My heterosexual life mate, Pancha and I have a unique ritual. We go out, maybe engage in some feminine activity, Getting out hair did, shoe shopping, whatever, then find the nearest foreign grocery store and peruse the booze. Pancha is a more discerning drinker than I am. She likes to use words like “Infused” and “Undernotes”. Where as I use mostly words like “What is the” and “Proof?” to make my choice between bottles.
But we have reached a gentleman’s agreement on one thing. If we look at a suspect bottle of liquor and exclaim at the same time: “What the FUCK is THAT?” Well then that’s what we’ll be drinking tonight. The more obscure the better. “Does that Vietnamese bourbon have a monkey’s paw floating in it? It’s only $35! Girl, I’ll go halfsies with you!”
So after her haircut on Friday we drive over to Chinatowns auxiliary wing over on Clement Street to hunt through the asian markets for new untried types of firewater. We stood in front of the massive row of shelves stocked high and deep with soju, sake, whisky, wine, our eyes flicking back and forth. Surveying the various brands like Ospreys perched in the high branches waiting for a careless fish to wriggle too close to the surface to be snatched up by our unmerciful claws.
Except these ospreys were looking to for something to get crunk to while watching Tropic Thunder.
Pancha picked up a frosted green bottle. “Do we want soju?”
“I like soju but it never really does a lot for me.” I took the bottle an put it back in the wrong place. “It’s just like really expensive juice.” I lean down to look at a row of fruity wines. “I do want to buy something Korean though…”
“Oh my god, what is THIS?” Pancha plucked up some strange brew in a ceramic jar with a branch of red blossoms painted on it. She turned to me. “So here’s what we do. We get three. A Korean one, a Chinese one and a Japanese one.”
“That idea is not broken.” I said and snatched Bohae Black Raspberry Wine off the shelf. Pancha secured a decent sized bottle of filtered sake and a smallish bottle of something Chinese.
“What’s that?” I asked.
Pancha glanced at the label. “Fen Chiew. Distilled from Sorghum, barley and pea.”
“What’s the proof?”
Back at my place we decided to start with the Bohae “Bokbunjajoo” as it was called in Korean. I poured it into two glasses with an ice cube in each and brought it to Pancha who was on the futon engrossed in the first 20 minutes of the movie. We took a sip at the same time.
“Oooh.” She looked up. “Ohhhh. That’s good. It’s not just Raspberry though, it taste’s like there is a hint of cherry in there…”
“Why, yes. Subtle notes of…Cherry.”
We sipped our wine and relaxed, confident that we were masters of drink selection. Ladies of sophistication who could navigate an alien territory of booze and pluck out only the finest gems.
We polished off the Bohae and Pancha got up from the futon. “I want to try that Fen Chiew shit” She came back from the kitchen with two of my little black tea cups, handed one off to me and plopped back down. I was paying attention to the movie so Pancha raised the cup to her lips first and caught a wiff.
“Smell it. We may have made a mistake.”
I raised my own cup and inhaled. It was brutal and corrosive. Like ammonia. It smelled like a substance you could kill yourself with by pouring it into a bucket, sealing yourself into small bathroom and waiting until the fumes lulled you into unconsciousness and then death.
“Agg” I said and blinked away a tear.
“What do you think?” Pancha asked staring at my face with bulging eyes.
“I think I just grew a dick.”
She fixed her worried eyes on the contents of her cup and then back to my face. I sighed and looked my little cup full of what I was now thinking of as “The Milk of Sorrows”.
“Fuck it. We bought it. We’re drinking it.”
“Ahhhh…” She hesitantly raised her cup again.
“Ok, Ok. On the count of “three” we drink.” I raised my glass in a toast. “KANPAI.”
Our cups made a dull clink against eachother. We took a deep breath.
“One…Two….” Pancha was still looking unhappily from her cup to me. Hoping I would abandon this foolish idea.
And then performed a duet of gagging.
“Auuuuunnnuggg. AUUUUGH. Nuuuuuu….”
“Urgghhhhh. Huk, huk, hukkk…”
“Did we…Ukk….Did we buy rubbing alcohol by accident?”
“Hic” Was the only reply from Pancha.
“Oh, god. Oh, Jesus it’s burning. It’s ruining all of my organs as it goes down. Agggggh.”
We leaned forward at the exact same moment and slammed the cups down on the coffee table as far away from us as we could get them. The bottle of Fen Chiew glinting with a crystal clear, distilled malevolence. We sat in silence for a moment.
“Why is it making me drool like this?” I asked.
“Because you are probably about to throw up.” Pancha replied and belched.
“OH GOD. I just burped and I can TASTE IT.” She moaned incredulously. “AND IT TASTES LIKE GASOLINE.”
I grabbed the traitorous bottle by the neck and headed back into the kitchen.
“So what are we doing with this?” I started twisting the cap back off. “Am I putting this down the sink or are we going to save it for when someone looses a bet?”
She leaned through the doorway with the light of new life in her eyes. “No, no, no! Save it! I want to see if we can get Konstantin to drink it!!” She squealed with glee.
Konstantin is our Russian born friend. I have watched him eat a slice of pork fat and chase it with a shot of vodka. Pancha was at a party with him where after the booze ran out he drank straight up Triple Sec. After a Comic convention we went to dinner and he ate an omelet the size of an infant, two belgian waffles and the left overs of about six other attendees, washing it down with four beers. He is something of a legend in our circle for the things we’ve seen him put in his body.
So of course I want to see if he’ll drink this shit. Back into the fridge it went.
It lays in wait there now, like the serpent in the garden. Waiting for the day it is sprung on upon an unsuspecting man we claim to love like a brother.