For as much as I love drinking, there are times when I overdo it. Part of the reason I'm the spirits buyer at K&L is because I thoroughly enjoy every single spirit known to man; there's practically nothing made out of liquor that I'm not a fan of. I like whiskey, gin, vodka, tequila, brandy, grappa, rum, aquavit, and whatever else can be distilled into alcohol. You can't give someone professional advise about boutique mezcal if you don't like it yourself, so you need to develop a taste for everything if you want to be taken seriously. Because I respect both my position and my clientele so highly, on any given night I will be drinking a combination of any or all of the fore-mentioned beverages in an attempt to gain greater insight (yes, I said that with a straight face).
Because I've spent so much time with alcohol, I've definitely learned which spirits need to be sipped slowly and savored rather than slurped (and I have a tendency to drink fast). Some people say bad tequila gives you a hangover, but if I had to make a list of the worst hangover spirits, tequila wouldn't even crack the top ten. There are far deadlier alternatives for those of us who like to indulge ourselves. Which ones, you ask? Let me tell you. Without further ado, I give you the top five spirits you'll regret drinking if you go on a bender. I've personally drunk each one of them in horrific excess (for the purpose of professional research) and awoken the next morning in utter agony.
5. Ricard - Let's just put it out there right now: any spirit that combines a high alcohol percentage with caramel coloring and sugar has the potential to play havoc on your head. The only thing that prevents Ricard from being number one on this list is the fact that most people can only finish one glass of it. The intense flavor of anisette (black licorice) is not something that you necessarily want to drink glass after glass of. Nevertheless, I’ve done it and it’s not pretty.
4. Navy Strength Gin - As if you needed me to tell you: 57% grain alcohol distilled with botanicals can be quite dangerous. The problem with navy strength gin is that you rarely scale back the volume in the face of the higher alcohol percentage. I enjoy the extra intensity of flavor that a high-proof gin brings to the party. Gin and tonics seem brighter and fresher; a Negroni all the more herbaceous. It’s when you go back for that second and third drink that you suddenly remember what you’re playing with because you end up passing out shortly after.
3. Hennessy VSOP - Again, we're back to the high-proof, caramel, and sugar combination. The thing about Hennessy VSOP is that it goes down so easily. Too easily, and usually with something else that has sugar in it (like Coke or ginger beer). That's why Jamie Foxx says, "Blame it on the Henny" when he talks about bad drunken behavior. Too much of it is bad, bad news. I put down half a bottle one night and I paid for it dearly.
2. Zwack Unicum - I LOVE the Zwack Unicum. LOVE it. That's a problem. Why? Because it's 40% alcohol, loaded with sugar and caramel, and it tastes sooooooooo good. Plus, you tend to drink it out of small glasses, so you end up going back and pouring shot after shot thinking the small amount couldn't possibly contain that much punch. How bad can it be? A few little, teeny-weeny shots never hurt anyone, right? "I'm just sipping it!" I yell to my wife when she says not to drink anymore. And then the morning comes. There's a reason I tell my customers not to get "Zwacked." It sucks.
1. Chartreuse - There is no doubt in my mind that Chartreuse is the absolute worst thing you could over-imbibe as a consumer of fine spirits. It doesn't matter if you're drinking green or yellow (although green is worse), or the standard formula versus the higher-end V.E.P. You will without a doubt regret the decision to pour yourself a third, fourth, or fifth glass of Chartreuse should you choose do so. Even drinking one glass of Chartreuse is like playing with fire (because you've probably already had a few drinks by the time you get around to doing so). The green is 55% ABV and there's plenty of sugar involved. I've never been in such misery while working at K&L as I was the night after I played around with Chartreuse cocktails. It was like a screw being driven into my brain, while waves of nausea pummelled my body into a series of cold sweats. A little Chartreuse is like medicine. But too much Chartreuse is the worst of all poisons.