Okay, let me preface this by stating I’m more of beer and a shot kinda guy and have been for as long as I can remember. When it comes to knocking a few back it’s been Bud, Beam and ’Boros going on at least 20 years and outside of some kind of catastrophe I don’t see anything changing in the near future. What can I say; I’m brand loyal, probably to a fault. Well, maybe the smoking shit has got to go but that’s another story for another time.
The term “bum wine” probably isn’t considered politically correct in these touchy feely days where no one should be offended by their status or station in life but after doing some research (I’ll cite my sources later, you’ll see) it seems to be fairly common.
What is it?
That’s a pretty broad question but I’ll try and answer it the best I can. After all, one man’s meat is another man’s poison and who am I to judge what somebody decides to consume when it comes to getting so wasted that you don’t remember what you even drank the night before?
In terms of alcohol, a so called “bum wine” will usually range between 12% to a staggering 20% proof. It usually sells for about $4.00 (or less!) a bottle and is available in most liquor stores in the seediest part of town. It is not meant to be consumed by the glass and is best chugged straight from the bottle (screw cap only!) encased in what's lovingly known as a skirt. Hey, no need for a sommelier! In the northern regions of the country, especially during the winter, consumers of this vintage beverage are usually seen gathered around a heating grate or an oil drum that has been filled with flammable substances and subsequently lit on fire.
Bum wines should also not be confused with a beverage known as pruno, a favorite elixir among the incarcerated population.
Start naming names damn it!
I personally don’t know anybody who consumes “bum wines” on a regular basis so their identity remains a mystery to me. If however you mean the names of the product itself I’ll be glad to oblige.
Here in the States the most popular “bum wines” (many of which have been reviewed here at E2) are the following.
MD 20/20 - ah, this glorious foul tasting beverage usually has an alcohol content that ranges between 13% to 18%. Bet you didn’t know that the “MD” originally stood for “Mogen David” did you? These days it’s better known as “Mad Dog” because that’s what you turn in to when you drink enough of it.
Cisco –What can you say about a beverage when the FTC made them change their marketing strategy? Yes, originally known as the drink that “Takes You By Surprise” Cisco is not your average “bum wine”. According to my sources, it is thicker and sweeter than most of its hobo brethren and its alcohol content checks in between 13.9% to 19.5% depending on your taste and flavor.
Ripple – I hold this word near and dear to my heart for I used to sing this song to my daughter when she was young as sort of a lullaby. If I really wanted her to go to sleep I’d have probably been better off filling up a baby bottle of this shit and stuffing it in her face. Ripple was more popular back in 70’s and as far as “bum wines” go it has a rather low alcohol content of 11%. If you’re old enough to remember Sanford & Son you’ll recall that this was Fred’s favorite beverage when it came to getting fucked up. (I can hear the theme song as I type this).
Night Train Express – Those in the know have shortened the name to just plain “Night Train”. The buzz one gets from this is because the alcohol content is 17.5% and those irascible rockers known as Guns N’ Roses even penned a song about it creatively entitled “Nightrain”. According to our friends at Wiki there’s a movement afoot among the upper members of society calling for an outright ban on it because of its tendency to contribute towards vagrancy and public drunkenness. No shit Sherlock!
Last but not least, I give you Thunderbird, the so called American Classic. What makes it so classic remains a mystery to me. Shit, they even tried to peddle this crap in the UK under the guise of “The California Aperitif”. I’d be willing to bet that at least 9 out of 10 consumers of this shit have no clue what an aperitif is and have a lesser clue of what it takes like. Odes to this beverage come from various well known bands such as ZZ Top, Seasick Steve, and They Might Be Giants who all have songs named Thunderbird. Who knows, maybe consuming massive amounts of it might have provided them with some kind of inspiration.
In an attempt to appeal to upper class bums and lawyers alike, there is now another version out on the market with the name of Thunderbird ESQ. Between both versions the alcohol content varies between 13% to 18%.
So there you have it fellow readers. I hope I’ve provided you with a valuable service in the never ending quest for a good buzz at a cheap price. Never mind what this shit will do to your liver or brain cells, think of the all fun you’ll have begging for change and scrounging around in a dumpster for your next meal or fix.
Ok, ok, ok, that might have been a bit insensitive but don’t say I didn’t warn you should you choose to go down that path.
As always, any folks from across the pond or for that matter, anywhere else in the world are free to chime in with their countries beverage of choice when it comes to “bum wines”.
The Toast of the Town
Esteemed user wertperch advises that in Scotland a beverage known as Buckfast Tonic Wine also qualifies as bum wine status.
For a good laugh, revered user avalyn pointed me to a now, sadly defunct blog that chronicles an individual's experiments with various bum wines and other fine spirits.
Apparently an aficionado of bum wines, The Custodian advises that I originally omitted Wild Irish Rose from this treatise. The author takes full responsibility for this glaring omission and will correct it when he sobers up. Not to be outdone, The Custodian also happily supplied me with a link which I felt obliged to share with you should you require more information on the topic.