Op/Ed | 10 High Bourbon or: How I Learned to Stop Caring and Embrace Cheap Liquor-Fueled Insanity
by Brent Illveesockay[Guest Contributor]
10 High Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. It will always hold a special place in my heart. There is nothing else I so lovingly associate with inebriated insanity.
Those of you who aren’t familiar with bourbon, or those of you that are familiar with bourbon but have never been a college student, 10 High is a bargain-bin brand of liquor. It costs $8-9 a bottle. Prices such as this are often associated with 80-proof monstrosities such as Karakov Vodka, what Tyler Buss would classify as “rail.” You know, the kind of stuff that not only gets you way too drunk, but leaves you with a hang-over that makes you wish you had a gun beside your bed so you could end it all. 10 High was always the exception for me, though: my ace-in-the-hole for cheap drinking with no hang-over. For $10, I could buy 750ml of alcohol and a bottle of Coke for chase use, and it actually tasted decent. That, and I could get absolutely hammered on any given night.
I’m not saying that 10 High tastes premium, or that it’s the smoothest stuff out there. But it’s pretty damn good for nine dollars a bottle, and I’d take 10 High over shit like Jack Daniels any day of the week. It’s no Maker’s Mark, but it’s no Canadian Mist, either. I can’t even begin to guess how many bottles of the stuff I went through.
Almost everyone drank shitty booze in college. Whether it was Natty Ice, Admiral Rodney rum, or the gold standard of cheap booze, boxed wine. It was a rite of passage. The shittier the alcohol you were drinking, the manlier you were. You only bought premium stuff for the girls. Because back then, goddamn it, thrift was a virtue. Eating Ramen noodles 7 days in a row wasn’t something to be frowned upon, it was a Way Of Life.
10 High, as well as being cheap, has the magical ability to turn me into a drunken, belligerent and potentially dangerous whirlwind of chaos. In college, all my friends had their all-out-insanity drink of choice. For Sam “The Canadian Cannon” Plankis, it was tequila. For Nickasun, it was Bacardi 151. For me, it was always 10 High. Things I’ve done during 10 High nights: rode an ironing board down a flight of stairs, had the police called on me after setting up a dumpster barricade in Nickasun’s alleyway and verbally abusing his neighbors, lit a toilet on fire, jumped in front of a moving vehicle, placed mouse traps on furniture throughout the house to “raise mousetrap awareness,” and ended up in the emergency room after convincing a guy who outweighed me by a good 60 pounds that we should fight for the fun of it.
But time marches on: people graduate and people get jobs. Natty Ice turns to Samuel Adams and wine that comes from a plastic bag turns to $25 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon.
After I graduated, I decided I wasn’t done with school yet, and that 3 more years and $120,000 more school loan debt was just a fantastic idea (note: it was not). I figured things would be at least somewhat the same, since it’s all still college. But a funny thing seems to happen when people get to law school. Everyone is just as poor as they were in undergraduate, probably even poorer, but thriftiness is no longer a virtue. It becomes a social stigma. At Winona State, any event with a Bud Light party ball and a couple of bags of potato chips was classy enough for anyone concerned. At Michigan Law, people throw parties with fine gin and seared tuna, even though their salaries are about -$50,000 a year.
I’ve stubbornly maintained my dedication to 10 High. I initially bought into the “step forward,” and started drinking micro-brews and classy wine. Then I got sick of it. It was way more expensive, and not nearly as fun. What was the point? Why did I want to bother pretending I was classy, and that I wasn’t six figures in debt? So I made a change, and now I go to parties like I did in undergraduate: clutching a bottle of 10 High in one hand and a bottle of Coke in the other. And you know what? I find a lot of people who are more than glad to put their martinis aside and take a swig of good ‘ole fashioned cheap bourbon with me. And anyone who looks down on me for drinking 10 High rather than breaking the bank for something higher shelf? Well, they can feel absolutely free to go fuck themselves.
I now wonder how things will change when I get a job and I actually have a decent income. I always envisioned the corporate legal world as a place rife with crystal decanters full of top-shelf booze. But when I start working as an attorney, I like to envision myself drinking 10 High, even if I can afford $20 or $50 or $100 bottles of fine bourbon. Just as I envision myself driving a used Honda Accord rather than spending $65,000 on a BMW.
When I was a young child, I remember watching the Toys R Us commercials that featured the song lyrics “I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid.” I can remember identifying with that song. Toys were so incredibly awesome to me that I couldn’t imagine a time in my life where they wouldn’t be my primary concern, and I swore I’d always be a Toys R Us kid. Of course, I grew out of that when I discovered things like breasts and alcohol. It seems to me, though, that I feel the same way now that I did back then: I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a 10 High kid. Because when it comes down to it, I’d rather spend $9 and end up irrationally destroying things then sit around looking good with a bottle of Grey Goose.
God Bless 10 High Bourbon.