By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
Taylor Lake CountryVery Berry
$1.99 per 1.5 liter bottleAlcohol Content: 7.1 percent
Very Berry surrendered its fuchsia plastic seal and its aluminum screw cap with a mixed whiff of nonspecific fruit and kid's chemistry set. This pert little "grape wine with natural and artificial flavors added" possesses a distinct brown tint that causes it to bear a striking resemblance to day-old coffee. The judges' initial reaction was unbridled laughter, perhaps due to the gravity of the proceedings. Upon further lubrication, though, Rafael Navarro pensively anointed Very Berry with the title "Kitty Dukakis's mouthwash," while other panelists complained it hadn't been chilled properly, suggesting it might go down more easily if it were frozen.
Very Berry does score points for price - at $1.99 one can afford to force down a lot of it - but there wasn't enough juice in this juice to inspire the Big Spit. It's merely a nonfatal take on Jonestown Flavor-Aid. Unaware this vino was actually created from grapes, panelists speculated as to what sort of berry might have been employed. Best guess: dingleberry. After only one swallow of the substance, several members began reminiscing about early high-school inebriations. As far as, in Tom White's words, "bang for the buck," Very Berry is a loser. Navarro: "A Ripple-drinking indigent would spit this out." Break open the Sterno, and pass the handkerchief.
DeKuyper Original BluesBerry Blueberry Schnapps
$7.99 per 1.75 liter bottleAlcohol Content: 15 percent
DeKuyper's introduction of peach-flavored schnapps revolutionized American drinking taste and did wonders for the fern-bar trade. An even more repulsive side effect of that success was the idea, eagerly adopted by manufacturers, that schnapps could be flavored with anything. Spearmint? Sure. Cranberry? Why not. Elderberry? Great idea! And eventually, someone arrived at blueberry. Probably someone from DeKuyper's Elmwood Place, Ohio, plant, rather than the ancestral home office in the Netherlands. Definitely someone who should be taken out and shot.
There are many factors to consider when tasting fine liquors, not the least of which is viability as paint thinner. For that, the panel awards BluesBerry full honors. The large bottle has a handle, a built-in pourer, and a label that reads "Anno 1695," which is Latin for "sitting on the shelf for nearly 300 years." Aging has in no way helped to refine this baby. With the aroma of, as Pilar reminisced, "little-girl cologne," and a startling clarity that belies its viscosity, BluesBerry was summed up by Glenn Garvin as "Just shit." He did, however suggest one possible use: "It tastes like something you'd win in a bar trivia game."
Seagram's Gin & Juice
$2.75 per 200 ml. bottleAlcohol Content: 20 percent
This entry was by far the most disappointing - a number of judges actually liked it. Well, sort of. Gin & Juice comes in a handy flask, and it is, in effect, a salty dog, except it contains gin instead of vodka, "citrus" juice instead of grapefruit, and no salt. Whatever happened to vodka and Gatorade? Why Seagram's would dilute its perfectly palatable gin is another question that's probably best left unanswered. In short, after being shaken well, as per the label instructions, and deposited down panelists' gullets, G & J lifted nothing from anyone's innards. Perhaps Tom Finkel summed it up best: "It's yellow."
Heublein Gold Rush
$2.99 per 750 ml. bottleAlcohol Content: 12.5 percent
Veteran mallgoers might remember Orange Julius stands and their namesake drink, which consisted of orange juice blended with some white dairy product and was actually quite palatable. And some recall the Creamsicles of our youth - artificially flavored vanilla ice-cream bar coated with artificial orange stuff - purchased from the ice-cream man. There existed some hope among panelists that Gold Rush might fall along these lines. Instead it simply fell.
Gold Rush, its label announces, is a combination of rum, fresh cream, and natural orange flavors ("The Liquor's In It"). In reality the concoction has the body and texture of motor oil with half the taste, and its startling aroma is better described than experienced. Taking all these elements into account, a large plastic bucket was immediately retrieved from the broom closet to serve as a communal toss pot.
The judges, valiantly attempting not to pass out from the smell, called it an abomination of rum, sour cream, and Tang. Everyone agreed that Gold Rush is truly godawful - it looks like cafe con leche, smells like baby vomit, and tastes like sewage that's been chemically treated. Pilar, upon sipping, had to be restrained by fellow tasters after she began hollering, "Oh my God. Oh my God! You drink this stuff and you can become an acid burnout." "I'm sorry, I can't drink this," said Sue Mullin, who didn't. "Change the name to Gold Flush," another panelist managed to spit out. "Is there Parmesan cheese in this?" Finally Tom White suggested donating the bottle to Camillus House as a way to wean winos from alcohol.
Shine On GeorgiaMoon Corn Whiskey
$10.99 per 750 ml. jarAlcohol Content: 40 percent
When you're in unfamiliar waters, drinkingwise, it's always best to read the label. Two significant notes on Georgia Moon's jar: This clear liquid is "less than 30 days old" - very much in its favor; and it is "The Secret of the Georgia Hills." Can't those people keep anything to themselves?