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The Black Death 

The Plague wasn't kidding around. Neither is this drink.

There comes a time in your life when you realize the dagger of alcohol cuts both directions: While it can underscore your party lifestyle in exciting, titillating ways (as has been documented in these pages by other, more well-adjusted drinkers), alcohol also flays open the sores and scabs of daily life, revealing your existence to be the rotting carcass your high school guidance counselor warned you it would be. Regret, recrimination and revenge fantasies are all well stoked by alcohol's stinging flame, and the cool, lingering twilight days of early summer are the perfect time to remember who did what to whom and to make wild threats concerning what you're going to do about it.

You, my friend, are in need of a cocktail that can keep up with your raging id. You need something powerful, full-bodied and just as hard to stomach as the irrevocable past you thought you'd left behind. You need the stiffest of stiff belts -- the Black Death. An opaque concoction consisting of but two ingredients, this is a drink you can make while storming out of the house, while crouching in the back seat of a getaway car or while crashing through the underbrush of your neighborhood park.

Simply take equal proportions of vodka and soy sauce and, voilà, instant mad-on. Vodka is best when ice-cold, but let's not split hairs. When you're screaming at the top of your lungs, you want it and you want it now. Take what you can get, regardless of temperature, price point or personal preference. A chilled Ketel One goes down smooth, but who has time for refrigeration? You're busy cataloging the failures of every relationship in painful, scatological detail, and a cheap fifth of Wolfschmidt or Popov or similar bargain brand, as can be found in the sturdy selection of mid-shelf brands at Schnucks' Richmond Center location (6600 Clayton Road, 314-644-2620), and the little packets of soy sauce that come with your takeout order from the chop-suey joint work just the same. You probably have some in your glove compartment right now. If not, grab some from the sushi counter.

As for the taste, well, what do you expect from something named after a disease that killed off one-third of Europe? It's somewhere between the warm, salty tang of the blood that drips down the back of your throat after being punched in the nose and the warm, salty tang of the blood you lick off your fingers after warding off a barrage of hard-thrown dinner plates -- with the additional kick of high-octane alcohol. In short, when you're ready to drink for all the best, wrong reasons, you owe it to yourself to catch a little Black Death.

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