Cheap Booze Reviews: “Malt Beverages With Caffeine and Ginseng”

Once upon a time, in a universe existing primarily in the spaces between computers, two stalwart adventurers met on the road. One, an adventurous musician with a weakness for rubber chickens. The other, an idealistic lunatic with a penchant for awkward linguistic constructions. Both had a fondness for mischief and strong drink. And so a beautiful friendship was born, and thus many dubious enterprises took shape (mostly for their own amusement, but sometimes with an incidental side effect of bringing enjoyment to all).

It was a cold night in December when Celestina (that would be the idealistic lunatic, for the uninitiated) sat straight up over her bottle, struck to the very core with a brilliant idea (only an idea of this magnitude could have made her sit up straight at this point, as she was at least halfway through a fifth of scotch): for years she had been selfishly using her unique skillset only for her own amusement, when clearly it had been gifted to her for a higher purpose: The service of all mankind! Caught up in the beauty of her vision, she quickly emailed the only other person she knew uniquely qualified to participate in an endeavour of this magnitude, the adventurous musician known as Walt D. Upon receiving her urgent missive, Walt was struck by the knowledge that his entire life had been propelling him toward this moment, and so a new venture was conceived in the spirit of sacrifice, service, and inebriated camaraderie.

The Cheap Booze Review

Each episode we will imbibe various inexpensive (and usually noxious) beverages so that you don’t have to. You will know, before you purchase, the nature of the libation you are contemplating, the quality of the drunk it affords, and the aftereffect you will probably want to avoid. We do this because someone should. We do this because there are few people who could. And we do this because we love you all (or at least, you look good after a few drinks). And so, on to

Episode One: Malt Beverages with Caffeine and Ginseng

Time and Date of Commencement: December 20, 2007, approximately 9:30 p.m.

Test Subjects: Walt is drinking “Joose” and Celestina is drinking “Tilt”. Both purport to be “premium malt beverages” with the dubious addition of caffeine and ginseng. Joose also contains taurine, and has an alcohol content of 9.9%. Tilt opts for guarana, and has an alcohol content of 8%.

The Scene: Given the impracticality of converging upon a bar to do this thing (and given that no respectable establishment would ever serve this dreck), our appraisal was carried out utilizing the latest in inexpensive, textual communication implements (chat). Initially, we were aided and abetted (read: begged to stop) by our dear friend Viki Babbles. Then she bailed, and we were on our own. Neither Walt nor Celestina had really eaten anything before they started, but Walt was down a couple of beers already, while Celestina had previously imbibed several glasses of wine.

In the beginning…

Celestina: The whole thing started out well enough. Hanging out on chat with a couple of friends, drinking stuff I would normally never touch with a ten foot pole, what a lark! Even the first sip didn’t set me straight about what I had gotten myself into. It tasted pretty nasty, but in that uber-sweet, chemically goodness way that sort of reminded me of Sweetarts. And with a mere 8% alcohol, I figured this was going to be a piece of cake.

Walt: ….so there I was, the night was young, I had the virtual company of good friends and the syrupy toxic goodness of bargain alcohol. The world was my reasonably-priced, rancid, alcoholic oyster.

Chat excerpt:

Walt: popping top on ghetto swill
Celestina: so viki
Viki: yes’m
Celestina: i have to warn you that walt and i are entering new territory tonight
Viki: uh oh
Celestina: we are preparing the first in a series to be entitled “cheap booze reviews”…and we are currently drinking really alarming beverages
Viki: why would you do that to yourself?
Celestina: it’s a service to humanity
Walt: it’s a humanitarian enterprise…better us than them
Celestina: we can take it
Viki: your livers can probably take it, anyway
Celestina: well, that’s the one part that probably can’t, but it is so that other people know what to buy when they are short on cash
Viki: that really is quite a service
Walt: first impression…..
Celestina: sweet and scary.. mine is green, green, green. acid green
Walt: cloying….like overripe raspberries, rolled in an unwashed sweatsock…soaked in a fetid swamp
Celestina: mine is like limes gone rancid
Viki: wouldn’t it just be easier, and cheaper, to remain sober? It would be less depressing, anyway
Celestina: nooooo….this is important research
Walt: gak I can taste the ginseng…vaguely…aftertaste…urp…doesn’t belong in a drink of this sort
Celestina: all i can taste is waaay too much sugar, with a hint of yellow #5
Celestina: what’s your alcohol %?
Walt: 9.9%
Celestina: and what color are you drinking tonight?
Walt: color…ew…urine yellow (#5, I think)

And so it began. It really didn’t seem too painful at first. The banter was humorous, and the sense of adventure palatable (and only slightly skewed by the overbearing flavours of the beverages).

The Tipsy Stage

Walt:The initial buzz was pleasant enough: kinda like having one’s cerebral cortex marinated in a mixture of strong coffee and gin and then reinserted….euphoric, tipsy and overenthusiastic.

Celestina: I found the drunk of this stuff to be interesting at first. Not quite like anything I had ever experienced before. By the bottom of the first one I had a definite buzz going on, but with a slightly hyperactive edge distinctly unlike the normal pleasant increase in energy I usually experience by that point. The inclination to laugh at everything, the flirtiness, and the base sense of humor were all standard, but the fact that I absolutely could not sit still in my seat was a bit…different.

Chat Excerpt:

Walt: notes on ghetto beverage…rapid drunk effects…but Taurine and other stimulants kicking in nicely…overall buzzed…but with a need to chatter
Celestina: it does have rather rapid drunk effects, i have noticed. i think it is really killing me, though. my taste buds, at least. it is like a margarita made with battery acid…
Walt: a weird buzz…amped but boerderline smashed..kinda nice borderline
Celestina: yeah, i feel bizarrely buzzed for so little, but jittery
Walt: boerderline is a South African term with vaguely genocidal connotations
Celestina: of course it is…we’re gonna drink all of these tonight?
Walt: probably not
Celestina: these things have a nasty aftertaste…
Walt: yeah…it’s like Listerine and mothballs
Celestina: yes…that’s exactly what it’s like
Walt: have you noticed that it gives a blurry but jittery edge to all the fine lines in your surroundings? Look at a piece of baseboard.
Celestina: crap…i would have to find one not obscured by piles of junk…hang on ok, everything is blurry but jittery
Walt: weird buzz…makes me want to sit in an alley…sing & bum change
Celestina: sort of makes me want to dance on tables…scary

The Drunk

Celestina: By this juncture, I was pretty damned lit, and definitely feeling a bit off. But the dedication to accuracy remained…

Walt:The biohazardous nature of this elixir was becoming apparent at this point. I was swiftly becoming the creepy guy in the bar one doesn’t make eye contact with. I felt like one of the botched-experiment human guinea pigs in Resident Evil.

Celestina:so, review check in. who made the swill you are drinking?
Walt: stand by
Walt: United Brands Co, Cold Springs, Mo
Celestina: i have anheuser-bush over here. or however you spell it.
Walt: At the bottom of the can in very hard to see blue fluorescent lettering
Celestina: yeah, this is a tiny tag above the surgeon general’s warning my evaluation, 2 and a half in…this shit is eeeevil what you got?
Walt: ok….my eval..
Walt: the logo itself is a hybrid of the black youth-preferred Olde English and Hispanic-preferred WS tagletters, so it’s plain to see the market they’re going for….get shitfaced but stay clear enough to stay down, Homie. This concoction is Soylent Ghetto. It’s a cynical attempt on the behalf of beverage companies to consolidate the energy drink and bargain malt liquor markets….especially among lower-income ethnic youths.
Celestina: there once was a girl from the hood, who always drank more than she should, she knew she should stop, at the sound of the pop, but never did nothing for her own good limerick skills are officially killed bad bad sign especially when drinking bad alcohol too many damned syllables
Walt: ouch
Celestina: officially, i see an attempt to capture the imagination of generation x and subsequent generations in the marketing scheme of the graffitied “T” splayed raggedly across the can in acid green. the minor play toward “health” in the bright display of “ginseng and guarana!” is just another attempt to pull in the assumed health-consciousness of these generations, but is immediately undermined by the artificial colors and flavours. my original evaluation stands: it tastes like a margarita made with battery acid. and i have to chain smoke to kill the taste, which is not quite what i strive with for. so much for corporate sponsorship for our road trip from anheuser-busch 🙂
Walt: Damn you…I didn’t have my heart set on United Bev. out of Montana.
Celestina: grin we must look for hard liquor sponsors, walt
next time, i get to pick the booze of choise choice dammit gah i am slurring my typing not good grin

Celestina: Somewhere after this point I trundled myself queasily off to bed, acutely aware of a certain gut-crunching, amusement-park-ride-falling-apart kind of feeling. I had a distinct urge to hit something, but couldn’t quite rouse myself enough to do so. Walt, being the hard-core investigator that he is, carried on without me, sending in the following report around 2:30 in the morning:

2:27 AM: ok…I almost went to sleep without posting this…but it’s science, damnit.
I did kill that last can.
I have a horrible queasy feeling…not in the usual soft room-swimming way, but a razor-sharp, head-in-a-vice, tinnitus-that-WWI-trench-warfare-veterans experienced, kinda high-pitched whine disorientation. Yuk.
This stuff takes you to a lower chakra…and is probably designed to.

The Aftermath

Walt: The hangover wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. Sure, I felt like every drop of moisture had been squeezed from my body by a giant garlic press with the “Joose” logo stenciled on the side….gathered into tupperware containers and shipped to the McDonald’s “special sauce” factory (still more wholesome than what’s usually in there, kids). Other than that and a certain shaky general queaze, not that bad.

Celestina: Honestly, I expected to wake up the next day in a world of pain, given how miserable I felt when I went to sleep. But the after effects were not as bad as one might think: slight headache, a distinct swimminess to everything, but nothing a pot of coffee couldn’t set straight. Still, I don’t think I will be going back for seconds with this stuff. With a flavour straight from the Willy Wonka cast-off bin and a drunk like a monster truck rally, I can think of better ways to spend my five dollars.

Overall Evaluation

2 out of 5