Thu, 01/15/2009 — Fasteriskhead

Hello and good afternoon, dear Andore readers!

I admit to being surprised when the editors of this fine site first asked me to pen something on their behalf. It's not often that retired Interpol agents get looked up, especially after that whole misunderstanding from a several years back regarding a few dead bodies and a long vacation in the Hague with the International Criminal Court. People tend not to want to publish your essays after that.

But I'm already getting off track! I'm not here to talk about so-called "crimes against humanity," I'm here to talk about drinking. Alcohol. Sweet nectar of the Olympians and universal lubricant for the human soul. I admit, I don't drink as much as I once did - Irish coffee and the occasional glass of after-dinner brandy is about the extent of it - but back as an active agent I was something of an expert on the subject. To this day I believe my career would have lasted about two weeks without my frequent soaking. Hey, you try gunning your way through a heavily guarded New York fortress without a glass of liquid courage first. That's some wild shit, and a shooting arm needs its nerves as calm as possible.

Now, I did tend to vary my drinking, you understand. On missions calling for more subtlety - espionage, information gathering, that kind of thing - I preferred the strong and pleasantly regal. None of that long island iced tea crap the wussy agents liked. No, for me it was gin and lime juice; you'd be amazed what kind of info you can pull from someone at a party if they know you don't screw around with your drinking. (Leila, bless her heart, invariably bought the second most expensive wine on the menu, as if this made her a penny-pincher. It actually worked pretty well from what I saw, though) On my more typical run-and-gun missions, though, I needed something a bit different: beer, and the stronger and cheaper the better. Let's just say, despite what Leila believed could go on an expense sheet, Interpol's budget wasn't up there with MI6. Anyways, cheap/strong beer can only mean malt liquor, the very subject of the present discussion.

There are a number of misconceptions about this stuff. Barring the fine taste of CAMO (the quality of which you've no doubt already heard of), if you walk through a grocery store and see a forty ouncer of Mickey's Fine Malt Liquor on sale for a buck fifty you're likely to say to yourself: "Good lord! That must be really shitty beer!" But that's not necessarily true at all; good and bad are relative to the person and the situation (something, for example, the ICC doesn't understand). Malt liquor can be good. It's not simply cheap hooch useful only for high schoolers' getting hammered and defeating gag reflexs. In fact, when treated well it can be the most satisfying buy you can make for the money.

Now, this is not to say you don't make a trade-off when you buy this much grog for this little green. You do. That tall boy of Pabst you skipped over in favor of King Cobra could have been imbibed with ease at any time, cold or room temperature, with dinner or by itself. Malt liquor is not like that. Like a punter or a character actor, malt liquor is extremely good at what it does but utterly out of place anywhere else. It has many foibles, and (to save you the pain) they should all be profoundly understood long before you crack the top of your first forty.

1. Malt liquor will have bad batches. It's hard to say exactly why this is. Most forties don't have "bottled-on" dates, so it's plausible a lot of it has to do with the stuff being too old or too new. I guess there could be skunking, as well. Really, there are a million likely reasons for this. Whatever the case, though, resign yourself to the fact that the quality of malt liquor will vary wildly from bottle to bottle, far moreso than with any other kind of beer. Give up hope of knowing exactly what you're getting.
2. Malt liquor will smell funny. Frankly, if you know your cheap beer already, this shouldn't bother you too much. Just be prepared for a noseful of rotten vegetation, depending on what brand you get.
3. Malt liquor must be imbibed as close to ice cold as possible. I know of only a bare handful of these things that remain anywhere near drinkable north of fifty degrees, and even then it's not pleasant. Basically, a forty needs to be in the freezer for 30 minutes before you even think about opening it. The farther it gets from 33 degrees, the worse it's going to taste. On the other hand, when properly cooled a malt liquor can be downright pleasant and refreshing. [especially the smooth taste of CAMO --ed]
4. Malt liquor typically has a high, very sharp swill threshhold. "Swill threshhold" is a terminus technicus of my own invention. By "swill" I mean that part of the beer, especially cheap beer, that lies at the bottom of the bottle. Swill is, by definition, nasty, or at least nastier than what's above it. By "swill threshhold" I mean that point in the bottle where, while drinking it, the taste suddenly becomes noticeably worse (i.e. the point where you first hit the swill). This threshhold can be completely lacking or only a few sips from the bottom, or it can hit as far up as a mere quarter of the way in (Coqui 900 is like this). By a high swill threshhold, I mean that with malt liquor this tends to happen relatively high in the bottle - usually about a third of the way to the end. By this threshold being "sharp" I mean the swill itself gets dramatically worse as you drink your way through it. In simpler terms, all of this means that malt liquor tends to get more and more awful the farther you get into the bottle. There's a reason why those in the 'hood took to pouring out the last remainders of their forties, and it wasn't because their dead homies wanted it. The fact of the swill threshhold also makes malt liquor "taste tests" almost irrelevant. Mickey's is a good example for why this is: it has a fantastic earthy flavor for the first two-thirds of the bottle, but the remainder is sewage of the worst kind. Properly speaking, then, malt liquor can only be judged on whether and how well it can be imbibed all the way through.

It's important to think of these as foibles, not flaws. Similar to how Leila refused to learn French (on account of how much she hated "the fucking frogs") despite being Interpol's highest-ranking agent in Montpellier for like a year. It was just something we all got used to. Anyways, drinking malt liquor in a way that's actually enjoyable requires making some adjustments to your normal drinking habits. It's most comparable to drinking a fine scotch: it has to become a kind of ritual that you prepare for intimately, several hours in advance, with each step requiring a degree of skill. Any other beer you can drink anytime; you have to devote your entire fucking evening to cracking a forty. And unlike the scotch, which is only slightly less wonderful if things go wrong, messing up on the malt liquor execution will leave you with a quart of nastiness that no one will ever drink and which will probably stink up your kitchen. In the end, though, it's the ritualistic and slightly dangerous nature of malt liquor that makes drinking it always something special. I've never met an imported Belgian ale of which I could say that.

Okay, you've read everything I've said and are willing to give malt liquor a try. Well then, let's begin. Head on over to your local corner store and grab whatever looks interesting. Don't go for 211 just yet; you're going to want to start with something a little more mild (Mickey's, King Cobra, Schlitz, and Colt 45 are good introductions; more gutsy types should go for Olde English "8-ball" 800). If you're REALLY not much of a drinker, go for the deuce-deuce bottle or the tall boy for your first few runs (all the principles are the same). Whatever you buy, try to get the traditional brown bag for it as well.

Now that you've got your one-way ticket to oblivion, pick a night when you've got nothing else planned and no one else'll be around. You'll have to trust me on this last point: the drunks produced by malt liquors are NOT drunks you want shared with your friends. Once you've got the night picked, put your elixer in the fridge (well out of sight) and wait. Don't eat a lot beforehand. This is important: you WILL be visiting Duke Porcelain and Baron von Trashbin if you try to drink forty ounces of 13-proof beer right after dinner. On the other hand, it can be helpful to eat a few handfuls of chips (for example) to dry you out a little. Even more helpful is having some sort of alcohol OTHER than beer right beforehand, as it helps the body get acclimated and will (once again) keep you from barfing. Forty-five minutes to an hour before you plan to pound the stuff, transfer it to the freezer brown bag and all. Make yourself a bourbon and sprite and find something to do. Wait until the allotted time, pull your newly-chilled bottle out, and get ready for the ride of your life.

Are you sitting down? You should be sitting down, you'll thank me for this later. First thing: remember foibles 3 and 4 above? That malt liquors are only good ice cold, and get progressively worse as you make your way through them? Those mean, in sum, that once you reach the bottom of the bottle it's likely to be not only swill, but WARM swill. And that means you need to drink F-A-S-T. The moment you pull that forty out of the freezer, a stopwatch to doomsday starts. You've got thirty minutes to finish off your beer, or Geldra blows up Miami and Leila divorces you (taking the house and the 'vette). So START DRINKING, amigo. Crack the cap - what's that smell, twizzlers and gasoline? Who the fuck cares, GOTTA DRINK. Malt liquor, in general, should have a tingly sweetness to it leading swiftly to an aftertaste akin to gargling a used petri dish. On the other hand, if you're paying a lot of attention to the nuances of taste you're taking this stuff in completely the wrong way. This is Blue Cheer, not Bach. So turn up your woofer as far as it goes, play your favorite obnoxious music, go vertical if you have to - do whatever it takes to get this shit into your body quickly. If the aftertaste gets bad, drown it out with another swig.

At some point it will dawn on you that, initially at least, your main enemy is not the taste. Taste will become a problem very very soon, once warmth begins to creep in, but for now it's only a close second. No, your current problem is that you've got forty fucking ounces of fluid to flood into your stomach. That's a lot, and the time crunch doesn't help. The sheer volume you're dealing with, more than any other reason, is why you must begin your drinking with a strong start: do a vast amount of chugging in the first few minutes, when you've still got some stamina, or the long painful stretch to the finish will be that much worse. This is a sprint, not a marathon. Don't go faster than you're comfortable with, but DO go as fast as you can.

Okay, you're fifteen minutes in. At this point you should be at least two thirds of the way through the bottle, and if not then it's time to worry. A number of elements conspire to make the last third of a forty far more difficult than the previous 27 ounces. Not only are you already pretty winded from taking down that much hooch, but at this point you're probably reaching the swill. And it's getting warm. Drinking the shit still remaining in the bottle is an almost superhuman task for any normal person.

Luckily, though, you're about to receive some help from an unexpected source. Remember all that chugging you did a few minutes ago? All the ghetto juice you rammed into your system with the speed of Leila Blitz absorbing Mai Tais billed to government credit? Well, at this point it's done running errands in your bloodstream and has finally headed up north to its new vacation spot, namely your central nervous system. Dear readers, you have just reached the malt liquor drunk, and that means you are the fucking ubermensch. This is why I asked you to do this alone, because if you have friends around you will now probably hurt them. You're a goddamned Michael Jackson robot and you have no control over your own power. The malt liquor drunk - if done right - is the dirtiest, meanest, loudest drunk you'll ever have, and it hits hard and all at once. If you're trying to flush a stronghold of Maskers and anything else that moves, now's the time to do it. All fear and humanity have been crowded out of your system via alcoholic noise, and nothing can stand against your Bhairavic violence. The fact that the room is spinning like a teapot ride and your bottle suddenly seems light as a feather also means that you now have a chance of actually finishing this thing.

Even with help from the previous two-thirds of the bottle, those last swallows are going to be a problem. Resist the urge to take it slow: with the stuff getting warmer by the minute that's only going to make things worse. There's no finessing this part, really: everything depends on sheer willpower. Put on some more music if you still have the fine motor skills (you may not), because it helps. Now, tilt the bottle, pound as much of the remains as you can, swallow, take a few moments to recover/fight the urge to vomit, and repeat until the last dregs are gone. Congratulations, you've just finished a forty of malt liquor. Now, say goodbye to the next hour of your life. And for God's sake don't try to stand up yet.

Still here? I'm impressed. Most first-timers have crawled into bed by now. Anyways, as long as you're still conscious, go drink a few glasses of water - trust me, you'll thank me in the morning. Enjoy the remaining halo of alcohol consciousness and hit the sack.

Now that you've baptized yourself as a malt liquor drinker, you can move out into the world and explore other brands. St. "Crooked I" Ides was my preferred drink for Geldra raids (especially since Ice Cube was a good friend of mine - don't ask), but I liked to relax with Private Stock whenever I could get it. Again, I'm told CAMO is also especially excellent, although it appeared a bit after my time. Experiment; look around the nooks and crannies of the various stores in your area. Fantastic malt liquors (or at least ones with ridiculous names) lurk in all the unseen corners, just waiting for you to discover them and ruin a perfectly good evening.

One more thing: your dumb, trendy friends will not understand this. Don't try to convince them; they'll just give you a confused look as they sip their Spaten and listen to their iPods. Just let them believe that you're in it for a cheap drunk. The truth, of course, is that discovering and experiencing a decent brew which costs pennies on the ounce and requires utter dedication on your part is far more involving and way more fun than tossing back some Romanian doppelbock whenever the mood hits - even if it is a better beer (and it always is, let's not kid ourselves). In a world of quick gratification, instant communication, and effortless moving from place to place, malt liquor requires a real commitment from its drinkers. There's something downright religious about it. And, if that's true, then I have never in my life been more religious than when running around beach resorts, gun in one hand and swiftly warming bottle in the other, shooting cyborgs and taking swigs of 8-ball. Mea mihi conscientia pluris est quam omnium sermo.



Thu, 01/15/2009 — Ragu

It's nice to see a special agent superspy type without all the pretensions of Bond and his like. All that slick and suaveness works for the movies, but when you've really got to get it done, a professional has to get it done by any means necessary. Sometimes Ketel One or Bombay Sapphire just isn't feasible within the context of a mission. Sometimes, if an agent wants to get a little wet, all that he has to go with is a ghetto corner store. That's when you choose Camo, for its smooth taste that you won't even see coming.

Thu, 01/15/2009 — Fasteriskhead


Sat, 08/20/2011 — Fredde

Just a heads up. Maybe it's just a problem on my end, but it seems that the pictures in this particularly excellent article (except for the final one of the smooth Agent Albatross with the rose) are gone. I think it'd be a shame to not have those pics, especially since this is one of my favorite Andore Jr. articles.

Sat, 08/20/2011 — Ragu

Aha! Looks like you just caught some of the collateral damage from the move that I had completely missed for, uh, two years. Silly absolute links when they should be relative links~ Thanks a lot for the heads-up!

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