Published in N16 Magazine – Winter 2005
These are happy days indeed for our park bench pissheads. They’re getting drunker, faster, cheaper than ever before and you know what? Some of the stuff doesn’t even taste too bad.
In terms of bangs for your buck there’s no more competitive sector of the market than the alcohol dependent, so I’ve worked out a handy ‘pence-per-unit’ ratio which you might like to keep by you in case of tough times ahead. As this is a scientific survey, I have used the prices in my local corner shop. They may be somewhat inflated but I reckon that this is where I would be most likely to stagger for my first 10am belter, rather than arrange regular white-van trips to a cash-and-carry near Luton.
It’s not so long ago that such horrors as Thunderbird, Cyprus sherry and VP ‘British wine’ were the staples of the ‘wino list’ and, to put things into context, I sprang £2.99 (27p per unit) for a bottle of the latter – the ‘Medium’, as it styles itself. (Medium what, exactly, is what I’d like to know?) In a spirit of scientific rigour I tried The Bum’s Rush it at park-bench temperature, on the assumption that the outdoor life doesn’t usually allow for much in the way of refrigeration – except at night, I suppose. It has quite a strong ‘nose’ of lime pickle, and that can’t be right, can it? There’s also something there that whisked me back 35 years to some murky liquid that came out of my first chemistry set. I’m glad I didn’t drink whatever it was all those years ago because it might well have tasted something like this – thin, sour and metallic. There’s not much booze that goes down the plug-hole chez Grogans but you wouldn’t make a mud pie with this.
Why would anybody – except me – pay £3.89 for a bottle of Thunderbird at 13% alcohol (40p per unit)? What is Thunderbird, anyway? Why does it smell of melons and taste so horribly chemical and sort of bleachy? I bought the last bottle on the shelf – maybe it’s the last bottle on the planet. Let’s hope so.
Carlsberg Special Brew (27p per unit) has spawned a hundred imitators in the stupor-strength lager category, and I’ve always rather liked the slight whiff of honey and the malty, creamy taste. The sheer weight of alcohol – at 9% it’s the same strength as many a German wine – means it tends to stick in the craw somewhat after the first few tinnies, probably just as well really, isn’t it? Tennent’s Super (25p per unit) has not just the same alcoholic content but something of the floral characteristics of many better German wines as well. It’s cleaner and drier than Spesh but with the same maltiness – rather lovely, really.
It’s almost colourless, almost odourless, almost tasteless, but White Star Cider (19p) will leave you completely legless. It has the alcohol content of a small town and notes of saccharine dissolved in vinegar, but this is it, folks – the cheapest hit out there, the bum’s rush. As for Diamond White Cider (24p), ditto the above – the only difference is the price. Nobody ever drank these because they liked the taste. In fact, did you ever see anybody other than a wino drinking one?
At 30p per unit, Argini Soave 2004 is the cheapest plonk in the place. It’s thin and a bit tart, but it’s really quite refreshing if chilled to near-zero. Clearly, it can’t compete for your last three quid. And when that’s gone don’t even think about Methylated Spirit (2p) – liver damage, blindness and death await you. And it doesn’t taste very nice either.