If there's two things college kids love, it's getting drunk and saving money. While I imagine that it would be a major faux pas to show up to an adult social gathering holding boxed wine or a $6 bottle of gin, on campus it's cheap brands like Crystal Palace, Franzia, and Natty Light that thrive. These drinks may not massage our throats, but they'll never put more than a minor dent in our wallets.
Yes, this generation isn't just liberal and open-minded about social issues, it extends that inclusivity to all kinds of alcohol, accepting and cherishing liquor that's been cast aside for being too uncouth or too gross for civilized grown-ups.
Big brands on campus include the fairly mainstream Fireball, a cinnamon whiskey that seems to grow more popular every week, and Not Your Father's Root Beer, a craft brew that's selling out stores all over. But the backbone of any college party is made up of drinks that challenge your gag reflex and dare your stomach to stay calm.
The king of these beverages has a name befitting that title: Crystal Palace. Say this vodka in a fancy-enough accent and you might fool someone into thinking it's luxurious, but one shot, I'm told, and you'll know that this liquor is only intended for those who drink not to savor the taste, but to enjoy the effect. Online reviews refer to Crystal Palace as "paint thinner," "the worst ever," and "I would rather get kicked in the face repeatedly by an angry bull than drink this," but students don't have any problem with that.
"Crystal Palace is always warm and usually held by a blackout freshman on game day, but it gets the job done," said one University of Michigan student.
Walking around Ann Arbor near the frat houses on game days, one might also notice young Wolverines receiving "peppermint patties" — that is, taking a pull of peppermint schnapps while a friend (or stranger, I suppose) squirts chocolate sauce into your mouth.
Other schools all have their own unique concoctions: Kettering in Flint claims to make a mean "Pink Panty Dropper" (pink lemonade, beer, and vodka), while Western boasts that it can "keep you going all night" with a fifth of UV Blue mixed with a few scoops of C4 pre-workout. In addition, of course, there are also established brands that each city holds dear.
"In Grand Rapids, carrying a pint of Fireball at all times is the expected norm," said a young source with knowledge of that city's customs, adding, "Any given female will be chiefing a six pack of Reds or Angry Orchard before the night's over."
College is a time for experimentation and self-discovery, or so say campus tour guides and brochures. Of course, they mean that one day you might find you have a natural talent for sculpting, and another day you might walk into a classroom and leave with a newfound passion for anthropology. That's not wrong, but there are other days, too — ones where you might skip class but learn that Arizona Iced Tea and Everclear are two perfectly fine things to mix together and deposit into your body. The young minds of our world all have their own special, if unconventional favorites.
"Whisky and purple Gatorade is a surprisingly good combo," one student said.
"Arnold Palmer and Dragon Berry Rum: Sounds disgusting, looks disgusting, tastes like you're on a beach. There's no aftertaste. Mix that baby half-and-half, you still can't taste the alc," another explained.
Desperation and a lack of options are also why students are willing to put up with unconventional concoctions. Another student referenced a mixture of crisp white Franzia, Smirnoff Screwdriver, and Mike's Hard Lemonade, which she said tasted "like sunshine."
"They were all left over in our fridge. My roommate just mixed everything we had," the student said, adding that the drink later made her projectile vomit "like seven times."
Students surveyed copped to drinking out of vases, turkey basters, used K-cups, a baby bottle, and an upside-down vuvuzela converted into a beer bong. Additionally, when it came to choosing chasers to wash down the taste, students were equally undiscriminating.
"One time we chased tequila with grapefruit because we didn't have any limes" the student who'd projectile vomited said.
"One time my friends used cold Campbell's soup as a chaser," added another student.
So yeah, a lot of college kids are kind of disgusting, especially when they're partying. But universities are where we're supposed to learn all the valuable skills we need to live life, and these students all demonstrate fantastic resourcefulness, flexibility, and willpower when it comes to having a good time and making sure they never go thirsty.
As one Wolverine observed, "It's sort of like the Great Depression mentality: waste not, want not. You gotta make do with what you have."