Tasting some of the worst alcohol Ithaca has to offer
I walk in around 10:30 p.m., nod at the bouncer, quickly unload my gloves, hat, scarf and coat, and promptly plant myself on a stool at the bar. I make eye contact with a bartender and, having spoken with her previously, she throws me a smirk and says, “you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes,” I reply, perhaps more enthusiastically than one would expect given the current situation: “give me the nastiest drink you got.”
With that said, the bartender takes out a shot glass, lifts up one of the mats lining the bar and dumps the collected liquid into the shot glass. She places it in front of me. “This is the Jersey Turnpike.”
“What’s in it?”
“I have no idea. But we’ve been open since happy hour and a little bit of everything has been spilled onto the mat since.”
Nearly six hours worth of assorted alcohols swirl around the glass. I take a deep breath and down the pale brown liquid in one swift gulp. By now all the bartenders have at least one eye on me. I give my taste buds a few seconds to process before coming to the conclusion: “It’s not that bad. What else you got?”
Next up is Bailey’s and lime juice — the Cement Mixer — and it comes with directions: “First take the shot of Bailey’s, hold it in your mouth, then take the lime juice, and shake it around in your mouth before swallowing.”
I do as I’m told and next thing I know the contents are curdling in my mouth and I swallow what tastes like sour, pulpy coffee creamer. But still, not that terrible. “These are prank shots,” the bartender assures me, “no one really buys these for themselves.”
At this point, I order a beer and a water and chill out for a minute. I turn to the people around me and strike up conversation. “What’s the nastiest drink you’ve ever had?”
I receive all sorts of responses: Pickle Back, UV Blue, UV Strawberry, Tequila. And what’s interesting is that these people disagreed with each other. The one who hates Pickle Backs (whiskey and pickle juice) could handle a tequila shot just fine. To define a drink as nasty is entirely subjective; however, I am determined to find one single unbearable drink. I turn back to the bar and make eye contact with a bartender. “Let’s get creative. I want a really nasty drink.”
The bartender takes out a shaker and pours in Bailey’s, pineapple juice and peach schnapps. She shakes it up, puts it in a short glass, and places it in front of me. “The Cunnilingus. It’s supposed to look like lady sperm.”
Sure enough, the off-white mixture has those same pulpy strands that had been in my mouth just before with the Cement Mixer. I quickly drink it down. It tastes like someone spiked my Dole Pineapple Fruit Cup, which to be honest is not really a terrible thing. So what’s the nastiest drink then?
Before I left for the bar that night, I had taken a shot of vodka for the sole purpose of layering: a thin liquor jacket under my heavy winter coat. I took the vodka out of the freezer and put it in a shot glass. I paced around the kitchen, I clutched my stomach remembering nights of binge-drinking this sinful liquid, I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans. I was nervous. I had anxiety — as I do every time I come face to face with a straight shot of vodka. I turned to my roommate. “Can you put on some pump-up music? Can you take a shot with me? Do you have any good chasers?”
Eventually I said the words “fuck it” enough times to just grab the shot and take it. The aftermath was rather harsh — ugly faces and a dramatic scramble to find something with a better taste to put in my mouth. Sure, the Jersey Turnpike is definitely a nasty concept (other bars in the area confirmed this to be their worst drink), but taste-wise, it’s certainly drinkable. I did not cringe in the aftermath; my stomach did not feel like it was being burned alive.
But taking the vodka shot one step further, during my freshman year, I walked into my neighbors’ gym-bag smelling, freezing-cold-for-no-reason dorm room, second floor, Terrace 13. I discovered a bunch of kids sitting around drinking from a bottle labeled Devil Springs. Being the new-comer in the room, rotation paused and the bottle went right to me. I took a swig and ladies and gentlemen, that right there was the absolute nastiest liquid to ever grace these lips of mine.
Before leaving for school, I was warned not to drink the frat-party punch, but I was told NOTHING about Devil Springs. So this is me not warning you, but pleading: do not do it. Do not drink the Devil Springs.
Jodi Silberstein is a senior journalism major who isn’t afraid to knock one back for the sake of journalism. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.