In the relative safety of adulthood, when you can easily purchase alcohol—have it delivered to your door, even!—and legally frequent bars steeped in cocktail culture, it is easy to overlook the lower moments in our personal drinking histories. If you drink, you’ve experienced that desperate moment: drunk, but not drunk enough, and facing dwindling supplies, you close one eye to focus on the dregs in the fridge, and you MacGyver up a sad-ass offense to the very notion of mixology.
Prompted by a question in this week’s Funbag, I posed the question to the general public: What is the saddest drink you’ve ever made? The answers were horrifying. Below, I have collected, sorted, and ranked the most horrifying responses.
Due to our idiotic minimum drinking age, teenagers learn to drink not in settings that might dictate sensible consumption or provide actual cocktails, but in forbidden Lord of the Flies-esque environments, in which the head teen is the one with the stolen bottle of 99 Bananas. As such, the entries here bring up the bottom of the rankings, because they are products of youthful ignorance, and thus not TRULY sad. Pitiable and ill-advised, yes, but not depressing. I’m looking for a Tom Waits song in a glass.
16. The Swole’d Fashioned
[opens time capsule] OK, looks like we’ve got some Fruitopia, the first couple seasons of Friends, and a noxious concoction made by a guy who wanted to stay swole but also get drunk.
(Also appearing in the drunken meathead category: whiskey and chocolate protein powder.)
15. The Lokomosa
Four Loko is still technically around in caffeine-free form, but if you weren’t in college around 2008 or 2009, buddy, you MISSED OUT. Four Loko combined malt liquor with everything in an energy drink, and then marketed it to underage drinkers. State governments were … not pleased. Kids would race across state lines to get it before the next state banned it. It tasted like bottled Juggalos, but young people couldn’t get enough of it.
Least surprising Four Loko fact: the company that makes it was founded by then-recent graduates of Ohio State.
As students they had enjoyed caffeine mixed with alcohol, and recalled buying Thai energy drinks from a nearby Asian market to sell to other students at a markup, claiming that they were “importing the stuff from abroad.” They would later describe themselves as “our own target market.”
“The answer is none. None more Ohio State.”
14. The Red Hand of Ulster
Many people responded with “vodka and Gatorade,” and that’s such a common college drink that it doesn’t even register as bad to me. Vodka might even improve the taste of Gatorade. Irish whiskey, though? With the Gatorade flavor specifically engineered to strip away your throat lining? YIKES.
13. Becky’s Problem
A PSA for anyone who is new to drinking: It is supposed to be enjoyable! That goes for the experience of getting drunk, and for the drinks themselves. Please do not treat it as a test to consume the highest possible concentration of alcohol.
12. The Rob Marley
“Mango and peat, together at last!”
The name comes from its similarity to the liquid used in barbershops. Also, it killed Barb.
10. Rob Dyrdek’s Sweat
It is incredible, to me, to see the essence of every bad drinking decision in college distilled to its purest form. No well-adjusted person beyond the age of 22 drinks Mountain Dew OR Bacardi 151, so it only makes sense to put them together. And just as a Moscow mule is incomplete without a copper mug, just as a mint julep requires its signature silver cup, so too must The Very Essence Of College be consumed from random-ass Tupperware containers. I can hardly type these words, so busy am I kissing my fingertips.
9. Purple Nihilism
I am an accomplished drinker and an adventurous amateur bartender, and I cannot envision a scenario in which I would ever mix tequila and gin. There is a zero percent chance of it happening. And though it is mathematically impossible, I am even LESS inclined to mix the gin and tequila a college student would purchase. That is a glass of poison served on Death’s scythe.
Counterpoint: Oohhh, purple!
As these are not drinks, I have not ranked them. But I felt it was my duty to place them here, as a warning to passersby.
What’s the difference between a college student’s haphazard cocktail and something worthy of a derelict’s battered canteen? It’s hard to say, but I think there’s an alchemy that is both sadder and more artistic than the missteps of the college years—something that communicates an embrace of the low culture as a lifestyle, rather than a mere dalliance. But my guiding light is similar to Potter Stewart’s view on obscenity: I know it when I see it.
8. Possum Vanderbilt
This may sound like a college disaster to you, but there’s genuine style here, not unlike a top hat that isn’t sewed on all the way around, so it flops open when its wearer bows politely. Sure, it’s rickety and bad, but there’s dignity beneath it.
7. The Latest Technology
Any idiot can make a terrible drink. Going back to that terrible drink is the first step toward Bumlife. When you name the drink, only then have you earned the honorific “Boxcar” to place before your given name.
6. Red Anus
What makes this transcend college-age necessity? I’m not entirely sure, but I think it’s the unique brazenness of its terribleness. It’s so weirdly specific that it has to be on purpose. God wouldn’t allow this to be an accident.
5. Ronald McBombed
This drink is a minor villain in a Carl Hiaasen book.
I am not sure what to do with the various missteps people have made with milk; they seem to fall under the category of “College Disaster,” yet most of these are so much more depressing than the last-dollar desperation of drifter cocktails. Read these and feel the bone-deep sadness of Soviet architecture on the grayest day of a Russian winter:
NOTE: Numerous people responded that, at one point in their lives, they believed or were temporarily convinced that a White Russian is vodka and milk. Please, PLEASE, do not attempt to make a White Russian without a coffee liqueur such as Kahlua. It will not go well for you.
4. The Quaalude Chaser
“I really liked how soul-crushingly dark The Ice Storm was, can I get in drink form?”
3. The Unemployed Chimney Sweep
Finally, the right drink for watching a YouTube unboxing video hosted by a middle-aged English woman that has 37 views.
2. Where the Red Fern Grows: The Drink
The perfection of this alcoholic sadness is damn near algorithmic. Vodka and cola is already a bad combination. Make it sadder: diet cola. Make it sadder: it’s flat. Now, you might think SodaStream would elevate it a little, but no! The fact that this person owns a SodaStream is the saddest part of it! He could have made a vodka and fresh soda! He CHOSE the dim, winding stairwell into this damp sub-basement of lonely intoxication. This is a deeply moving act of performance art.
1. The Absolute Fuckton of Bitters and Tap Water
Imagine a man. He lives in a normal home, with pictures of his family on the walls, maybe some tasteful but inexpensive art. In a dark wood cabinet is the man’s bar, with the expected cocktail accoutrements: shaker, strainer, bar spoon, muddler. He also has an array of bitters: Angostura, orange, Peychaud’s, lime, maple—he gets bottles for his birthday and for Christmas, and will never make enough cocktails to use them all.
Imagine, after his wife goes to bed, he drinks the last of his whiskey as he watches his favorite sports team. One drink, then two, then the last glug of the bottle in a super-sized pour. The cabinet is now bare. In the final moments of the game, with the score nail-bitingly close, he discovers a small bottle of sweet vermouth in the back of the fridge, and pours it over ice. It tastes like thick, rancid rosé.
His team loses. He is drunk but not done drinking, yet there is nothing to drink. Until: Eureka! The bitters! He looks at the label: 44.7 percent alcohol by volume. He shakes some into his glass. Shakes more. Keeps shaking. Shakes until there is a thimbleful, then an ounce, then a proper shot. The scent is overpoweringly medicinal. He runs it under the tap. He sips.
It is the saddest drink ever made.
Matt Ufford is a freelance writer and video host. Hire him and/or follow him on Twitter.