Don't let the pretty colors fool you. This is some rough stuff.
Anyone who has searched the couch cushions for a handful of change knows that boozing on an extreme budget can be a risky proposition. To help you decide how to spend that meager pile of pennies, we've scraped the bottom of the barrel to review some of the cheapest, most face-planting, getcha drunk wines on the market. This week: Cisco.
The Vintage: Berry Cisco, ABV 18%
Cisco is produced by Constellation Wines, the "#1 supplier of fortified wines in the U.S." A starling achievement. Mom would be so proud. The manufacturer boasts that berry flavored Cisco is a "dessert wine" with a "mixed berry profile" that manages to be "strong, yet sweet and fruity," with a "high-quality flavor selection to satisfy every palate." It's also known on the street as Liquid Crack. Clearly the marketing department for Cisco was whacked out of their gourds on this demonic elixir when trying to spin its chemical-laden, cough-syrup flavor profile in a positive light.
Nothing positive can be said for this wine, aside from the fact that it will get you fall-down, pants-pissing drunk in record time. If you consider that a plus. I'm just lucky that I had the foresight to save a couple swings for a more circumspect, post-indulgence assessment of its merits, because the Cisco I consumed acted like a brillo pad on my brain. It buffed away all recollection of the foulness from the night before and left a blank slate in its wake. A dangerous side effect that may lead to unintended consequences, you know, like waking up naked in a gutter with no recollection of the night prior.
(See, swirl, sniff, sip and savor this bounty after the jump)
Appearance: At first glance it looks innocuous enough, an enticing ruby red glittering in the light. The shiny acts as a lure to attract magpie consumers that walk in thinking, "I like berry wine coolers and fruity daiquiris that are the same color!" Clearly the reason they have to state on the label in all caps, "THIS IS NOT A WINE COOLER." The thick layer of dust coating the label and a graphic design job that looks like it hasn't been updated since the late 80s should also have served as a warning.
Bouquet: Sweet, sweet chemicals. A raspastrawberry (or whatever mutant berry hybrid Cisco is emulating) patch growing in the shadow of a glue factory probably has a similar scent. To duplicate this enticing aroma in your own home, steep a handful of berries in a pint of rubbing alcohol. Toss in a bottle of cough syrup, add a hefty amount of carcinogenic red dye and let the mixture ferment in the heat for a couple weeks. You now have Cisco. Beware the fumes.
Body: Sweet bubble yum bum sweat, this stuff is wrecked. The rubbing alcohol profile isn't far off the mark, maybe with a packet of generic strawberry drink added to enhance the fake berry flavor. Beneath the overtones of mystery fruit were shame and loathing personified in drink form. I could have just downed a bottle of cough syrup instead of this stuff and at least my sinuses would be clear. Ralphie said it best: "It tastes like burning."
Finish: Red hot hate. After every sip I screwed up my face and let out an audible "Whoo!" There is no acclimation period involved with this firewater. And I'm sure it's not because I just neglected to let the wine (if you can call it that) properly breathe before consuming.
Pairs with: That last forgotten hot dog that's been shriveling under the heat lamp at your local Kwik-E-Mart. Stale bun and as much generic ketchup as you can stomach. It won't help with the hang over, but it'll give your guts something new to complain about.
Lasting impressions: Cisco is devil wine. After polishing the bottle I told the dog to get her "bitch face outta my bizness," ate half a bag of goldfish crackers and passed out to the blaring, looped intro of some crappy horror flick. I bolted upright at about 4 am with a mouth so dry I could have very well used my tongue as an industrial strength sander. It took 32 full ounces of water to rehydrate everything back to a somewhat normal state.
Despite repeating this 32 ounce hydration chugathon every couple of hours after that, my bladder was on strike until that evening. It was probably busy consoling my overtaxed and desperate liver and kidneys as they tried to mediate the aftermath of this boozy disaster. I have no idea where well over a gallon of water disappeared during that period. I can only assume that the booze-leeching drunk sweats called dibs on the majority of it. I would not recommend this under any circumstances. Boone's Farm is seriously farm league compared to this devil wine.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.