"Satan's Urine After a Hefty Dose of Asparagus"
By Chuck Sudo in Food on May 7, 2007 6:00PM
We meet with liquor or wine company reps every week, so our palate gets a good workout. Occasionally these salespeople have marketing reps from specific brands' or spirits' holding companies in tow trying to sell us on the hot drink of the moment that the Parises, Britneys and Lindsays of the world — and their lemming-like cults of personality — are abusing while advertising the handiwork of their Brazilians getting out of cars. We'll invariably taste them with the sales reps. More often than not, they make us long for the familiar, time-tested flavor of a Jeppson's Malort, a Pernod, or even the egg schnapps at the Huettenbar. Once, a rep from X-Rated Fusion Liqueur brought not only a bottle of the sickly sweet drink to sample, but also a DVD presentation featuring clips from celebrity news programs and sitcoms we don't watch, touting the merits of the drink. They're almost always identifiable by their unnatural colors and syrupy consistencies, and are infused with juices, extracts, or herbs purported to make one alert and prevent embarrassing performance problems. Intended for impressionable drinkers who lack the constitution of harder spirits, these liqueurs also have lower alcohol contents to make them go down easier, or used as ingredients in silly cocktails.
There's big money bankrolling these brands, so they can sell the initial sizzle hard. That "sizzle" consists of lowest common denominator sex appeal, bling bling, and enough cocktail names/double entendres to make attendees at a Friars Club roast groan in collective agony. But if there's no quality to the product, then these spirits just wind up being flashes in a pan, compared to the substance behind most long-standing spirits brands. After the debut rollout, these brands wind up gathering dust and quizzical stares from discerning consumers. Inevitably, the companies that financed these brands wind up with the alcoholic equivalent of a lemon, albeit one from which they can't make lemonade.
Following the jump, we've listed some spirits we tasted for you that you should avoid at all costs, and in the face of unrelenting advertising. Consider this a public service warning.
Hypnotiq: The brand that started the trend, this blend of premium vodka, cognac, and tropical fruit juices is noted for its neon teal color. It was also at one point the drink of choice for singer and alleged water sports enthusiast R. Kelly. He may have had a bottle of it in hand in one of those videos where he reminisces about the less-stressful days of smoking weed on the front stoop with his grandmother. Regardless, Hypnotiq is most commonly used for a cocktail called "The Incredible Hulk," called such because it turns green when mixed with more cognac and it "smash" the drinker like Hulk smash the "little man with the claws." Hypnotiq is so sweet it contracts our jaw muscles.
Carnivo XO Luxury Tropical Liqueur: Basically the same thing as Hypnotiq, only green. So you don't need to add more cognac to have an Incredible Hulk. The fine folks at Carnivo once took the tactful route of using the comments section of the Chicagoist MySpace page to promote their liqueur. Yup, that'll gain 'em customers. Cocktail names using Carnivo XO as an ingredient include the "Dripping Wet," "An Easy Lay," "Love Potion #69," "Squeaky Bed," "Pillow Talk," "Promiscuous," "Secret Lover," "Foreplay," "Frozen Nipples," "Green Pussy Cat," "Dirty South," and the "Green G-String Martini." It's as if no one who thought of these cocktail names even thought to remember the time-honored words of warning about whiskey dick.
Ecstasy Brand Liqueur: This specialty liqueur is a 70-proof grain alcohol infused with extracts of pomegranate and lemon, and natural stimulants such as ginseng, guarana, caffeine, and taurine. If you're thinking of a Red Bull-and-vodka, you're on the right track, only Ecstasy looks to leave Red bull out of the initial equation (they do have cocktail suggestions where energy drink is added). While the flavor of Ecstasy itself is passable as a standalone liqueur, the initial marketing rollout for this brand played on references to club drugs and date rape that we found irresponsible and insulting. They quickly toned down the drug references while focusing on the "mystery" surrounding Ecstasy's recipe.
None of these beats three fingers of fifteen-year-old bourbon.
"Bottle Service" photo by Damn Doozy.