It's hard to know what a dark liquid will taste like just by looking at it. But it's easy to tell what will knock you sideways.
The first tip-off: plastic. I've never imbibed from a plastic bottle before. The bottle was long in the neck and seemed to have a hard time coming out of the bottle. No matter how much I tried, it just didn't want to be finished. It seems that whatever the liquid was made from objected to being moved and pouring it into shotglasses only made it angry.
The second tipoff: approx. $3.20. That's right. This bad boy cost me about $3.20 Australian. Once again, that's how I make purchasing decisions. This price doesn't take into account the fees one gets slugged with for taking money from a bank using undervalued American Travellers cheques.
"Just take them" I was told. "Everyone accept them". If "everyone" meant "only various branches of Barclays" then that statement would have held more water. Simple fact is, everything has fees. The travellers cheque, in American dollars, gets about 400 to 700 cedis (Cedis? This was in Ghana) less than the cash dollar. So maybe the cost of this was about $3.60.
The third tipoff: 42% alcohol; more than one third of the bottle is pain.
Conducting business with the friendly gentleman behind the counter was an easy task.
"How much for this one?" I enquired.
"Sixteen," he said.
"Wait... sixteen?" I asked, seeking to clarify.
"Yes... sixteen," he again replied.
"That's a one and a six, right?" I asked, showing the gentleman I was new to numbers beyond ten.
So we exchanged goods for money, and money for goods, and I walked away giggling about cheap hooch wrapped in three sheets of newspaper.
The taste is difficult to describe. Mainly because the burning sensations begin before the taste-buds have a chance to collect their thoughts. It spreads out from the mouth, and halfway down the oesophagus, it spreads out to the ears and finger tips. Burning and tingling are everywhere. Intertwined. Some say it tastes bad. Others say it didn't taste as bad as it smelled. I'm not too clear on what everyone said however, because details after the third shot are moderately sketchy. I remember thinking that I tasted coconut, but false memory is also a possibility.
It's a dark liquid, not unlike cola that has gone flat. Nothing at all like cola at the same time. But with more of an amber hue. It has an ambiguous personality; like a close friend who turns on you only when you encroach upon "personal space". You can't turn your back on a drink like this.
The smell alone is powerful. Pungent. Putrid. It's a mix of a few things. I can't name them. The best guess is "medicine", which is an overused generalisation sprayed over any beverage that doesn't agree with the standard person's palette.
The body can only be described as "light". To unrefined quaffers of God-awful spirit, this means the weight of the liquid in the mouth.
There is no sweetness.
At $3.20, I can't think of a better way to keep warm this winter.
Reviewed on Monday, 7 April 2003