wish I could say we never repeated the experience.
Now, I’ve singled out Almond Crème because it stands out among the brain-obliterating, legal-minimum priced hard wines generally purchased by hardened alcoholics and stupid kids. What makes it distinct? It actually tastes okay. It tastes kind of like a sour, sickly-sweet amaretto, which is fantastic compared to the “did I just drink gasoline” taste of its neighbours. I wasn’t above buying the odd bottle into my adult years, when I only had eight dollars on hand and hated myself more than usual. Apparently it’s been discontinued, but can still be found in some LCBOs. I recommend giving it a try, be it as a dare, novelty, or so you can better understand the mindset of that client who stood in the middle of a busy street and started screaming “you call this a sidewalk” before his inevitable arrest.
Watch out for the hangover. Oh man…
Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum: 63% abv, $37.95 for a 750ml bottle
This is the most widely available of the painfully potent rums available in Ontario. Sadly, we don’t get things like the Spiced Screech you can find almost everywhere in Newfoundland, which combines being 50% alcohol while actually tasting good. However, this article isn’t really about “good,” but rather about selecting an appropriate and expedient means of killing as many brain cells as possible. You know, something to help you forget seeing an MRA activist respond to a women’s march by asking who’s going to iron his shirt (seriously, you can’t iron your own shirt? Hand in your man card, NOW). You’re going to see a lot more of that now, so drink up.
That’s where Wray and Nephew comes in. You might see mickeys of this stuff at the LCBO counter with all the half-mickeys, corkscrews, and those cans of wine (boxes weren’t trashy enough? Wait, I shouldn’t judge). That’s because its high potency makes it a desirable target for the hardened alcoholic shoplifter. Amusingly enough, the LCBO gives it some flavour notes that make it sound like a high-end, complex rum that you’d want to savour. This is a filthy, filthy lie. Wray and Nephew tastes like someone dissolved rotten coconuts in a vat of rubbing alcohol, and no matter how fast you gulp it down, there’s a good chance you’ll retch from the overwhelming burn in the back of your throat. When I order a shot of it at my local dive bar, I ask for a shot of “nightmare fuel,” and my liver weeps tears of blood.
Why would I recommend so foul a beverage? Because everything you drink after downing a few shots of it will taste like the nectar of the gods. Drinking Wray and Nephew is like beating your tongue with a baton and forcing it into a lightless dungeon for several years. Everything you feel and taste after drinking it will be wonderful.
Be sure to keep it away from open flame.
Fen Chiew: 53% abv, $30.90 for a 750ml bottle
I first recall seeing this stuff at the LCBO in Chinatown. Its high alcohol content stood out, as did the unusual bottle shape and logo. Apparently, Fen Chiew is a Chinese spirit known as baijiu, which basically translates to “clear liquor.” It’s usually made of sorghum, which makes it unique among the spirits you’ll find in western liquor stores. Being unfamiliar, foreign, and very cheap considering its high alcohol content, it frightened me. I left it alone until a friend of mine (who never seems to leave an LCBO without buying something new) brought a bottle to a party last year. He insisted it was good. I don’t generally question his tastes, but something about this stuff made me hold my nose as I downed a hearty shot.
He wasn’t lying. To my surprise, Fen Chiew is pretty good. It tastes like slightly (but not sickly) sweet vodka with that faint black licorice taste characteristic of east Asian alcohols. There was certainly nothing strong enough to evoke a strong reaction, and everyone actually seemed to like or at least tolerate it. I can’t imagine mixing it with anything, except maybe ice, because it’s not neutral enough to be treated like a cheap vodka suitable only for mixing, or strong-tasting enough to complement anything like ginger ale does with rye. You might get a weird look or two bringing it to the counter, but you’re getting a good buzz for your buck, and I’m certain you won’t hate it.
But why is it listed in a review of potent drinks for a new dark age? Because it doesn’t taste like it’s 53% alcohol, so you’ll underestimate it, and then it’ll hit like a sledgehammer covered in railroad spikes. Thankfully, I think there was only one ill-advised hook-up that night.
Totally Awesome Sweet Alabama Liquid Snake: A shooter, with equal parts Jägermeister, Goldschläger or Fireball Whisky, and Bacardi 151.
This one’s a relatively original invention, and I’m way more proud of it than I should be. For context, the name is a reference to a fictional drug from a cult TV show called Metalocalypse, a cartoon about an absurdly popular metal band. This drug utterly destroys the mind of anyone who takes it, except the band’s drummer, because he’s done so many drugs it doesn’t touch him. Anyway, I was at a party, and wondered what would happen if I mixed 151 proof rum into a shot of Liquid Cocaine (Jäger and Goldschläger). I took a drink named after a drug, and decided “not crazy enough.” You know, because there’s no way that could have ended badly.
Have you ever heard the phrase “gone horribly right”? That’s pretty much what happened. The Bacardi 151 seemed to complement the other spirits, which had enough sugar and flavour to cover the potency of the Bacardi. Totally Awesome Sweet Alabama Liquid Snake was good enough that the usually undrinkable Bacardi 151 was the first casualty of the night. To give you an idea of the effectiveness of the concoction, one person fell asleep on the lawn, and another in the backyard. At least two ill-advised relationships started that night, and I wasn’t allowed back in that house for about a year. All told, it went quite well.
I recommend this for anyone who wants to be the life of an “End of the World” party.
Green Russian: Absinthe and milk
This is not an original concoction. The name and basic premise were inspired by the TV show Archer. It was introduced in an episode where a character wakes up after an epic night of binge drinking to find that he’s hooked up with the co-worker who had provided him with the titular beverage. If you’re thinking “but Ian, that sounds far too insane to actually try,” you don’t know me and I don’t think we can ever be friends. Hell yes, I made Green Russians.
The name is actually something of a misnomer, because it’s not really Russian, and even if you mix equal parts absinthe and milk, it still barely gets anything more than a slightly green tinge. If you want something more green, throw in some melon liqueur or green crème de menthe. I can’t imagine them having a negative effect on the flavour, since absinthe basically tastes like sour licorice melted in pure ethanol, so you’re not going to make it much worse. Also, contrary to popular belief, absinthe doesn’t make you hallucinate, regardless of whether or not it’s the proper kind that contains wormwood. The stuff that 19th century painters tripped balls on was apparently laden with all sorts of weird chemicals to give it its characteristic green colour, which is what actually caused the hallucinations for which it became infamous. If you want to recreate that effect, look up a recipe for sizzurp, the cough syrup cocktail Lil Wayne keeps overdosing on. Absinthe just gets you drunk.
But it does get you mightily drunk, and it’s definitely a weird enough drink for a weird 2017. Can’t kill you more than once, at least.
Bonus Drink: Centerba (green Italian herb “liqueur” that’s roughly 70% abv)
I would have added this to the main list, but I only found it once and doubt I’ll ever see it again. For those of you who don’t know, the LCBO at Weston and Wilson often gets a lot of very weird spirits that you likely won’t find anywhere else. One time, while stopping there to grab some inebriants following a date, I noticed what appeared to be a heavily discounted bottle of bright green liqueur, which I assumed to be absinthe. Overwhelmed by morbid curiosity, I purchased the lone bottle.
Sometimes, you only learn the hard way. Centerba is a very obscure liqueur made of aromatic herbs that’s allegedly a digestive and possible topical antiseptic. It is truly and utterly vile. I quickly “gifted” the bottle to my friends, who immediately dubbed it the “mistake liquor.” On a whim, I set a shot of it on fire, and it broke the shot glass. Nothing good could come of this product. If you ever see it, don’t settle for simply not buying it: smash the bottle on the ground and strut away like a boss.
And thus concludes my article on insane drinks for an insane 2017. Just remember: I’m not responsible for anything that happens following consumption of these drinks, as I’m not to be trusted or emulated. Good luck on surviving until 2018.