Nick & Choose 23: Buckfast

Published April 28, 2010

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Loched & Loaded
Nick drinks like a Scotsman.

Back in February, in an item sandwiched between a workout for six-pack abs and an article on how the right haircut can tone your tummy, Men’s Health declared Boston the nation’s least-drunk city. We don’t drink and drive. Our livers produce bile of unassailable quality. Our health should be a source of pride, but I can’t be the only one who immediately wanted to challenge Reno, Nev., to a chugging contest.

It seems everyone is drinking less. Between 1980 and 2007, per-capita consumption of alcohol in the U.S. dropped 17 percent. In Canada, it’s 24 percent. In Germany, a country where liters of beer are regularly guzzled from boots, they’re drinking 30 percent less. Thankfully, the U.K. still knows how to party. Nineteen percent more people are waking up with a headache, nausea and a stranger in their bed.

In Scotland, the major culprit is Buckfast Tonic Wine, or bottles of phosphate-fortified grape juice packed with eight Cokes’ worth of caffeine. For a ned—a Scottish hooligan—two or three dirt-cheap Buckies consumed in a filthy Glasgow alleyway gets the night going, all without the indignity of ordering a Jåger Bomb. The fear is that Buckfast might be too provoking. The Scottish government wants to ban it, and the stats give them reason. In the Strathclyde district, for example, the wine was mentioned in 5,638 crime reports in just the last three years.

Our government won’t allow the import of “loopy juice,” but the recipe isn’t hard to improvise. I wanted to show Men’s Health what’s what, and maybe make a crime report of my own. Here’s how things went down.

On Saturday at 7:30 pm, suspects Nick Altschuller and his friend John began mixing 1 ounce brandy, 2 ounces Red Bull and 6 ounces of red wine topped with Coke. Upon raising his glass, John remarked, “To the last thing we remember tonight.”

8:30 pm: Two servings down, the accused found a trove of adrenaline-raising programming on television, including Rocky, Rocky II, and Boston College in the NCAA Hockey Championship. As a BC grad, John didn’t need the extra stimulation.

A twitching Nick noted that their speech appeared accelerated. “I think we’re chatty drunk,” John agreed, quickly. Witnesses confirmed they sounded like giddy secretaries at happy hour, as opposed to anything approaching manly.

9 pm: John began hearing things, causing Nick to giggle at 400 BPM.

10 pm: The duo found Lethal Weapon II on TV. In honor of Mel Gibson’s performance, Nick demanded he be called Riggs for the rest of the evening.

10:30 pm: Out of Red Bull, the men switched to used Redline, an energy drink that comes with a 200-plus word warning label advising consumers to keep the product away from children and nursing women. Both suspects agreed the taste improved.

11 pm: Out of Coke, the men switched to tonic. The defendants no longer cared about the taste.

11:15: With all three bottles of wine gone, John mixed a different caffeinated cocktail. Using his last sober brain cell, Nick advised against it. John responded, “I’m doing this for f***ing literature!” Both men headed out to make some bad decisions.

Like paying a cover charge. Thinking a jug of alcohol and enough caffeine to reanimate a corpse could reverse time, we arrived at a bar where I spent many hazy hours in my youth. Times have changed, though. Sipping a Red Bull and vodka—for some ungodly reason—I stood in the middle of an empty dance floor watching dozens of people queue for the party upstairs. With music blaring, I gave a shimmy, then a shake, but no moves could convince these youngsters that the only difference between the two floors was about 15 feet. Channeling my inner Murtaugh, I muttered, “I’m too old for this shit.” Besides my pulse, things slowed from there. The most shocking thing to occur was arriving home by last call.

The next day, John studied for a finance exam. He may like to drink, but the man’s got goals. I went for a run to flush my prized Bostonian organs. It won’t be the last time I’m lambasted, but through experience comes beer-goggled hindsight. I’d rather be a Nick than a ned.

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