Our editors talk about their favorite college drinks
In college, you think that you’re awesome. You can’t help it, it’s just a thing you have to tell yourself, when you’re first on your own in a loosely regulated environment filled with people of the opposite gender, alcohol, and “classes”, to help gain the confidence you need to do objectively stupid things on your way to eventually becoming a normal functioning post-college human. And one of those things was having your “go-to drink” when you were out cavorting at bars, or frats or dorms or those nice theme houses most of us never figured out how to get into.
So we asked a range of our editors of all different ages and from all different regions of the country to tell the story of their now-somewhat embarrassing drink that they once found almost as awesome as themselves. So, read on, and feel free to share the tale of your own college go-to drink. It certainly can’t be any worse than these:
Andy Kryza, senior associate editor, National Food/Drink
Michigan State '04
When my college drinking career (a career that seems to have carried over to adult life) began, I liked to think of myself as a slightly classier drinker. During the dorm days, we’d host “fine liquor nights”, in which we would -- steeped in a love for Swingers and bad suits -- cull our money and purchase the classiest of under-$30 spirits (7&7s, that classiest of adult beverages). We’d show up to keggers with boomers of Michigan microbrews, snobbishly swigging from them before forking over $4 for a Solo cup.
This all changed with the introduction of swishkey. A swishkey can be many things: a whiskey & Coke, perhaps. Sometimes it would be a Manhattan. Sometimes it would be a whiskey sour. The only ingredients truly necessary were a shot of whiskey and a mouth. It came into our lives when a dear friend, Grandpa J, hosted a party, but forgot cups. Desperate for cocktails, we did what any logical person would do: poured the whiskey and mixer in our mouths, then shook our heads vigorously. Or punched each other in the faces (this was the Jackass era). Eventually, we decided that the best chaser for whiskey was more whiskey, and created intricate, three-whiskey blends in our mouths. Or poured vermouth and bourbon into our burning cheeks for a classier touch. When we celebrated, we celebrated with mouthfuls of miniature cocktails. When I left college, I thought the legacy was over. Ten years later, good old Grandpa J led a round of swishkey shots at my wedding. Old habits, especially classy ones, die hard.
Ben Robinson, editorial director
University of Wisconsin '04
I realized it was time to learn to drink whiskey -- and actually enjoy it -- when a girl I liked in college was great at it, and I wasn’t. As she sat casually sipping the stuff while smiling instead of making really odd and horrified faces, I hid on the other side of the room, trying not to inhale through my nose. I needed to impress her. I needed to figure this out.
The 7&7 was like whiskey training wheels. The soda filed off some bite and burn, but didn’t totally rub away the whiskey-y taste I was doing my damndest to acquire. When I ordered them, I ordered them with style. “7&7 please... heavy on the 7.” Every time, they'd get upset and bartender-scold me. “Don’t you tell me how to make my drinks.” Every time, they were too terrible at getting totally hilarious jokes to just pour me a rocks glass of 7UP. As the semester went on, my palate kept adapting -- I graduated to no soda, and, eventually, nice and neat. I had done it. I had become a man. I was everything I ever wanted to be. Also I think that girl transferred schools somewhere in there.
Dave Blend, executive editor, Special Content
University of Texas '94
From spring of my junior year to spring of my senior year I was the president of my fraternity's seven-man trashcan punch-making crew. I can't divulge exactly what went into the stuff, but I can say it involved around 14 bottles of liquor, a bunch of powdered, flavored stuff that wasn't Gatorade, orange juice, and various fruit, and it was prepared wearing nothing but boxers and Red Wing work boots (and in my case an army helmet that smelled like someone lost their punch in it, because, again, I was the president). We also stirred the punch with a beautiful, inspiringly enthusiastic, not particularly tall human being, who we held upside down by his ankles. The effect was exactly what you'd expect -- even more than what you'd expect that one time I showed up at a classy pre-party held by a pledge brother's parents still wearing my boxers/boots. They thought I was awesome, and they're pretty smart people, so I guess I probably was.
Pink Panty Dropper
Julie Cerick, content editor
Elon University '10
It's a shame what this drink is called, but, having been in a sorority, I clearly accept/don't care about any and all stereotypes that may be used against me. Guys, Sigma was different. I like, barely went to Chapter.
Given its sexual connotation, it definitely fits that of a predominately Greek life Southern party school, where GDIs (God Damn Independents) were avoided like the plague and Solo cups were used as wind chimes. Plus it sounds molest-y? Anyway, Pink Panty Droppers were my entrance and exit strategy for my four ludicrous years of college. Meaning, I literally didn't enter a party until I had about four, and they aided in the only exit strategy I know: the Irish Goodbye (sorry, actually not-Irish ancestors).
It's mind-numbingly easy: gather a few ice-cold beers (warm beer? #ICan'tEven), throw in some whatever-shelf vodka, lots of pink lemonade mix, Sprite, and old freezer-burned ice, and you've got a drink so good, no one ever wants to say its name aloud.
Matt Meltzer, editor, Miami
University of Miami '04
Going to school in a major city makes drinking a lot more expensive than in College Town, USA, where you can drink all night and still not break a $20. In Miami, a $20 barely got you one drink. Which was bad enough, but was compounded when UM girls -- who were used to sitting at VIP tables in South Beach -- came out to bars and fully expected the same "you pay for all my drinks" treatment. And this was how we created Superpitcher.
What is Superpitcher, you ask? Well one night when sitting at the back table in Tavern, we grew rather tired of girls coming by and taking our Miller Lite like we'd offered it, and noticed that there were a considerable number of half-finished, possibly flat beers sitting around the bar. Some with cigarette butts in them, but whatever. So my pal George Mundy (who also once threw OJ Simpson's mailbox through his windshield, but that's another story) took an empty pitcher sitting on our table, and started going around the bar dumping these half-finished beers into it, until we had a full pitcher of CoorsMillerBudLiteAmberBockLing, with the cigarette butts filtered out, of course. We called it Superpitcher, and kept one ready at our table for when ladies, who felt entitled to free alcohol, would come by and say, "You wanna give me some beer, right?". "Why sure," we'd say, "Have you tried Superpitcher?" Maybe one person in the years we did it ever questioned it. But they always seemed a little put off when we'd laugh hysterically every time they took their first sip.
Dan Gentile, staff writer, National Food/Drink
University of Texas '06
I was so clueless as a young-but-not-underaged college chap that I didn't even know this drink's proper name. For me, vodka and orange juice needed no abbreviation. It was the one tool in my mixed drink toolbelt and basically the PB&J of college consumption: a balanced liquid meal that was way more effective because I wasn't eating many other balanced meals.
When considering what first drew me to this drink, I must admit I wasn't much of a brew crusher for my first few years. My naïve taste buds had yet to learn the joy of the dirty banana peel flavors of Lone Star, but what I could get behind was a toxic-tasting version of what I drank alongside my morning cereal. And when I got the proportions just right (three parts OJ, one part vodka, two parts denial), I could swear that I couldn't even taste the alcohol, which is a refrain that's still repeated by inexperienced drinkers to this very day.
The Brass Monkey
Kevin Alexander, executive editor, National Food/Drink
Trinity College ’03
You know how I knew I was cool in college? Because I used to buy those crappy gallon plastic jugs of the most impure, from-concentrate brands of orange juice, pour out half the gallon for my homies, or into a conveniently located sink, and fill the rest up with cheap, shitty beer. It was my own version of a brass monkey, a poor man’s mimosa, and -- because no one I knew could tell me different -- I genuinely thought I’d invented it, and was some sort of a tastemaker. I’m not joking. I actually KIND OF thought that Cool Hunting would just randomly pop by my dorm room as I was “making my magical elixir” and offer to pay me in patent leather Bapes and those Kaws toys with the X’s for eyes just to pose with my drink for a profile and photo shoot. “I don’t know where the idea originally came from,” I’d say during the interview portion, remaining pretty humble. “I’m my own muse.”
Suffice to say, during my junior year abroad in Australia, any idea I was original was stamped out like the butt end of those really cool cigarillos I sometimes pretended to smoke. Because it was a Tuesday, we were day drinking, and I was ready to show all these kids from University of Michigan and Wisconsin and Penn State my sick concoction. I bought the juice, and the beer (Tooheys New!), and started to pour it out when one of the girls stopped me. “Wait, what are you doing?” she asked. “Making my own secret drink,” I replied, probably even winking. “You mean a brass monkey,” she said, all of a sudden looking extremely bored. “We’ve been making those forever. Except we use 40s because we're not [REDACTED, BECAUSE IT HURT MY FEELINGS AND ALSO IS SLANG FOR CATS].” Then she turned and went outside, likely to make out with an actual Australian, since they were all kind of jacked, and rakishly handsome, and didn’t invent bullshit watered-down versions of drinks that have existed forever.
The [SOMETHING SOMEWHAT SEXUAL AND GROSS] Shot
Andrew Zimmer, editor, New York
When you go to school in a small New England town, and it snows 298 days of the year, it's important to find clever and innovative ways to keep yourself entertained. And since creating different types of beer pong only gets you so far, that's the closest thing to a rationalization I can make for why we invented the [SOMETHING SOMEWHAT SEXUAL AND GROSS] shot our senior year. Essentially this was three shots, two that were regular, and one that was disgusting. That one was the [STILL VERY GROSS/SEXUAL] shot.
Three people would line up and start picking the shots that were hidden behind a blind, like Russian roulette but with liquor. It started with things that were relatively tame, like Tabasco and tequila, or a concoction of several different liquors with opposing flavors, but quickly devolved into an arms race of horribleness featuring bar mats rung out, ash trays emptied, cottage cheese, and at least one dude whipped with a studded belt in Tampa. Let's just say, I'm glad my college drink stayed in college. (Um, if you challenge me, I'll probably still play.)
The Gin Bucket
Dave Infante, senior writer, National Food/Drink
UVA ‘10, plus freshman year at Middlebury College for some reason
Early in college, I made the important realization that I wouldn’t be able to hack it on looks alone, because the University of Virginia is full of wonderfully attractive youths who went to Important Prep Schools™ and drove Audi A4s. Some people and my therapist referred to such sensitivity to one’s shortcomings as “insecurity”, but I saw it as an opportunity: I’d make myself the center of attention with my outgoing persona, quick wit, and unfailing charm.
Obviously, this is all a lie. It was insecurity. To fortify my fragile sense of self-worth, I turned to the gin bucket, which, drank as it was with turkey basters to the mouth, provided the conversation-starter my timid ass needed. I served this glorious concoction -- lemonade concentrate, Sprite, lime wedges, ice, and enough bottom-shelf gin to turn even the kindest Englishman into a vicious maniac -- in a 3ft-tall terracotta planter I bought at Pier 1 Imports (designer home goods for less, you guys). Did it make me popular? No. Did it give me searing bouts of acid reflux? Yes. Would I do it again? You bet your life I would.
Key Lime Martinis
Matt Lynch, senior editor, Thrillist Cities
As you progress through college and work your way up through the ranks of watery beer and punches of indeterminate origins, you reach a point where you want guests (particularly the ladies) to know when they arrive at your abode that they'll be getting something classy, something above and beyond the usual college party fare. That's where the Key lime martinis came in, thanks to a big ol' handle of vanilla vodka and some bottled lime juice, occasionally served out of a martini glass, but also possibly a Solo cup. On a related note, we spent a fair amount of time playing Halo while blitzed on Key lime martinis.
The Holy F**ck
Jason Allen, senior editor, Thrillist Cities
University of East Anglia '03
The great thing about the Holy F**k is that it’s both a drink and a joke. Ingredients vary, but the idea is simple: you mix equal parts of demonically strong spirit (overproof rum, absinthe) with something unnecessarily hot (in my case, cinnamon schnapps), and then you hand the drink to an unsuspecting victim. The rest of the script goes something like this -- THEM: What’s this? YOU: It’s called a “Holy f**k”! THEM: Why is it called that? YOU: Try it! THEM: (drinking sounds, then guttural gasping) HOLY F**K! BOTH: Hahahaha! (spontaneous, perfect high-five).
Amazing, right?! How could that not work? Well... here’s how it tended to go down:
ME: It’s called a “Holy f**k”! THEM: I am not. Drinking. That.
ME: It’s called a “Holy f**k”! THEM: Cool. (drinking sounds) Wow, that is truly gross. Jesus. You got any beer?
ME: It’s called a “Holy f**k”! THEM: What, like a nun in a cucumber patch, amirite?! Haha! (drinks)
ME: It’s called a “Holy f**k”! THEM: Jason, you do realize I’m not giving you another essay extension, right?
ME: It’s called a “Holy f**k”! THEM: (drinks) HOLY S**T!
I made that bottle of cinnamon schnapps last over a year, and the Holy F**K never did get its day in the sun. I still yearn for that moment though, when my drinking partner will just tap into the unspoken script. When they will just be on my hilarious wavelength. When they will play along, dammit. And who knows what the future will bring? Someday, somewhere, somehow... I still believe. I still believe.
Alex Robinson, editor, theThread
Florida Atlantic University '10
Allow me to regale you with a story from a very different place and time. The place was Boca Raton and the time was 2006. Towering palm trees swayed in the cadence of a mellow Florida breeze, and, as waves crashed soothingly on the idyllic shore, a most sinister punch was being topped off with eye of newt and toe of frog... wait, that isn’t right... it was topped off with Red Bull. I knew that sounded weird. The punch is called “The Force”, and it’s a mixture of cheap vodka, Country Time lemonade powder, a 12- (or 18-) pack of light domestic beer, and a four-pack of Red Bull (to taste).
“Oh God. What have I done,” I thought to myself as I walked through an all-but-destroyed house I could have sworn wasn’t mine. To the left, three fist-sized holes punctured the wall where we tried in vain “to make a window”. To the immediate right, a stray milquetoast cat played with a ping-pong ball to the echoes of a vomiting sorority girl in our guest bathroom. We didn’t throw a party; we threw a disaster. You see, The Force’s duplicity is largely due to its delicious nature and drinkability, ensuring whoever has a cup will never just have one.
So as I struggled past the discarded Solo cups and ungodly stench of rotten fruit, stale beer & desperation, my head pounded with flashbacks of the previous night... did we really lock arms to belt out four Enrique Iglesias songs? Did Ryan fall off the roof? Do I even know four Enrique Iglesias songs? Where the f*ck did that cat come from? The Force takes you from zero to one hundred in a matter of minutes and there’s no emergency exit. After one, the euphoria begins to set in. “This is amazing!” “What’s in this? It’s so good!” The compliments, like the punch, will flow enthusiastically and without second-thought. After two, you begin to untether yourself from sobriety, but you like it. You smile a bit bigger, high-five a bit longer, know a bit more Enrique than you thought. “Whatever,” you think to yourself. “There’s no turning back now!” And you fill your third cup. After cup three, things get hazy. REAL HAZY. Like Beijing in February hazy. Clothing becomes optional, dancing is unavoidable, and you’ll probably get slapped in the face two or 10 times. The next morning, you won’t remember everything that went down, and you won’t want to. You’ll head back to that idyllic shore, sit in the sand, squint into the sun, and think to yourself: “Where the f*ck did that cat come from?”
Lee Breslouer, senior editor, National Food/Drink
University of Delaware '03
I had never ordered a drink from a bartender before, and I was scared sh*tless. It shouldn't have been a big deal, but my anxiety knows no bounds, and I figured the bartender would see my nervousness and announce, "He's never ordered a drink before!", and then I'd be thrown out of the bar like DJ Jazzy Jeff was from the Banks residence. I was visiting NYC with my friend Joe, and we were at some legendary restaurant on the Upper East Side. We did not fit in, as we were not prep school graduates or Barbara Walters. The bartender asked what I wanted. I said, "a rum and Coke." He walked away to make the drink. And then my worst nightmare happened.
A guy from the next table overheard me. "You mean you want a Cuba Libre." Huh? "I do everything wrong," I must have said to myself a million times. I was mortified. He continued, "Next time, say you want a Cuba Libre. That's what a rum and Coke is called. That's the name of the drink." "Ok," I must have mumbled. For the rest of my college experience, I ordered Cuba Libres. Never rum and Cokes. What am I, a poser?