Zombie apocalypse tribute beer goes a bit too far, if you ask me. Dock Street Walker, an American pale stout brewed with wheat, oaks, barley, cranberry… and brains. Might as well say it…
Zombie apocalypse tribute beer goes a bit too far, if you ask me. Dock Street Walker, an American pale stout brewed with wheat, oaks, barley, cranberry… and brains. Might as well say it…
I was out shopping for rum the other day, and as I passed down the aisle of the liquor store, my eyes fell upon an eye-catching bottle that I didn’t recognize. It was in the brandy section, so I bent down to examine closer, and my eyes beheld the following product: Twenty Grand Vodka Infused with Cognac. The shelf tag, in addition to revealing that this new item was already marked down, proclaimed it to be “Good as Money.” Apparently two dollars a bottle less money than initially thought…
Possibly the dumbest liquor product I've ever seen on a shelf. pic.twitter.com/fibjrJj42z
— Doug Winship (@dawinship) March 4, 2014
I squatted there in the middle of aisle, stunned. My mind whirled, trying to grasp how you could make a product that, aside from its merely tacky vessel, is stupid in nearly every possible way.
Let’s start with the marketing stuff. The name is Twenty Grand. Um. Why? Is this some magical number that the Culture has decided is the price of class?
Well, it might be.
An old guy like you would probably have missed a cultural marker like that….
Well, if so, the Culture is wrong. Unlike anyone misfortunate enough to purchase this product, I have actually had twenty grand in ready funds lying around from time to time during my long toil upon this Earth. At none of those times did the “Beautiful People”, despite my culturally significant bank balance, “Hit Up” “My Digits” with invitations to go clubbing.
Perhaps the beautiful people are not as dumb as they look.
Further, what kind of catchphrase is “Good as Money”? Have you seen money? I’m not drinking anything like that.
I’ll forgive, or at least leave aside, the bottle’s stopper, which looks like a cheap doorknob and is nearly as big, because it is not totally hideous at first glance, and because I like stoppers on liquor bottles and like to encourage the practice.
Instead, I will put on my Font Nazi hat and bitch about the label instead.
What the hell is this supposed to be, with all the background engraving, faux aged border, and “anti-counterfeiting features”, a bearer bond? Now, I will grant that, given the whole Good as Money theme, it is a clever conceit. But a bond like this should have little coupons that you tear off each time you consume an ounce of this fluid. Turn in a label’s worth of coupons and get a pony or something. Because anyone sad enough to have drunk a bottle’s worth of this is sad enough to deserve a pony.
This is the frilliest main font ever devised by man. At full size, it is nearly impossible to read, and when it suddenly changes color and shrinks toward the bottom it becomes not so much illegible and practically invisible. Then we get an abrupt, pointless typeface change for the one word on the bottle that you could read from the other side of a bar, especially in bad lighting after a round or two. You are changing the typeface and color on your label in the middle of the name of your product? Or is the name simply Twenty Grand, with “vodka infused with cognac” being the product type?
And what a confusing product type that is! Is 20K a vodka or a cognac? A dessert topping or a floor wax? As their website asks, “uptown or downtown”? It sure looks like they want it to be a Cognac. It is the only legible word on the label. The bottle and stopper, and the material inside all look Cognac-y. But it is worded like it is an infused vodka. Does half the team think that it has to be a “vodka” because that’s all the Wall Street suits who are funding them want, while the other half think the only people who will buy it want “cognac”? Perhaps the group all met in Synergy 224 while getting their MBAs. Most likely, honesty (with some help from the FTC) compelled them to call it Vodka infused with Cognac.
And now we get to the meat of the issue. The actual alcoholic beverage inside the bottle.
An important disclaimer here: This is a totally unfair post, in that I have not actually consumed any Twenty Grand myself. I am not going to. Don’t send me any. My liver only has so many miles left in it, and I won’t waste so much as one of them on Twenty Grand Avenue.
I don’t actually have to taste it, because Mr. Vuitton has. Mr. Vuitton is a YouTuber who vlogs about Louis Vuitton products from his blank-walled apartment with laundry stacked on top of his Louis Vuitton bags in the background, all while wearing Ed Hardy shirts.
His video review of Twenty G will either be the best or worst 11 minutes of your life you have ever spent on YouTube.
Whether you watched that or not, I’ll discuss it a bit as a lead back to my thoughts on Twenty Grand. First, how about that cinematography? I’ve never seen a clearly practiced and polished video style that consists of a continuous, unedited mirror selfie shot which keeps the phone unerringly blocking the view of his mouth. I genuinely admire his dedication to his craft. He held that phone up for eleven minutes! My arms would fall off. But then I’m old.
The video tells a tale actually—the tale of a man who may not have the most extensive liquor knowledge, but who does in fact appear to have a fine and developed sense of taste and smell. It is a tale of a man who is excited by a new product, who tries it for the first time on camera, only to discover that the phrase Good as Money is true in the sense that I spoke of above. Our hero doesn’t want to be mean…
You used to be like that,
didn’t you, Doug?
He doesn’t want to be mean as the stuff assaults those excellent senses of taste and smell, or perhaps he just doesn’t want to admit to himself or his viewers that he has wasted twenty seven dollars that likely tasted better than the Twenty Grand in the bottle.
Some epic, revealing quotes:
It’s a vodka, obviously. [Snif]Yeah. Ah…damn. Yeah. It’s… of course, the smell is alcohol. [grimace] Yeah… it’s, uh, it’s gonna be rough, guys! Sh*t…
[Sip]Yeah. [Forced grimace] It’s sweet. It’s, um, really, really sweet. There’s an, um, thickness to it. It’s is definitely not vodka. It doesn’t taste like vodka. Doesn’t feel like vodka.
Yeah. I can taste the vodka. More like vodka and… syrup. You could really call this “vodka, mixed with honey” or syrup…
The earnest hope in his voice when he decides to throw in some ice is endearing.
Yeah, I’m sure this will be… This’ll be definitely a lot better.
You will be shocked to watch as his hopes are dashed.
I kept thinking I’d abandon the video after each new moment of pathos, but it just kept on going so hilariously I couldn’t stop. Bear with the attempt to remove the plastic shrink-wrap from the stopper with one hand, while the other holds the phone, the rest is worth it.
Listen, I feel for the guy. I’ve searched desperately a time or two to find something nice to say about a dog product, either on this blog or in person. I just think he should learn that it is wise to know what you are reviewing before you review it, especially if you are going to act as if it is live TV.
As I said before, Mr. Vuitton appears to have a much better senses of taste and smell than I ever had, but I knew what he was going to taste before he ever opened that bottle, and I (again) have never experienced the stuff. Because old age and experience beat youth and talent every day. Before my brain had finished processing what I was looking at in that aisle, I knew. The words Early Times were flashing in my brain.
Scores of bottles in that same store that call themselves Blended American Whiskey could just as well have labeled themselves as Vodka infused with Bourbon. They look just like Bourbon, just as 20K looks just like Cognac. The marketing theory behind blended whiskies is that they are smoother and more approachable than the full straight stuff. The truth is that vodka is cheap as hell to make, and faster than it is cheap.
Twenty Grand is not vodka infused with cognac, it is cognac diluted with vodka, at somewhere between 1:1 and 6:1 vodka. But vodka is clear and flavorless, so if that’s all you served up, you’d have a very pale-looking and pale-tasting product. To get the color and flavor back, blenders add colorants and flavorants, mostly caramels of one type or another, to the mix in an attempt to counterfeit the natural ones occurring in the wood-aged product of the base premium liquor.
American blended whiskey makers have had decades of experience and the millions spent in the Lost Laboratories of Seagram’s Gone By to perfect the mix of sugars and colorants needed to make a pleasing and visually satisfying counterfeit for a light bourbon.
Twenty Grand? The color is perfect. To my knowledge, this is the first Blended French Brandy of its kind, and I doubt that the good folks at Citispiritz of Wilson, Wyoming have the kind of resources needed to reproduce the decades and millions it took to get as far as Early Times. Bravo to them for trying, I suppose. Or jeers to them for giving the Pernod-Ricards of the world ideas….
A final disclaimer: As I said, I haven’t tasted the product myself. And Twenty Grand has absolutely the least informative liquor product website to be found on the web. It consists of good photography, bad recipes, and no frigging text to speak of at all! My description of what 20K is and how it is made is merely my own informed speculation. And if you can’t get Twenty Grand Vodka infused with Cognac near you, perhaps you could find their new product: Twenty Grand Rosé. It is vodka infused with flat Rosé Champagne!
For anyone in the bar and restaurant business, or just those of us with way too many friends working behind the bar, the subject of the big tip is a heartwarming one. I’m not talking your fairly run-of-the-mill 20%, rounded up. I’m talking the twenty for a cup of coffee tip, or the Benjamin on dinner for two at Bob Evans. I mean the kind of tip that has your friendly neighborhood bartender or server rushing to tell everybody about it.
Some group of good Christian gentlemen has really made this a “thing” of late, traveling the country and leaving random, four figure tips on small tabs. You’ve probably seen a story or two about it. If you work in the industry, you likely are hoping they’ll drop by to see you. Even better, with all the attention this is getting, we are starting to see copycats….
Well, mostly better.
In what may be an alarming sign that this wonderful little fad may be playing itself out, the people who are Unclear on the Concept™ now seem to be trying to get in on the act. Bless their hearts.
Today’s example of Unclear comes to us by way of Oregon. A couple who dined at the Twisted Fish Steakhouse (with a gift card) thought that they ought to go plus one on their tip and left an envelope with a big question mark written on it….
Ryan and Erica were unclear on the concept in several ways. First, when going for the grand gesture, you do not hang around while your server picks up the tip. No thanks should be needed. The gesture is its own reward, and all that. Second, and more importantly, crystal meth is not really going to fit the bill as a great tip.
This made the whole first “hang around and enjoy your coffee” part of the fail a particularly bad idea. The server did not appreciate her bounteous tip and ran to share the news, not with her co-workers and the press, but with the local constabulary. Said gendarmerie arrived swiftly and discovered that the couple could have tipped even more generously, to the tune of seventeen more ounces of meth tucked away in Erica’s purse.
It will shock you to discover that the couple are not exactly Brad and Angelina Pitt in the looks department either:
Three hot, dusty camels trudge across a nighttime desert waste. Their hotter, dustier riders slump tiredly in their seats. Each occasionally looks up at a particularly bright star in the sky ahead of them.
Melchior: <Straightens and begins to sing>We three kings of Orient are. Bearing gifts we….
Gaspar: Oh cripes! He’s in the mead again, Balthazar!
Balthazar: Melchior, will you please quit it with the
kings bit? No one believes you.
Gaspar: Seriously. If we are supposed to be kings, where are our entourages?
Melchior: Like I told that barmaid back in Jerusalem, Gaspar: “With the economic downturn, we’ve had to make cutbacks in the sycophant budget.”
Gaspar: And how’d that pickup line work out for you, your majesty?
Melchior: Shut up.
<They ride along through a brief silence>
Balthazar: And why do you need to pump yourself up, anyway? We’re astrologers—the best astrologers in the world. We can look into the sky and divine the purposes of God.
Melchior: <Yodels>We are the Kings of Astrology!
<Balthazar and Gaspar shake their heads>
Balthazar: Speaking of kings, I woke up this morning with the unmistakable impression that once we find this kid, we should go home some way other than back through Jerusalem.
Gaspar: Gee, you think? That Herod character seemed a bit too eager to hand over the keys to the palace to a replacement he never heard of. If I really were a king, my definition of “going and worshiping him too” would consist mostly of dropping the kid in a very deep well.
Melchior: I’m happy to go home another route. Herod smells worse than ol’ Camile here. <Slaps his camel’s flank affectionately>
Gaspar: That, and the fact that that barmaid’s father will have had all this intervening time to sharpen his scimitar….
<Balthazar coughs on some sand>
Balthazar: Well, whatever Melchior’s thinking about kingship and whatnot, he’s got the right idea about a drink. <Starts to rummage through his camel’s pack. Finds a present and pulls it out> Hey! My gift for the kid! Did you guys remember to bring yours?
Gaspar: Don’t you think you might have asked that question earlier, when we were still able to turn around?
Balthazar: I got him a batch of Frankincense.
Melchior: Still on with the incense? It’s a baby. You’ll give it colic.
Balthazar: Look, my reading still says the kid’s gonna be a god. He better get used to people waving incense around his face. What’d you get him, Gaspar?
Melchior: Cash? You got him cash? You might as well have gotten him a Target gift card!
Gaspar: Look, my reading is that the child will be a king, not a god…
Balthazar: Something you might have kept to yourself around Herod…
Gaspar: <Overrides Balthazar’s interjection>… and nothing says
you’re the king quite like gold.
Melchior: Gold says,
Here’s some cash, I couldn’t be bothered to think of anything appropriate to get you.
Gaspar: <Makes a rude gesture a Melchior>OK, Miss Manners, what did you get the child?
Melchior: <Mumbles something>
Gaspar: What’s that? You didn’t really forget your gift, did you? You’re not adding your name onto my tag, like you did for Balthazar’s last birthday.
Balthazar: I remember that. You still owe me a gift.
Melchior: I didn’t forget my gift. It’s secure in my pack.
Balthazar: Then what is it?
Melchior: Look, my reading just doesn’t end well for this poor kid. Doom, Gathering Gloom, Death, and all that.
<Gaspar and Balthazar stare at Melchior aghast.>
Gaspar: Melchior, you cannot give a shroud for a baby shower gift.
Melchior: No! No. I just got to thinking and Myrrh popped into my head.
Gaspar: Perfume? You bought a baby perfume?
Balthazar: Maybe the mom will like it.
Melchior: I didn’t actually get pure Myrrh…. That’s kind of expensive, and I’m a little short this month.
Balthazar: Then what are you… Wait! You didn’t, Melchior.
Melchior: <Defiantly>Yes I did. What of it?
Balthazar: You brought a bottle of Fernet Branca?!?
Gaspar: I’d have gone with the perfume.
Melchior: Come on, it’s got Myrrh in it! And we love it.
Gaspar: We are bartenders.
Balthazar: We are astrologers.
Gaspar: We are astrologers who tend bar to make ends meet. Together, that makes us the wisest men on Earth.
But after a long shift kissing the backsides of arrogant camel brokers in their red power keffiyehs, we need something exotic to cleanse the pallet. Fernet Branca gets rid of every bad taste you got in one shot.
Balthazar: Leaves it’s own rather… imposing set of aftertastes. Like the Myrrh, for instance.
Melchior: I brought a case of Canada Dry Ginger Ale too.
Gaspar: Oh… well… that’s fine then.
<Melchior starts to relax.>
Gaspar: Except, have you forgotten it’s a gift for a freaking baby?
Melchior: Look guys, like I said: My reading says this kid has got a rough road ahead. I figure he’s going to need to fight off a lot of bad tastes in his mouth. I’m just trying to equip him properly.
<Tired, companionable silence>
Gaspar: <Spits>Ugh, all this sand… Look, Melchior, I’ve got a lot of gold here. It was a good month for tips for me. Let’s stop off at the next town, and we’ll buy some real Myrrh for your gift.
Balthazar: Perfume would be more appropriate for a god than booze….
Melchior: <Suspiciously>And why, pray tell, are you suddenly feeling so much like sharing, Gaspar?
Gaspar: Well…. <rubs his throat> If you are going to give real Myrrh when we find the kid, then we can crack open your bottle of Fernet Branca right now….
<Fade to black>
Balthazar: Um, Melchior, I don’t suppose you brought any Moxie, did you?
And that, children, is the real story of Epiphany!
Obviously, I’m not talking about giving an actual hand to the cocktail lover in your life for Christmas. Even if they were tragically missing one, the medical science isn’t there yet to help. I will note that hands (unless we are talking of Gaz Regan’s Negroni-stirring finger) are not actual bar tools anyway. You are supposed to use your hands to manipulate tools to do things like prepare ingredients. For example, you put your limes in a juicer to extract the juice. It is messy, imprecise, and wasteful to just use your fingers. This brings us closer to where I’m going…
What the Hell are you up to, Doug?
You often take your time reaching the lede, but you are beating around the bush than usual.
Funny you should put it that way. But yeah, this is going to take some discretion.
I’m going to show you a video next, a video for making a “Macho Mojito”. Deep within this beautifully lit and shot little how-to there lies a horrifyingly, hilariously deep level of wrong.
So very, very wrong.
The audio isn’t the best, so it may be hard to hear the relevant information when it appears. Pay close attention when the little snifter on the left comes into play….
Whether you’ve watched it or not, let’s break this exhibition of very special mixology down, shall we? Consider this in the vein of the master of bar video fisking, Jeffrey Morgenthaler.
To make your Mojito, start with a couple of messy barspoons of granulated sugar… because that is so easy to dissolve.
Squeeze in your limes by hand? Trust me, pretty soon you aren’t going to want this guy’s hands touching ingredients for any drink he’s making for you….
Gonna add the rum… I like mine strong.
Um, yeah. I think we are all going to need a strong drink here shortly. And I don’t really rate that pour as all that strong, to be honest.
Then we’ll mash it all up.
The thing we learn here is to oh so gently tamp down your mint and sugar. If you got in there and used any agitation or pressure at all, you might actually dissolve some of the sugar! Worse, you might bruise the mint, and this dude is muddling like he’s afraid to piss off that mint.
And now we’re going to add some powdered sugar to the semen.
[Sound of phonograph needle being dragged across a record]
Yup. Semen. The mixologist producing this drink is Paul Photenhauer, author of Semenology – The Semen Bartender’s Handbook. Yes, it is real. Click the link. It will take you to the Amazon page for this book. But do not give this book to your cocktail enthusiast friend…
Unless you have a very specific message to send, that is!
You are not helping, Guy.
In other news, don’t worry my foodie readers, Photenhauer has got you covered too, with a gift not to give this Christmas.
Congratulations, you’ve finally dug down to the well-buried lede of this post. I’m sorry, but Spoogetails are just a very bad idea, for all sorts of reasons.
To begin with, Semen cocktails? Really?
Disclaimer: I personally am not a consumer of semen (shocking to those who know me as this might be). I thus have no personal experience with its taste. But my sources tell me that for those who do enjoy the occasional loving spoonful, it is really about inducing the production, rather than the end product….
Further, the mixology of this particular drink is just all wrong from a technical standpoint. You see, what they are whipping up in that little snifter is a protein foam, very similar in chemical construction to how a bartender would employ an egg white. Foams are great in certain cocktails, but they have no place in a light, carbonated drink like a Mojito. I’d suggest you use this stuff in something where you are looking for a richer mouthfeel…. It is the holidays, so perhaps you could make an eggnog with this stuff replacing the chemically very similar egg white foam?
How about a Ramos Gin Jizz?
Oh. My. God!
Stop encouraging him!
Actually, that would work. The point is that if you were to employ this rather dubious ingredient, at least do it in a way that is culinarily and chemically sound.
You are really going into the science of semen?
Hey, I once wrote that bringing along Gaz Regan would be the secret to a successful Mars mission. We think deep thoughts here at the Pegu Blog, lady.
But this brings us to the third problem with this ingredient, it doesn’t make for much of a trend unless professionals are going to serve them in bars. The implications here only get worse. Today’s cocktail enthusiast demands fresh, um, squeezed ingredients. We are looking at a pretty fundamental shift in the nature of the barback’s job here, folks!
Further, say we put Guy’s Ramos Gin Jizz on the menu, and they grow, God forbid, popular? Hearkening back to the original, will bars that serve this have to go back to the line of ten strapping young men behind the bartender, er, shaking for all they are worth, one after the other, to produce….
Just stop! I refuse to be a part of this any longer.
Wrap it up, Writer Boy.
Why are you so against this, dear?
I’d think you could be a big help with….
Are you really wanting to piss me off?
Is it truly your intent to make this, of all things, a subject that I angrily reject?
You’re going to edit out this last exchange, right?
Sure, Guy. Whatever you say.
I’m going with hoax…
But here’s the thing: I’m not sure.
OK, I can find nothing about an Oak Ridge Distilling Company on the web… but “high-tech” as this operation would have been, let’s face it, their web penetration would still have been, um, limited. Also, maybe it was only available at the plant, and thus ultra, kill-anyone-who-even-looks-German-level classified.
I can’t imagine how any form of radiation would make whiskey age faster. But I’m no chemist, and I don’t want to ask my wife and have her laugh at me, so maybe it could.
Who would want to drink radioactive whiskey? But people thought radiation was the answer to everything for a while, so why not turbo barrel-aging?
Why 150 proof? It seems excessive. Look, we are talking about a product that is “Tested by Geiger Counter”, and you are worrying about it having too much alcohol?
Then there’s this photo (no embedding allowed, darn it!) Does that stopper have a plastic cap? Maybe it is just a replacement…
Look, it’s got to be a hoax, because… none of it makes sense!
But I want to believe!
Update: It is real! (Sort of)
Commenter Emtilt of Thinking While Playing (and the sadly blogbandoned Astrophysics is Better With a Drink) possesses greater Google-Fu than I. He found it at the Oak Ridge Associated Universities Museum website. The bottle is a real product. The radiation-aged whiskey, alas, is mythical. It was a novelty toy bottle, produced in 1963, that rattled and shook when you touched it. (You know, like radioactive things are won’t to do….)