Skip to Content

My Excursion Into The Land Of Mocktails

Getty Images

Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday at Defector during the NFL season. Got something you wanna contribute? Email the Roo. And buy Drew’s new book, The Night The Lights Went Outthrough here.

I don’t drink alcohol anymore. If you know why, you know why. If you don’t, it doesn’t really matter for this exercise. Every writer either quits drinking or dies from it. I’m one of the quitters, so there you have it.

But after quitting I still needed to drink SOMETHING, because I retained an insatiable lust both for having a glass in my hand and for imbibing copious amount of fluid, regardless of its ABV. Also, cocktail hour is so deeply ingrained in my WASP psyche that I have to drink a lil’ somethin’ fancy after I punch out of work. It’s not easy to drink fancy when there’s no alcohol to be had. I also upped my personal degree of difficulty when I decided I wouldn’t have near beer, because I knew I would fall back to drinking regular beer all too easily from there. No near beer, and nothing that even had a trace of alcohol in it. I had given myself a difficult mission, but I’m rather determined when it comes to working toward new pleasures. I would find a new poison.

I started out by doctoring my seltzer: adding wedges of citrus and other bells and whistles. It still tasted like seltzer. Then I tried mixing in some fresh lime juice, simple syrup, and grenadine. When I showed this artisanal concoction to my wife, she said to me, “Uh, Drew? That’s a Shirley Temple.” So it was. It was a delicious Shirley Temple, but a Shirley Temple nonetheless. Shit. I had neither the skills, nor frankly the work ethic, to be a mixologist for teetotalers. I was gonna have to trust outside sources to help my ass out.

Fortunately for me, mocktails are a trend in this country. Maybe that’s because younger professionals are migrating from booze to weed. Maybe it’s because the pandemic, counter-intuitively, made some Americans sick to death of being drunk at home. Or maybe it’s yet another trend that doesn’t actually exist, like huffing jenkem, or criminals handing out weed candy to kids for Halloween, or people liking Shawn Mendes.

Regardless, I was now an inadvertent part of this “phenomenon,” and ready to take advantage of the cottage industry springing up to accommodate it. Some restaurants offer separate mocktail menus now. I know this firsthand because I ordered a nojito at one of them. (It was basically a limeade.) I also became intimate with the fancy mixer section at my local grocery store and loaded up on spicy ginger beer whenever I could. Some nights I would pour the ginger beer into a tankard. A mule without the kick. It did the job. I went to a restaurant that brewed its own ginger beer and it was so spicy that I recoiled from the first sip, thinking that they had served me a full strength cocktail by accident. But no, no they had simply infused enough ginger into their brew to cure a THOUSAND ancient maladies. I got curious to see if I could make a similar ginger beer at home from scratch that induced similar whiplash. Then I looked at the recipes and quickly ruled it out.

I yearned for something more. I lost part of my taste thanks to an old brain injury and thanks to the cochlear implant surgery I had to get because of that injury. (It’s a long story; you can buy it.) So I have to work harder than most to find things that taste interesting. So I bought some fake whiskey. If that strikes you as hypocritical given that I made a no near beer policy when this all started, I’m not gonna fight you on that. Sobriety is not the most consistent of pursuits. My first shipment of fake whiskey arrived at my doorstep with the bottle shattered in the package and leaking all over the stoop. Probably a bad omen, but I got my refund and ordered it all over again. This time, it arrived to my house unscathed. I took it out of the box. It looked like whiskey. It even had a wax seal, Maker’s Mark-style, to let me know that whatever was inside had been carefully aged, presumably in a barrel of some sort. It tasted like apple juice. I didn’t even bother finishing it.

I missed the taste of alcohol. On its own. It was a taste I had acquired over years. Like most kids, I thought beer and wine tasted gross at first. Just the smell of liquor made me back off. But I wanted a buzz, and I wanted to be a rebel like all the other kids. So I kept at it and, like everyone else, wired myself to enjoy the odd tang of beer and the afterburn of a sip of whiskey. It’s very hard to replicate the sting of alcohol without the alcohol. Most of the time, you end up with something that tastes like flat soda or like glorified tea.

But here’s where my crippled palate gave me an odd advantage. There are many foods and drinks I can’t taste 100 percent of the way. Things don’t taste the same to me as they do to you. That’s not stoner talk. In my case, it’s a legitimate fact. It’s possible that, thanks to the nerve damage in my face, that I am the only person on earth who tastes things exactly the way I taste things. So things that might taste flawed or ordinary to you might take on stranger facets for my shrouded tongue. A coworker recommended I try out a nootropic drink (you’re already laughing) called Kin Euphorics. This shit isn’t cheap. But compared to what I used to spend every week on alcohol, it was nothing. I bought a bottle of their vitamin liquor and a four-pack of their Spritz, the latter of which included this sales copy:

Herbaceous notes of ginger, bitters, and citrus meet mood-boosting ingredients to enhance clarity, stimulate creative freedom, and drive focus so you can find your center (think brainpower beverage from the future).

You can practically hear Russell Wilson saying that out loud to you when you read it. But middle age has rendered me the forgiving type, so I ignored their nu-boho copy and poured myself a less-than-stiff one. Over a big rock. In a tumbler I got years ago that came free with a bottle of Templeton Rye. I took a sip and it tasted … weird. Not quite like booze. Definitely not like juice or tea. Also it had an aftertaste. My gut reaction was, “This is bad,” and perhaps it would have tasted bad to a fully-abled face.

But I wasn’t uninterested. So I took another sip. And then another. The aftertaste started to feel more like a burn. I was acquiring the flavor of my nootropic asshole beverage, and I’ve held onto that flavor ever since. Pairs nicely with the green and sober lifestyle. The bottle on the Kin says not to have more than four servings in 24 hours, or else you might overdose on vibes I guess. It also says not to drink it if you’re under 18, which I’m convinced is something they put on the label to make it sound like more of a vice than it actually is. Also, this shit is categorized as a supplement, which means it gets to skirt FDA approval, which means it may contain faint traces of peyote and asbestos. I may grow a breast on my forehead from overindulging on it.

Regardless, I’ve grown attached to my low-calorie, non-alcoholic corner of the universe, and there are plenty more potential goodies in that corner to sample. I found a way to drink without drinking that satisfies my need to clutch a glass full of oddly colored fluid with a baller ice cube jangling around in the center of it. And that’s enough. I’m not suddenly ravaged by the urge to move back over to Old Overholt. I’m comfortable right where I am. Thanks to age and a night out with the Reaper three years ago, I’ve learned how to stop overreaching: to taste what I can taste, to enjoy what I can enjoy, and to not worry about what I may be missing out on. It’s not a fun lesson to endure by any means, but I’m still glad I learned it. Now to pour myself a big glass of orange peel extract to celebrate.

The Games

All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.

Five Throwgasms

Packers at Cardinals: Last week I dug through the numbers (actually I asked a friend to do it for me because I didn’t have access to the right database) to explain why running from the gun on short yardage is the handiwork of Idiot Satan. But I’m feeling much lazier this week, which is why I have NO evidence to back up my new football claim, which is that throwing across your body is now awesome and highly encouraged. Yes, you could run the ball out of bounds and let Coach trot out the punt team. But fuck that. Who the fuck punts? Look outside your window. Is it 1905 out there? Do you see filthy street urchins hoop trundling down the block to go pick up a bottle of milk for Ma and Pa? Fuck you. It’s 2021 and every QB now has the strength and speed of a demigod. Punt? Fuck that. Throw the ball away? Fuck that. Panic and improvise a little dink pass to the fullback when he’s not even looking back for a pass? Double fuck that. Not every offense has to be a Matt Nagy offense.

I’ve seen more cross-body throws succeed than fail lately. And it makes sense from a strategy perspective. Imagine a play unfolding with me now: the QB is scrambling to the sideline as the rush is closing in. Bereft of decent options on his side of the field, he turns back to the middle. You, watching at home, go OH NO HE’S GONNA THROW BACK INTO THE DEFENSE! THAT’S A PICK FOR SURE! Like you’re Mike Holmgren and cross-body throws scares you more than a carb-free diet. And then, just as you’re averting your gaze, the QB lofts a fucking impossible touch pass over all those suckers he just lured in with his frantic little dash. Then Troy Aikman is like, “That’s a dangerous throw there, Joe,” and then all the defenders see that gorgeous, arcing ball sail over them and cry out OHHHHH MINE MINE MINE! FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN FOR ME, CAPTAIN FATTY!

And then you know what happens? That pass lands comfortably in the arms of the backside wideout, who hung back behind the rush to pick beautiful cherries. Just because Kyler Murray or Aaron Rodgers runs to one side of the field, that doesn’t mean the REST of the field is suddenly off-limits. It’s not. It’s all still in play. Everyone should know this by now. If you still find this kind of pass taboo, well then maybe you should cheer for BYU. Cross-body throws are the next frontier in making defenses eat a brick.

Four Throwgasms

Bucs at Saints: This Saints season is gonna be the worst of all karmic worlds, where I’m forced to watch them make the playoffs and watch Jameis Winston rack up All-Pro numbers despite them beating exactly one good team all the way through. That’s what will happen. I’d like all of the Saints arrested now.

Cowboys at Vikings: I make fun of Mike McCarthy constantly, but you know what his career record against my team is? 17-9-2. He even beat Minnesota with Andy Dalton a year ago. Beav owns my shit.

Three Throwgasms

Steelers at Browns: I just wanna go back to Mike Tomlin shooting down the USC rumors Tuesday. Here’s your video:

The fun thing about Tomlin’s fury—despite the fact that it was a perfectly acceptable question to ask him—is just how clearly he felt that college coaching was BENEATH him. Because it is. Barry Petchesky joked to the staff the other day [Ed. note: I wasn't joking] that “coaching college is for people who can’t cut it in the NFL,” and you know what? He’s right. There’s a reason that college coaches come here and consistently embarrass themselves. They’re not cut out for the big-boy game, which means that, vice versa, no NFL coach worth a crap is gonna deign to voluntarily ditch the league to go play Kindergarten Cop to some shitty college team. Going back to college is for the washouts: Nick Saban, Charlie Weis, Herman Edwards, Pete Carroll (first time around), Lovie Smith, and on and on. So if you suggest to Mike Tomlin that he’d wanna coach USC, which is terminally incapable of getting its shit together despite having every possible advantage, the only natural response from him is FUCK YOU.

But again, I still hope he leaves the Steelers anyway. For anywhere.

Patriots at Chargers: I swear to God if I see another one of those fucking Uber Eats ads … They don’t even make sense! GRRRRRRR.

Two Throwgasms

WFT at Broncos: We’re never getting rid of Dan Snyder. If that wasn’t clear enough when he ousted minority ownership during the pandemic, it should be clear now. Roger Goodell is never gonna sell him out. He’s never gonna openly criticize Snyder. He’s certainly not gonna let you and I see any of those 620,000 emails that were part of the suppressed WFT investigation. Can’t believe I’ve turned into a “release the emails!” guy online, but that’s just how much power Dan Snyder has over the universe. He is a plantar wart of a man: impossible to destroy. I hope he and his old lady fall into a vat of acid.

Titans at Colts

One Throwgasm

Jaguars at Seahawks: If you thought last week’s slate of games was dire, you ain’t seen SHIT. Look at how awful the rest of this week’s matchups are. Like this one!

Giants at Chiefs: Or this one! The Chiefs aren’t even good anymore! I can go back to remembering that they have a lot of terrible people on their roster! Patrick Mahomes is a FRAUD and always has been!

Niners at Bears: I wouldn’t watch the Bears if they were the only thing on in prison!

Panthers at Falcons: PASS.

Dolphins at Bills: DOUBLE PASS. The Dolphins could fuck up a game of Connect Four.

Eagles at Lions: Everyone wants to feel sorry for the Lions, and for poor Dan Campbell especially. He’s a genuinely nice man! His players care for him! Well, guess what? He BLOWS. He’ll never get better as a coach, and his team would rather suck mud out of a straw than win a football game.

Rams at Texans: Oh so a Deshaun trade was only a matter of days away, was it? I guess a “matter” of days actually means 200.

Bengals at Jets: I could conceivably bump this up a throwgasm because Ja’Marr Chase is just that cool. But the Mike White Factor lingers.

Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall

“Capture The Flag,” by War On Women! As presented by reader Brian:

I noticed that there appears to be a severe lack of female/female-fronted bands in the brick wall section of the Jambaroo. Please consider the following song for that section.

And so I shall. Brian makes a good point: I listen to virtually nothing but guy rock bands. I can blame that on Teenage Drew’s musical sexism, or on the greater chauvinism of rock itself. But ultimately I gotta eat shit, admit I’ve done a lousy job, and make the effort look for more woman-fronted bands myself. Bonus points to War on Women for giving Capture the Flag its proper recognition. Greatest summer camp game of all time and fuck you if you disagree.

Worst Quarterback In The League Of The Week

Sam Darnold!

You’re the only one, Matty!

Bad Local Commercial Of The Week!

Mr. Fence, who apparently is also a superhero of some sort! Can the Eternals offer you both marble AND granite? They cannot. Here’s reader Dave (not Roth) offering Jersey’s less than finest:

Please enjoy this little slice of my childhood. Mr. Fence himself is great (between the blowout, the goatee, and the earring, he's got everything in the Central Jersey Starter Kit except the "Full Blooded Italian" t-shirt), but my favorite thing is the chyron in the corner, as if we're watching the Mr. Fence Network or something.

We’re not?! I’d watch a Mr. Fence Network. Keep in mind that this ad is only 30 seconds long and yet they still didn’t have to cut the approximately nine hours that Mr. Fence needed to go from offering you bridges to wishing wells. We got the director’s cut.

Fire This Asshole!

Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2021 chopping block:

Jon Gruden – FIRED!!!!
Urban Meyer*
Dan Campbell
Matt Nagy*
Joe Judge
Kyle Shanahan
Pete Carroll
Brian Flores*
Robert Saleh
David Culley
Ron Rivera
Nick Sirianni
Matt Rhule
Vic Fangio

(* - potential midseason firing)

Every time I see Matt Nagy fuck up and then do the whole Tim-Robinson-in-a-hot-dog-costume thing in the presser, I swear that the Bears are winless. But they’re not. They’re 3-4 somehow. They JUST made the playoffs. I’m not sure any coach has made mere adequacy feel more hopeless than this man. Did you know that Matt Nagy’s career record is 31-24? I would have guessed it was 3-98.


The Night The Lights Went Out is now available everywhere books are sold. But if you’re both cheap and optimistic, you can also WIN it by entering this Penguin sweepstakes. You’ll also win two of my other books. HOORAY MORE ASSIGNED READING FOR YOU!

Great Moments In Poop History

Reader Gareth sends in this oddly touching story I’ll call ON GOLDEN THRONE:

Around two years ago, a good friend of mine was stabbed whilst on a night out after getting into an argument with an idiot. He was stabbed in the abdomen and the blade just nicked his intestine which almost caused him to die. Fortunately he pulled through. However, due to the liquid leaking from his intestine and the hole in his stomach, he had to have a bag inserted, which filled up with his shit before it became shit. He had to walk around with a horrific smelling bag of pre-shit.

I didn't see him until around four months later because he hadn't been that well. He came down to the track (where we knew each other from) and we were catching up. I asked him what it was he really missed, assuming it'd be training and running because he'd been in really good shape. But his answer kind of surprised me. He said he simply missed sitting down and having a shit. Just sitting there and having time to just think and poop. I think sometimes we don't quite appreciate our special time pooping gives us, so hopefully this will just make you take an extra moment to realise how much of a blessing it is.

PS: As for the friend if you're wondering, he fully recovered and is now one of the top junior sprinters here in Britain. He also has a really fucking cool leather looking scar, we're going to a competition together tomorrow if you want a picture. It's seriously awesome.

Do I ever!

Gametime Snack Of The Week

Chocolate Mousse Pumpkins! My in-laws brought over three packs of these a week ago and somehow the kids haven’t finished them all. There’s still a package and a half of them sitting in the fridge. They’re on the top shelf too, which means they’re in my line of sight every time I open up the fridge to get a can of seltzer or whatever. I haven’t had sugar in over two weeks, ever since making an unofficial pact with myself to quit it on this very site. That abstinence has paid off: I’ve lost nearly 10 pounds already. But going without is hard. I’ve had a rougher time quitting sugar than I have quitting alcohol or biting my nails. After every dinner, I instinctively walk over to the cabinet to get a cookie before reminding myself that I don’t do that anymore.

So now, in the ultimate test of my willpower, I gotta come face-to-face with these delicious pumpkins several times a day. I’ve had these things before. They’re tremendous. I’d house 20 of them in a single sitting with zero effort. And I know you’re saying to me, “Drew, just move them somewhere else in the fridge,” but for me the action is the juice. This is my 500-pound deadlift. I will defeat these pumpkins. Unless no one eats them by Halloween in which case I get to cheat.

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week

Country Club Malt Liquor! Four words that make sweet, illegal music together. From Seth:

My friends and I were roadtripping to Richmond to an Appalachian State/Richmond second round FCS playoff game when we decided to grab a couple of roadies for the trip up. We stopped at this podunk gas station in rural Virginia to grab a few domestics when we stumbled upon a couple of gems: Country Club Malt Liquor and Private Stock. At $3.29 and $3.39 a six-pack, respectively, there was no way we could say no to such fine products, though they may be better for watching the Masters than going to a football game, but I digress. I can't speak for the Private Stock, but the Country Club was awful. It has a dark yellow tint to it, as if someone had watered down a bottle of Dijon mustard. I've never tasted piss, but that's what I can imagine it tastes like. Maybe they actually collect piss from the port-a-potties at Augusta, ferment it, and pawn it off as this.

Please note that the can says “America’s Premier Malt Liquor,” and really who are we to argue?

Dan Campbell’s Clump Dog Of The Week: Ja’Marr Chase

“It’s easy for huge talents like Chase to impact a game, but I guess our guys have to work just a little bit harder to do it. But I told my guys you can’t get down. You can’t go numb. You can’t shut down mentally, like you’re being assaulted by a wild bear and have no choice but to lie there and take it. Can’t do it. I tell my guys that this needs to HURT. Sting. Bleed. This needs to keep you up at night. This needs to make you scrawl gibberish on your bedroom wall using your own feces. Cause that’s what these losses make ME do, and I shouldn’t be alone.”

Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Lions Fans

The Killing, and if I told you that Stanley Kubrick once made a heist movie, would that interest you? You bet your fucking ass, it would. All you gotta do is watch the first 10 seconds of that clip above to know it’s gonna be the shit. A racehorse gets assassinated in this movie WHILE it’s racing. I haven’t seen Kubrick’s first two feature-length scripted films (Fear and Desire and Killer’s Kiss), but it’s pretty awesome to watch this movie, his third, knowing what he becomes later on in his career. You don’t get the signature Kubrick shot with the eyes in this one, but you do get his supernatural remove from his own characters, plus an insanely violent ending. All in less than 90 minutes.

Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

“Marge, please. Old people don't need companionship. They need to be isolated and studied so it can be determined what nutrients they have that might be extracted for our personal use.”

Enjoy the games, everyone.

Already a user?Log in

Welcome to Defector!

Sign up to read another couple free blogs.

Or, click here to subscribe!

If you liked this blog, please share it! Your referrals help Defector reach new readers, and those new readers always get a few free blogs before encountering our paywall.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter