Hibiscus tequila, Danny DeVito’s limoncello, and Japanese sperm liqueur
It isn’t often that a national joke becomes a commercial product. Usually, when celebrities get drunk or high and piss people off in public, they deny the incident—their publicists blame exhaustion, dehydration, or pain medication. (It’s pretty hard to market those as luxury items for starfuckers.) Failing that, they generally don’t release enthusiastic recommendations for the vice-of-choice that put them before the public’s condemning eye: Imagine Mel Gibson hawking Cazadores Tequila after his “What are you looking at, sugartits?” drunken tirade, or Shia LaBeouf doing ads for whatever he was drinking/smoking when he got arrested for “trespassing” in a Chicago Walgreens, or when he later ended up flipping his truck in a DUI incident. Generally, celebs involved in public-boozing scandals hunker down and wait for people to find something new to gossip about.
Not Danny DeVito. Back in 2006, DeVito appeared on The View either still drunk or just addled and hung over after a night of boozing it up with George Clooney. He sat in Rosie O’Donnell’s lap, squinted and stammered at the teleprompter, slurred through a rambling story about him and wife Rhea Perlman fucking in the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House, and made fun of George W. Bush, well before many of his fellow celebrities climbed on that bandwagon. Leading up to the Lincoln Bedroom story, DeVito explained how he and Pearlman had visited the White House when Clinton was still in office: “I didn’t go after Numbnuts [was elected].” Then he did an extended impression of Bush as a babbling, incoherent idiot:
The incident made national news and was one of those celebrity nine-day wonders, much talked-about but ultimately shrugged off. DeVito himself dismissed the whole thing with a casual, self-effacing smile, explaining that he’d been up late drinking limoncello with Clooney, and that while he hadn’t still been drunk, he’d been sleepless and tired. Something about the incident captured the public imagination—maybe the image of famous people casually hanging around and drinking together, in a way that just sounded fun. Or maybe it was DeVito’s frequent praise of limoncello, which he sorta-kinda blamed for the incident, not as though it was the Demon Rum he was struggling to escape, but as something so tasty and enjoyable to consume that maybe he overindulged himself a little, tee hee. For a lot of people, DeVito’s binge was their first clue about the existence of the lemon-flavored Italian liqueur, and interest in the stuff spiked immediately and decisively.
So in a way, it’s surprising that it’s taken three full years for DeVito to get around to marketing his own brand of the stuff. (It’s also surprising that it’s so bad, but we’ll get to that.) Here at Taste Test Labs, we’ve been fielding requests for a Danny DeVito’s Limoncello test for quite a while. So in an attempt to give our pal Jeremy, a.k.a. partdavid on the A.V. Club boards, the most bang for his buck while we had him in the office as a thank-you for the $500 he donated to Rock For Kids, we continued our chelada taste test by immediately moving on and sucking down some limoncello. By this point, we were all pretty boozed up already. (Note that Genevieve’s hands are still shaking from the chelada in the video below.) So what the hell, since none of us had to be on The View in the morning, we also tried a couple more alcoholic items we happened to have in the office—Gran Centenario Rosangel, which is a hibiscus-infused tequila, and something called Popsy. See below for more on that.
The first thing we noticed about Danny DeVito’s Premium Limoncello wasn’t the taste, it was the fact that it’s lumpy. The first couple of pours from the 750ml bottle contained fuzzy lumps of lemon flavoring that looked something like tiny little lemon drops. That may sound delicious in principle, but in person (especially after our experiences with nasty chelada residue on our glasses) it was pretty disgusting—and it suggests either a bunch of ill-blended cheap flavoring, or something actually wrong with the drink such that it was separating within the bottle. (Or mold.) Nonetheless, our laboratory workers are committed—especially to getting drunk—and we sucked it down anyway. It’s hard to describe the taste, because cough medicines are usually cherry-flavored, not lemon-flavored. Nonetheless, this stuff had a sticky, syrupy texture, even at room temperature (though we tried it cold) and a strongly medicinal aftertaste that was more like grain alcohol with lemons squeezed into it than like fine Italian liqueur. We expected a certain astringency from the lemon, but in this case, it mostly came from the 30 percent alcohol content. It’s harsh, raw, and stinging, with a strong sugary flavor overwhelming the citrus, and no one went back for more than a sip. So much for our plans to drunkenly bash Bush later on.
Gran Centenario Rosangel (40 percent alcohol content) produced much more division in the labs—some people thought it was too “fruity” or “flowery,” while some couldn’t taste the infusion at all, and there was no particular consensus among those who could taste it whether it was part of the nose, an aftertaste, or somewhere between. That aside, this was one of our more popular Taste Test products, with most tasters agreeing that it was a solid, high-end tequila rather than the nasty fuck-it-let’s-just-get-drunk cheapo variety, and that it was fairly close to as smooth and pleasant as tequila gets. (Which isn’t saying much.)
According to the label, at least, the drink has “a complex perfumed nose with ripe fruit and flower notes, plus hints of vanilla. In the mouth, it is silky smooth with rich flavors of dried fruits and a long gentle finish.” To us, though, it tasted a lot like most tequilas, with a half-second of no flavor whatsoever giving over, in quick succession, to a sharp sting on the tongue, a savage bitterness, an almost metallic biting-on-tinfoil taste, and an intense, rich, warm kick. If there’s a difference between this and most tequilas, it comes in the bitterness stage, which is less pronounced and maybe slightly sweeter and broader, but not nearly as naturally sweet as, say, hibiscus tea, and not exactly redolent of dried fruit.
Kyle only came back from Japan with a few oddities this year, but they were winners—a roundup of weird-ass KitKats and a shot’s worth of Popsy, a milky-white, creamy liqueur that comes in a plastic container shaped like a friendly, bug-eyed little sperm. (On the tag, a cartoon version of that sperm says “I’m coming!” in German, supposedly because the name comes from “poppen,” a German slang version of “fucking.”) Kyle only had one of these, and they only hold two ounces of Japanese sperm beverage, so Genevieve and Josh split it on camera, at the end of the video here:
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Turns out the stuff is actually really tasty. It doesn’t taste even slightly alcoholic; described as a vanilla-caramel liqueur, it’s milder and sweeter than Bailey’s, with a rich, almost maple-ish flavor. Japan, start putting this stuff out in 750ml bottles shaped like giant smirking sperm, and we promise we’ll start snapping it up for cocktails and cum-cookery right away.
Danny DeVito Premium Limoncello
• “It smells like really bad bronchitis medicine.”
• “It hurt me a little bit.”
• “It smells better than it tastes.”
• “It tastes like Danny DeVito personally crunched up all the lemons with his feet.”
• “It’s like when you open a packet of powdered lemonade and accidentally inhale a little.”
• “There’s a serious Windex vibe, not that I’m advocating drinking that.”
• “It doesn’t just taste bad, it makes my mouth feel bad. It makes me puckery.”
• “It tastes like burning. It definitely tastes like burning.”
• “It tastes like what Pine-Sol With Lemon presumably tastes like.”
• “It might make a good basis for a mixer, but straight up it’s too harsh to be enjoyed.”
• “It’s been a full minute, and I still feel it searing my mouth.” “Me too. And yet it still didn’t burn off that awful chelada taste.”
• “It’s syrupy. Sort of lemony, but not really. Kind of like if you melted down a Chuckle.”
• “It’s not something I’d have more than a couple sips of, though I do keep sipping it.”
• “It’s like some sort of evil lemon drop. Nothing I would want to drink in any DeVito-like quantities. I wouldn’t be able to drink enough to go on a talk show and make an ass out of myself.”
• “It’s so pretty! It’s a sort of soft salmon color.”
• “Yeah, it’s got a pretty flowery aftertaste. It’s good tequila, though.”
• “If you didn’t tell me it was flavored, if I wasn’t looking for it, I wouldn’t have noticed it at all.” “Me neither. Even looking for it, I don’t notice it.”
• “Tastes like that flower water you can add to drinks. Rosewater.”
• “It just smells so thick! As if it had spilled and caked onto the floor.”
• “That is an impressive level of burning.”
• “I expected it to be more floral, like hibiscus tea. It just tastes like tequila to me.”
• “This is the only tequila I’ve ever had that tastes like water first.”
• “The surprise isn’t the flavoring, it’s that somebody sent us some nice tequila.”
• “It tastes a little fluffy, I suppose.”
• “It does have kind of a more woody taste than most tequila.” “Yeah, it does taste woody.” “That’s what she… eh, never mind.”
• “It’s a decent tequila. I smell the flowery sweetness, but there’s no taste or aftertaste or anything.”
• “I think it tastes like flowers. But I don’t know anything.”
• “Maybe there’s a little edge of something flowery.”
• “I have to admit that this is my first time trying tequila. It met all my negative expectations. I really don't have a basis of comparison for this particular brand of tequila. I just wanted to say that my gag reflex was instantaneous.”
• “It does have a vague hint of something different. It’s got a nice warming quality.”
• “I really like it. It’s certainly recognizable as tequila, but it has a hint of something subtle. The infusion isn’t overwhelming.”
• “That has a hell of a kick. It’s kicking all the way down. But it isn’t any different in that regard from most tequila.”
Where to get them: Most sizeable liqueur stores probably carry both Gran Centenario Rosangel (which appears to retail for around $35 a bottle) and Danny DeVito’s Premium Limoncello (a distinctly not-worth-it $25 a bottle or so online, though we found ours cheaper). For Popsy, you may have to visit Japan.