A 40-ounce Flavor Finder

Who got the hooch, baby?
Who got the only sweetest thing in the world?
Who got the love?
Who got the fresh-e-freshy?
Who got the only sweetest thing in the world?
Let's get real, let's get heavy
Till the water breaks the levee.
Let's get loose, loose.
Who got the hooch?

- From the song "Hooch" by Everything

In times of economic hardship, certain sacrifices must be made. And, as we all know, some of the most difficult items to give up are our decadent revelries. Like our hooch. If you're found in this position, I'm here to help. I'm sacrificing my time, liver, taste buds and, quite likely, a bit of stomach acid to bring you a taste test of 40-ounce malt liquors.

Before we begin, let's get a few things straight. First, never refer to these large bottles as 40-ouncers. They're 40s. When you're making your purchase, gladly accept the brown paper bag that the clerk offers you. It tends to enhance the mood of 40-guzzling. And by guzzling, I'm not kidding. They get warm quickly. The warmer they get, the more they taste like gasoline, so open your gullet and pour, if you can. Nota bene: Chilled mugs are considered an insult. You must drink from the bottle-using one hand, if possible.

WARNING TO TEETOTALERS AND 40-OZ. CONNOISSEURS: The reporter will be indulging in the sauce, so her taste buds may be affected and items further down the list may have an unfair advantage.

Olde English 800 Malt Liquor: 7.5 percent alc/vol.

This was typically my choice of firewater during high school/college 40s parties -- looking back, I have no idea why. One attribute of this brand is the size of the bottle's mouth: No warming-beer smells have a chance to waft from the swill below as you imbibe. Were you able to smell it, you'd have some difficulties continuing. This beverage seems to become sweeter the more you drink, which, to this liver-hardened reporter, is a turn-off.

Olde English High Gravity 800 Malt Liquor: 8 percent alc/vol.

Because there's more alcohol in this, it's more desirable than its predecessor (OE 800), but less desirable than the other samples. I found the main difference of "gravity" is in its accentuation. It's more acrid, pungent and thick-tasting than the gravity-free one. Still, none of those traits were so bad that they overshadowed its higher alcohol content.

Mickeys Fine Malt Liquor: unspecified percent.

While I went for the OE at those parties of my youth, my older and apparently smarter sister chose Mickeys. If only I'd followed in her footsteps. This is by far the best of all of the 40s purchased. It's smooth and bland -- a good thing with this kind of beverage. The mild flavor makes it less offensive than any other, as the bottle warms from the heat of your hand. It's also surprisingly refreshing, and results in the most inoffensive burps.

Mickeys Ice: 5.8 percent alc/vol.

Though I didn't notice when I purchased Mickeys Ice, it's actually an ice-brewed ale, so it doesn't count as a malt liquor. Still, its highlight was a fresh, almost minty smell upon opening. A fine flavor going down. But next to Mickeys, whose alcohol content is higher by its malt-liquor nature, there's no comparison. Go for the original.

King Cobra Premium Malt Liquor: Unspecified percent

Disclosure: This one's only 32 ounces.

At first, King Cobra wasn't great. It had a sour aftertaste. But the drinking of all the others beforehand helped dull my taste buds, and the King worked its way ahead of the OE, hands down. Translation: Drink it fast and you won't notice the bad flavor.

Magnum 32 Malt Liquor: 6 percent

Disclosure: Another 32-ouncer.

Similar to King Cobra, it was initially highly undesirable. It smelled slightly of urine, which made it difficult to really appreciate any flavor. Certainly this was the most bitter, and produced the most offensive burps. But after a few rounds of the other spirits this, too, became palatable and fairly enjoyable -- better than the OE, anyway.

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