Booze You Can Lose

The Club Long IslandIced Tea

99 cents per 200 ml. canAlcohol Content: 15 percent

According to ex-bartender Finkel, the Long Island Iced Tea is the one drink order that never failed to provoke him to ID a customer. As far as he knows, no one ever requested this version of the venerable heart-stopper in a bar. Perhaps these little cans were meant for drinkers on the run - no, wait, that's illegal in Florida. Couldn't happen.

Its rich caramel color, the panel concluded, makes Club Tea look for all the world like the gooky fluid that runs out of the bottom of your overstuffed garbage bag, forcing you to hose out the can. Dumpster drainage.

You'd think a beverage made with gin, rum, tequila, and vodka would be more like gangrene starting in a mildewed silo, with a taste like the wrath to come, and when you absorb a deep swig of it you have all the sensation of having swallowed a lighted kerosene lamp. A sudden, violent jolt of it has been known to stop the victim's watch, snap his suspenders and crack his glass eye right across. But the best our group could manage was the request by Rafael Navarro for a Tylenol. Capsule. From a bottle with a broken seal.

One thing can be said of Club's take on the Long Island Iced Tea: Four tiny cans of the stuff were purchased for the tasting. Three remain unopened.

Leroux Banana Strawberry Schnapps

$2.99 per 750 ml. bottleAlcohol Content: 24 percent

As panelists wiped their chins with the backs of their hands, nearing the end of the ordeal, the tasting's first asterisk was announced. A sadistically helpful liquor-store clerk (who, incidentally, was a dead ringer for the Frugal Gourmet) was so considerate as to volunteer that with every purchase of Leroux's ingenious flavoring of schnapps, the customer receives - absolutely free - a bottle of Leroux White Creme de Cacao DeLuxe Liqueur. The clerk further implied that the two sauces should not be consumed separately, whereupon he rushed to the back room to photocopy a recipe: "Pour 1 1/4 oz. Leroux Banana-Strawberry Schnapps, 1/4 oz. Leroux White Creme de Cacao and 2 oz. half and half over ice into a rocks glass. Stir." Hmmm. Doesn't say anything here about what to do after that.

The panel, it was decided, would sample the schnapps straight, and then mix it with the creme de cacao, as per the recipe.

While there's a certain symbiotic relationship between strawberries and bananas, there was no doubt among the judges that this particular treatment of schnapps - deceptively colorless - fulfilled their vision of what hell must be like.

Admirably courageous and intrepid, the panelists swilled the mixture of swills, sans half and half (there was none in the house). Comments were few; the most that can be said about combining these two clear fluids is that they didn't change color.

La Gaita Sidra Asturiana

$1.59 per 700 ml. bottleAlcohol Content: 0.5 percent

It was indeed time to celebrate, so the panel popped the (genuine) cork of a bottle of Sidra Asturiana sparkling apple drink, imported by Goya Foods of Miami. Immediately the judges began speaking in tongues, suggesting that despite the near-nonexistence of alcohol, a new low had been achieved to rival Gold Rush as the standard against which all bad booze must be measured. The group concluded that the taste of this halfheartedly effervescent beverage was a cross between an apple that's spent a dozen years in the back of an old Frigidaire behind the mustard jar that predates bar codes, and a cider presser's armpit. A higher alcohol level might have been an improvement, they suggested, due to its function as a preservative.

The Bitter End

Responsible members of the group began to stagger around the room, attempting to figure out what to do with all the remains - lots of remains. Others took the sedentary approach, belching loudly and engaging in another enthusiastic bout of chin wiping. Perhaps the idea of mixing all these bizarre beverages wasn't such a good one. Then again, that never prevented any money-grubbing entrepreneur from thinking them up, bottling them, and raking in the profits.

As it turned out, no one pumped his or her bilge on the host's carpet. In lieu of staying up all night and watching for signs of nausea, a survey was undertaken to ascertain stomach contents. Burger King, medianoche with extra pickles.... Then Rafael Navarro said, "Nothing. I was afraid if I ate, I'd be vomiting all night." The next day the news broke: Navarro had been vomiting all night.

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