May 28th, 2009

Guilty pleasures & gateway drinks

guilty-pleasure-drinkOK, fellow imbibers, let’s pretend we’re at a group-therapy session. Let’s clear the air, shed our intellectual armor, spill some secrets. You know what I mean: talk about the embarrassing crap we used to drink before we discovered “real” cocktails, before we knew what Punt E Mes was, before we started saying things like, “You can’t make a proper Aviation without Creme de Violette.” And if you really want to dangle your cred off a ledge, admit that you’re still fond of these youthful potions on occasion.

I’ll go first. Hi, my name is Lauren, and I used to drink dirty Bombay Sapphire martinis. Loved ’em. Go ahead and scoff at my faux sophistication, smartypants boozers, but this drink was truly my gateway to gin cocktails of all stripes. It’s been a few years since I’ve had a dirty martini, but lately I’ve been getting nostalgically thirsty for some olive brine in my juniper sauce.

And way back, before the taste of alcohol became desirable to me, I was all about taking my spirits in an envelope of cream and sugar. White Russians, Mudslides, that sort of thing. My mature self rolls its eyes at these boozy milkshakes, but my inner 21-year-old would suck one down in a heartbeat if no one was looking.

There. I feel so free now.

Your turn.

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55 Responses to “Guilty pleasures & gateway drinks”

  1. john

    vodka gimlet…with rose’s sweetened lime juice…built over ice. three cocktail peccadillos wrapped into one piece of college summertime goodness.

  2. ljclark

    God, a gimlet! That’s right. I had one myself recently (with gin) when I was at DeLux and wasn’t sure of the bartender’s skills. I wanted something old-school but easy. No shame in a gimlet, I’m saying.

  3. Robert

    I still drink margaritas by the boatload.

    But the margarita isn’t guilty, but perfection, right?

  4. max

    Stoli martini up with a twist shaken…like I was James Bond or something. Not the most offensive drink, but I REALLY felt like 007!! Very embarrassing!!!

  5. ljclark

    Robert, that depends — are we talking sour mix and Cuervo in a giant stemmed goblet? Max — remember when people actually *called* for Stoli?


    “the embarrassing crap we used to drink before we discovered “real” cocktails…”

    uh, lauren….”used to?” cmon now. i’ve been in new orleans at 5 am with you…

  7. andrea

    Back when I was a youngun, before there was Red Bull and vodka, there was… Southern Comfort and Mountain Dew. It makes my teeth hurt just thinking about it. In college, concerned about packing on the freshman 15, I graduated to SoCo and Fresca. By grad school, it turned into SoCo and grapefruit juice.

    Wikipedia tells me that SoCo was invented in New Orleans in the 1880’s. So perhaps I’ll have to have some when I’m down there for Tales.

  8. gustav

    i remember doing many, many kamikaze shots at the bside before i discovered bourbon.

  9. ljclark

    Keebler, my behavior in NOLA at 5 a.m. would fall under the category of embarrassing dances, not cocktails.

    Hold my calls, I think we have a winner. Andrea, SoCo and Fresca?! That’s off the charts.

  10. ljclark

    Gustav, when I was a bartender in college, my friends would consider it a real treat when I made them “organic Kamikazes” — basically Stoli, Cointreau and juice from a handful of desiccated lemon and lime wedges from my fruit tray, well chilled and served up in shot glasses. Mmmm.

  11. Frederic

    I remember the moment that was the impetus to find a respectable cocktail. In the mid-90s, I was at a nightclub when I bumped into one of the sales reps who used to visit our lab. Being a good sales rep, he wanted to curry favor and buy me a drink. I shrugged and requested a Red Death (the bartenderess’ specialty along with Mind Erasers). He shot me such a look plus “A what?” That got me stuttering with a possible substitution, but he countered, “No I’ll order it but I just want to know what the hell it is.” Um, it’s red and um sweet and uh…

    Shortly after that, I set on a quest for a proper business-appropriate cocktail. Slowly I began to learn how to appreciate a Manhattan by ordering one at a better establishment.

  12. k.

    The One Ireland: vanilla ice cream, as much Jameson as you dare, and a tablespoon of creme de menthe, blended. The problem with this (if there is a problem, I’m not sure) is that it’ll put even the stoutest drinker to sleep pretty much immediately. It’s been a long time since I’ve had one.

    My real vaguely guilty pleasure is hard cider. Hand me a Harpoon or Woodchuck Granny Smith and I’m as happy as the day is long (or until the supply runs out … I can down quite a few of these). I’m guilty about it because I know I”m drinking them because they’re easy and vaguely sweet and not at all challenging, but only vaguely because I’ve been told that it’s ok for Real Men to enjoy a few ciders. (Note, of course, that adding an oz. or two of Applejack, a bitters soaked sugarcube, and lime twist makes it even better.)

    My I-don’t-know-if-I-should-be-guilty pleasure is Gruet champers. It’s not so much having a bottle of it, it’s buying it by the case and seeing it stacked in my fridge that I sort of get off on. I can’t really afford to do that with anything more pricey, but a case of Gruet is dead cheap, tasty, and very mixable. And a couple cases of it (preferably the rosé, ’cause that’s how I roll) loaded up in the sidecar gives me that glowing feeling that a single bottle of, well, pretty much anything, cannot.

    Off-topic: go for a Manhattan at the Delux, preferably Makers and also preferably on the rocks. Since it’ll have been shaken, you can enjoy the foam on the top of the wine goblet and think to yourself that only a weenie would complain that it hadn’t been stirred. Then have two or three more. I’m on record as having said that the Delux does the best Manhattan in town and I’ll stick to that.

  13. Mick T.

    Southern Comfort and Coke or Sprite.

    Last time I tried it I couldn’t believe how unbearably sweet it was!

  14. dave

    White Russian, instead of imitating 007 (@ max) we were imitating The Dude.

    Screwdriver, because the place I used to live had free delivery of orange juice. With half the ingredients being free… why the hell not?

  15. ljclark

    Fred, you bring up a good point that I’ve heard a few times: the necessity of choosing a “business” cocktail being the gateway to respectable cocktails.

    K., a fridge full of Gruet? That’s the coolest thing I’ve heard all week.

    Mick, it would have been great if the glass for your SoCo and Coke was rimmed with sugar, and Dave, all I can say is that the Dude was imitating *me.*

  16. jackson

    seems like we’re drifting off the real guilty pleasures aspect of this thread…

    in high school, i rolled with a flask of blackberry brandy in my pocket, drank kulaha and milk in the summer and shot gunned cans of fire brewed stroh’s!

    we did make cocktails occasionally, by lifting a half ounce or so out of every bottle in dad’s cabinet, mixing it in a pint glass no ice, no water and passing it around.. (st germain, averna bottle shots, it was not!)

    oh and it’s no soco and fresca (oh yea that’s coolest, uncool thing ever!) but we would put anything in a big gulp from 7-11 before, during and after school. (soco, gin, cheap rum, seagram’s 7)

    that’s about it, unless we’re going to start talking airplane glue?

  17. John Gertsen

    rolling rock

    LIIT at TGIF

    peach schnapps

    absolut and rumple minze from the freezer

    cuervo & sprite slammers

    finlandia with 3 lime wedges

    dirty ketel 1 martinis

    I’m starting to tear up a bit, i should stop…

  18. lantheaume

    John got to the Dirty Vodka Martini’s before I did, but that’s definitely on my list. If I’m wicked hungry and I’m having a cocktail while making – give me a Dirty Martini with a bunch of olives.

    My gateway was Whiskey Sours at a club in college called “Semesters” I think. No real juice there – probably not even real whiskey.

    Others on my hit list:

    A Bloody Beer using something light like Heineken, Rolling Rock or Corona.

    Smirnoff Ice can completely hit the spot, too.

    I get nostalgic for Fuzzy Navels as my Dad used to mix them up by the blender full for summer parties when I was a kid.

    I also miss the Windsor Down Low from the B (JD served with a baby bud), but there’s no guilty there, just pleasure.

  19. MC Slim JB

    Not really a cocktail, but I cringe most recalling a time when we thought drinking Sutter Home White Zinfandel was the height (or should I say, heighth) of sophistication. I think I was rolling up the sleeves of my pastel sport coats at the time, too. Almost as embarrassing as the haircuts. Tom Wolfe had the definitive take on this wine, referring to it as Crockett Sump in “Bonfire of the Vanities”.

    I remember trying in vain to get one old girlfriend interested in cocktails. I’d sunk to mixing up Stingers at one point. My dad opined, “That’s a pro’s drink,” by which he meant a prostitute’s tipple. Where’d you learn that, Dad?

    I suspected another paramour had a limited shelf life when I discovered her preferred drink was Frozen Mudslides. She was not a kid at this point. Shoulda taken that as a big red flag, but her other charms blinded me, for a while.

    I am one of the untold billions who drank endless Margaritas made from mixto, bottled mix, and cheap Triple Sec, or better, as a blender drink made with blue Curacao. No shame in a good Margarita, though.

    I held a weekly bash in my college dorm room in which we drank a blender concoction of really awful vodka (Zhenka, the plastic-bottled, homonymous product of the storied Jenkins distillery), frozen limeade, and lime sherbet. Wow. I can see clearly now my brain is gone.

    Loved Vodka Gimlets for a long time. Still baffles me when someone tries to make one using fresh lime juice. Prefer the gin-based original now.

    I also remember my first taste of Campari, swigging from a too-sophisticated-for-nineteen college pal’s Campari and soda. I said, “That is the single worst thing I have ever tasted in my life.” Six years later another friend came back from Italy with a recipe for me, whom she knew liked Martinis; I got hooked on Negronis, and never looked back.

  20. ljclark

    Wow, people. Someone could write a dissertation on the past 20 years of mixed drinks based on these comments. Thanks for reminding me about Rumpleminz, John. Thought I’d blocked that out. Smirnoff Ice, Lantheaume? That *is* embarrassing. Holy shit, MC, Sutter Home — soooophisticated. I want to meet your dad.

  21. gustav

    summer bombs. bud lite lime with a shot of tequila dropped in. it’s a relatively new development (born last month) so i guess it goes against the theme of these posts but the s-bombs bring summer to my brain.

  22. james/10engines

    appletons rum and coke. a few of those are practically Class A. no doubt there is a “liquid coke” pseudonym somewhere. loving these comments. but is a dirty martini a gateway drink… i thought that was high class hahaha. guilty pleasure is a cider, as above. you know… when you cant face another beer. maybe have graduated to champagne (or similar, not quite, segura viudas etc…) when can face the ales. high life might be my go to… but a nip of bushmills on the walk home.. THAT is a guilty P. ok stopping now.

  23. Tina

    Oh man – right now it’s the vodka gimlet (w/ basil – that maintains some dork cred, no?) for me… There’s always the Cuervo margarita w/ sour mix for the 5th round when I don’t really care what I’m downing. I’m always going to partial to the Alabama Slammer, too. MAJOR soft spot for that one…

  24. Br. Cleve

    OK, I’ll enter this Arena Of Humiliation – in the 70’s it was Gimlets and Madras and Cape Codders, though I’ve always enjoyed Manhattans and Daiquiris. I went through phases with Kamikazes and Woo Woo’s and Fuzzy Navels and Margaritas (before I went to Mexico and had a real one). It was old formula Schlitz with our “buyer” Soupy down on the tracks in West Medford in the late 60’s, before everyone switched to Bud in ’69 (when Schlitz taste changed). And Scott jarred the way back machine recently to days when Blackberry Brandy was a “fancy” Saturday night type of drink (Ginger Brandy, too), which I recall swilling at the Ancient Order of Hibernians Club in Malden in the 70’s; also enjoyed Sombreros there, which was a big breakfast drink in those days (kind of like having a Brighams frappe to get rid of your hangover, but better). Can’t forget the Mai Tai’s and SB’s at every friggin’ Polynesian joint in town. Learned how to make Sidecars in ’85 and haven’t looked back, except to drink straight whiskey for the years when I played country & western music. I also went through a period of drinking “bum wines” like Thunderbird and Night Train regularly in the early 80’s, but that’s another story for another day.

  25. steinpilz

    I’ve always preferred beer and wine to mixed drinks, though I’m now slowly loosening up. My gateway beers, back in the late 70s were Little Kings and generic beer (literally a white can with “Beer” in black lettering – this was $2-3 for a sixpack as I recall). My gateway wine was Carlo Rossi, truely terrible with experiences to match. At that time I would order Long Island Ice Tea for a mixed drink and I have good, if numbed, memories of those.

  26. Walt

    Summer of ’99 — gin & Country Time Lemonade (powdered). I take Prilosec now.

  27. Lis Riba

    Boy, this brings me back…

    As an undergrad, when we had access to only a handful of bottles of dubious quality, I had a fondness for strawberry schnapps mixed with Dr Pepper. Creamy Kahlua drinks were also a fond memory.

    Once I was old enough to drink legally, I was fond of Piña Coladas made with Malibu (coconut rum – Malibu’s only flavor), because those didn’t taste as harshly of alcohol.

  28. Nishla

    I also downed many white russians, grasshoppers, alabama slammers, and the like. I’m pretty sure I still know how to make a red death. My real favorite, though, was Malibu and pineapple juice. At a recent wedding, I couldn’t decide if I wanted coors light, crappy wine, or plastic-bottle gin, but then I spotted the Malibu. It saved the evening :-)

  29. ljclark

    Nishla, you get a prize for being the first one to mention Grasshoppers *and* Malibu. So, just to review: a Red Death is an Alabama Slammer and a Kamikaze mixed together? Never was a cocktail so appropriately named.

  30. Adam

    I met a girl at a party several years ago who waxed poetic about her love of Kahlua and Coca Cola, mixed 50-50. I decided to try one, and woke up several hours later once the diabetic coma wore off. How anyone could ever call that their favorite drink is beyond reasoning both now and then. Although the height of cool for me those days was any drink made with Absolut or–if we really wanted to go crazy–blender Maragitas made with Cuervo and convenience store mix, so I suppose I can’t really say much…

  31. intheq

    would be be too mortifying to admit that my friends and i would regularly drink heffenrefer? we loved the green lightening. a normal person my surmise from this admission that we were male, homeless, and had a distinct lack of taste buds. amazingly, all would be incorrect.

  32. Brayden

    Assorted undergrad infractions:
    Boone’s Farms’ Fuzzy Navel
    Poland Spring gin and Tampico! – and for that matter the Seagram’s premixed Gin and Juice.
    SoCo 100 in 7-11 coke slurpee – did that once and learned my lesson right away (drunk and hungover at the same time; ugh!)

  33. the modern serf

    I started with white russians, and i say without shame that i drank one the other night. sometimes all you want is a milkshake. my home bar still has bottles of pucker, 99 bananas, malibu, etc. as my friends still sometimes request appletinis and won’t accept a jack rose.

    also, as a joke, i got a bottle of night train and one of my friends loved it. i haven’t seen him in a while; he could be under a bridge somewhere.

  34. Jill

    Nobody is copping to the cosmo? Really? Should we have already known better by then? The first one I ever had was at the Franklin, with Josey, in 1999, and I was forever changed.

    When I had a fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center and was making $500 a month we perfected a Cosmo Slushie: bottled Stop and Shop lemon juice, cranberry juice, Popov, and time in the freezer. Say what you will, but those were some super parties.

  35. Steven

    Andre and Sunny-D, because we were too cheap to even buy real OJ.
    Beer-ritas: Keystone Light, Minute-Maid limeade concentrate, and an unconscionable amount of Cuervo.
    Vodka and pretty much anything.
    Makes my stomach turn just thinking about it.

  36. Patrick

    Sorry I’m late. This is my kind of party. No shame here, I’m jumping in with both feet. You know you’re old when you’re a late poster and no one mentioned one of your first “cocktails.” My name is Patrick and I drank a shitload of Tango in high school. Yes, Tango, one of the poorest excuses for a cocktail, ever. Think powdered Tang (the astronaut drink), a Kool Aid-type mixture mixed with rot-gut vodka, all in one bottle. We used to pass quarts of it around before high school dances in the late 70’s. It made slow-dancing to “Stairway to Heaven” a lot easier, but what a tough morning the next day… A few others from my Hall of Shame; Date night: Beringer White Zinfandel (3 bottles for $10, price is still the same.), Slippery Nipples (Bucca w/ Bailey’s floating on top), Bacardi and Cokes, Seabreezes and peppermint schnapps @ The Mill Hill Club in West Yarmouth listening to DJ Sullivan @ happy hour, Fireball shots (chilled cinnamon schnapps + cherry brandy) in college. Jackson, thanks for the reminder about how we kept warm around the campfire in winter. I cringe at the thought of how much blackberry brandy I drank in high school.

  37. Alcachofa

    Gennesee Cream Ale
    Blackberry Brandy (mmm…the memory of it is better than the actual drink, as I learned when I tried it again several years ago)
    And, yes, Boone’s Farm. Strawberry, I think.

  38. Craig

    peach schnapps (stolen from a college party and smuggled into the campus pub) & 7 up (from the vending machine)

  39. p. gin

    is this nostalgic pleasures or guilty pleasures? seems like some of each and even both. i’ll answer both anyway.

    high school: bud (chosen over pbr every time), anything i could sneak out of my parents christmas liquor before a school dance (straight warm crown royal, anyone?), and what we called ‘phillips screwdrivers’ (rum and orange juice).

    college: not so bad. guinness, bass, pete’s wicked, single malt scotch, manhattans, and -wait for it- black & white russians both. i am also sure there were some shots of stoli and a few glasses of bailey’s and the like.

    today’s guilty pleasures: i’ll go back as far as college — but not as far as high school.

  40. Butch

    Scootched gulps of seemingly foul drinks from the ‘rents, mainly martinis. Shortly after high school an older girlfriend turned me on to the wonders of white russians, black ones too I think . . . but at some point soon after I got the Long Island Ice Tea fever and I confess, almost 30 years later it is still my default. It’s a great choice if you can’t make up your mind because you get a little if almost everything with a splash of coke, I think. Goes down easy and gives one a rather nice bang for the bucks.

  41. k.

    38 responses and no one has mentioned jello shots? For me these are neither nostalgic nor a secret guilty pleasure but I’d have thought someone would have ‘fessed up by now.

  42. ljclark

    And the moral of this story is: the next time you’re in a bar and catch the eye of a 21-year-old sipping an apple-tini, lift your adult cocktail in his/her direction and nod knowingly, because you know that person will have a good laugh someday at the remembrance of Apple Pucker past.

  43. christine

    best thread ever. i raise your white russian ante with this…

    in college i was obsessed with kahlua, somehow. i’d pad over to my friend’s room in our kitchen-less dorms, and she usually had a bottle lying around. i would be so desperate for a mixer that i would take her BOX of POWDERED milk, stir it with some tepid water out of the bathroom sink tap, and add in some of the sweet-coffee sauce.

    oh, yes.

    dirtiness incarnate, but i yet i stand with shreds of dignity today. amazing.

  44. Blake

    Honestly, I think Rum & Coke was about as bad as it got for me…. o wait…. I remember ordering a long island iced tea in the Bahamas at one point, along with a bunch of horrid pseudo tropical drinks. Aside from the Bahamas, though, Rum and Coke. I hate it now. Still kinda like the long island iced teas though, strangely enough.

  45. america

    hi, i’m america. ::hi america:: my ultimate guilty pleasure is a white chocolate martini. a few years ago, i drank through the city in search of the best one… and declared that the best white chocolate martini can be had at sorellina … so creamy, so sweet, the perfectly balanced white chocolate and vodka, with a dark chocolate surprise at the bottom of the martini glass …

    i’m blushing right now at the thought of walking into sorellina and ordering a white chocolate martini … O . M . G . 😉

  46. Noah

    When I worked in the White Mountains, 4.5 miles uphill from the nearest road, our booze had to be lightweight, pack a punch and mix with powdered/concentrated mixers. Our pride and joy was CAPTANG, a foul blend of Captain Morgan (or any rum really) mixed heavy-handedly with everyone’s favorite “orange drink.”

    Responsible for more than a few nights of howling at the moon.

  47. coffeesnob

    Ashamed, I am, of my White Zinfandel years, although I had a helluva time.

    Bartles & James wine coolers have made me regret having ever been born.

    The lowest? Peppermint schnapps and grape juice while watching the Concerts on the Common at the tender age of 16.

    You still can’t get me to give up my vodka. Nope, won’t do it.

  48. Kellie

    Andrea; I thought me and my friends were the only ones to have “discovered” the joys of SoCo and Mountain Dew! Quite the concoction before- too many- high school dances…

    In college there were LI iced teas, and woo-woo’s…

    I didn’t read any of the guys (or gals I guess) here mention Haffenreffer, aka the Green Death, as their gateway libation.

  49. Katie

    Malibu Bay Breezes, Anna Kournikova’s (White Russian in townie Slang), Whiskey/Apricot/Amaretto Sours, Woo Woos, Long Island Iced Teas, Grateful Deads, Keystones, anything blended…
    Safe to say I’d still drink them all if given the opportunity. MBB’s are still pretty spectacular…by default.

  50. dianalily

    So late, but I could not resist. Glad I’m not the first to mention the Bartels & Jaymes – they felt so grown up in high school! And although we swiftly progressed to Vodka & Tonic in college, those inevitably came with sides of tooth-ache shots like Buttery Nipples, B-52’s and Kamikazis. I can only hope my liver will forgive me some day.

    Today, my shame-faced order will consist of the occasional Red Headed Slut. Not because I like any of those individual items; the beverage has a nostalgic factor and reminds me of bartending in New Orleans.

    What beats all is a concoction ordered by a regular of mine: equal parts Bailey’s, Frangelico and Amaretto, served over ice in a rocks glass. It was the most sickeningly sweet thing I have ever sampled.

  51. Joe G

    My guilty pleasure is Mike’s Light Cranberry Lemonade with a lime stuffed into it. And the occasional John Daly.

    Man, if my friends knew this, my beer geek street cred (talk about an oxymoron) would definitely take a hit.

  52. ljclark

    Embarrassing indeed, Joe. Ha, I’d never heard of the John Daly before: sweet tea vodka and lemonade. I wouldn’t drink it, but I see the appeal.

  53. TR

    Love this thread!
    SoCo & Coke: another vote for this one as Upstate New York high school training wheels
    Kamikazes: a flirtation cured in one brutal night my freshman year of college before finals — I slept through one, in fact
    Margaritas: still in the rotation; the quality of the ingredients just keep ratcheting up

  54. ds

    I’ve never had much of a sweet-tooth with drinks. For me it was beer-based drinks. Jim Beam poured directly into a can of Old Style =Boilermaker. Orange juice poured into a partially drunk 40 =Brass Monkey. Or in an innovation that still blows my mind, frozen grapefruit juice concentrate spooned into the 40. I still wouldn’t turn any of these away.

  55. Frozen Drink Blender

    Got myself a taste for Tequila sunrise at an early age… though I’ve settled for more mellow drinks, as the taste for hard liquer has subsided with older age 😉

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