Proof It!

A local bottler supplies the free booze, we supply the lushes -- er, tasting panel

Grain Alcohol
Everclear Grain Alcohol
$15
190 proof Rating: glass glass glass glass glass glass glass glass glass glass glass glass glass glass glass

(perhaps the median age of its intoxicants)

Golden Grain Alcohol
price varies by market
190 proof Rating:
no glass

Both bottles scream a warning: CAUTION: DO NOT APPLY TO OPEN FLAME, KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE, HEAT AND OPEN FLAME -- CONTENTS MAY IGNITE OR EXPLODE. DO NOT CONSUME IN EXCESSIVE QUANTITIES. NOT INTENDED FOR CONSUMPTION UNLESS MIXED WITH NON-ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE. Unfortunately, it doesn't warn those of legal drinking age to stay away from these chemistry experiments gone awry.

Those dumb enough to try straight shots were treated to vaporized esophagi, and the rest were left wondering why such potent stuff could be named after a breakfast cereal.

Everclear mixed with Vess strawberry soda (procured from Schnucks in a three-liter plastic bottle) was more in the homecoming-party spirit of this beverage, and also inspired one of the evening's many allusions to mouthwash.

"Smells like rubbing alcohol," Renner said. "Tastes like--"

"--Listerine!" Martelli finished.

Wine
Jakob Demmer Piesporter Michelsberg
$8
8.5 percent alcohol Rating: glass glass

Barbella Pinot Grigio delle Venezie
$9
11.5 percent alcohol Rating: half glass

From Everclear to wine: What could be more natural? "I happen to like Piesporters a lot; they have a crisp acidity balanced with a nice sweetness, acid and base fighting it out, and they go really well with food," the Wino said, stroking his chin in a manner that can get you sentenced to life in prison if you're not a wine snob. "I didn't exactly get that from this wine, however."

As far as the other entry: "Pinot grigios are usually pretty uninteresting wines, but this one is especially bad."

Others in the group were further damning in their faint praise: "Keystone Light with Franzia," commented Young, drawing on his extensive vocabulary of dorm-room delights.

"It has the body of Mary Kate or Ashley," Martelli said. "Whoever is the anorexic one."

The Sickly, Syrupy Rest
Purple Passion
$5 for four 12.7-ounce bottles
5 percent alcohol Rating: glass glass glass glass

Perhaps David Sherman's strongest foothold in the booze market is its line of gooey, artificially flavored concoctions. As John Kerry might ask, "Who among us did not sip Purple Passion in our youth?" Unfortunately, like cheese-filled hot dogs and Lik-m-aid, some things are never meant to be consumed in adulthood. While Noble and Young's barely legal palates and metabolic flexibility spared them, the rest of the panel experienced intestinal discomfort not seen since Girbaud jeans went out of style.

All except manchild "Mike," who chugged not just his own bottle of fermented Kool-Aid but everyone else's leftovers.

Caffe Lolita Lico De Cafe
$9
48 proof Rating: glass glass glass

Saint Brendan's "the Superior" Irish Cream Liqueur
$13
34 proof Rating: glass glass glass

The night almost completely black and her facility for measurement long obliterated, Noble somehow managed to splash some Pearl vodka, milk, ice and Caffe Lolita into a glass, and then pass that glass around.

"It's hard to screw up a white Russian," "Jordan" complimented.

All agreed that Saint Brendan's should be canonized. "Like a melted hot-fudge-sundae liqueur. If I were an alcoholic, this would be my half and half," Martelli said wistfully.

Yago Sant' Gria
$5
7 percent alcohol Rating: glass glass

Arrow Sour Apple Smackers Liqueur
$7
30 proof Rating: glass half glass

Arrow Spearmint Schnapps
$7
54 proof Rating: glass glass

The evening had ceased to look kindly upon our group. Taking more sugar into an already saturated bloodstream right now sounded about as appealing as an afternoon watching NASCAR with the Heinz-Kerrys. Yago Sant' Gria ("red table wine & natural fruit flavors") confirmed the panel's worst fears.

"This thing should have a diabetics' warning," Young moaned, while Roberts imagined he saw subliminal penises and vaginas on the label.

Two words for the Spearmint Schnapps, according to Martelli: "Cum Gum." (A reference, she explained, to Freshen-Up, which features a gooey center.) In an unrelated comment, "Mike" deemed the schnapps "as easy as Tara Reid."

Of the Pucker rip-off, the only positive comment came from Martelli. She'd have loved it when she was eighteen, she said, because it would have matched her lip gloss.

Salvador's Mango Margarita
26 proof Rating: glass glass

Salvador's Blue Margarita
26 proof Rating: glass

Salvador's Senorita Strawberry Margarita
26 proof Rating: glass

Salvador's Original Margarita
30 proof Rating: glass glass

(All varieties cost $6 for four 200-milliliter bottles)

It dawned on those assembled that nothing they could say could sway anyone's opinion about these "Tequila's in it" abominations: If you've got a fake ID and the girls in your triple aren't into screwdrivers, then by all means pick up a pack of Salvador's. Ranging in proof from 26 to 30, they taste like what Fisher-Price would make if Fisher-Price made cocktails.

A few sips into their 200-milliliter bottles, the majority of the group decided to abandon the entire enterprise and head to a nearby bar for a beer. A delicious malt beverage, free of artificial colors and sweeteners, one that would wash away the childish trespass into this fortified faux folly. "Salvador should stick to surrealism," the Wino muttered, lurching toward the bathroom.

Only Young seemed to have maintained his equilibrium, announcing breezily that he had a very late student-government meeting to attend to.

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