To say a lot of us aren't looking forward to January 20th is bigly understating the matter. We're fearing it, dreading it, getting a little queasy at the mere thought of President Trump. Will he tweet the Oath of Office? Will he lead the crowd in a chant of "Lock her up" during his Inaugural Address? Will Vladimir Putin case the Oval Office while Donald is taking the oath? Who the hell is Jackie Evancho, anyway?
We all have to endure the day, to say nothing of the next four years. But that doesn't mean we have to stay sober for it. As part of our loyal opposition to this lifelong teetotaler's presidency, it's our patriotic duty to drink, and drink a lot, starting the day The Donald takes office. That first day, with all its attendant pageantry, media fawning, and chest-thumping by a good portion of our electorate (though not a majority!), may be a little tougher to get through than most. So for your drinking pleasure, and to numb your soul to whatever degree necessary, here are some of my favorite high-proof (also known as overproof) spirits. "Overproof" for our purposes means 110 proof or over, which works out to 55% alcohol by volume and up. These babies will help keep you blissfully inebriated from "I, Donald J. Trump, do solemnly swear..." right up to the morning of the 21st. At a bare minimum.
The best overproof spirits are surprisingly easy to drink neat, although there's no shame in adding a little water if you need. They also pack a powerful punch in cocktails, a few of whose recipes are below. With any luck, by noon or so you'll be screaming incoherently at your TV, and perhaps for a little while you'll be able to forget that the man who gets into Twitter wars with Hollywood actors is now the man in the Oval Office.
(And don't forget, folks -- if you're gonna get wasted, please don't get behind the wheel until you've sobered up or found a designated driver.)
BOOKER'S BOURBON (125-130 proof, $70). Cask-strength bourbon (meaning no water is added before bottling, as with most spirits) wasn't a thing before Booker Noe, Jim Beam's Master Distiller, first started bottling his namesake hooch in the late '80s. Neither was "small batch" (a vague term, meaning a bottling taken from a small number of barrels). Nowadays, of course, you can't swing a cat in a liquor store without hitting another small batch, cask strength bourbon. Not that you should ever swing a cat in a liquor store, but you know what I mean. Booker's releases several batches a year (it's going down from six to four in 2017, #ThanksTrump), but they all maintain a consistency of flavor, with big notes of vanilla and spicy oak, undertones of nuts and baking spices, and a long, powerful finish. It's delicious neat or with a splash of water. But for Inauguration Day, your go-to bourbon drink should be a Manhattan, named after the borough that gave Trump less than 10% of the vote. And who knows Trump better than Manhattanites?
WHAT TRUMP WOULD TWEET, IF HE DRANK: I love Booker's Bourbon! A big, beautiful, HIGH PROOF bourbon made in KENTUCKY, a state that I won by a landslide. Wasn't even close!
MICHTER'S BARREL STRENGTH KENTUCKY STRAIGHT RYE WHISKEY (113 proof), $75). Contrary to what our next Chief Executive may think, say, and/or tweet, a lot of good things happened during the Obama years. Not least of which was the explosive growth of the rye whiskey market. All but left for dead at the turn of the millennium, rye sales grew more than 500% during the first five years of the Obama administration. It's still a drop in the bucket compared to bourbon sales, but that drop is making a lot more of a splash now. A great rye, in this liberal's opinion, should have sweet, fruity characteristics typical of old-school ryes as well as the big, spicy notes typical of today's brawnier brands. Michter's does the job and does it well, with rich plum and apricot up front gradually evolving to a peppery, woody finish. Give this a try in an Old Fashioned, where the addition of sugar and bitters deepens both the sweeter and drier flavors. If only Trump would try a couple of these, he might be able to sleep at night -- and the world would finally be done with his cranky insomniac tweets. Though not the cranky midday tweets, sadly.
WHAT TRUMP WOULD TWEET, IF HE DRANK: Michter's makes a great BARREL PROOF RYE that really packs a punch. Two shots of this stuff and Hillary would be puking her guts up. Sad!
LOST SPIRITS NAVY STYLE RUM (122 proof, $45). While Trump will try to "make America great again" by reviving coal mining, taking away poor people's health insurance, and building a big border wall, boozy visionary Bryan Davis has been making America great the way we've always done it, by looking forward and innovating. With his revolutionary THEA reactor, Davis has figured out how to rapidly age spirits so they need not sit in barrels for years or decades to achieve the color and flavor that only time has been able to impart. Using the reactor, Davis can replicate a twenty-year-old rum in a mere eight days, without any artificial flavoring or coloring added. The proof is in the pudding -- or rather, in his Navy Style rum. It's dark to the point of opacity, with a flavor that's closer to a classic Caribbean pot-still rum than the smoother, sugary-sweet brands populating the back bars of this great land of ours. Dark fruits and baking spices predominate, with a rich, spicy finish. It's not too sweet, it's not too hot, and it's perfect for sipping or in cocktails. Use it, for example, in an overproof Mai Tai. I'll be having at least one, for personal reasons. You see, I've hated Trump ever since he bought the Plaza Hotel in the late '80s and promptly closed Trader Vic's, which was in the Plaza's basement and was the best tiki bar (if one of the few remaining by then) in New York. He called it "tacky." Donald Trump. Called it tacky. And then he had the statue of General Sherman across the street from the Plaza painted bright, shiny, ostentatious gold. Because that's less tacky than a mai tai and a pupu platter, apparently. Bottoms up, Prez!
WHAT TRUMP WOULD TWEET IF HE DRANK: The dishonest media says you need to age spirits for years or decades. Lies! Stop obsessing over Russia and write about this rum instead!
WRAY & NEPHEW WHITE OVERPROOF RUM (125 proof, $18). In Jamaica, where Wray & Nephew is made, the locals drink this stuff on an everyday basis, whether neat, on the rocks or with delicious Jamaican grapefruit soda. Given what we're going to have to endure in a Trump presidency, we can take a valuable lesson from our Jamaican brethren and start hitting the sauce ourselves. To a non-native, it can be a little overpowering taken neat, but man oh man, is it delicious, with a slightly vegetal aroma giving way on the palate to luscious tropical fruit notes like coconut and pineapple, along with brown sugar and just a hint of mint. Yeah, it burns the throat a little, but quaff it with ice and it'll make Trump's hair seem that much more entertaining. Better yet, make a nifty high-octane Hemingway daiquiri, and drink it while reading The Old Man And The Sea instead of watching TV on January 20th.
WHAT TRUMP WOULD TWEET, IF HE DRANK: I once shared a bottle of Wray & Nephew w/ Schwarzenegger. Halfway through, he was under the table. I didn't feel a thing! #DTS
PLYMOUTH NAVY STRENGTH GIN (114 proof, $55). It's called "navy strength" because it was drunk by the British Navy. It was drunk by the Navy because it's sufficiently high-proof for gunpowder to still ignite even if you spill the gin on it. Which, with a gin this strong, was a definite possibility after a gimlet or two (the lime juice helped ward off scurvy). It comes from Plymouth, which is in England, which I wish would adopt the U.S. as its colonial outpost once again, in order to save it from the clean-and-sober nutburger about to occupy the White House. Regardless, standard Plymouth is high on the list of my favorite gins, and its Navy Strength expression is delicious as well, although it's got a somewhat different flavor profile. Standard Plymouth is a well-balanced affair, with the juniper, citrus and herbal elements all mingling harmoniously, while the Navy Strength finds lemony citrus notes dominating, with the juniper emerging on the (unsurprisingly hot) finish. Still delicious, though, and it really shines in tall drinks like the Tom Collins or gin & tonic. It also makes a fabulous Negroni. But if you want to get unconscious as quickly as possible, stick it in a martini -- 2:1 gin to vermouth, 3:1 tops, with a twist of lemon. It'll get you blotto faster than you can say "You lost the popular vote by almost 3 million, Mr. President."
WHAT TRUMP WOULD TWEET, IF HE DRANK: I knew Brexit would succeed because the British make such GOOD GIN! Nobody drinks Greek/Greman/French gin. No wonder the Brits wanted out!
BRUICHLADDICH OCTOMORE 7.4 VIRGIN OAK SINGLE MALT SCOTCH WHISKY (122.4 proof, $250). Donald Trump doesn't drink, but he signed bottles of a 26-year-old Glendronach and is selling them for £195 at his hotel/golf course in Scotland, because money. Which isn't such a terrible thing, I suppose -- at least he doesn't care if the rest of us drink. But still, for the Scotch whisky portion of our show, we're going to steer way clear of that golf course and head to the remote, inhospitable shores of Islay, where the world's peatiest whisky, as measured by chemical analysis, is made. The country's gone to hell, so it makes sense to drink a smoky, ashy, campfire-in-your-mouth whisky. It's a bracing dram, whose alcohol content will knock you on your ass and whose powerful flavor will distract you from the horror show taking place in D.C. But we've still got to have hope, and underneath Octomore's smoke and peat lies sweetness. Honey, citrus, cinnamon and clove combine to remind us that there are better days ahead. Octomore is a great whisky no matter what mood you're in. To say nothing of the president's mood.
WHAT TRUMP WOULD TWEET, IF HE DRANK: Overrated Meryl Streep can't act, she just does accents. So she knows how to pronounce Bruichladdich, big deal! It didn't help Hillary win!
REDBREAST 12 YEAR OLD CASK STRENGTH SINGLE POT STILL IRISH WHISKEY (115-120 proof, $75). For a good long while, the knock on Irish whiskey was that it was smoother and easier to drink -- and hence more boring -- than its Scotch counterpart. Well, one sip of this monster will expose the lie as quickly as a fact-checker looking at Trump's tweets. Redbreast is a single pot still whiskey, the Irish equivalent of a Scotch single malt; it's made from a mix of malted and unmalted barley distilled three times in an old-school pot still. The pot still produces a more flavorful, fuller-bodied whiskey than modern column stills. And damn, this is as flavorful as it gets. Lots of dark fruit flavors like dried cherry and raisin, along with rich chocolate, luscious vanilla, and hints of almonds and toffee. Yeah, it packs an alcoholic wallop, but you won't taste it -- this beauty doesn't need a drop of water. And drinking it neat will help you get three sheets to the wind all the faster.
WHAT TRUMP WOULD TWEET, IF HE DRANK: I drank too much Redbreast at my big, beautiful hotel in Doonbeg but had the LUCK OF THE IRISH and made it to the toilet in time!
TAPATIO BLANCO 110 TEQUILA (110 proof, $45). There aren't that many high-proof tequilas out there, but for a special occasion like this one, you need to hunt down a bottle. Created by the legendary distiller Carlos Camarena (he, I assume, is good people), Tapatio 110 is pretty close to what a tequila would taste like straight off the still (a tiny bit of water is added), and it's as big and flavorful as you'd expect. Spicy, agave-forward, a little sweet, a little vegetal (think green pepper), this is surprisingly tasty neat, and of course it makes an amazing overproof margarita. What better way to flip the symbolic bird at The Wall Guy than by getting plastered on Mexico's finest during his big day?
WHAT TRUMP WOULD TWEET, IF HE DRANK: 100% of tequila is grown in Mexico because Obama was too weak to compete. January 20, we start BUILDING the Great Wall & PLANTING AGAVE!
CHARTREUSE GREEN LIQUEUR (110 proof, $45/375 ml). If the thought of President Trump is making you think about giving it all up and becoming a monk, you could do worse than heading for the monastery in Voiron, France, where Carthusian monks have been making Chartreuse since 1605. Talk about a higher calling! This is a heavenly liqueur, powerful as all heck, and totally unlike the sugary, sickly sweet liqueurs stashed in the back of your parents' liquor cabinet. Green Chartreuse is quite herbal, heavy on the menthol and eucalyptus and surprisingly refreshing despite all that alcohol. It was originally produced for medicinal purposes, after all, and if you drink enough of it on January 20th it'll help cure what ails you, assuming what ails you is being aware that Donald Trump has become President of the United States. Rather than drinking it by its lonesome, try it in a Last Word, a simply sensational cocktail that'll guarantee you the last sip even if Trump fires off the last tweet.
WHAT TRUMP WOULD TWEET, IF HE DRANK: Megyn Kelly said I drank too much Chartreuse & got wasted at a luncheon. CHECK FACTS! The oysters were bad! Ask Melania, she puked too!