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Just Too Much Alcohol
One of the easiest ways to make a Gargle Blaster is to just put together obscene amounts of already potent alcoholic beverages and drink the result.
- The "Aunt Roberta" consists of three shots of vodka, two shots of absinthe, one shot of brandy, a shot and a half of gin, and one shot of blackberry liqueur. That's 8½ shots of alcohol (and then some, as absinthe is stronger than usual) — it's enough to be fatal, and the Aunt Roberta is known to have caused at least 34 deaths.
- There are several variants of the "Four Horsemen" out there:
- The traditional version is one shot each of Jim Beam, Johnny Walker, Jack Daniel's, and Jose Cuervo. Some people choose to replace one of the three whiskies with Captain Morgan, but it tends to disagree with the tequila in most people's stomachs (remember: "Captain Morgan is a racist — he hates Mexicans!").
- The "Four Horsemen and Hell Follows" adds Everclear to the mix. "Hell follows" is a pretty accurate description.
- The "Four Horsemen Go Hunting" adds Wild Turkey bourbon.
- A completely different drink with the same name is comprised of Jägermeister, Goldschläger, Rumple Minze, and Bacardi 151. The result is "too much blood in your alcohol stream".
- The "Bear Fight" is a Jäger Bomb followed immediately by an Irish Car Bomb. It's so called because after drinking one, it feels like there are bears fighting in your stomach.
- The "Adios Motherfucker": White rum, gin, tequila, blue Curaçao, vodka, and a splash of bar lime. Like Jäger, "guaranteed to ail what cures you."
- Long Island Iced Tea tends to be stronger than most cocktails; it's made of equal parts vodka, tequila, white rum, gin, and Triple Sec, diluted with lemon juice, gomme syrup, and Coke; it averages out to about 22% alcohol by volume. And since they come in large glasses, you're getting a large quantity of booze. Some places will add to the insanity; a bar in Mobile, Alabama started the trend of the "Paralyzer", where the Coke is replaced with Everclear. This variant is also called the Highlander, because in the end, you will need only one.
- Anthony Burgess describes his homemade cocktail, Hangman's Blood:
- Into a pint glass, doubles (i.e. 50ml measures) of the following are poured: gin, whisky, rum, port and brandy. A small bottle of stout is added and the whole topped up with Champagne... It tastes very smooth, induces a somewhat metaphysical elation, and rarely leaves a hangover.
- The last statement is questionable, given that this is the equivalent of about ten shots' worth of alcohol in that recipe.
- The "Zombie" (a.k.a. the "Bahama Mama") has this reputation among tiki drinkers. It's equal portions of dark, light, and spiced rum, some variety of fruit brandy for extra flavor, and some juice. It tastes nicer than most examples here, but it's very deceptive, and for extra fun, it can be lit on fire.
- Some bars will give you a drink called a "Telephone Number"; it will number the bottles behind the bar from zero to nine and pour shots according to your telephone number. Brave souls may add the area or city code; the suicidal may include the international access code. The lazy variation is the "Cheap Date" (a half glass of juice combined with a double shot of everything behind the bar) or the "Topshelf" (everything on the top shelf behind the bar into a pint glass).
- The "Scumbag" is a Scottish cocktail consisting of two shots of Jägermeister, two shots of Scotch whisky, two shots of vodka, a dash of Buckfast, and either chilies or garlic.
- The "Google Translator" is one shot each of tequila, vodka, rum, whiskey, Jäger, and sake. It's apparently not named after the different countries the drinks come from so much as what it does to a drinker's linguistic capacity.
Some Gargle Blasters are the result of people trying to make the single most potent beverage they can make.
- The strongest beer in the world tends to be "ice beers" (freeze-distilled after brewing) or fortified with stronger spirits. The strongest beer in the world is called "Sink the Bismarck", made by a brewery in Scotland — it's 41% alcohol by volume. The same brewery had the previous world record holder, the intriguingly-named "Tactical Nuclear Penguin". The strongest all-fermented beer is only 25% abv; it's Samuel Adams' "Utopias", and it tastes like cognac mixed with chocolate syrup.
- Most instances of homemade hard liquor — "Moonshine" — are Gargle Blasters. It's generally not only stronger than an irritable rhinoceros, but it also tastes like a combination of industrial cleaners and whatever vessel it was cooked up in. In fact, car radiators were one of the more common vessels. Methanol frequently shows up in significant quantities in moonshine, and it can cause severe vision impairment. The Other Wiki has a guide to Moonshine by country.
- Some spirits go up to 95% alcohol by volume, which is about as strong as it's possible to distill. Everclear, Golden Grain, and Spirytus (the Polish equivalent) are at this level at 190 proof, and they're strong enough to be Gargle Blasters on their own before being mixed with other crazy stuff; saner people will dilute them with syrup and water to make homemade liqueurs. Several jurisdictions ban the sale of 190 proof spirits.
You Only Notice When It's Too Late
This kind of drink isn't really that potent in and of itself, but it tastes weaker than it really is — tricking the drinker into drinking more than he should, and leaving him Unsuspectingly Soused.
- Absinthe is legendary as a Gargle Blaster, at least partly due to its reputed tendency to induce hallucinations, blindness, and insanity (which it doesn't, at least in concentrations that won't kill you through alcohol poisoning anyway). It is, however, distilled multiple times during its creation, resulting in a concoction that ranges from 50% to 70% alcohol by volume; as such, it's usually drunk after being diluted with copious amounts of ice water and sugar. And it includes a number of natural stimulants and sedatives, which gives it its tendency to sneak up on the drinker. That said, ordering 100 ml of real absinthe, straight up (if it's even legal), will get you stares.
Mitch Hedberg: I tried absinthe when I was over in Europe, because I heard it was supposed to make you trip hallucinogenically — but actually, it's just a liquor, so I was just getting fucked up... I wound up lying on the floor, trying to force the trip: "Why is the floor the lowest I can go?" Didn't work.
- Salmiakki-Koskenkorva is the definitive Finnish Gargle Blaster — a mix of salmiakki (ammonium chloride spiced with licorice) and Koskenkorva vodka. The sour ammonium chloride works to neutralize the bitter taste of the ethanol, meaning that it just tastes salty (or like cough medicine) — and the imbiber will not realize that it's almost all vodka until he's truly soused. Some accounts suggest it increases salivation.
- Caipirinha is a mixture of Brazilian cachaça liquor and lime juice; the sour lime neutralizes the ethanol, making it extremely deceptive. Copious sugar and ice will only add to the effect.
- The "Ginger Mexican" is made with equal parts tequila and ginger beer; both of them are strongly flavored and cancel each other out.
Some Gargle Blasters achieve this status by mixing alcohol with something spicy, ranging from ordinary (but unexpected) spicy foods to a Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce.
- The "Dirty Shot" is made from absinthe, tequila, and chili powder.
- The "Chuck Norris" is made from steeping sliced jalapeño peppers in vodka until it kicks like its namesake.
- "Prairie Fire", a mixture of tequila and Tabasco, is a popular (and nasty) challenge drink. One game based on this drink is "Russian Roulette" — your group orders one each, one of which has triple the Tabasco in it. It's got a number of variants, like "Grannie's Panties" (parmesan or asiago cheese sprinkled on top), "Buffalo Sweat" (replace the tequila with overproof rum), "Falun Snakebite" (add cheap bourbon), or the "Flatliner" (layer sambuca and tequila in that order, add Tabasco).
- "To Hell You Ride" is vodka plus at least ten squirts of hot sauce.
- Kehlenschneider ("throat-cutter") is a German 80% chili schnapps with a 400,000 Scoville rating.
- The Rostiger Nagel ("rusty nail"), the signature drink of the German city of Marburg, consists of Ratzeputz (a 50 to 85% abv ginger liquor) and Tabasco. It's the definitive proof that college students will drink anything.
Very Cold Stuff
Gargle Blasters can be made more potent if they're colder — both in terms of alcohol content and the added risk of cold-related discomfort. Naturally, this has led to some people to go to extreme lengths to make their drinks very cold:
- Some alcoholic drinks are made using dry ice (i.e. solid carbon monoxide). The dry ice will be as cold as -79°C and sublimate directly from solid to gas. Be careful not to drink the solid pieces of dry ice left over. Americans call it "Rocket Fuel", and it's often made with Everclear and a can of frozen juice concentrate. The Russians call theirs raketnoye toplivo (literally "rocket fuel"), made with vodka and Russian sparkling wine.
- A much more macho technique, nicknamed the "Polarman", uses liquid nitrogen. Russians typically do this just to pure grain alcohol, creating what's effectively pure alcohol ice cream. It's Better Than It Sounds — just extremely cold.
- Applejack is cider distilled by repeatedly freezing the drink while removing any ice that forms. Given that this removes nothing but water, applejack has an incredible kick,note especially considering that it has a fairly low alcohol content by brandy standards; the freeze distilling process, while concentrating the alcohol content, also concentrates the methanol and fusel oil content that are believed to cause hangovers. A number of beers are also distilled in this fashion, the most notable being several German Eisbocks.
- The "Alaskan Martini" is an attempt to show up self-proclaimed tough guys from out of state (Texans are a favored target). It's basically just Everclear left outside at well below freezing temperatures. It's seriously dangerous, and not just because of the risk of internal frostbite.
The Gargle Blasters that will make you think I Drank What?, or are at least obviously a really bad idea.
- A Gargle Blaster can be mixed with a Klatchian Coffee, which isn't a good idea. The buzzes from the alcohol and the caffeine conflict with each other, preventing your body from knowing when it's time to stop. This didn't stop binge-drinking college kids from abusing "Four Loko" (a.k.a. the "Blackout in a Can") — its original formulation had 12% abv, before the authorities banned it in 2010 and it was relaunched without nearly as much caffeine.
- Whiskeys in The Wild West tended to be "cut" with various other ingredients to extend the barrel life while keeping it potent. They ranged from the mostly innocuous (water, pepper, tobacco) to the insane (caustic soda, strychnine). They might even throw rattlesnake heads into the barrel.
- Snakes figure into other insane Gargle Blasters as well. A Vietnamese variant is made with snake venom from live snakes; it's been likened to drinking blood wine with an electrical current running through it. And a Japanese variant is Habu sakenote , which is traditionally served with a dead Habu viper still in the drink — the alcohol supposedly neutralizes the venom, but sailors will swear that the venom is just potent enough to keep your liver from purifying the alcohol from your system for a little longer than normal.
- The "Cement Mixer" is more of a prank drink than anything else; it's one shot of cream whiskey and one shot of lemon juice. The lemon juice will curdle the cream in your mouth and make it stick to your teeth like sugary cement.
- The "Grog" is a function that has an equivalent in almost any military function. Each unit brings a different type of alcohol (or other addition), and everything is poured into a large pot. This is how you get things like alcohol mixed with Iraqi sand (and the boot it was brought home in) and shredded paper. Chatham County Artillery Punch lays claim to being the first such drink, deriving from a local legend where all the officers independently decided to spike the punch at an Artillery Ball.
- Prison liquor is always illegally brewed and consumed, and the measures to keep the guards from discovering it will make it even less appetizing (including but not limited to fermenting it in a plastic bag hidden inside the cell's toilet). American prison liquor is called "pruno", and it's basically made by an inmate fermenting anything he can get his hands on (ketchup, fruit, crumbled bread, whatever). One of the most infamous is the he "Pájaro Verde" ("Green Bird"), from Chile. It's made from fermented garbage and methanol rather than ethanol; this combination is enough to kill several inmates every year.
Chemists have tricks that allow them to make drinkable alcohol (more or less) from chemicals and materials they can find in the lab. Of course, they're (a) highly trained and know what they're doing, and (b) crazy stressed and trying to get very drunk, so Don't Try This at Home. If you do it wrong, you could easily wind up drinking toxic stuff.
- The most common instant Gargle Blaster is made from pure ethyl alcohol, which you can easily find in the lab. Graduate school chemists will run it through a simple distillation to take out other alcohols, dilute it with water, and add some orange concentrate. The good news is that it is as strong as you want it to be. The bad news is (a) it tastes nasty; (b) the last stage of purification involves mixing it with benzene, and the traces of it in the final product are extremely carcinogenic; and (c) there's always a risk of highly toxic methyl alcohol and other stuff being in the stuff to denature it.
- One chemistry trick is to drink 96% azeotropic alcohol very slowly with an open mouth. 96% is on the absolute upper limit of possible alcohol content in normal atmospheric conditions, so the alcohol will evaporate in your mouth. That lets you drink it and still stay reasonably sober. The trick is to breathe out while drinking, or it will have the reverse effect: alcohol vapor will enter the bloodstream directly through the lungs, skipping the stomach. Even if you do it right, it will severely irritate your mouth and throat unless you chase it thoroughly.
- Because of all this, chemical-grade ethanol will usually be denatured (meaning that it's not safe to drink), which is usually accomplished by adding something toxic (like methanol), "emetics" (i.e. vomit-inducing chemicals), or just stuff that tastes nasty (like denatonium). Desperate people who think they know what they're doing and can't get alcohol anywhere else (e.g. on a submarine, during Prohibition) will get some industrial alcohol product and distill that. And you wonder why moonshine tastes like industrial cleaner.
Drinking 'Round the World
Some countries have their own baffling Gargle Blaster varieties that leaves foreigners nonfunctional.
- Cachaça is Brazil's favorite cane liquor; it's made directly from cane juice rather than the molasses used for rum. It's traditionally distilled as much as possible while retaining the juice's flavor — but because cane juice has a metric crapton of sucrose in it, it can easily get to 50% alcohol by volume even with this method.
- Chinese peasant liquor can best be described as smelling of death, and drinking a half-shot is not unlike an aluminum baseball bat across the eyes. Due to poor brewing and distilling techniques, it often contains high concentrations of toxic methanol. (Again, the resulting blindness usually doesn't last.) Thankfully, one of the best antidotes to methanol is ethanol, so the problem corrects itself.
- Baijiu ("white liquor") is the country's primary native distilled beverage. The weakest variety is 40% abv; maotai, one of the most renowned forms, often clocks in at 53%, and many other forms exceed 60%. Fenjiu and gaoliangjiunote can get up to 63% or 65%, at which point they are literally flammable. It's known as "Chinese lighter fluid" in the West, and some Westerners have compared its flavor to that of jet fuel. And one of the most famous regions for the stuff, Guizhou province, combines it with hot-and-sour food so spicy that even folks from Sichuan call time-out.note The Chinese Communist Party's officials have been known to down several glasses or shots of baijiu at banquets and meetings, which might explain some of their stranger decisions over the years.
Henry Kissinger, (to Deng Xiaoping, during Nixon's visit to China): If we drink enough maotai, we can solve anything.
- A "Turkish Pepper" shot is vodka mixed with crushed "Turkish Pepper" candies. The Finnish retail version was removed after (false) rumors of fatalities, and the version currently sold has less alcohol content. You really should mix it yourself though, and in this case it can apparently be too strong for Vince Neil.
- Salmiakki-Koskenkorva, as listed above, is the definitive Finnish Gargle Blaster, and it's good at getting you Unsuspectingly Soused.
- Poitín is an Irish moonshine made from potatoes (imagine that). It's known to be quite potent, and it's outright illegal in Northern Ireland. Its strength seems to vary on where you buy it; in England, it's usually 60% abv, the Republic of Ireland will have 70% varieties, and one that only seems to be available on the ferry between Wales and Ireland goes up to 85%.
- Kenya gives us changaa, an illegally produced concoction that can be made from such delightful ingredients as formaldehyde, battery acid, or jet fuel. It tastes nasty, and it's often fatal. What's worse is that since criminal gangs control its production, they compete with each other to make their own brews even more potent.
- South Korea gives us soju, which looks like wine cooler, but its alcohol content can vary significantly — up to 45% alcohol by volume. It's manufactured in such a way that it sneaks up on the drinker. It's particularly popular with American military personnel in Korea, who don't know what they're getting into and wind up having to be carried to the barracks.
- Russia, being the home of the Vodka Drunkenski, naturally has a number of unique ways to get drunk:
- Samogon is a form of Russian moonshine that also acts as a brilliant multi-purpose fluid: industrial degreaser, paint stripper, laboratory solvent, motor oil, etc. And you can drink it, too, if you're not too particular about maintaining consciousness, dignity, chastity, or the integrity of your digestive system. It's largely made to avoid paying the vodka tax. And the resulting blindness usually doesn't last. The particularly nasty varieties are chemerges (which are often cut with methylated alcohol, burnt rubber, or battery acid — comparable to Kenyan changaa) and pervach, the first 100 or so grams of the samogon, which most moonshiners will discard — but not Russians, who will drink it because of its 140-150 proof strength (and in spite of the fact that it smells and tastes like nail polish remover).
- Russians have been known to buy and drink medical alcohol from drugstores; it's 95% C2H5OH, and it's more or less the Russian equivalent of Everclear. In the Soviet days (and the days immediately following under Yeltsin), Russians desperate for alcohol would drink things from drugstores just because they contain alcohol, including aftershave.
- Dubovka is a peculiar Russian booze made by fermenting grain with oakwood splinters. It's technically a mash rather than a distilled spirit, and it's deceptively low in alcohol content, but it's got other chemicals in it that make it potent. It's green, tastes mild, and makes you fall after the third shot. It was produced illegally during Gorbachev's anti-alcohol laws.
- Swedish vodka is often flavored with wormwood, which is very bitter but goes well with Swedish cuisine. This is reflected in the popular schnapps brand Bäska Droppar ("bitter drops"). But the weirdest variation of this is Jeppson's Malört, a 35% abv vodka flavored with wormwood and other stuff to make it taste like a foul mix of industrial chemicals; it advertises this proudly and suggests that you should man up and keep drinking until you get used to it.
- The Discworld's Scumble is based on Scrumpy, a super-potent British cider. According to Terry Pratchett, homebrewed scrumpy has "a kick that lasts for the rest of your life." Scrumpy isn't that strong by the standards of this page, however; it usually lands around 8-9% abv, i.e. the strength of what in the US is known as malt liquor. The kick comes from the fact that the metal details on old cider presses tend to be lead, which reacts with the acids in the apple juice in interesting ways, and the fact that scrumpy is normally sold in pints (an Imperial pint is 568 ml).
- Jeremiah Weed, a bourbon whiskey sold in The United States, might seem tame compared to some of the very-lethal drinks on this page with its mere 100 proof—but it's also an icon of American fighter pilot culture. Despite how awful it tastes — or, perhaps, because of how awful it tastes. The Dos Gringos song about it describes it as "something in between Lysol and alcohol, with a touch of gasoline."
Some individual events and establishment will have their own Gargle Blasters that you can't get anywhere else:
- When you check in at the Society for Creative Anachronism's Pennsic War, you're given the suggested drinking rules for the event. Basically, don't drink it if it smokes, glows, glitters, they won't tell you what's in it, or if the name contains the word "surprise". Case in point: the infamous "Strawberry Surprise" consists grain alcohol and pepper spray. The surprise is that it tastes nothing like strawberries and everything like pain.
- The theme camp Spock Mountain Research Laboratories at the Burning Man festival has served a drink called "Hyper-Whiskey" for years. Though the recipe varies, it has usually contained some kind of chili sauce or horseradish.
- A bar in York used to sell a drink called the "Hellshot", consisting of a shot of 89% absinthe and 88% vodka. You had to sign a disclaimer before you ordered one. When the authorities banned it, the bar proudly kept it on the menu with a big "BANNED" sticker on it. Then again, the Hellshot's components are still legal to purchase separately.
- A bar in Dawson City, Yukon Territory — in the far north of Canada — serves a drink called the Sourtoe Cocktail, which is basically any ordinary alcoholic drink — with an amputated toe floating in it. If the toe touches your lips as you drink it, you can join the Sourtoe Cocktail Club. The toe is usually procured as a donation from a victim of severe frostbite. Don't swallow it; you'll annoy the barman, who would have to get another one.
- There exists an annual poly/kinky gathering in Georgia, Duckstock, whose name (and original raison d'etre) comes from a mixture known as the "Drunk Duck". The exact recipe is a closely guarded secret.
- Sci-fi conventions have started to serve Ryncol, named in honor of Mass Effect 2's resident Gargle Blaster. They make it as potent as its namesake with just a combination of absinthe and grain alcohol.
- A restaurant in Quebec City serves a drink made of equal parts whiskey and sourpuss, adding Tabasco, and heating it. If that's not enough, they also have the "Holy Grail", which ups the ante on the alcohol content, adds strips of habanero pepper, and serves it in a paprika-rimmed glass.
- The "Last Bar Before the End of the World", in Paris, makes a Gargle Blaster with gin, vodka, Galliano, absinthe, and Tabasco. It usually ends with someone asking urgently for ice.
- The Way Station, a sci-fi/steampunk bar in Brooklyn, features a Gargle Blaster directly inspired by the original from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's described the way it is in the book, even though the book version's ingredients are almost entirely fictional; people who don't realize this also don't realize that when they order one, they're basically just getting a mix of several different kinds of alcohol.
Things That Aren't Alcohol At All
- Raw cranberry juice is unbelievably sour. The cranberry juice you find in stores is actually a "cocktail" of juices, usually apple juice with just enough cranberry juice to turn it red and give it flavor. The real thing is exceptionally difficult to drink straight; it will cause stomach aches and is very acidic (which is sometimes used medically to dissolve kidney stones).