The spring evenings in San Francisco are drunk with gold. It pours down the avenues of the Sunset. It ignites each leaf of the acacias along Frederick Street. Gold collects in a rich haze over Ocean Beach. It makes a summer haystack out of Potrero Hill. It gilds the telephone lines on Downey Street, stretching a web of bright metal. Gold blows out the windows of the Painted Ladies. It lays down bright parallelograms under the eucalyptus on the Panhandle. It lights the massive glowing arteries of the 101. It alchemizes the skyscrapers on Market Street, creating a city of gold slabs. I love living in this city, I love the Pacific light, and I love the motto given by the city fathers in 1859: “Gold in Peace, Iron in War.”
Goldschläger tastes entirely quotidian, but the gold flecks approach the sublime.
—Arlo Crawford / @museumy
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A night of drinking 99 Bananas is a great way to appreciate Jeff Koons. It’s pop. Start off easy, mixing it with RC Cola and laughing about the giant puppy he built out of flowers in Rockefeller Center and then, after you’ve moved on to 99 Bananas on the rocks, you can get a little more weird and discuss his life-size porcelain of Michael Jackson and Bubbles. Late night, when it’s 99 Bananas right out of the bottle, take some time alone for close examination of the photo-realistic paintings he made of his Italian porn star ex-wife. Before long you’ll be curled up with an inflatable lobster, snoring away and dreaming 99 Bananas dreams filled with giant reflective hearts.
99 Bananas tastes like melted yellow Popsicles mixed with turpentine. It’ll make you smile.
You shouldn’t drink antifreeze. Just in case this isn’t obvious there are numerous safeguards in place to prevent people from boozing the stuff, including skull and crossbones on the label and an additive called denatonium (the bitterest substance known to man). The main ingredient in antifreeze, ethylene glycol, is sweet, smooth, and clear. It’s delicious and costs about six dollars a gallon, just one fifth the price of Popov Vodka. You can see why it’s tempting. So to make it absolutely, completely and totally obvious that humans should not consume it, manufacturers color it bright blue, the color of deadly poison.
I don’t know what Hpnotiq tastes like because I didn’t drink it. Obviously.
You should go for a trip with your dad. To Canada maybe; to Campobello Island where FDR had a summer home, or to Lac Manicouagan to do some canoeing. You can eat corned beef for breakfast, ham sandwiches for lunch at a rest stop picnic table, dinner at an okay steakhouse. You can stay at a motel called the Bluebird or the Leaping Deer. After dinner you and your dad can drink some Oh Canada together; use the two cups the motel leaves wrapped in plastic (“sanitized for your protection”), and give him a little more than he’s used to drinking. Then sit and watch the TV, talk about your mom, work, sports, and wait until your dad is snoring with his glasses still on.
Oh Canada tastes like maple syrup because it’s made from maple syrup. It’s only 52 proof but those are Canadian measurements, so who really knows.
Honey is sweet. It’s the cuddliest form of fructose, the province of cable knits, chamomile, cute beekeepers. All summer long the little workers have been buzzing around in their stripy, fuzzy suits, collecting the essence of the blossoms and the grasses, distilling summer. But now it’s fall, the beekeepers are hanging it up, and it’s time to go hunting bears. The general name for this type of liqueur is Bärenfang, “bear bait” in German, and it was first produced during the fifteenth century in the former East Prussia. If the gothic blackletter script on the bottle doesn’t give it away, it’s tough honey.
Bärenjäger tastes like something that grandmothers sneak sips of from a bottle hidden behind the apple bin, golden and a little spicy. It’ll get you buzzed.
Whiskey is what we drink in America. It’s what our cowboys were drinking when they drove the American Bison extinct just because it was fun to shoot them. It’s what Thomas Edison was drinking when he invented the electric chair. It’s what our boys overseas were drinking when they liberated Kuwait. It’s what heroes drink. So what’s up with whiskey brand names? Old Granddad. Old Crow. Wild Turkey. The truth is that Americans love eagles, but we also love the mean-as-hell, knobbly-headed, decrepit old turkey. We like them stringy, whip smart, and cold eyed. If you’ve ever shot your old lady down, if you do dirty deeds and you do ‘em dirt cheap, if you’re Axl Rose, then pour yourself a double.
The dominant taste is alcohol, since it’s one hundred and one proof. That extra one proof stuck on the end (which you might think is just gratuitous) actually serves a key function: it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
The city of San Francisco consumes almost fifty percent of the Fernet Branca imported into the United States, but it’s not the kind of thing you drink while buying a Property of Alcatraz sweatshirt, or while fending off West Nile infected seagulls at Fisherman’s Wharf, or picking up a Penguin Classic copy of On the Road at City Lights Bookstore. You’re supposed to drink it on a Sunday morning at Ocean Beach while illegally fishing for Dungeness Crab with a few old Chinese guys as hungover as you are; on a Saturday afternoon in Dolores Park while trying to ignore the thwack of tennis balls and keeping an eye out for the pot truffle guy; on a Wednesday night while lying in bed and discussing whether Sutro Tower could fall over and pin you to your bed, squirming and bleeding, during a massive earthquake.
It tastes like the poison that the wicked queen used to try and kill Snow White. In San Francisco it’s traditional to order it with a ginger ale back but, hell, let your freak flag fly.