Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Hiram Walker Sour Watermelon Schnapps

Drinking the Bottom Shelf

Will Gordon drinks his way through the bottom shelf of the liquor store...so you don’t have to.


Draft beer and variety are two of my favorite things, but I generally avoid bars with too many taps, because I don't trust that the turnover's high enough to keep all the kegs fresh, and the sad fact is that a clean Miller Lite tastes better than a dirty anything.

"Too many" is a variable amount that depends on location and clientele. There's a new bar near Fenway Park with 140 draft beers, which is too many by a factor of 11 unless at least 100 of the taps bleed Bud. Then there's the Cantab Lounge, the only bar in my neighborhood gracious enough to open at 8 a.m.; every time I go, my first thought is, "Wait, are any of these people breathing?" quickly followed by, "I guess it doesn't matter. But how can one of the five draft lines here be devoted to Long Trail Ale? Is that a real tap handle, or is 'I'll take a Long Trail' secret code related to an elaborate disability-check laundering operation involving beer Beer-Nuts and scratch-off lottery tickets?"

On Sunday, Bottom Shelf research director Emily and I went to a newish place a few squares over to see how far their couple dozen taps could be trusted. We'd been once before on a Serious Eater's recommendation, and though I could see the place's charms—beer and tacos and comfortable stools—I was bitterly and loudly disappointed by the bartender's refusal to pour me a pint of beer on any of his five chances.

Quick aside to those who pour beer: a pint is a unit of measure, not a shape of glassware. When I ask for a pint, I would like a 16-ounce glass filled to the very top with beer. If your scummy boss favors those 13-ounce pint-shaped glasses with two-inch glass heels, then I would like one of those filled to the very top with beer as well as two shot glasses also filled to the very top with beer.

Our second trip was much better, because the pints were full and the tacos were good and winter was over. We had a very mild winter in the Northeast so I hate to complain but actually I live to complain so let me here note that winter still sucks even when it's snow-free and 34 balmy degrees. It wasn't as consistently, debilitatingly awful as most winters, but it was still cold and dark enough to make a rational underachiever go into semi-hibernation; I spent the last several months in a contented survival mode, and now it's time to emerge into the world and get glorious.

So last night on our respective ways home from work I got tulips and Emily got tequila and we threw ourselves a raucous 40-minute party between dinner and bed. We haven't had any tequila in the house for a while, but the bottle of Hiram Walker Sour Watermelon Schnapps my favorite publicist sent last month wasn't going to drink itself and I wasn't going to drink it straight, so I decided to try it in the margarita recipe on the back of the label.

But I was duly diligent and took a swig of it straight before breaking out the blender. (The recipe on the label didn't specify frozen, but I assume that's implied anytime you're trafficking in the pink margarita underworld; I ain't above it.) Well, it sure is sour. At first whiff I accused it of smelling way stronger than warranted by its 30 proof, but upon consideration I decided it doesn't actually smell boozy, just markedly unsweet for a candy-colored schnapps. Upon drinking it, the scorn/praise cycle was reversed: My initial reaction was "Hey, this isn't sticky and sugary, awesome!" but once I got over that novelty I realized that just being less tacky than expected doesn't make a thing good. And the sour overpowered the watermelon, which could just as well have been cherry or any other Sour Red Schnapps.

It would be unfair and irrelevant to focus too much on its standalone flavor, though, because this isn't meant for uncut consumption. For the record, the sourness is a pleasant departure, but overall the stuff is nowhere near balanced enough to drink without significant adulteration. Enter the blender.

I still thought this stuff could work out if helped along by tequila and citrus, and I was right. The bracing sour character toughens up your pink slushie, and though the watermelon is even harder to pick out once mixed, there's a definite fruity element involved. If you're got $10 extra and a heart set on a fruity margarita that won't hurt your teeth, Hiram Walker Sour Watermelon Schnapps could be your thing.