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Illustration by Alix Ayoub

Drunk on the Failures of Childhood

Nostalgia is big business. Elvis, TV Land, Mad Men, Disney World, and the Cleveland Browns are each built on a foundation of yearning for a bygone era. As covered in “Frozen in Time” earlier in this issue, nostalgia has crept into local booze culture via the Negroni Slush and various children’s cereal-infused cocktails. The trend continues into nonalcoholic beverages as well—Coke has announced plans to bring back ’90s alt-soda Surge, and there are rumors of a Crystal Pepsi rebirth.

These products were failures, yet people are excited for their return. They were objectively bad drinks, but thanks to their existence coinciding with the formative years of certain generations, they’ve become revered during their two-decade absence. Ironically, the fanatical niche popularity that led to their renaissance is a direct result of their failure, which allowed them to be enshrined in a brief moment rather than living long enough to become rebranded and generic. (Even more ironic, the choice of Van Halen’s “Right Now” as the theme for Crystal Pepsi’s 1993 Super Bowl commercial. That was either the most shortsighted, doomed-by-design ad in history or a fantastic joke with a 22-year payoff.)

In the spirit of fond memories of flavors past, here are some other cocktails that feature equal parts nostalgia and failure. They probably shouldn’t exist, but give them time and they almost certainly will (and most likely they will at Oddfellows).

The DeLorean (Crystal Pepsi, white rum, simple syrup, sugar rim, cracked ice) – A retro-futuristic cocktail served only from the Snack to the Future food truck pictured here. The sugar rush will get you to 88, and the crash will set you back 30 years.

Original Fruitopia Fizz (Booth’s gin, Tangerine Wavelength Fruitopia, egg white, half-and-half, Original New York Seltzer Lemon & Lime Soda) – Two unsuccessful sodas for the price of one. Tastes like summer, and 1995.

The Main Squeeze (Squeeze-It Chucklin’ Cherry, ruby port, fresh-squeezed lemon) – A true kid’s drink, all grown up. Best enjoyed through a crazy straw.

Long Island Punch (White rum, vodka, gin, tequila, triple sec, Guzzler Island Punch) – Much like Guzzler was the drink in a sports bottle for people who never played sports, Long Island Punch is the drink for people who have no business drinking.

Cocktail XXX (Surge and Jagermeister over crushed ice) – It tastes like the X Games in liquid form, and like extreme sports, there’s a chance you will end up smashing your genitals against a handrail.

The Denim Tuxedo (Crown Royal, Clearly Canadian Green Apple sparkling water, maple syrup, dash Angostura bitters) – Another soda returning to the market after being discontinued, Clearly Canadian rounds out this cocktail with the zest of a fall afternoon in Toronto. Rob Ford drinks them by the gallon.

Really, Really Old Fashioned (80-year pot still rye, New Coke, bitters, tap water) – The original Prohibition cocktail, with spirits aged unnecessarily long in a jug under your property, served with a semi-modern twist. Drink on your porch until the Feds find you or blindness sets in.

Gin & Jolt (Watershed, Jolt Cola) – The caffeine really brings out the juniper flavor. Gary Busey has been a fan of these for years.

The Tom Haverford (Goldschläger, Orbitz, Snake Juice) – Also a product from Clearly Canadian, Orbitz featured edible floating balls and resembled a lava lamp you could drink. Because nothing says baller quite like colorful objects and flakes of gold suspended in your cocktail.

Grandma’s Regret (brandy, crème de cacao, Banana Split Go-Gurt, nutmeg) – Like a Brandy Alexander, except terrible. It’s essentially the world’s worst milkshake, but at least you’ll eventually get drunk enough to forget it.

The Phantom (Hi-C Ecto Cooler, orange juice, absinthe float) – The little green fairy meets the slimy green ghost. Will cause hallucinations, and probably diabetes.