The label clearly states, in bold block letters, "The name 'Tonic Wine' does not imply health giving or medicinal properties," but I'm not buying it. After drinking a few glasses of Buckfast Tonic Wine, I never felt more medicated in my entire life. For the record, Buckfast is a solid 15% ABV, and drop-for-drop contains approximately as much caffeine as Red Bull.
Forged by the hands of 19th-century Benedictines, this fortified wine has a reputation more volatile than Charlie Sheen riding Mike Tyson naked through a minefield. It's been called the Scottish Four Loko. Referred to as the "wildest wine in the world." And with a supposed heavy link to violent crime, it's the scourge of the drinking class in the UK and politicians alike. It's the most polarizing thing to come from monks since the bowl cut.
But here in the States, it's relatively unknown. I aim to change that. With the help of a Scottish co-worker, I got my hands on a couple bottles of Buckfast and subjected my body to its wonders. It did not disappoint.
What it tastes like
The aroma spilling out of the lid of my bottle was pleasant enough -- like a handful of Fruity Pebbles, crushed in a vat of Benadryl. I was intrigued. I poured it into my chalice (which, in this case, happened to be a "Drake's Tears" mug) and went to sipping. It was thick, unbearably sweet, and undeniably syrupy. It wasn't sweet in the sugary Four Loko way, though. It was sweet in the NyQuil-spiked-with-Stevia way. For the sake of science and you, dear reader, I swallowed my pride and chased it with a few more gulps of Buckfast, until I cleaned the mug.
Like any other alcoholic drink, the more I swilled the easier it became to swill more. And as I refilled several times, my taste buds acclimated to the tangy taste, and the thick texture became less worrisome. It's not something I'd want to swish around my mouth like an amateur Giamatti, absorbing the unique flavor profiles. This is not wine, in the Napa-sourced-grapes-with-artisanal-corks-and-overtones-of-oak sense, but it was bearable. After three or four mugs' worth, I actually started to like it. Kind of.
How it made me feel
I've never drank pure, unfiltered rocket fuel, but I have to assume this is a close analogue. I have to say, I haven't had an experience like this from a beverage since they sucked the caffeine out of my beloved Four Lokos my senior year of college.
As the steady buzz filled my head, the caffeine swelled from my stomach and up to my heart -- in that moment I felt like the personification of a Mötley Crüe song. I spent the rest of the night singing karaoke and playing air hockey (what... I really did!) and to be frank, I'm not sure if I could have made it to 4am without the four glasses of Buckfast I had prior. I was mentally sharp, physically rejuvenated! Or, at least that's what I recall. It was a solid Friday. The next morning was something I don't want to talk about.
I wouldn't recommend drinking this in the morning, or before a big presentation, but... actually, yes, I would. Just don't overdo it. Or you'll end up like many-a-Scottish lad before you: face-first in something you have no business being face-first in.
Like shrubbery, for instance. Don't ask me how I know. Also, don't ask me what happened to my neighbor's shrub.
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