Drinking the Bottom Shelf: DeKuyper Fruit-Flavored Things

Will Gordon

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Been a while since we've seen one another, and for that I apologize. I had to take an emergency Labor Week vacation to deal with the unprecedented stress of working at least five and sometimes up to 10 hours a week lately. And when I say work, I'm not talking about this eating/drinking/writing racket: I mean I've actually been toiling outside the comforts of home.

This deplorable turn of events was brought about, like so many others, by Bottom Shelf Research Coordinator Emily's insatiable lust for pumpkin beer. Three seasons a year she's no pickier about her beers than she is about her boyfriends. Hell, in the past nine months I've seen her drink more PBR than Kenji goes through in an entire day. But come fall, she'll stand for nothing but pumpkin beer. And she won't settle for that Michelob Jack's Pumpkin Spiced Ale, either. The bidding starts at Shipyard Pumpkinhead and goes up from there. The other day she smuggled home a 22-ounce bottle of Southern Tier Pumking. That stuff's 8 percent ABV and she sucked it down so fast she barely had time to pause between gulps to bellow, "MORE PUMPKIN BEER, PEASANT!" I was happy to indulge her until I realized that this foul-tasting, drunk-making nonsense, which I had been smugly calling PumpkinLoko, costs a cool $8.50 a bottle!

So to see us through the first half of football season in one financial piece, I needed not just any job, but a job at a bar that offers an employee discount and carries pumpkin beer. Lucky for me, the semidive where I've worked on and off for a couple hundred years lost a doorman right about the time they gained a Pumpkinhead tap.

This is one of my five favorite bars in the universe and it employs several of my favorite degenerates, so what the hell, back to the soft grind. I check IDs on Saturday nights and Emily drinks $2 pints of Pumpkinhead whenever she gets the shakes throughout the week, and we're a stronger family for it. (The bar seems to have a very progressive benefits policy regarding domestic partners—I'm not covered by Emily's health insurance, even though she works for a medical practice, yet she gets discounted beer from my alcohol practice. Though I suppose it's also possible that she's just getting the Pretty Girl Discount and my presence is the only reason she has to pay anything at all.)

It's not a bad hustle and I'm lucky to have it, but it's come with the unintended consequence of narrowing our otherwise-adventurous drinking habits. There are hundreds of bars within easy biking distance, but it's tough to talk yourself into exploring much farther than the great bar where all your friends work and you drink on the extra-cheap. But the biggest impact has been felt in our couch partying: One of the primary reasons to drink at home is that it's cheaper, but ever since I sold out to the man and re-entered the Bottom Shelf version of the rat race, it's hardly less expensive to stay in, once you account for ice and mixers and labor. Plus Emily hates it when I say, "Eh, no big deal, the barback will deal with it" when I miss the toilet.

I had pretty much sworn off home-boozing until my package store taunted me with this week's Bottom Shelf abomination (the photo above pretty much ended the suspense regarding its drinkability, si?). My beloved Supreme Liquors sells four flavors of DeKuyper fruit...things for a ridiculous 99 cents per 750mL.The Pomegranate calls itself a liqueur, the Strawberry Passion Pucker claims schnappshood, and the Tropical Mango and Tropical Pineapple Coconut aspire to nothing higher than "imitation liqueur" status. They're each 30 proof, so if just one of them proved drinkable, even if soda-watered-down into the world's saddest spritzer, it would be the cheapest buzz I'd ever encountered.

No. They all blow to the point that I didn't think it was worth writing about them until I realized it might be borderline interesting to see if the schnapps and/or liqueur were better than the even lowlier imitation liqueurs. I still wouldn't recommend any of them in any context—they would suck the life out of any other spirit they touched, so don't be tempted to pinken up your white boozes with them—but just for the hell of it, let's play a word game. What, qualitatively speaking, do these terms mean in the DeKuyper context?

I started my investigation with the sham liqueurs, Tropical twins Pineapple Coconut and Mango. The PC smells like green apple candy and tastes oily and metallic. Wet lawnmower blade, perhaps? The Mango smells like powdered fruit punch mix and tastes about the same. Let's call Mango the winner here.

Now it's Strawberry Passion Pucker, our "sweet and sour schnapps," and Pomegranate, the liqueur. The Pomegranate tastes like angry, stinging cherries. No good, but better than the Pineapple Coconut and the Mango. The Strawberry is sour and gross. Pomegranate, the one real liqueur, is in fact the least worst of this funked bunch.