Bum Wine: An Appreciation

Your humble correspondent, on the right.

There’s more than a little white-trash blood in my Swamp Yankee veins, and I’m not ashamed of it. Not the least bit. I like old pick-ups, barfights, and the smooth taste of Newport Reds. It’s nothing I could change, even if I wanted to.

Well, about a year ago, I discovered a website called BumWine.com. Bum wine is the cheap, nasty booze said to be favored by our homeless brothers and sisters. Technically, it’s classed as “fortified wine.” It all costs about $5 a bottle and tastes like someone poured Kool-Aid powder in paint thinner. As a rule, bum wine is sickly sweet to mask the inferior “wine.” (Hey, that’s how cocktails got their start.) Side effects include migraines, hallucination, and an inexplicable desire to drink more bum wine.

As soon as I stumbled across BumWine.com, I knew I had to give it a try. Cosmic forces drew me to this hobo hooch. The bum wines haunted my dreams. I was like a raccoon gazing into a landfill… and the landfill was gazing back.

The connoisseurs of these vagabond vinos recommend that a newcomer start with MD 20/20, affectionally known as “Mad Dog.” So, last week, I spent a day driving around northern New England buying as many varieties of Mad Dog as I could find. Here was the result:

The flavors are, from left to right: Habanero Lime-arita, Banana Red (sic.), Red Grape Wine, Blue Raspberry, Orange Jubilee, and Electric Melon.

On Saturday, I threw all these bottles in a cooler and then filled it to the brim with gas station ice. It chilled for about five hours, and then we got a whole bunch of friends together at the farm and had a tasting. As you can see, it was very elegant:

Here are our findings.

Habanero Lime-arita: A surprise favorite with the ladies. Actually, it wasn’t half bad. It did taste like a Bud Lite Lime-A-Rita with a little Taco Bell hot sauce and maybe some drain water. I’d give it a 4/10—not undrinkable, but not something I’d opt to drink.

Banana Red: I figured this would taste the most Kool-Aid-y. Nope. It tasted a bit like someone crushed up a bunch of banana Runts and mixed them in with cough syrup. Very disappointing, even to someone like me, who still likes the taste of Halloween candy (and cough syrup). My score: 2/10. Unpalatable.

Red Grape Wine: Folks, it’s good. Reeeeaaaal good. Tastes exactly like Welch’s grape juice and nothing like wine. If it wasn’t for the little buzz I got drinking it, I wouldn’t have though it contained alcohol. But it does. Absolutely delicious. I’d give it an 8/10, and would gladly buy it again, only my wife won’t let me. That’s probably smart.

Blue Raspberry: Two things jumped out at me as I gazed at the bottle. One is the little “Bling Bling” on the label, which adds a little touch of class. The other is the fact that it’s decorated with pictures of raspberries… but in their natural color—i.e., not blue. There’s no such thing as a blue raspberry in all God’s Creation, and I appreciate the fact that Mad Dog doesn’t hide the fact. It’s saying, “Yes, it’s totally unnatural. It might even be described as ‘an abomination.’ But who cares? Clearly not you, you pathetic drunk, or you wouldn’t even be holding a bottle that says ‘Bling Bling’ on the label. Now drink up, loser.”

(In fairness, the package does say that it contains “certified colors.” Whatever the Hell that means.)

Folks, I wasn’t disappointed. Blue Raspberry is my second favorite flavor. It tastes like someone melted down a blue Jolly Rancher and mixed it in with… well, not vodka per se. The amazing thing about Mad Dog is that it really doesn’t taste like alcohol. It definitely doesn’t come with that gut-rotting burn that most cheap liquors give you. If you can imagine what plain-flavored wine might taste like, that’s the base note for Mad Dog.

Anyway, many of our friends found Blue Raspberry to be the least offensive. Me, I’d give it a 7/10. Just a hair below the Red Grape, but an excellent drink nonetheless.

Orange Jubilee: This one I was expecting to hate. I figured it would taste like spiked orange juice, or the worst mimosa in the history of mimosas. Actually, most of us felt it was the most drinkable. It wasn’t the best, mind you, but it was the least alien-tasting. If someone handed it to you at a party and told you it was a kind of spritzer, you’d probably believe them. It did taste like orange juice, but the sulfates must have neutralized the citric acid, which was my main concern. (Not the liver failure, etc.) I give it a 6/10, and would happily drink it again.

Electric Melon: This one has me at a loss for words. It tastes like electric melon. Whatever bouquet that conjures in your mind, it’s correct. Eminently okay. My score: 5/10.

In short, Mad Dog is a treasure. Of course, everyone pretended to dislike it—everyone except for me and friend David, the stonemason. After the tasting, the rest of our group politely switched to Downeast Cider. But we kept on living the #BumLife. That’s us in the photo at the top. He finished off the Blue Rasberry, and I the Red Grape. Then I started eyeing the Electric Melon, so my wife made me go home. A wise woman is Mrs. Davis.

N.B. — Bum wine is better cold, but not with ice. This was a huge mistake. Don’t dilute it. Seriously. The ratio of drunk-nasty to sweet-nasty is perfectly balanced by the viticulturists at Mogen David. Add any water and it starts to melt away like the Wicked Witch of the West. Looks a bit like her, too.

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