Good alcoholic drinks for non-drinkers.
August 24, 2009 7:54 PM   Subscribe

Alcohol for non-drinkers

My husband and I have very, very little experience with alcohol. We've only had a few drinks ever, and never been close to being "buzzed" or "drunk."

This weekend is my 25th birthday and we thought we'd give drinking a chance.

However, we have some rules:

No beer - Neither of us have any interest in trying beer at all.
We'd like to make the drinks at home, and the less ingredients the better - I'd rather not make some elaborate drink requiring multiple types of alcohol.
We probably want something citrusy?
I'd prefer if it didn't strongly taste of alcohol.

Any suggestions? Thanks!
posted by Becko to Food & Drink (100 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
V8 fusion - i like the strawberry banana and a clear rum.

really, any juice you like that's sort of strong and thick + rum
posted by nadawi at 7:58 PM on August 24, 2009

My favorite: Lynchburg Lemonade
Good lemonade, with a shot of Jack Daniel's. And ice.
Very simple, lemony, sweet, with a dark whiskey vibe.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:59 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mimosa? It's just champagne and orange juice and isn't too boozy tasting like a screwdriver (orange juice and vodka) can be. Also, tequila sunrises are good. Those are tequila, orange juice, and grenadine (poured so the colors look like a sunrise).
posted by ishotjr at 7:59 PM on August 24, 2009

Try a screwdriver, it was my first drink way back at my neighbors house in ninth grade. Step one: pour vodka into some orange juice (..there is only one step).
posted by pwally at 7:59 PM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, but you can taste the alcohol. That's what makes it good, to me.
Just use a light hand when pouring!
posted by SLC Mom at 8:00 PM on August 24, 2009

Kool-aid and vodka is quick and easy, and, when mixed properly, doesn't taste like alcohol.
posted by jenny76 at 8:00 PM on August 24, 2009

A margarita! Simple, just three ingredients (four, if you count salt), and you can make it as citrusy as you like. From the link:
* Salt, for rimming the glass (optional)
* Ice
* 1 1/2 ounces tequila (blanco, 100 percent agave)
* 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
* 1/2 ounce Cointreau (not Triple Sec)


1. If using salt, place in a shallow dish. Moisten the rim of a rocks glass with a dampened paper towel, then dip in salt.
2. Fill the glass with ice; add tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau; and stir a few times until chilled. Serve immediately.
Fresh lime juice is essential, and using Cointreau makes a difference. If don't like your drinks as tart as I do, toss in a dash of simple syrup. Happy drinking and happy birthday!
posted by youarenothere at 8:01 PM on August 24, 2009

Oooh. You're gonna love it!

I mean, the first thing that comes to my mind is a margarita. There are as many different ways to make one as there are people who make them, but basically a margarita is:

Tequila (blanco or traditional)
Lime Juice
Triple Sec (an orange liqueur).

Served on the rocks or frozen.

Served in a salt-rimmed glass.

Tequila is a liquor distilled from the agave plant. As with all liquors, generally the more dollars you drop on it, the better it will taste. Tequila ranges from shit in a plastic bottle to Patron and Hornitos. If you don't want to 'taste the alcohol,' I'd spend a little more money.

I like them frozen (blended with the ice, as opposed to serving on the rocks). You can google recipes. There are zillions.

On the other hand, you can always go with the classic screw driver - OJ and vodka. Citrusy, simple, and ok.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:01 PM on August 24, 2009

None of these are particularly classy, but if you're looking to mask the taste of the alcohol, may I suggest:

Difficulty -- Very Easy, Cost -- Very Cheap, Tastiness -- Not So Much, but it goes down easy: Screwdriver (Orange Juice + Vodka)

Difficulty -- Very Easy, Cost -- Moderately Cheap, Tastiness -- Sweet, but you can tell it's booze: Rum & Coke (add a slice of lime and it's a Cuba Libre!)

Difficulty -- Slightly Harder, Cost -- More Expensive, Tastiness -- Mmmm, melon: Midori Sour. Bonus: Cherries!
posted by pazazygeek at 8:01 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

vodka tends to be "clean" in a drink, flavoring the beverage itself less than a lot of other hard alchohols. if you're looking to really mask the alcohol taste, there are definitely some beverages that will work well and some that won't.

cranberry juice + vodka with a squeeze of lime might be your best best, tastewise. the cranberry shares some of the same harsh overtones as the vodka (acting as a good "disguise", and the lime momentarily confuses your tongue as well.

maybe hard cider? not, like, lowbrow $6 a six-pack hard cider, but something that has an ingredients list that reads "apple juice, yeast". they tend to be more like "juice gone vaguely bad, but in a good way" than "OMG alcoholic beverage".

i seem to fit the profile of a supertaster, so hiding the taste of alcohol is something i've been striving to do for years now. it should also be noted that in both the immediate short term and the long term, the more alcohol you consume the less the alcohol itself will shine through.

ALSO : since you're both lightweights, start with 1-2 oz of alcohol in your large glass of juice. drink this beverage, then wait a minimum of one hour before jumping into your second one. most people who drink with any degree of regularity know their limits, and know what approaching those limits feels like. since you two might just start having yourselves a grand old time, i'd pay some careful attention to amounts consumed. once you understand your own physiology with regards to alcohol, you can start making your own guidelines about when and how to consume, but i guarantee you'll resist the idea in the future if you get shitfaced, puke, and wake up with an awful hangover.
posted by radiosilents at 8:02 PM on August 24, 2009

looks like youarenothere beat me to it - and yeah, good call on the Cointreau.

SLC mom - that drink sounds delicious (i'm also a whiskey kind of guy) - and I think I may have to make one of those for myself this weekend.

But it might not be a great place to start...
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:03 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

pwally, there's actually two steps to making a screwdriver. You have to stir it. Otherwise all the alcohol comes at one end and the other end is just orange juice.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:04 PM on August 24, 2009

sorry I said one - I meant five.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:05 PM on August 24, 2009

Another not-too-alcoholy drink for non-drinkers is a Tom Collins; essentially gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice topped with club soda. Yummy and refreshing.
posted by youarenothere at 8:05 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

It is not citrus-y but a good "introductory" drink is a lot like a dessert. It is hard not to like this... have just one each!

Kahlua® coffee liqueur
1 oz cream

Pour kahlua into a glass over ice. Add cream and shake.
posted by naplesyellow at 8:06 PM on August 24, 2009

Fuzzy Navel
Rye and Ginger
Cider (like Woodchuck)
Pick a citrus juice you like, put vodka in it (they all probably have a name)

Since you are making it yourselves, only use as much alcohol as you want.
posted by mathlete at 8:06 PM on August 24, 2009

If your blender can cope with ice, making a simple daiquiri out of the fruit of your choice is awesome. Just add your fruit, a shot or two of white rum, a dash of lime, and a spoonful of sugar to a half filled blender of ice and you're good to go. I love mango daiquiris, though I make purists cry by omitting the sugar because tropical fruit in Queensland is often sweet enough. If you like the citrus flavour, you can be a bit heavy handed with the lime.

Bailey's Irish Cream and milk is nice, too, if you want something a bit less icy. It is, unsurprisingly, a shot of Bailey's Irish Cream in a glass of milk. A Cheater Colada is a pina colada made by adding coconut rum to pineapple juice.
posted by Jilder at 8:07 PM on August 24, 2009

You've only had a few drinks ever, yet you're sure you don't want to try beer? How does that work? It doesn't all taste like Budweiser, you know.
posted by sinfony at 8:08 PM on August 24, 2009 [11 favorites]

Be good to yourself and buy above average alcohol. The alcohol taste is mostly about the ratio, you'll need to experiment to get it right. Here are some easy summer drinks:

Tanqueray Gin and Tonic, add lemon/lime peel
Stolichnaya Rasberry Vodka and Soda water
Rum and Coke
Grey Goose Vodka, keep in freezer, then down a shot, very smooth taste.
also, try the different flavors of vodka, Absolut Citron is the definition of citrus alcohol.
posted by limited slip at 8:08 PM on August 24, 2009

A Sonic cherry-lime aid and vodka!!!

Perfection in a Styrofoam cup!!
posted by pearlybob at 8:09 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's two - each is just one ingredient!

Just tonight, I had my yearly dose of Bärenjäger. It's a delicious, sweet liqueur made from honey. I've had the bottle for 8 years. Every year, I take it from the freezer to very slowly sip a shot or two. Try it; it's yummy!

Another good sipping drink is Bailey's (or any other) Irish Cream. I think it's basically whiskey and cream. Mix it with chocolate milk for extreme awesomeness!
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:13 PM on August 24, 2009

I'm partial to tasty, milky, and colorful drinks. Just don't overdo it, and you won't feel sick in the morning. Remember: Mix your alcohols first, then add a lot of ice, give it a stir, and fill with the remaining mix. I serve my drinks layered, with a stir stick or straw inside, and advise my guests to give it a final stir before drinking. Use tall, thin glasses full of ice: that way, there's less real estate for the actual liquids, meaning more flavorful beverages and less ice-melt. Dump the ice and refresh it after every drink. Give your glass a rinse too before refilling. Enjoy!

*Grasshopper: Creme de menthe (green color), 1-2oz, mixed with milk (1%) and ice
*Blue Cosmopolitan: Bols Blue/Blue Curaco 1oz, White Cranberry Juice 2oz, Vodka 1oz, tons of ice, shaken, slice of lime on rim
*After Eight: 1oz Kahlua or coffee liqueur, 1oz creme de menthe, fill with ice and milk. Tastes like the chocolates.
*Mudslide: 1oz Kahlua/coffee liqueur, 1oz Bailey's/irish creme, 1oz vodka, fill with milk and ice, alternatively, drink it "on the rocks" without milk mix (my preferred method)
*Tequila Sunrise: 1-2oz tequila, splash (less than 1/2oz) of grenadine (red syrup mix), fill with ice, and *slowly* fill with orange juice (substitute pineapple juice). Stir and watch the sunrise before enjoying.

And for a birthday shot:

*Bottlecap: Pour 1oz lime-aid into a short cup. In a shot glass, combine 1/2oz Red Sour Puss and 1/2oz Root Beer Schnapps. Drop the shot glass into the short cup, and in one gulp, drink the whole mix! Tastes like the candy and goes well with margaritas.
posted by Khazk at 8:14 PM on August 24, 2009

Rum or vodka, lemonade, and Sprite.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 8:15 PM on August 24, 2009

If I understand you correctly, you're not trying to develop an appreciation for cocktails. You just want to try getting drunk.

For spirits, I recommend either Bacardi white rum or any top shelf vodka*--not craft vodka, mind you, but something marked "grain neutral spirits". Both of those are essentially just ethanol and water, despite what the snobs will certainly claim. Do not buy something "interesting" or "fun". Do not ask the liquor store guy for his favorite. What's "interesting" to a drinker is invariably vile to the non-drinker.

Then mix it with anything sweet with its own strong flavor. Juice. Cola. Kool Aid. Many people I know got drunk for their first time on screwdrivers, which are just vodka and orange juice.

Since you're mixing these at home, don't worry about the proportions. Buy a shotglass for a couple bucks (liquor stores in most states will carry these). Put a shot or two of liquor in the bottom of a glass, then pour in your mixer. Take a sip. Keep adding mixer until it tastes acceptable.

One thing to keep in mind is that you'll probably want to consume at least three or four drinks apiece. This means that if you're diluting the alcohol with a whole pint of orange juice, you're probably not going to be able to drink enough simple volume to get drunk.

Personally, I would put in the bare minimum amount of juice necessary to make it palatable. Don't try to disguise the alcohol. Just make it so that you can swallow it without making nasty faces. I promise, as you get drunker, the booze will become drastically less noticeable: sober, I can't do a shot without vomiting; drunk, I'll shoot gin.

Alternatively, just buy a bottle or two of Riesling. It's a sweet white wine of German extraction--although it's grown all over the place now. It's plenty alcoholic, and if you split a bottle between you, you'll wind up quite tipsy. Two bottles, and you'll be singing drinking songs you didn't even know you knew.

To maximize the effects of alcohol, drink on an empty stomach.

* In fact, as I think about it, buy the top shelf liquor regardless. Cheap liquor tends to have a number of different aftertastes and side-flavors that are less than pleasant. If you're just starting to drink, and you're not a 15 year old who can't get better, there's absolutely no reason you should buy shitty booze.
posted by Netzapper at 8:16 PM on August 24, 2009 [4 favorites]

starting with vodka is a good idea - it can mix with almost anything. My favourite is Luksusowa; it has very little flavour, so your drinks just taste of mixy yumminess. Get your favourite fruit juice (or even a selection of juices so you can have a variety) put 2 ice cubes in a glass, squeeze a bit of lemon over them, add a shot of vodka over that and fill with juice. If you're having a few drinks, sometimes the juice will get to be too sweet - using half juice and half club soda will make a really nice refreshing alternative. Have fun!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:18 PM on August 24, 2009

Oh god, ignore every suggestion that involves gin.

You won't like it. It's everything that non-drinkers hate about alcoholic beverages. Bitter and strongly flavored invariably; oily and clinging if you don't spend upward of $40 for 1.5L.
posted by Netzapper at 8:19 PM on August 24, 2009 [6 favorites]

Sangria does usually have two types of booze (wine and a spirit) and a fair number of other ingredients, but it's far from elaborate. You can throw any amount of chopped fruit and juice in and it can end up tasting like fruit punch with a kick. If it's too boozy for you, it's always easy to add more additional ingredients to soften it up.
posted by Adam_S at 8:19 PM on August 24, 2009

Stay away from tequila if you don't like the taste of alcohol. Many love tequila (including myself), but I would never suggest it as a starter drink it has a very strong flavour.

Vodka with anything (cranberry, sprite etc),
white rum with nearly anything (fizzy lemon drink, mindblowing with apple and guava juice + mineral water),
the humble gin and tonic with lime
Kahlua with milk and a little bit of cream
Cointreau and something fizzy
Dark rum and coke if you have a sweet tooth
A decent champagne + strawberries and/or orangejuice

These are great starter drinks. Generally, clear spirits don't have as strong a flavour as coloured ones (with a few notable excpetions, see below)

Whiskey of any nation or description.
Port or anything fortified
Most liquers, esp those with bizarre flavour/colours.
Ouzo or sambuca
Campari, or any other strange herbal brew.

These are not so good for beggingers. Have a good time!
posted by smoke at 8:25 PM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

I didn't start drinking until my 25th birthday either! Margaritas and mimosas are good. You may want to start with a pre-mixed alcopop: you can't really taste the alcohol, and they come in many citrusy flavours.
posted by Paragon at 8:25 PM on August 24, 2009

For me, the quintessential citrus drink is the sidecar: lemon juice, Cointreau (an orange liqueur, if that wasn't clear from above), and brandy. For a sweeter sidecar, try one part lemon juice, one part Cointreau, and one part brandy; modify proportions to your liking from there.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:29 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Im only dropping into this thread to say DO NOT MAKE A SCREWDRIVER! A screwdriver is a gross drink. its like "what's the strongest cheapest thing we have that will mask this ass vodka we ended up with?" If you just want to get blitzed (which is the only conceivable reason to drink screwdrivers), just buy some everclear and put a spoonful in a drink you like. THE SCREWDRIVER IS A POX ON THE DRINKING WORLD.

If you are both 25 and have never really drank, you are probably lightweights. Why not get some wine? Wine is delicious, and you are unlikely to accidently wastify yourself because it's already got a reasonable alcohol:volume ratio so you won't get ahead of yourself. There are even citrusy wines. Actually, wine meets all of your criteria: you buy it already made, so its simple and has no ingredients, the kind of wine you will buy will not taste like alcohol at all, it can be citrusy, and its not beer! WINE!

Otherwise go with a tom collins.
posted by jeb at 8:32 PM on August 24, 2009 [5 favorites]

Mrs. mmascolino is very partial to Baileys and milk...Kahlua and milk also works well in a pinch. The great thing about these is that if you like the flavoring you can very easily adjust the strength.
posted by mmascolino at 8:37 PM on August 24, 2009

Why don't you have some wine? Its fun to go to buy at a wine store.

If you all really are inexperienced with drinking, it may be more prudent to stick to wine and - sorry - beer, just b/c the alcohol content is lower. Drinking liquor as a non-drinker will provide you with a terrible hangover.
posted by RajahKing at 8:37 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mike's Hard Lemonade?
posted by Lucinda at 8:48 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree, a nice Reisling, or spritzy pinot grigio, would be a great choice. You might want two bottles if the aim is to get drunk, but play it by ear - you might not need all that, either.

But for booze, you can't really go wrong with a simple Lemon Drop.
posted by Miko at 8:55 PM on August 24, 2009

The best non-alcohol-y drink in my opinion is Kahlua & Cream. Kahlua is coffee liqueur. Basically a shot of Kahlua and Half & Half to taste. If you like coffee, you love this. Also can be added to a cup of coffee, but then you start to taste the alcohol more. If you want to get really fancy-smancy, add some melted vanilla ice-cream.
posted by qwip at 9:08 PM on August 24, 2009

for easy bottled stuff: while i loathe beer, but adore mike's hard lemonade. also, hard cider is tasty stuff.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:10 PM on August 24, 2009

Green Apple Pucker and Sprite. Once you get better at drinking, add vodka.

It took me a long time to graduate to wine and beer, and even longer to whiskeys.
posted by tybstar at 9:15 PM on August 24, 2009

A Greyhound is a good citrusy drink. It's pretty much just vodka and grapefruit juice.
posted by pdb at 9:16 PM on August 24, 2009

Forget about mixed drinks. Go buy a bottle of Cointreau. (pronounced "kwan-tro") Drink it straight. (Or rather, sip it.)

Cointreau is an orange liquer, about 80 proof. It'll burn a bit, but not unpleasantly so. The orange flavor is very intense, so you won't really be tempted to chug it.

It breaks my heart to say this, but I suppose you could thin it with club soda. But that's kind of sacrilege for something that's so good straight.

A different choice would be Amaretto, also a liquer. Amaretto is almond flavored rather than being citrus. Again, the flavor is very intense.

They're really good ways to start drinking, but your first night you probably won't get drunk off them, just because you'll drink them slow.

I should mention that they're not cheap, either.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:23 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Simple and citrus means a Greyhound: vodka and grapefruit juice.
My preferred variation then fills a tall glass with club soda and ice.
posted by spasm at 9:29 PM on August 24, 2009

As a social drinker who hates the taste of alcohol (especially beer) and tends to nurse one drink until the end of the night, I am a big fan of the following when throwing my own parties:

Vanilla vodka + orange soda = Very sweet, and smells wonderful. I was told it tastes like creamsicles, which is why I tried it. Use a nice vodka, like Stolichnaya. You could probably use orange liqueur or orange juice, but the soda gives it the extra kick. Vanilla and orange make a good mix, so you can experiment with variations of the combination at very little risk. I once tried orange rum and vanilla Coke, and it was great, but they don't make vanilla Coke anymore.

Tequila rose + Kahlua = Strong, sweet, and creamy. The first time I had it was at a bar where they called it "Black Rose" and used 1 part Tequila Rose and 1 part Kahlua, and I was tipsy after one and buzzed after two. Tequila Rose tastes like strawberry milk (and is excellent by itself on the rocks, by the way) and riffs off of the classic Kahlua + milk combination, and personally I prefer 2 parts Tequila Rose to 1 part Kahlua, but either way it tastes shockingly non-alcoholic.

It would take a bit more effort, but you could also try Salmiakki Kossu which is a Finnish drink made of vodka and dissolved salty hard liquorice candy (it MUST be the black, salty kind). I hate liquorice, but liquorice-flavored liquor works really well. One thing I have dreamed about but never tried is Skittles-infused vodka which goes to show how versatile vodka is if you're creative enough.

Good luck, and have fun!

(As to the experience of getting drunk: I got drunk for the first time when I was 24. Didn't particularly relish it, but it was quite the experience, and something I was glad to have gotten out of the way. Everything does slow down, you do lose your footing if you try to stand up too quickly, and the room does spin; you realize how accurate those camera tricks are when they try to portray drunkenness in movies. One thing I was surprised to realize was how lucid I was despite the effects of alcohol. It does mess with your judgement and inhibition, but you're still perfectly aware of the actions you perform as you perform them, which is why since then I've always suspected that "but I was druuuunk!" excuses were total BS.)
posted by Lush at 9:52 PM on August 24, 2009

Wine is very much an acquired taste, even sweet whites (and riesling, as someone suggested, is not necessarily a sweet wine - I can't speak for the US, but in Europe, most rieslings I've seen are semi-dry).

Screwdrivers have been mentioned extensively, and aren't probably that bad a choice. Having some soda water handy is an excellent idea - it can help make a more refreshing, less sweet and acidic drink. Screwdrivers shouldn't taste bad if you're using good orange juice, and decent vodka. You won't want the most expensive bottle, but avoid anything sold in plastic, for example. Mid-range is probably sensible.

If you like tonic water (I know, I'm in a very small minority for finding good tonic water to be an utterly fantastic drink on its own) and pine (as an aroma), the good old gin & tonic is always a winner. It doesn't take much explaining, really, just don't go overboard with the gin. If you don't like bitter things (which proper tonic water undoubtedly is), a Tom Collins (as suggested upthread) may be the way to go. Gin isn't evil, as has been suggested. It is literally just herb-and-spice-infused vodka. The prime flavouring agent is juniper berries, which have a very pine-like aroma.
posted by Dysk at 10:05 PM on August 24, 2009

To maximize the effects of alcohol, drink on an empty stomach.

Please don't take this advice, especially if you've never gotten drunk before.

I think you'd be better off not buying a bottle of liquor. Something like Boone's Farm, Mike's Hard Lemonade or hard cider is a good place to start. A lot of folks don't like these sort of drinks, because it's not something you'd want to drink a lot of. However, until you develop a tolerance for alcohol, they're far more palatable than any mixed drink you're liable to concoct yourself.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:05 PM on August 24, 2009

I'd say get a case of Boone's Farm and go to town. For some reason, I can drink a half case of beer and feel fine, but you give me a bottle of Boone's, and I'm in la-la land. It's basically fruit soda that has alcohol. $3-4 a bottle, and does the job. A case might set you back $20. Comes in about any flavor you would want.

If you want liquor, make an old fashioned.

And yes, dudes drink Boone's Farm. Don't let anyone else tell you different.
posted by deezil at 10:06 PM on August 24, 2009

Perhaps you would enjoy some Smirnoff Ice.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:08 PM on August 24, 2009

Vodka cranberry

Vodka coke

Vodka orange juice

Vodka koolaid

Vodka tonic

Seeing a trend?

Get a few mixers and experiment with small glasses. The colder, the better, and stir well.

Margaritas are hard to make and if you hate them they're a huge investment of time and materials that you can't really use elsewhere.
posted by kathrineg at 10:22 PM on August 24, 2009

I'd say get a case of Boone's Farm and go to town.

Just avoid the Pina Colada flavor: it tastes exactly the way a taxi smells.
posted by corey flood at 10:22 PM on August 24, 2009

I'd recommend against any of the Cointreau or Amaretto suggestions as much as I did gin. Mind you, I love all of those liquors, but they're just absolutely the wrong choice.

Getting drunk on (nearly) any liqueur will result in vomit. I guarantee it. I've watched a number of first-time drinkers have some Amaretto (maybe with some grenadine or some soda), Cointreau (on ice, with a twist), or Kahlua (with milk), rightly decide it's super damn tasty, and then get drunk on it. I've also watched every single one of those first-time drinkers puking their faces off. Every single one. Maybe the morning after, but for many, mere minutes after achieving an interesting level of drunk.

Liqueurs are for sipping, for baking, and for flavoring cocktails. They are not meant to be drunk by themselves in quantities sufficient for intoxication. They do taste good; just delicious. But they will make you sick--especially because most of them are only about 15-20% alcohol, meaning you have to drink a shit ton to get there. (For comparison, most beer is about 6% by volume, wine is often around 14% by volume, champagne 18%, and vodka 40%.)

Also, I'll add whiskeys of all sorts to my suggested avoidance list. Hell, I enjoy all manner of inherently unpleasant cocktail, and I can't stand anything with whiskey in it.

[Just because a drink is tasty and alcoholic does not make it a good way to get drunk.]
posted by Netzapper at 10:22 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, shit, how could I forget about Hard Lemonade, Zima, all that kind of sweet crap. I know why, the hangovers suck. But it might be for you.
posted by kathrineg at 10:23 PM on August 24, 2009

By the way, cheap wine is hell if you overdo it, so if you go that route get a recommendation from a trusted wine-drinking friend.
posted by kathrineg at 10:24 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

A brief guide to drinking liquor now and forever:

The Booze

There are nearly infinite selections possible for a liquor cabinet, from creepy liqueurs to ethnic delicacies, but as far as real booze, they fall broadly into the categories of Brown and Clear (two of the Mojo Nixon food groups—the others being orange Cheetos and green jello). Clear, in ascending level of difficulty, is really rum, vodka and gin. I put rum before vodka because while people often say that vodka doesn't taste like anything, what they really mean is that vodka doesn't taste like anything but alcohol. When you've mastered those three, you can move out to things like cachaca (Brazilian rum) and sake, and up to sambuca and ouzo (Italian and Greek liquorish) and grappa (which is a fire of endrunkening and must).

Rum tastes like sugar, and works well with fruit juice and fresh fruit. That sweetness makes it easier to use, because it's easier to play off something sweet than to play off an absence or incredibly mild grain flavor; the basic formula is rum, sweet fruit, and a bit of sour to balance the flavors.

Great, easy rum drink: Mix one shot rum, one blood orange (peeled, seeded), 12-ounces cream soda, dash salt, and a cup and a half of ice in a blender until slushy. When you want to get more serious, you can use soda water, vanilla and simple syrup and an egg white instead of the cream soda (and add a dash of bitters).

Vodka really is my least favorite of the clear liquors, in that it's hard to use well, and most people just try to cover it up, which is a bit like all the wrong ways to serve tofu. You can make a good screwdriver or vodka martini, but both of those perversely require you to like the liquor more. Otherwise, it's a lumpy rug of mixer over the spicy burning ember of the booze.

Easy vodka drink: Cube watermelon, smash briefly in the bottom of the glass. Add one shot (half shot for you) vodka, dash of salt. Let sit for five, ten minutes. Add ice and soda water—a very mild, watermelon flavor should work well with the vodka, and the vodka-soaked chunks of watermelon are delicious (and in season). Use caramelized lemon zest as garnish if you're fancy.

Gin is savory, which plays marvelously with citrus. A lot of the newer gins, like New Amsterdam, lean harder on the citrus floral notes than on the traditional juniper and botanicals. But a London Dry gin will be the best bang for your buck, Bombay or Gordon's or Gilby's. One of the nice things about gins is that (contra Netzapper, who gave terrible advice) the vast majority of mid-shelf gins are equally good, just distinct—Bombay's London Dry is crisper and uses more peppermint than Gordon's, which uses more evergreen. Leopold Brothers (I recommend them every time I can, another citrusy, floral gin that's good enough to sip). This is a little academic, as you're probably not going to go out and buy five kinds of gin right off the bat, though if you want to learn to like liquor, gin is a good benchmark.

The king of gin drinks, maybe even the king of drinks, is the gin and tonic. You want an incredibly simple drink that will quench your thirst, add an ill-begotten touch of class to any event and never get you mocked by other drinkers? Space Kitty, another MeFite, thought she didn't like the taste of booze until she started drinking gin and tonics done right.

The starter G&T, for you: One half-shot gin, one 8-ounce can of Hansen's Natural Tonic Water with Lime, one generous lime slice, half a cup of ice. You can graduate up to a full shot after you get used to them, and when a Britisher taught me to make 'em, his secret ingredient was an extra shot of gin right up on top. Mmm, gin.

Up tomorrow: If it's brown, drink it down!
posted by klangklangston at 10:26 PM on August 24, 2009 [17 favorites]

Plum wine (umeshu) over soda on ice. Naturally sweet, refreshing, and simple. They almost certainly have it at the Mitsuwa in Arlington Heights.
posted by armage at 10:27 PM on August 24, 2009

Oh, and it hardly tastes of alcohol and has very little aftertaste. One reason why it's so easy to drink too much too fast.
posted by armage at 10:27 PM on August 24, 2009

You want citrus?

You want the Citrus Drinkus [self link].
posted by aubilenon at 10:32 PM on August 24, 2009

Based on personal experience, I'm going to disagree with the advice of many in this thread, and recommend that, if your object is to get some safe experience with feeling inebriated, or at least being on the brink of inebriation, that you initially avoid sweet mixers, wine, or beer, and stick to good whiskey, diluted with ice and a little water. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, orange juice, fruit, and a lot of other sweet recommendations for mixers throw a big dose of of sugar in your stomach, along with the ethanol you'll consume. And many wines contain sugars, tannins, and sulfites, in addition to the ethanol, that also go into your system with the alcohol, while beers (in which you have no interest anyway) generally contain a lot of water, and a little residual malt and sugar, as well as 100s of dilute flavoring compounds that come from the hop flowers used as flavoring agents. Whatever alcohol you'll consume is preferentially metabolized by your liver, and while ethanol is available, your liver will stop releasing glucose into your blood. The only glucose you'll have available for your metabolism is what was circulating in your blood before you started drinking, until your liver has cleared whatever ethanol you drink. But if, at the same time, you dump in a load of mixed sugars, including the fructose and sucrose found in all sweet fruits, and many wines and beers, along with the ethanol, you get a concurrent demand, quickly, for insulin from the pancreas to regulate the blood glucose level. Unless you tolerate sugar very well, you may get an energizing rush from the sugar you've ingested, followed shortly by a blood sugar level crash, just about the time the ethanol is being noticed by your brain. That can make it hard to judge just how the alcohol alone is hitting you.

Second, taking on a lot of extra fluid, while you ingest alcohol, puts your kidneys under greater load. Ethanol is a mild diuretic, and your kidneys will produce more urine when you consume alcohol. If you ingest an additional quart of fluid served as mixer in three to four tall mixed drinks, on top of being well hydrated, you'll be getting rid of that fluid more quickly than you would imagine, and you may find that once revved up, your kidneys continue to produce urine beyond the point of just returning you to normal fluid balance. It's pretty easy to get a little dehydrated, which intensifies the effect of alcohol metabolism if you have any remaining alcohol in your system. Hence, you set yourself up, unintentionally, for both a deeper drunk at the end, and a hangover, due to dehydration, when you might not have had one otherwise.

A straight shot of whisky "thrown back" in one go, like they do it in the Westerns, will definitely burn the back of your throat, and open up your nasal passages. It's not an initially pleasant experience for even experienced drinkers, although the after taste and nose bouquet of a shot of good whisky can be pleasant. The same shot of whisky, diluted in an equal volume of water, with an ice cube or two, and sipped slowly, is still noticeably alcoholic to everyone, but doesn't burn the throat fiercely, like a straight 80 or 86 proof shot does. But, as has been noted above, past the first drink, alcohol's anesthetic properties appear, and you'll find that the second drink, and all subsequent ones does not burn, and will have a pleasant, slightly sweet, perhaps gently smoky flavor, in respect of the type of barrels the whisky was aged in.

You'll also note that the effect of the alcohol on your system is unvarnished. What you feel initially will be very much like what you feel 15 minutes later, and there will never be a time when you've got to the point of being as inebriated as you'd like to be, but still have most of another whole drink in your stomach, which continues to add to your inebriation. Because the volume of liquid you consume in drinking whisky this way is small, compared to the alcohol you consume, you absorb most of the alcohol immediately in your stomach, and there isn't any absorption "overhang" like you get with the larger volume of heavily diluted, sugary mixed drinks, which go on into your intestine while being absorbed. When you quit drinking, if you've stayed at a steady sipping pace of one shot of whisky diluted in an equal volume of water, with an ice cube or two, every 30 to 45 minutes, you'll quit getting more inebriated. Stay at 3 to 4 total shots (in the U.S. a "shot" is normally a 1 and 1/2 oz. standard jigger measure) in 2 and a 1/2 to 3 hours, and if you're a normal 180 pound man, you'll feel inebriated, with a blood alcohol content of about .08 (the legal limit for driving in most states), but you should be able to walk without major difficulty, and you shouldn't have a hangover the next day.

Note that the limits for a smaller person, like the average women, are much lower (and also note that the chart linked calculates BAC on 1 oz. 100 proof drinks , not 1 & 1/2 oz. shots of 80 proof liquor, which facts are already taken account of in the above calculation). Women also don't seem to metabolize alcohol as quickly as men, so are likely to feel the effects as a hangover the next day, when men don't. A small 100 pound woman can only expect to drink 3 oz. of 80 proof whiskey in 3 hours (or 1 and 1/2 drinks, using the common 1 and 1/2 oz. shot jigger and 80 proof liquor), without getting past the legal limit to drive.

Don't lose count of your drinks! Either make a tally sheet, or use a fresh swizzle stick to stir each new drink, and keep all your swizzle sticks for a ready count at any time.

Good luck. Have fun. Stay home.
posted by paulsc at 10:39 PM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

some of these drinks are.. woah

what about a dark and stormy? dark rum + ginger beer. easy to make. delicious.
posted by citron at 10:41 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I didn't read all the previous posts, but as a rare drinker who isn't very fond of the alcohol taste...:

NOT VODKA. It is the absolute worst for tasting like alcohol. That's all it tastes like, unlike other liquor which is flavor+alcohol, it's just the awful alcohol taste.

Try something with schnapps -- especially peach schnapps or triplesec (which is basically citrus schnapps). I recommend peach schnapps + orange juice, or a cosmo with no vodka or whiskey instead of vodka (4 pts whiskey (or not), 2 pts triplesec, 2 pts cranberry juice, 1 pt lime juice). Raspberry schnapps and some sort of citrusy juice is also good.

I also recommend adding lots of lime to anything you drink, it really cuts the alcohol taste for me.
posted by brainmouse at 10:48 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

paulsc: you'll find that the second drink, and all subsequent ones does not burn, and will have a pleasant, slightly sweet, perhaps gently smoky flavor, in respect of the type of barrels the whisky was aged in.

A slight off-topic derail, but the smokiness of whisk(e)y comes not from the barrels in which it is aged, but how the malt is roasted and dried. The traditional Scottish method is to do some proportion of the drying over a peat fire, which is what gives a lot of whiskies (particularly coastal and island whiskies, from parts of Scotland with little natural firewood, and acres of peat bog) that gloriously smokey aroma and flavour.
posted by Dysk at 11:01 PM on August 24, 2009

That great advice Paulsc, but you're forgetting one thing:

Whiskey tastes like gasoline.

If it's liable to make you gag, I don't think it's a good recommendation for first timers.

Also, the good stuff is ball-crushingly expensive. A bottle of bacardi goes for twenty bucks, and you can mix it with nearly everything in the liquor cabinet.
posted by smoke at 11:03 PM on August 24, 2009

Brother Dysk, I hear you, but I think you'll find ryes, bourbons and Tennessee whiskys, among others, often described as having a smokey note, too, and some of those concoctions never have their malt roasted over peat fires. :-) The char of an aging barrel is only used once in these American whiskies, and it does contribute a smoke flavor. By law, we then have to sell the barrels to makers of Scotch, and brandy, and wine, for their use in aging their products.
posted by paulsc at 11:09 PM on August 24, 2009

paulsc, I drink a good bit of bourbon, and I've never had one (or a Tennessee whiskey) I'd describe as even remotely smokey...
posted by Dysk at 11:14 PM on August 24, 2009

"... Whiskey tastes like gasoline.

If it's liable to make you gag, I don't think it's a good recommendation for first timers.

Also, the good stuff is ball-crushingly expensive. ..."

posted by smoke at 2:03 AM on August 25

Perhaps we can agree to disagree about the taste of whisky, relative to motor fuels. Many would side with me, and some will always side with you. I certainly know, from experience, that the taste of whisky does not make everyone gag, if you don't force them to toss back a whole shot at once.

The point of my post was to raise the point that people learning to drink, are drinking for effect, i.e. to get inebriated or nearly so, under controlled conditions. I laid out a means of doing that reasonably, that avoids some problems I've seen inexperienced drinkers have. I wouldn't want the OP to have an unpleasant experience, but I've seen enough people take a first sip of iced whisky, wrinkle their nose a bit, and come back for plenty more, that I've come to believe in the method I suggested for those just learning to drink, for the reason I laid out previously.

As for the cost, a fifth of 80 proof Glenlivet single malt Scotch is still about $35 where I live; a fifth of Maker's Mark Kentucky bourbon about $32. A fifth of a popular blended Scotch like 86 proof Dewar's, about $28, a fifth of 80 proof Evan Williams Tennessee whisky is about $22. A perfectly drinkable value priced blended Scotch, in 86 proof 1.75 liter is available at my local liquor store for about $31. The idea that smooth, drinkable whisky is "ball-crushingly expensive" just doesn't survive a trip to any liquor store.
posted by paulsc at 11:46 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I know everybody has an opinion on this, so feel as free to disregard me as you like, but I drink anything (but scotch, I really don't like scotch still) and I really think amaretto and milk is the most delicious ummy nummy way to get drunk if you're just a baby drunkie.

I think milk really takes the boozy fumey taste away, so also try white russians. Those are eaiser than rum drinks, which tend to take more work to taste good, and have a touchy propensity to make you yak your head off.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:49 PM on August 24, 2009

Disaronno is, what, 56 proof, right? So you only need to drink 6-8 ounces of it or so as a lightweight to be buzzed to drunk. A pint of amaretto and milk. That seems to me an unlikely amount to throw up from. I sure didn't as a 15-year old.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:57 PM on August 24, 2009

Bourbon & Sprite.

Citrus flavor, dead simple. You'll taste the bourbon if you make it strong, but the advantage of mixed drinks (that is, liquor + mixers) over cocktails is that the flavor doesn't really significantly change if you fiddle with proportions.

I think you'll find to start that around 1 shot of bourbon + ice + enough sprite to fill up a 12-16 oz glass will taste good to you. Once you become more familiar with the bourbon flavor, you can move to an old fashioned glass.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:05 AM on August 25, 2009

Here's my take:

Avoid vodka, gin, and tequila at all costs. I actually love a good vodka or tequila, but they're very much acquired tastes, and vodka in particular (even the good stuff) tastes like rubbing alcohol. Gin is just nasty.

Whiskey is probably not a great idea, either—it's my favorite, but the good stuff is expensive, and you're neophyte drinkers and it's whiskey.

For mixed drinks, rum would be an excellent choice—it mixes well with almost anything sweet or fruity. Rum & Cokes (aka Cuba Libres) would be an easy, approachable drink—put ice in a glass, add some rum, fill it the rest of the way with Coke, stir, and optionally garnish with a slice of lime (which you can squeeze into the glass). Bacardi rum is your best bet for starting out—it's decent, reliable quality, but not fancy. This would be my first recommendation.

Mimosas (orange juice and champagne) are also a good idea—I like Freixenet Cordon Negro, which is readily available and moderately priced at US$10–12. Or, hell—just drink the champagne straight. It goes down easy, and it's a fun buzz—rather on the giddy side. (Look out for hangovers, though—a tall glass of water before bed will help with that.)

For wine, Beaujolais ("boh-zho-lay"—it's a French red) would be a gentle and pleasant introduction—it's generally inexpensive, and has a deserved reputation as a straightforward, easy-to-drink wine. Look for a bottle that says "Beaujolais-Villages" ("boh-zho-lay vay-LAHJ"—not just "Beaujolais") on the label—these are a notch up in quality, but still moderately priced. Louis Jadot makes a decent and widely available Beaujolais-Villages, which should run you about US$10.

Don't write off beer—it's a very diverse class of beverages, and if you've only had alcohol a few times, you almost certainly haven't had a good beer. Avoid all mass-market domestics (Budweiser, Michelob, Busch, etc.) and mass-market imports (Heineken, Corona)—basically, avoid anything that's available at a convenience store. They have their place, but if you think you dislike beer, these aren't going to be the beers that change your mind. You want the craft microbrews with the funky names. I'll let someone else cover that, since beer isn't my specialty.

Good luck, and have fun!
posted by ixohoxi at 12:09 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

As far as the concern that you'll get too drunk or sick. Well, first, this is something you should be familiar with if you want to get familiar with drinking. And a home is a good place to do it.

Secondly, just use common sense. Drink your first drink slowly, to see how your body responds. Wait a few minutes before making another. Space them out, and pay attention to how you feel. If you start feeling very sleepy or uncoordinated, you are drunk. You can stop drinking.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:09 AM on August 25, 2009

Oh, and to weigh in on a couple of the controversies:
  • Yes, screwdrivers are nasty. That's for teenagers who are breaking into their parents' liquor cabinets. Imagine drinking several tall glasses of nice acidic orange juice mixed with rubbing alcohol—that's pretty much what it tastes like.
  • Yes, liqueurs are a bad idea. They are meant to be drunk in one of two ways: in small amounts, or as an ingredient in a cocktail. Drinking enough liqueur to get drunk will make you very queasy, very quickly.
  • Do not drink on an empty stomach. This is terrible advice, unless you want to get sick—you absorb alcohol much more quickly on an empty stomach, and as a beginner, you don't know your limits to begin with.

posted by ixohoxi at 12:40 AM on August 25, 2009

Sure, don't start with whiskey. But also, don't start with some disgusting sugary vanilla-vodka bullshit drink either - you'll wake up feeling like shit and you will not have had a decent drink.

My advice: keep it simple. Sure there are levels of alcohol appreciation, but the point is really not to disguise the taste of the alcohol into oblivion. The taste of the alcohol is part of it - and the further you stray, often the grosser you get (i.e. please do not make a night of drinking liqueur...or anything with any kind of soda...).

You need to know two simple things: the many varieties of alcohol (i.e. whiskey, vodka, tequila, gin, etc...) are distilled from rather basic plants (i.e. potatoes, agave, juniper, etc...). The more 'flavors to make it taste better' you add, really the more weird sugar shit you're adding. Stay simple. You'll feel better the next day, and you can still make a delicious drink. Part of drinking alcohol is appreciating the taste of alcohol. If your goal is simply to get wasted, go buy some grain alcohol and soak a watermelon in it for a day of two.

I realize you're not trying to cultivate a fine taste for liquors, but on the other hand, it really is, like coffee or beer, something you have to get used to until you love. Please keep that in mind. A night of drinking vodka and lemonade, especially if you're a nubie, will not give you a very good idea of what 'alcohol' in its myriad wonderful forms can be.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:41 AM on August 25, 2009

I notice it's pretty warm where you are at the moment. So how about a lovely Pimms and lemonade? For first timers I'd say 1 unit of Pimms No. 1 Cup to 2 of good quality "real" lemonade. Make a big jug to these measures (taste and add more lemonade if necessary) then chop up and apple, a lemon, and orange, a handful of strawberrys and add them. Throw in a few sprigs of fresh mint. Most importantly, slice a quarter of a cucumber and add that (if you can get borage flowers they'd be even better). Then add some ice - not too much so it doesn't dilute the taste. You can always have a bit of extra ice in your tall glass.

Pimms, if you can get it, is gin based, but is actually pretty fruity and herby.
posted by brighton at 12:44 AM on August 25, 2009

If you like citrus, you can't go wrong with ice-cold Lillet Blanc in a glass.
posted by aquafortis at 1:18 AM on August 25, 2009

Bourbon and chocolate milk.
posted by phrontist at 3:06 AM on August 25, 2009

I think that some kind of champagne cocktail would be good. Champagne has a light flavour, can be semi-sweet or dry, and mixes well with fruit juices and fruit liquors. And its supposed to be a celebration, right? Well thats what Champagne is for.

Try a Kir Royal. its a shot of Creme de casis in a flute, then you just top up the flute with champagne - easy, delicious & will get you pleasantly tipsy.
posted by munchbunch at 3:10 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is another slight derail, but I'd just like to correct a pervasive misrepresentation in this thread:

Liquor is not distilled from plants. Vodka is not distilled from grain (or potatoes), rum is not distilled from sugarcane or molasses, and tequila is not distilled from the agave cactus.

All liquors are distilled from some form of wash (it may have a specific name for certain liquors, such as 'mash' for whisk(e)y), which is a mildly alcoholic liquid produced by fermenting extracts of grain, potatoes, sugarcane, molasses, cactus or so on. Nothing prevents you from drinking these washes, in theory - in fact, whisk(e)y is pretty much just distilled unhopped beer, and brandy is just distilled wine.

Remember, distillation doesn't produce alcohol in any way. What it does is boil it off and recondense it in a higher concentration by seperating it from a lot of the water (and flavour components, depending on the still). You need to start the distillation process with a liquid that's already alcoholic.
posted by Dysk at 4:35 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

A daquiri.

First, just to make it easy on you, make some simple syrup -- this is really easy, and you can keep it to use for other things (like making lemonade from scratch) -- it's just sugar pre-dissolved in water, so it can mix in to cold beverages faster. Just take equal parts sugar and water and heat them to a simmer on the stove, and keep simmering until the sugar is dissolved. Takes about three minutes or so. Leftovers keep in the fridge forever, so make a cup or two (one cup sugar, one cup water -- that should give you a couple cups).

A daquiri is just one part simple syrup, two parts lime juice, four parts rum: say this --

1 tablespoon simple syrup
2 tablespoons lime juice
4 tablespoons rum

Ideally pour all that into a shaker with ice, strain, and serve. But I've also served that on the rocks and it's been just fine.

Personally I use coconut rum, but that's hardly necessary.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:59 AM on August 25, 2009

Avoid tequila - not first up. You are looking for non-alcoholic tasting, slow drinker. I would aim for a drink that is no more than 5% alcohol.

In fact, I think you should avoid all spirits first up - unless you put little bits (1/2 all recipes) in big drinks.

I 2nd the Pimms - very uk drink, but Pimms mixed with lemonade and fruit is a great summer slow drink.

Wine (white) and soda, or Sangria could work.

Cider - Pear or Apple over ice is also a nice slow drink.

Don't discount beer either. A 'light' beer, maybe with a lemonade top (dash of lemonade) is perfect.

Your aim is to not get 'hammered' quickly - you have all night. The rookie mistake is to think the alcohol is not working and go for a few shots.

Also be interactive while you drink - play games, dance etc. That is the fun part - seeing how you and other interact and change. Don't just sit there and watch tv. Don't forget to eat.

Have fun. Take photos.

Have sex before you pass out - that too is the best part ;-)
posted by lamby at 5:18 AM on August 25, 2009

I've never been much of a drinker (partially because I get headaches easily and loathe the feeling of something messing with my head, and partially because I don't like the taste of beer or wine). That said, I enjoy midori sours when I'm out; when I'm home, I really like the Smirnoff Ice malt beverages (particularly green apple). I do like Cointreau in small doses (because of flavor intensity, not alcohol wallop).
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:40 AM on August 25, 2009

If you're going to take a suggestion above to drink a nice spirit straight, do it over ice. The ice will change the flavour slightly and will also water the spirit down, so that if a spirit seems to strong, it will rapidly become easier to handle.

Personally I'd suggest a fairly simple mixed drink.

My favourite is the horrifically sweet mixture of Amaretto and orange juice. A nice slightly bitter real juice is good.

Next best is Mojito, but only if you can get the mint.

A mixed drink is probably best, because you can make them stronger as you get used to the taste...
posted by twine42 at 6:51 AM on August 25, 2009

I'm a big fan of the White Russian

1 oz Vodka
1 oz Bailey's (Coffee Liqueur works as well)
1 oz Half & Half

or, if you're pressed for ingredients, the Ethnic Albanian:

1 oz Vodka
1 oz YooHoo
posted by Oktober at 6:51 AM on August 25, 2009

Wow. This thread is insane! I can't believe how little agreement there is on this. Like the suggestions to drink liqueurs, to me, that sounds like the equivalent of eating boullion cubes. Whiskey! I love whiskey, but I never would have suggested that. I'm really curious to see how you guys make any sense out of this thread. I still think wine or something like that is the best call, but out of other people's suggestions, I like the idea of a Pimm's Cup/Lemonade, Dark & Stormy, and especially Kir Royale. Is it hot where you are?

A slight off-topic derail, but the smokiness of whisk(e)y comes not from the barrels in which it is aged, but how the malt is roasted and dried. The traditional Scottish method is to do some proportion of the drying over a peat fire, which is what gives a lot of whiskies (particularly coastal and island whiskies, from parts of Scotland with little natural firewood, and acres of peat bog) that gloriously smokey aroma and flavour.

Maybe for Scotch whiskeys, but Bourbon is aged in charred new oak barrels, which do impart some smokiness, and perhaps more importantly, vanilla notes, because the charring of oak leaves behind vanillin, the most important flavor component of vanilla. This is also where the prominent vanilla in some white Burgundies comes from: a lot are aged in toasted french oak barrels, and the frenchness and toasting leads to high levels of vanillin being pulled into the wine.

posted by jeb at 8:42 AM on August 25, 2009

High Quality Vodka + Soda Water + Rose's Lime Juice = Awesome
posted by jasondigitized at 8:42 AM on August 25, 2009

It would take a bit more effort, but you could also try Salmiakki Kossu which is a Finnish drink made of vodka and dissolved salty hard liquorice candy (it MUST be the black, salty kind).

This is what I mean. This thread is fascinating. I've often wondered who would actually drink this stuff. It's primarily flavored by ammonium chloride, which you may be familiar with if you spend much time cleaning soldering irons or hanging around in burning coal dumps. From this noxious substance it gets its 'salty' (also spicy) flavor. The blackness comes from the inclusion of carbon black: "a material produced by the incomplete combustion of heavy petroleum products such as FCC tar, coal tar, ethylene cracking tar, and a small amount from vegetable oil." Carbon black is a carcinogen and respiratory irritant that's mostly used to make all those rubber hoses you see under the hood of your car, but a little bit is saved each year to make delicious Salmiakki Kossu!
posted by jeb at 8:51 AM on August 25, 2009

I genuinely want to hear a follow-up on how this went.
posted by Adam_S at 9:02 AM on August 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

I've often wondered who would actually drink this stuff.

The Finns. It's pretty huge in Finland, popular with the youth. I guess I should be glad I only drank it once at a Finnish girl's party, but I remember it being really delicious, and have dreamt of imbibing it again one day! Not so much now, then.
posted by Lush at 9:05 AM on August 25, 2009

I'm either going to vote for a Pimm's Cup or my new favorite drink, sweet tea vodka (firefly is one brand) mixed with lemonade (simple lemon is my favorite), soda water, and ice. yum!
posted by pyjammy at 9:25 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can't go wrong with a Mojito in the summer. Lime, mint, sugar and rum flavors mix harmoniously together to make a cocktail that's neither cloyingly sweet, nor overly harsh.

A gin and tonic is the ideal summer drink, but it may be more of an acquired taste.
posted by andrewraff at 10:23 AM on August 25, 2009

I genuinely want to hear a follow-up on how this went.

Me too!

Mojitos are absolutely wonderful—a bit more trouble than some of the other stuff, but man they're good. I wouldn't try making one unless you've had a professionally prepared one first, though—it would certainly be tricky if you didn't know what it was supposed to be like.
posted by ixohoxi at 10:34 AM on August 25, 2009

Oh, and FYI, the pre-mixed, bottled "Mojitos" they've started selling in stores? That's not a fucking Mojito. That's goddamn blasphemy is what that is.
posted by ixohoxi at 10:43 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Cointreau is a very sweet, very tasty and very expensive liqueur. This means that it's sold in very small bottles. It's very, very tasty, but it does have a very sharp bite, and so you'd probably want to put something else in it. It's good in a margarita.

The reason I came to this thread, though, was to recommend lambic fruit ales. They may be sold next to all the beer, and they may be called 'Ale', but they're very very very much not. See if you can find a Pomme (think Martenelli's but cloudier and alcoholic) or one of the other Lindemans lambics - my favorite is the Framboise (raspberry). In my experience non-drinkers have really enjoyed them, even ones who very much did not like beer.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:01 AM on August 25, 2009

Part Two, the Brown Liquors

Where clear liquors tend to be sharp, tangy and bright, brown liquors tend to be sweeter, more complex and rounder. Think about it in terms of onions—clear liquor is raw onions, from vidalia and bermuda to sharp red onions, whereas brown liquors are caramelized or fried onions. It's not a 1:1 analogy, but it's close enough for government work, and explains a little bit about matching flavors.

There is a lot more variety in brown liquors, at least to my palate—it'd be easy to spend 1000 words on whisk(e)y alone. But the main ones to know for a new drinker are brandy, tequila and whiskey, in rough order of difficulty. There are plenty of others to consider, from dark rum to applejack, many of which are delicious, but most of the brown liquors that aren't brandy, tequila or whiskey only have one great, iconic drink—the dark and stormy, the Jack Rose, etc.

Brandy is the easiest, sweetest and most mellow of the brown liquors. Made from distilled wine ("brandy" comes from "brandewijn" or "burnt wine"), brandy tastes less grapey than you might guess, and more just warm and sweet. Because I have family in Wisconsin, I'll always have a soft spot for brandy in my heart (and head, likely). Wisconsin drinks something like two-thirds of the brandy produced in America, and they mix it with anything that might otherwise call for whiskey.

Don't be frightened by the high-end brandies, as you can usually get E&J for about $12 to $16, and it's delicious. The Trader Joe version, available for about $8, works just fine. Don't bother with the other fruit brandies—they're for cooking and grammas.

My mother learned to drink years ago with brandy and 7-up, on the rocks. You can also make brandy manhattans, brandy old fashioneds, add brandy to hot chocolate or coffee.

For a while now, I've enjoyed a bastardized mint julep made with brandy instead of bourbon—something that might get you lynched in the South, but is delicious on a hot summer day. Take about six sprigs of mint, clap them between your hands (I prefer this to muddling because I don't like bruised mint, which can get bitter) and toss them at the bottom of a tall glass. Drizzle a little simple syrup—you don't need very much because brandy is a sweet liquor—then add a shot of brandy, and top with crushed ice. Let the ice melt for a bit, which will dilute the drink and let the mint steep into the brandy, and drink.

Brandy is also great on the rocks by itself, and a good liquor to acclimate to.

Tequila, well, there have been a lot of other people giving tequila advice here. I like tequila, but I recognize it's not for everyone, and I tend to think that tequila drinks are too sweet (which leads to hangovers and puking, which people blame tequila for). It's also something that you have to be a reasonably canny buyer for, as neither price nor prestige are necessarily good predictors of quality—Cuervo's regular tequila is not much better than Dos Dedos (which is a great drink if you plan on knifing someone).

It's got a distinct taste, which really does work well with lime, but it's also an acquired taste. The recipe for daiquiris above is a good one, and avoids a lot of the frou-frou sorority aspects that unfortunately color tequila for a lot of people.

Now, to the king of brown liquors: Whiskey. Or whisky, depending on where it's from (Canada and the UK, whisky; everywhere else, whiskey). Sub-liquors include Bourbon, Rye, Irish Whiskey, Scotch, and Tennessee whiskey.

The most popular forms in America are bourbon and Tennessee whiskey, which are similar but not identical—Tennessee whiskey is the same as bourbon except that it comes from sour mash, and is filtered through sugar maple charcoal (giving that smokey sweet flavor). Jack Daniel's is a Tennessee whiskey; Jim Beam is a bourbon. Both of them are OK, but not anything to write home about.

For a novice drinker, I'd recommend an American rye or a Canadian whisky (which are generally made with rye). Rittenhouse makes a good American rye, as does Jim Beam; Canadian Club is a perfectly acceptable Canadian whisky, but the primary virtue of Canadian Club is that it's cheaper than most American ryes.

Rye is sweeter and smoother than most bourbons, especially at an equivalent price point (bourbons and Tennessee whiskeys tend to get smoother as you pay more for them). Paulsc mentioned buying a good whiskey and just sipping it with water, which is OK advice but I'm not sure how applicable to your situation it is. The advice I give people who want to become drinkers is to buy a good rye and drink it on the rocks, with the virtues he mentioned—appreciation for flavor, ability to judge exactly how drunk you are—coming through wonderfully. But it's not really a party drink unless you're fairly arch about it, and it's not tremendously refreshing. It's less a Carl Hiaasen summer read and more the Iliad—an undeniable classic, and a precursor to great things, but a drink you can't down thoughtlessly. Again, recommended, but maybe not this party.

You can mix rye easily into all the cocktails you might otherwise make with bourbon—a manhattan prescriptivist should brook no bourbon, and old fashioneds truly are with rye. A manhattan is simply one part rye to two parts sweet vermouth, and a dash of bitters. Put it on the rocks, easy as pie. Goes great with pecan pie, in fact. Mmm. Pie.

I don't really drink Irish whiskeys, despite the bottle of Jameson sitting on my counter. I also don't really drink blended scotches, though there's nothing wrong with them. In fact, scotch and amaretto—a godfather—is pretty delicious, and there's absolutely no reason at all to use the single malt. Single malts for mixed drinks is like deep frying truffles. For a beginning drinker, there's absolutely no reason you should be messing around with scotches—any drink that they can do, a cheaper booze can do as well or better, and there's no way you have the palate to appreciate a single malt right off the bat. Unless, of course, you eat a lot of peat, tobacco and leather.

The Accouterments

If you have a well-appointed kitchen, nearly everything you need for a good drink is already there. Fresh fruit, fresh herbs, simple syrup, ice, blender, soda… After a few drinks, you should be able to match the flavors of a liquor to whatever you have on hand. After a few more drinks, it won't matter what you have on hand, because you'll be willing to mix it (at the last gasp of a bartending graduation party, my friends were mixing tequila, gin and grenadine, and we drank it, because we were drunk and stupid).

If you decide you like drinking and want to add more options or boost the flavor, the first thing you should look for are bitters. Angostura bitters go in nearly everything—they're a weird South American medicinal tonic that looks like grasshopper spit and adds a dash of eleventy-million flavors. While purists scoff, you can make a decent sazerac with it (one side note: Sazerac brand rye is too sweet for actual sazerac cocktails, but is delicious in most anything else). After that, orange or elderflower bitters would be my next recommendation, but then you're a couple with more than one kind of bitters, and you can no longer pretend to be just learning to drink—when you can use them skillfully, you've arrived.

You may enjoy some vermouth—sweet for manhattans, armories, and a handful of other drinks; dry for martinis. I get a lot more use out of sweet, and don't really bother with dry vermouth—I can order a martini when I'm at a bar if I ever want one.

A cocktail shaker and strainer is handy, but I don't have one at home and manage just fine with brisk stirring and a regular strainer. I use a graduated cylinder for measuring, but I use that for cooking too.

The Trouble With Drinking

As new drinkers, you've probably heard a lot about the dreaded hangover. It's true, it sucks, and you'll get it eventually. By starting later, you missed out on the impervious liver that allows every 19-year-old to boast "I get drunk every night and I've never had a hangover! I just don't get them!" Oh, how my elders shook their heads at me, at the hubris of youth.

There is one thing that really causes hangovers, and that's dehydration. Alcohol is a poison, and your body reacts to flush the poison from your system, converting as much as possible into sugar and sweating, pissing or puking the rest out. You can help the conversion into sugar by pacing yourself and going easy on the other sugars, you can help the pissing by drinking an equal amount of water to however much alcohol you drink (one glass of water after every drink is the canonical and oft-ignored advice). If you mix pot with alcohol, especially as a new drinker, you'll get "the spins," which often crop up at the end of the night when you're trying to just go to sleep goddammit, but the room keeps feeling like a tilt-o-whorl and all of the sudden, you've got a death grip on whatever basin is closest. The easiest way to avoid that is pacing yourself to begin with; if you start to puke (and every drinker does puke sooner or later) embrace it. I don't know if you have any experience with crazy hallucinogens (most of my friends who start drinking late do so because they've been too tied up with psychotropics to engage in something as mundane as getting shitfaced), but the principle is the same—out with the bad.

It's that puking which should make you wary of liqueurs, as their higher sugar content tends to dehydrate faster, and since it's harder to taste the liquor, it's harder to gauge your exposure. I know, I know, it makes you wrinkle your nose to taste booze for the first time, but it's like pain—better to feel a little bit and know that you have to slow down than not feel anything and really hurt yourself.

Good luck and happy drinking!
posted by klangklangston at 11:05 AM on August 25, 2009 [8 favorites]

klangklangston: (Canada and the UK, whisky; everywhere else, whiskey)


Canada and Great Britain, whisky; everywhere else, whiskey.

(This, for example is from the United Kingdom Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but not from Great Britain. Notice the 'e'. It is believed that this is where the US spelling came from.)
posted by Dysk at 11:44 AM on August 25, 2009

Ok. I'll give suggestions in 2 categories:
1. You want to learn to appreciate drinking:
You're going to have to jump in the pool to learn to swim here - take paulsc's advice and enjoy a good whiskey, slowly

2. You wanna get ef-ed up like the kids do!:
Try one of the following - Koolaid and everclear (or vodka if everclear is banned in your state), unsweetened ice tea and malibu rum (trust me here), any variety of MD 20/20 (the cool 13 year olds start on this, it is reffered to as "mad dog 20 20." MD 20/20 is really sweet and doesnt taste like alcohol at all. I think it's made out of the souls of gummy bears.)
posted by WeekendJen at 12:19 PM on August 25, 2009

"Canada and Great Britain, whisky; everywhere else, whiskey.

(This, for example is from the United Kingdom Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but not from Great Britain. Notice the 'e'. It is believed that this is where the US spelling came from.)

Fair enough; I was using broad strokes, and have little interest in the distinctions between the UK, Great Britain and the sundry miscellanea of who's what in the islands to the north of France. If you'd like to be ultra-pedantic, American whisky is all technically whisky, unless you're Scottish—the ATF recognizes it officially as such. Within that is the marketing distinction, where cheap scotch flooded American markets in the late 1800s, so Americans (and Irish) adopted the "e" to distinguish their quality booze. But certain brands, most notably Maker's Mark, are "whisky," while most others are "whiskey." All major Irish whiskey is now "whiskey," and have been for roughly 40 years. Not only that, but in terms of "everywhere else," we're both wrong; Japan, Germany, Finland, India, etc. are all "whisky."

posted by klangklangston at 12:41 PM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ah, but Japan just produces scotch away from home, really, rather than their own style of whisky (whereas scotch, Irish whiskey and American whiskeys are all distinct enough to tell apart by taste).

But yeah, you're right. I just think the Irish/Scotch distinction is a very important one to make as the whiskeys are so very different.
posted by Dysk at 2:44 PM on August 25, 2009

If you don't drink, and have no taste for alcohol, why start? I drink and enjoy it, but if you don't there's little reason to force it upon yourself. The best of these suggestions will still be distasteful to you if you ingest enough to get the desired effect. I know this from the experience of dating someone with no taste for alcohol; things that tasted great to me (and drinks that are recommended heartily in this thread) made her recoil in disgust.

Alcohol is essentially a tranquilizer, but a potentially very harmful (not a carcinogen by itself, but the first metabolic byproduct is) one which damages every organ in your body. You'd actually be better off obtaining some benzodiazepines and washing them down with some lemonade. It'd be roughly the same effect but would taste much better and not be as damaging to your body. Remember that for your long-term health, the worst thing that you could do is enjoy drinking and continue to do it.

If you're really committed to this, I'd suggest blending up a drink. The ice will numb your tastebuds and keep you from really tasting the alcohol you're drinking. I recommend a smoothie, with 1 frozen banana, 4 frozen stawberries, 8 oz milk, and 1.5oz rum. Blend until smooth.
posted by mullingitover at 3:43 PM on August 25, 2009

lambic fruit ales

I almost recommended the Lindeman's lambics. They're sold everywhere, they're pretty tasty, and they're definitely accessible. Similar to a mimosa—fizzy, fruity—but sweeter. Framboise (raspberry) is my favorite, as well.

(They're technically classified as beers, based on the method of production, but trust me—you'd never know it.)

The reason I hesitated to recommend them is because they're very sweet. It's a different kind of sweetness than your typical liqueur—more like fruit juice than candy, and therefore a bit less likely to make you ill—but it's still pretty cloying in significant quantities. I like them as a special treat (e.g., at a brunch party, much like mimosas), but I wouldn't want to get drunk on the stuff.

Ice: yes, chilling alcohol makes it go down easier. It also makes your body absorb the alcohol more quickly (from what I'm told). To ice or not to ice is basically a matter of personal preference—I like my liquors strained through ice but not on ice, because the ice waters down the drink as it melts. (You can keep liquor in the freezer; it will stay liquid and get nicely chilled. Don't do this with lower-proof beverages like wine and beer, though.)

If you just want to fling yourself into the deep end of the pool—blindfolded, hog-tied, and with hungry sharks in the pool—get a bottle of Jade PF 1901 absinthe, and mix it up per the proper sugar-and-water ritual (don't do that stupid burning-the-sugar-cube bullshit that idiot college kids in Prague do). The taste is just fine—not at all harsh, and quite finely crafted. It's the druggy, outer-space drunk and the raped-sideways-by-a-steamroller hangover that will get you.

Seriously—the stuff is great, but I really don't recommend this for your first adventure.
posted by ixohoxi at 4:15 PM on August 25, 2009

This is what I mean. This thread is fascinating. I've often wondered who would actually drink this stuff. It's primarily flavored by ammonium chloride, which you may be familiar with if you spend much time cleaning soldering irons or hanging around in burning coal dumps. From this noxious substance it gets its 'salty' (also spicy) flavor. The blackness comes from the inclusion of carbon black: "a material produced by the incomplete combustion of heavy petroleum products such as FCC tar, coal tar, ethylene cracking tar, and a small amount from vegetable oil." Carbon black is a carcinogen and respiratory irritant that's mostly used to make all those rubber hoses you see under the hood of your car, but a little bit is saved each year to make delicious Salmiakki Kossu!

They use a naturally occurring form of ammonium chloride known as 'sal ammoniac', it's considered quite safe here in Europe. And the carbon black they use is exclusively from vegetable origins, mainly burning some peat and plant matter. Though the US has banned it, as far as I know it's only the petroleum derived carbon black that is carcinogenic. The vegetable one is approved for use in the EU for food colouring purposes.

The stuff is consumed by the gallon by the Finns and Scandinavians. I hate the stuff myself, but you're scaremongering a bit with that comment as far as I can tell.
posted by knapah at 7:55 PM on August 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've also gotta recommend wine. For a non-drinker, I'd recommend a good Chenin Blanc instead of a Riesling—at least to my tastes. A good Riesling is good, but a bad Riesling can sometimes have a perfumey undertone that lingers—and in my experience, bad Rieslings have been pretty common.

If you're going to get a Chenin Blanc, try a South African one—they're really the best at Chenin Blancs.

It's a good wine for when you're not pairing it with food, or if you're pairing it with something light like a salad.

Or, and this might be considered blasphemy to some wine lovers, but TRY MEAD! Seriously, that idea just popped into my head. Fuck my recommendation of Chenin Blanc, I think mead is your thing. It's made from honey, water and magic and fermented, and it tastes nothing like alcohol. It's like Baby's First Alcohol. And I have a lot of friends who don't like wine, either, but loved mead once I showed it to them.

There's a great meadery here in Homer, Alaska where you can walk in and sample all the different flavors. Oh fuck yes.

posted by ferdinandcc at 4:01 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ugh. Mead? What is this? A renaissance fair?

The reason why I'd recommend against mead, Ethiopian honey wine, and all alcopops (Mike's, Smirnoff Ice, etc.) is because they're sweet (which is dehydrating, fucks with blood sugar levels more than regular beer or straight booze) and because they all have a fucked up, weird aftertaste. The malt of alcopops is particularly vile, and no one's first drinking experience should end with the suspicion that booze just tastes like rancid Trix. The honey beverages are also overpowering, though honey wine less so than mead.

Who knows—perhaps since most of the mead I've had has been home made, there's some commercial brand that isn't a pump primer for puke. And I also hate La Fin du Monde and Maudite, which are popular (and sweet as hell) craft brews. I like lambics a lot, especially home made ones, but they're not something I'd necessarily recommend to first time drinkers—the good ones are wicked complex, so it's a bit like saying that someone should try mole before they try tacos.

One thing I was thinking about, just in terms of how I learned to drink: I learned to drink by having a glass of wine with dinner for a couple years before I started really drinking anything else. It's what I'd recommend for anyone who wants to "learn to drink," as great wine can be pretty cheap (young wines, especially—Beaujolais, young tempernillos). But it's not a party thing, y'know? I mean, it can be incorporated into the birthday (wine with dinner), and if they don't really want to get drunk, if you, the OP are more after small-d drinking than big-D DRINKING, it might be the most sensible move.

I'll also say, and you may have noticed this about my palate, it took me years and years to find a white wine that I liked, because too many of them were cloyingly sweet. I mean, seriously, I've been drinking wine for about 14 years now, and it was only two-three years ago that I found some white wines (though after the initial rush, I hadn't looked too hard) that I liked. Even champagne, I think it's easier to get an ass experience with cheap champagne and have it turn you off than it is to find a really nice, well-balanced and tasty champagne (the exact thing that you don't want to use to mix mimosas).

Finally, I might recommend a sangria, except that premade sangrias are an abomination unto the lord and should not be permitted to live, and making your own sangria (well) takes about four hours, two bottles of wine, some brandy and some triple sec (and a bunch of spices and citrus). It's goddamn divine when you do it right, but it's also a big undertaking to do it awesome. It is a special occasion, so maybe you're up for it—if so, I can pass on a recipe I learned to impress a Spanish woman I was dating at one point (it worked).
posted by klangklangston at 8:23 AM on August 26, 2009

« Older What's the best jump starter?   |   Pay for Flex? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.