All cocktails should be slightly gross

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Several Defector idiots have recently been made aware of the Paralyzer cocktail. paralyzer, which is apparently quite popular in Canada, consists of vodka and coffee liqueur, poured into a glass of Coca-Cola, then fattened with half a shot of heavy whipping cream. At first glance, this concoction seems chaotic, and perhaps repulsive, but here you just need to reorganize your brain. A White Russian cocktail (vodka, coffee liqueur, cream) is delicious, and a Coke Float (Coca-Cola, ice cream) is also delicious, and what the Paralyzer does is basically combine the two. It’s a boozy Coke Float, with Kahlua. I’m sure it’s delicious.

I’m also sure that I will never, as long as I live, order a Paralyzer.

Something I learned about myself in an adult life of drinking alcohol, then refusing alcohol, then drinking alcohol again, then refusing alcohol and finally to adopt a habit of relatively moderate consumption, at the end of my third decade of life, is that delicious cocktails should be avoided. If I order a cocktail and take a sip and think “whoa that’s delicious”, I know I chose wrong. If, on the other hand, I order a cocktail and take a sip and think “hmm, interesting and maybe disgusting”, I know I did very well. For me, any cocktail delicious enough that I’m comfortable drinking it in larger increments than the occasional sip is simply an extremely expensive way to get drunk as hell.

In most cases, becoming really drunk– muddy, wobbly, old build and loan buddy drunk—is a negative result. For this reason, the majority of alcoholic beverages should be at least slightly coarse. A person shouldn’t have to work hard to avoid drunkenness precisely because hard work requires discipline, and discipline and drunkenness simply don’t go together. Delicious soft drinks are sold in six-packs and cases and large plastic jugs precisely because you are expected to drink them eight to 20 ounces at a time. A six-ounce drink that tastes like something you might drink despite having three ounces of alcohol at 80 degrees or higher is a trap. If you consume it like you would an icy, delicious soft drink, say a big soda at the movies, you will become extremely drunk. But to consume it carefully, in measured sips over a long period of time, you will need to practice discipline and self-control. Meanwhile, because it’s an alcoholic drink, your mango “jargarita” — a favorite of the Defector New York office and the cause of many slow blogging mornings — actively undermines your self-control while the weather. You tell yourself that you’re going to moderate your intake of the ecstatically sweet and lemony Yucca contained in this huge celebratory jug, and then shortly after, you’re wearing a lampshade while powerfully vomiting into a flowerpot.

A low-level buzz, on the other hand, is great! It shouldn’t be too hard to get a nice happy buzz, and it should be even easier to maintain one, because things that are hard get even harder once you’re drunk. Beer is perfect for getting a low quality buzz. But the beer is bubbly and is served ice cold, which means a beer gets steadily and decisively worse the moment you open it. Also, if you drink multiple beers, you will be full and most likely sick from the taste of beer over 36 oz. Wine is also problematic: a glass and a half of wine will hit the mark, but you’ll end up with half an open bottle of wine, which is both boring and will again test a person’s resolve. I don’t want to pour half a bottle of wine, but I also don’t want to finish Tuesday Friday’s bottle of wine, by which time it will be just bad wine, but I also don’t want to drink an extra half bottle of wine just to avoid the first two situations.

A cocktail – four to six ounces of carefully mixed ingredients in a suitable glass – is perfect: you go there knowing that this is your portion, and that portion will successfully create and maintain your buzz, if you just sip it for a while. Then, later, once you’ve had it all, if you want to keep your buzz going, you can order a second cocktail, and keep sipping. That’s hours of solid buzz-time, and anything from eight to 12 fluid ounces in total!

The key is to stick to concoctions that are neither delicious nor foul-smelling. A perfect cocktail is either strangely attractive despite being disgusting, or strangely inaccessible despite its taste. Every time I approach a bar, I’m looking to mark a target exactly at the point where a drink is interesting but not at all delicious, stimulating but not quite repulsive. It is better to miss the yuck side than the yum side, for the simple and good reason that you will have no trouble moderating your consumption of an unpleasant beverage that you don’t like. The perfect cocktail to get the perfect buzz is slightly more foul than delicious.

Credit: Chris Thompson/Defector
The perfect cocktail is intriguing but slightly gross.

A Paralyzer will win you over with its delicious sweetness (and with the menace of flat soda), while masking the full hit of vodka floating in there. You tell yourself the cream, sugar, and carbonation will fill you up, but meanwhile the Paralyzer disarms your defenses, so you recklessly shoot it down, suddenly find yourself without a drink, and head back to the bar for a other drink. Disaster! If you’d ordered yourself a Gibson instead – gin, dry vermouth and pearl onions – you’d still be nursing it half an hour later, sipping it very occasionally, mostly out of fascination bordering on disbelief. Above all, the Gibson would arm your self-destructive tendency to mindlessly huff, and your buzz wouldn’t be threatened at all.

A cocktail should do the job of keeping you from getting drunk, keeping you constantly at arm’s length. Bitter Negronis, bitter, smoky Boulevardiers, and dependable old Manhattan force you to behave like an adult, gently torturing your senses. The reason to order them is precisely because they are far from delicious. People will see your reserved sips, pursed lips, and scowl from a thousand yards, and assume you’re a serious, tall adult with a well-refined palate and/or extremely pretentious, but what you really are isn’t. ever so slightly disgusted. This is the real cocktail experience.

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