We're living in an age of premature snobbery. Blame it on the opinion cesspool that is social media, the entitlement of hipster culture, or whatever—it seems that it takes only an esoteric appreciation of food or alcohol to make someone an expert. The peddlers catch on, maybe throw "craft" in the name to appeal to these distinguished tastes, and suddenly the scene becomes infested with a slew of pseudo-connoisseurs who aren't even old enough to remember when Dr. Dre was the only mixologist (and that guy had a degree in it).
Don't get me wrong: There's certainly skill that goes into making these drinks, and most of them are tasty, but are they worth $10? Will knowing what those bitters are infused with help me look past the massive amount of ice in my glass? Are those suspenders necessary to serve it? The fact that a "cocktail engineer" served it does not justify the price, but it does make me want to change my title to "word birther" to up my freelance rate.
It's during these times of increased snobbery and preciousness that I find myself turning to drinks that I affectionately refer to as "trash cocktails."
There's no absolute definition of a trash cocktail—like porn, it's more of a "I know it when I see it" kind of thing—but there are two basic qualifiers: It has to have at least three ingredients, and it has to cost less than $10. A $6 price tag is ideal, and the booze-to-price ratio increases dramatically by every dollar increment. So, if you're going to order a $9 trash cocktail, it better be strong enough that you only need one. It's all very scientific, I can assure you; I've been developing this formula ever since I McGyver'd a drink out of Jäger, orange juice and Sprite procured from a friend's parents' liquor cabinet.
There are plenty places in San Diego to get trash cocktails. Bar Pink's (3829 30th St. in North Park) entire menu could fit in this category, and Bali Hai's (2230 Shelter Island Drive in Shelter Island) caustic Mai Tais are pretty much jungle juice for adults.
But where do you get the freaky stuff? I asked Craig Oliver at Whistle Stop Bar (2236 Fern St. in South Park) to give me their trashiest drink, which, to a bartender, sounds a lot like Brad Pitt saying, "I want you to hit me as hard as you can."
Oliver introduced me to the Mexican Candy: peach vodka, Midori, pineapple and orange juice. He shook it together and topped it with a couple drops of Tabasco. The result looked similar to the mutagen that begat the Ninja Turtles, but it tasted like a chili-covered Vero Mango sucker. It's technically a shot, but it took three hearty swallows to finish it, and, by the bottom, I briefly contemplated ordering another. And that type of impaired judgment lets you know that the drink is doing the job.
Former CityBeat music editor Peter Holslin always claimed the Christpuncher as his favorite cocktail, but the ingredients are so outlandish that we thought he was just trolling us: whiskey, red wine and cola. Turns out (say in Kevin Costner voice): The Christpuncher is not a myth! I've seen it!
I went to Soda Bar (3615 El Cajon Blvd. in City Heights), and the bartender who introduced himself as "Farmer" knew exactly what I was talking about. He whipped up the Christpuncher with demonic glee, placed the purple pint in front of me and stepped back.
I sipped. Not bad, I thought. Or that's what my notes say: "Tastes not bad." Ryan Bradford, Word Birther Extraordinaire.
"If you like that," Farmer said, "you should try the Grateful Dead." He poured a glass of vodka, gin, rum, tequila, triple sec, sour mix, cola and raspberry liqueur to give it a tie-dyed look. If ever there were a good argument in favor of Prohibition, The Grateful Dead is it.
My notes from this drink: "Tates [sic] like a hanful [sic] of gummy sours." I have to assume my notes are accurate, because I don't remember drinking it.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @theryanbradford