Hand Me a Gallon of that Vodka and Mountain Dew

cold cocktail drink glass

Here’s something obvious that I never brought to the surface of full consciousness: a cocktail must, you know, taste like alcohol:

A cocktail “must have sufficient alcoholic flavor.” Even the simplest of cocktails like a vermouth cassis must taste of alcohol. If you don’t like the taste of the stuff, drink soda water. There’s nothing else to say. Drinks that don’t taste of alcohol were developed for coeds and the saps who try to get them drunk. There are cocktails for every palate, and every cocktail is adjustable. If you don’t like bitter herbs, make a Negroni with simple syrup substituted for a quarter of the Campari. A cocktail tailored to your palate will still taste wonderfully of the alcohol. A cocktail that does not taste of its alcohol is likely something disreputable.

I found that slice of literature in an old New Criterion issue (oxymoron intentional).

It’s a weird piece. In fact, it’s like a blog entry without the sustained level of attention, such is the disconnected nature of its paragraphs. Entertaining enough, but choppy.

Regardless, that obvious piece of information (a cocktail must taste like alcohol) answers that ancient teenage question: Why not Crystal Palace (pro. “CREEsta PaLAHchay”) vodka and Mountain Dew? I mean, the Mountain Dew kills the alcohol taste, at least until the last couple of ounces, which a true man-child tosses down with only a slight grimace. So it’s a great mix, right?

Well, no. For starters, it’s not a cocktail at all: the alcohol taste is gone.

Second, it’s not a mix at all. It’s a contrivance, something that might double as a weapon under the right circumstances. There’s no blend. It’s just a jumble of two things, each jostling for sole position on your tongue.

A cocktail, again, must taste like alcohol. Otherwise, it’s a soda. It might be a soda that gets you drunk, but it’s not a cocktail. You might as well guzzle a can of Mountain Dew then smoke a joint and call it a cocktail. It’s not a cocktail. So the first 7/8ths of the Dew Vodka fails the taste test to be a cocktail.

And then the last 1/8th fails as well because it’s all vodka (dear reader, don’t ask me how I know this).


Now that I’m making way through McGilchrist’s contemporary classic, I’m seeing everything in terms of left/right hemisphere.

I’d submit that the Dew Vodka is a concoction of the left hemisphere and a well-crafted cocktail a creation of the right.

The left hemisphere is rational: Mountain Dew is the sweet mixer, like tonic water or Coke. Vodka is the alcohol. You mix them. Cocktail!

But the right hemisphere senses harmony. It immediately tastes that something is wrong with the Dew Vodka. The two ingredients didn’t blend. It might seem reasonable to think vodka and Mountain Dew work just like a rum and Coke, but they don’t.

Of course, my analysis would probably cause McGilchrist to roll over in his grave if he were dead. For now, he might just have to ask his lawyers to send me a cease-and-desist letter.

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Eric Scheske

Eric Scheske