Serious Eats: Drinks
Bottom Shelf Booze for Black Friday
One of my favorite parts of any new social entanglement is the opportunity to try out a fresh batch of potentially useful lies. For example, I don't have many good things to say about the loud neighbors to the left, but at least they have the courtesy to believe that I'm an inventory analyst at the aquarium. I'm not certain how this fiction could ever come in handy—they ambushed me in the elevator and that's what came out—but it does make them mindful of the fake-fact that the cranky guy next door has access to Excel and sharks.
And the only thing that could lure me back to office work is another shot at establishing early on that I'm a single father. Single mothers get judged in all sorts of different directions, many of them unfavorable, but it seems to me that single fathers are universally regarded as tragic at the very least, and often noble and adorable. I imagine if I were a phony single father, my coworkers would bake me things and smile when I had to leave early to attend impromptu dentist recitals on Friday afternoons.
But there is one avenue of new beginnings in which I've learned it's best to keep the self-aggrandizing tales to a medium height. When it comes to romantic interactions, I try to stick somewhat near to the boring old truth, which thank heck wasn't a handicap when it came to wooing Bottom Shelf Research Coordinator Emily.
All she needed to hear was that I don't play video games. Even if this were a lie, it would have been easy enough to cover up or make true, but as it happens I don't let games further muddle my exhaustive daily time-wasting regimen. Good thing she didn't ask if I spend 10 hours a week in the shower and take 45 minutes to make a goddamn bowl of oatmeal. (If you don't crush the walnuts individually, how do you get uniform Grape-Nut size pieces?)
I asked nothing of her in return, but she was eager to point out that she doesn't like to shop. I've never lived in one of those sitcoms where women are constantly running around buying things, so this didn't mean much to me one way or the other, but I was clearly meant to be impressed and relieved, so I pretended to be.
If I'd had an active video game habit to conceal or break, I would have demanded more, but since I wasn't giving anything up, I didn't bother to point out what I considered to be the obvious: "But no sane person likes to shop; we all like to have things, but nobody actually enjoys the process of acquiring them."
But either I'm wrong or you all are crazy, because it's the back part of November again, which means the advertising and news industries are trying to convince us that millions of Americans like nothing more than waiting in a parking lot all night for the chance to trample their way to the front of the line for $20 talking robot-vacuums.
Is this whole Black Friday concept an elaborate hoax, or am I just out of touch with contemporary stuff-stockpiling practices? No one I know does this. But just in case people actually do get up early to buy things on this one particular day of the year, I figure I should offer them responsible fake-holiday-themed drinking choices to power them through the apparent chaos. If you're going to be out trampling and hoarding today, you may want to consider spiking your coffee with the following Black Friday boozes.
I love you, Canada, but you've once again failed to impress me with your discount whiskey. This tastes like three pink Smarties were dissolved in a vat of cheap bourbon.
Gosling's Black Seal Rum:
I really like dark rum. Gosling's is OK but it's not one of my favorites. It is very hot and tastes overproof (it's the standard 80). The caramel-vanilla flavoring is nice enough but a little heavy and clumsy.
Allen's Blackberry Flavored Brandy:
I had low hopes for this, because the last time I had blackberry brandy was at the Amherst VFW on "Let's get as drunk as the bartender and then maybe the cigarette fire on the pool table won't bother us any more than it does him" night. But it turns out that in a less flaming context, blackberry brandy, or at least the Allen's version, is quite acceptable. I'm not sure I detected the promised "true natural blackberry flavor," but I guess it might have borne a passing resemblance to sour off-season berries, and I could see mixing this into a complicated hot winter drink.
Now here's some horrible blackberry poison. Have chapped lips and hate yourself? Then suck down a quick nip of this musty-cherry nightmare juice.
Jim Beam Black:
I'm not a big Beam fan, but I respect it as an honest cheapish bourbon, so I was disappointed that the Black isn't any good. The label says it's aged for eight years, but in what? A swimming pool filled with dirty children and rubbing alcohol? It tastes moldy and astringent, with a dominant character of mean corn undercut by a hint of sour citrus.
OK, the official Bottom Shelf Black Friday beer really should be Carling Black Label, but I didn't think of that in time. Plus come on, man, don't I deserve something nice for a change? This is just about the cheapest black beer on the market. Sometimes you can find it for the same price as the 'Gansett Lager, about $5.99 for a six-pack of tallboys; it's usually a couple bucks more than that but always safely under $10, and it's well worth it.
This pours deep, dark, and true, with a nice tan top rather than that freaky white Guinness head. It's pretty thin for porter, a little bitter, and a lot boozy (7% ABV). This isn't a great beer but it is a great value, and if my liquor store ever decides to sell it at a loss the morning after Thanksgiving, I will indeed bust some doors to get a winter's worth.