Serious Eats: Drinks

Drinking the Bottom Shelf: ShotPak Premade Shots

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A couple months ago I horrified us all with the news that I had been reduced to toiling several hours a week at an actual job to keep up with rising household spending relating mostly to pumpkin beer and deluxe mustards.

Pumpkin beer season has finally crested, but it's always time for expensive mustard and now some jerk has started parking a lobster roll truck in my neighborhood, so it looks like I'll be checking IDs at the not-quite-dive bar for the foreseeable future. That's all right, because it's an easy gig and I like my coworkers' cloudy dispositions and slick ways with the Mayflower Porter tap. The job's primary benefits are obvious and essential: They pay me and they give me beer. That's kept me pretty well distracted from looking into the 401(k) matching and paternity leave policies, but just because a job's easy, pays well, and is conveniently located near Greater Boston's finest 7-Eleven nacho-detailing center doesn't mean I can't find a few things to complain about.

Most work nights find me mostly sober until I manage to clear the room and mop the floor, which means it's uncommon for me to have my fourth beer before 2:30 in the morning. Therefore, I usually spend the business end of Saturday night as the designated sucker in a sea full of happy, sloppy drunkards. This isn't the sort of bar people drive to, nor is it the sort where you can get food past 9:00 p.m. Plus it smells a little funny and the music is always loud and often awful, so there's really no reason for a civilian to be there if she doesn't intend to drink assertively.

I will sometimes nurse a few beers through the evening, and I assume my fellow enlisted men do the same, but for the most part I'm sober and therefore bored, so I try to kill time by reading "The New Yorker." This is great, because I love getting paid to read, but this is also terrible, because what's more obnoxiously Cambridgey than a not-quite-dive-bar door guy reading "The New Yorker"?

But as too-precious as that is, it still beats small-talking to drunk strangers all night. A lot of people feel the need to engage me beyond the simple pleasantries required to check an ID. I'm not some kind of surly dick bouncer, so I always try to nod and smile and "Have a nice night" everyone who walks through the door, but I wish college kids weren't so hard-wired to curry favor with every perceived "authority" or "key contact" or "point person" or whatever that they encounter. I'm just some happy schlub checking your license for obvious Sharpie stains; you needn't win me over with witty banter. If your documents are in order, you can come in; if not, then not. Trying to befriend me rarely gets anyone anywhere in real life, and it certainly never does in bar life.

But, you know, minor quibble. It's just that I hate losing my place in whatever article I'm straining to read under the EXIT light. Last week I read the same paragraph about coastal Carolinian heirloom corn seeds a dozen times. I get paid by the hour to read, not by the word, so if you distract me with inane conversation, you're essentially taking magazine articles off my family's table. Please don't.

So even on the best nights with the most favorable words-read to idiots-bounced ratios, I look forward to the ring of the last-call bell. But even that sweet signal has a tiny bittersweet twinge. If it's time for the public to stop drinking so the privates can start, that means it's time to join the rest of the staff in the nightly team-building and liver-razing ritual known as the Greene Bastard.

This is a green shot of variable but consistently abhorrent construction, named for my friend Greene, who is a bastard. The key component is usually Midori, sometimes an apple liqueur or maybe some sort of cilantro schnapps, but always bright green and therefore awful.

Other than my weekly Greene Bastard obligation, I steer clear of mixed shots, because I am dignified and old. But they are popular and I am a man of the people, so when I saw ShotPak brand pouches of premade "shots" on my liquor store counter, I thought of the tackier and/or more adventurous Bottom Shelf readers and picked up one each of the Sour Apple, Mojito, and Purple Hooter!(!) The Lemon Drop box was mercifully pouchless; I'm told they'll have more next week. Oh goody.

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Each pouch packs 50mL (a fair-sized shot of about an ounce and three-quarters) of 17 percent ABV juice for $2.99. Before I even got these home, I knew I wouldn't be recommending them, because they just don't make sense at that many pennies per proof: They're the size of a real shot, but only half the strength. I'm also not sure their intended drinking context. They're too inefficient for winos and teenagers, because for all their portability and potential tastiness, they're still a double-figure buzz for most people. The foil pouch gimmick is neat, but at what cost? Are they really that much more backpackable than a half-pint of sugarberry schnapps?

But even if I can't justify paying for them, I figured I'd give them a go and see if I could recommend drinking any that happened to find their way into your Halloween bag or Christmas stocking.

Sour Apple:
This one's subtitled "Premium Vodka & Sour Apple," and oh mama, is it terrible. Although these are intended to be sucked straight from the pouch by the sporty alkie on the go, I dumped them out into stainless steel portion cups for a color check and to see if they could indeed stain steel. The Sour Apple is bright green, (un)naturally, but it tastes a bit brown. If you handed me one of these and told me it was actually Caramel Sour Apple, I'd believe you. And then I'd tell you to get out of my house.

Mojito:
Premium Rum with Mint & Lime, anyone? I must admit that this baby isn't all that horrible. It tastes like mentholated rum; there's no discernible lime, but that's probably for the better given how bad fake lime flavor can be. This tastes like a CVS-brand mint cough drop, which isn't the worst possible thing you can put on your tongue. If Mom ever accidentally packs this in your lunchbox where the Capri Sun's supposed to go, you might as well drink it. Just remember not to decant first, lest you be put off your PBJ by the pale blue-green color and the disconcertingly persistent grease bubbles.

Purple Hooter!:
Premium Vodka & Raspberry, they say. Give me a break, the rest of us say. Stupid name, gross drink. The purple taste is surprisingly light, at least, which allows the toxic vodka to shine through and remind you that this is indeed alcohol. Now all you need is something to remind you to forget where you found it.


About the author: Will Gordon loves life and hates mayonnaise. You can drink with him in Boston or follow him on twitter @WillGordonAgain.

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