Welcome to another installment of Stone Skin on the Rocks, our weekly column where our authors provide a liquid pairing suggestion for their short fiction. This week brings us an entry from S.J. Chambers, whom you can find on both her website and facebook, in addition to the pages of The New Gothic:
While there is a lot of smoking in “Dive in Me,” there is very little libation. Even so, I am certain the three girls in this story were no strangers to drink. Because it was the 90s, and they were underage and flat broke, more than likely their poison came with a screwcap in a 32 ounce glass bottle. Less Than Jake sang “malt liquor tastes better when you’ve got problems,” and the Morai in this story have plenty of those.
Malt Liquor. While we discuss it like its in some other category from beer, it is actually a lager made of malted barley with corn as the fermenting sugar. Because that which gives malt liquor its high alcohol content is also subsidized, it is blessed by the trinity of teenage drinking: it’s smooth, it’s cheap, and it’s strong.
Malt liquor was an icon of the 90s. Not only was it referenced in every major rap album from Ice Cube to Snoop Dogg, it was a staple of punk rock as well. Despite its hardcore associations, I think what made malt liquor popular was its practicality. You only needed one 32 to yourself, and before you were half way through a pizza and episode 5 of Star Wars, you were gone daddy gone barfing in a grocery bag. The needs were simple and were simply met. You got more drunk for your buck (literally, a 32 back then cost like a buck fifty), and that was all there was to it. Fun times.
But, hold up. You keep saying 32. Doesn’t malt liquor typically come in 40 ounce bottles, hence its nickname “the forty”?
It does everywhere but in the Sunshine State where “Dive in Me” is based, and where my co-author Jesse Bullington and I grew up. In Florida, liquor laws forbid brews to be sold in anything over 32 ounces making a 40 mythical. If you managed to wrap your hand around one, it would be because you had friends in low Georgia-line places with fake IDs and a car.
Regardless of 32 or 40, there are a lot of malt liquors to choose from at your nearest convenience store. While Colt 45 is the most recognizable, it is also the most foul. Old English 800 was what I remember downing back-in-the day. Since then, I’ve become fond of King Cobra. Hailing from Busch, it is the most palatable of the malt liquors. One can imagine it has a cider-like taste, but the imagination can be a tricky thing. The bottle is easy to grip and sip from, and most importantly it has a 6% ABV rating. But remember, malt liquor is about simple needs, so any of it will do just about as fine as another.
So grab a neck, crack open THE NEW GOTHIC, and make sure to spill some for all the poor souls in this anthology, especially the foul-mouthed adventuresses in “Dive in Me.”
There you have it, Stone Skinners–and remember, when it comes to malt liquor, slurp, don’t sip! Tune in next week when we will almost definitely have a classier recommendation…