Published February 11, 2011
Unlike pizza, which is good even when it's not, there is such thing as bad alcohol. And over the years, there has been plenty of it. Whether it's an effort to stand out on crowded liquor store shelves, or a misguided attempt at targeting an under-served segment of the drinking public, there are some taste sensations man was not meant to be subjected to.
These unholy concoctions span the ages, though mostly crop up in the latter half of the 20th century and beyond as brewers and distillers began to experiment with new technologies and techniques. Sadly, most of the most egregious offenses took place here in the good old U.S. of A. That shouldn't surprise anyone, given that the American spirit of adventure does tend to encourage minds eager to sally boldly forth and try something no sane man or woman would dare allow ferment in even their worst nightmares. Below are some of those nightmares in all their high-proof glory.
Bakon Vodka – Bacon-infused liquor is huge at craft cocktail bars across the country. The smoky pork flavor enhances cocktails from Bloody Marys to Manhattans and Mudslides, but the homemade infusions go rancid after a relatively short shelf life. So one would imagine that a commercially produced bacon-flavored premium vodka would be a work of pure genius. For Black Rock Spirits it certainly was a masterstroke, the bottle accruing awards and the curiosity of mixologists around the world. Unfortunately, it tastes more like Bac-Os than bacon, with artificial smoke and solid pork flavors overlaid with a faint chemical tang. Passable in a spicy Bloody Mary, but dreaded in most other applications, no one will be doing shots of this stuff despite its vodka base.
Champale – Billed as the “poor man's champagne,” Champale was malt liquor brewed with champagne yeasts, giving it a taste and mouth feel similar to bubbly. It was originally brewed in the early 20th century, but gained a large following in the 70s and 80s as the brewer marketed it to the African-American market, telling buyers they could “live a little for very little.” Four flavors were produced – Red Berry, Extra Dry, Pink and Golden, all of which sounded good on the label, but delivered a flavor profile similar to sweetened anti-freeze.
Smoked Salmon Vodka – Hailing from Sarah Palin's hometown of Wasilla, this is another animal-based entry to the “what were they thinking” category. Alaska Distillery's Smoked Salmon Vodka is made by grinding up salmon and mixing it with ethanol. After straining the slurry, the distiller adds vodka, filters it, and sends it out the door to eager drinkers across the country anxious for cocktails to pair with bagels and cream cheese.
Thunderbird – Infamous for being the drink of choice for poverty-stricken alcoholics across the country, Thunderbird was once marketed as “The California aperitif,” though no one alive today can truly claim to understand exactly what the phrase actually means. The sickly sweet flavor of this yellowish liquid fades in the face of its battery acid-like burn. Even better, because of some bizarre chemical reaction, it turns your mouth black. The only good thing to come out of this bottle was the jingle used back in the 50's to sell it: "What's the word? Thunderbird! How's it sold? Good and cold! What's the jive? Bird's alive! What's the price? Thirty twice!”
Bols Wasabi Smash Liqueur – Formulated in what must have been the fevered dreams of a sushi-crazed master distiller, Wasabi Smash is a creation that baffles even the brightest scientific mind. What need could possibly have been identified in the marketplace that led to this abomination being unleashed upon the Earth? Glowing a pale green, this syrupy liqueur combines the worst sinus-clearing qualities of imitation wasabi with the throat-searing character of cheap booze. It's as if evil was distilled, bottled, and let loose into the liquor stores of man to punish the wicked and experimental.
Not bad enough? Let us know your idea of a bad drink in the comments section.