We were young, we were broke….we were living in rural Iowa, for God sakes.
My roommate Jim had a girlfriend, and one Friday night he was going to impress her with a nice, home cooked meal and an evening of romance. This necessitated me finding somewhere else to be for the night, which was no problem, but his plans also included a bottle of wine to go with his home cooked feast. This was a bit of a problem.
SEE: ‘we were broke’, above.
A plan was concocted to overcome both limited funds, and lack of quality and variety (fancy-schmanzyism, as the locals might say) in the local municipal liquor store wine selection. Keep in mind this was Marshalltown, Iowa 1979 – stocking both Mogen David and Boones Farm qualified as ‘wide selection’. Part one of our scheme was to procure the container, and Jim had a friend who worked at a nice restaurant and got Jim an empty French wine bottle – cork included.
French! Even better than Jim had hoped for – and it had the cork, to boot.
Jim cleaned out the bottle, then we made a trip to the grocery store for the ingredients necessary for one bottle of Jim’s date-night wine; Welch’s grape juice, a bottle of vodka, a box of Alka-Seltzer tablets, and a funnel.
Returning home, Jim poured a couple of small glasses of the grape juice, in varying amounts, then added the vodka. A quick sampling led us to the conclusion that a 50/50 mix was pretty close (remember, our young palettes were far from being developed) to real wine – real FRENCH wine – save for the fizz.
Taking the funnel, Jim filled his empty French wine bottle half-way up with the Welch’s, then he filled the remainder of the bottle with the vodka. He then opened the Alka-Seltzer, and opened a pack of two tablets. We had to break them to get them down the neck of the bottle, and once inside they began to fizz and foam, threatening to overflow the bottle, before settling down. Two tablets didn’t seem to add enough fizz (maybe for a domestic, but not for French wine) so he ended up opening two more packets of Ala-Seltzer and repeating the procedure until his concoction seemed to fit the bill. A couple of sips convinced him that he had hit upon the recipe for date night success, so he was able to get the cork in the bottle, and the bottle in the fridge for proper chilling.
1 bottle of Jim’s Impress-A-Chick; vintage, Thursday – under four dollars!
Jim’s date night went off without a hitch – his home cooked meal, the accompanying wine both a big hit – though their evening ended a bit earlier than he might have wished. You see the wine was cheap and easy, the girl wasn’t.