Last week I was at the Best Viet Happy Hour Ever–but one of the bars left me with a sour taste, so I wrote them a letter to follow up.
Dear Sun Liquor,
I was introduced to your Distillery earlier this year by my friend Brandon, who raved about the quality of your drinks. The very first time we visited he ordered a shot of the George T. Stagg bourbon whiskey—a top shelf liquor that the bartender had only poured once in his life.
I was intimidated at the thought of buying anything from the top shelf. As a professional in the non-profit sector, I have been vigorously trained to always look for things on the bottom shelf, where it’s affordable and predictable. The bottom shelf is where you find buried treasures like Frosted Mini Spooners, Cinnamon Toasters, and Dr. Cola.
So you can understand my anxiety around drinking a whiskey that was named the “World’s Best North American Whiskey” in 2013. Still, I was really excited to try it and experience what kings and celebrities feel like. Brandon handed me the glass and I took a sip. It was excruciating and burned my esophagus all the way down to my stomach. I would have rather played chubby bunnies with chili peppers while getting acupuncture from my mother.
That’s when I knew that whiskey isn’t for me, so I got a Mai Tai instead. It was delicious and tasted like tropical tears from a joyful vegan unicorn that died for world peace. I ordered a second. Since then, I have been back on a number of occasions and have always enjoyed the tasty drinks, friendly staff and cheery crowd.
However, last weekend I was at the Distillery and saw a drink on the menu that I hadn’t noticed before: The Communist. The name of the drink was both playfully ridiculous and unsettling. It gave me pause.
Around the late 1970s, my parents came to the United States as refugees from the Vietnam War. They had to leave behind their home and country to flee communism. As a direct result of the war, hundreds of thousands of people—including United States service members and Vietnamese civilians—died between 1955 and 1975. Communism hasn’t just hurt Vietnam though; it has affected millions of lives throughout history.
- In the “Great Purge” in the Soviet Union (1936-1939), around 700,000 people were executed in a campaign of political repression.
- During the “Great Leap Forward” in China (1958-1961), over 18 million (up to 45 million by some estimates) people died from starvation and torture.
- The world was near the brink of nuclear war in 1962 as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis and Cold War-era politics.
- Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge committed genocide against their own people between 1975 and 1979 in the name of communism. About 2.2 million Cambodians died through political executions, starvation and forced labor.
I was fortunate enough to be born in California, far away from the negative impacts of communism and long after an era of crazy talk from Senator Joseph McCarthy. Although, political crazy talk seems to have made a comeback in Congress, so maybe it skips a generation?
Overall, communism is ugly and if it had a flavor, would taste like stale gasoline siphoned from a 1971 Ford Pinto mixed with nuclear runoff. On the other hand, your cocktail, The Communist, is wonderfully delicious! I loved the perfect blend of gin and citrus, and the brandied cherry was a nice touch. It was so good that I had second.
The drink is amazing but the name has negative connotations to people who have been hurt by communism. I hope that you will rename the drink. I know it’s a tall order to change a name on the menu, but I believe you can still offer a high-quality, delicious cocktail while still having a product we can all be proud of.
Here are some suggestions: The Cherry Bomb, The Bloody Cougar or The Ron Burgundy. I know these names aren’t perfect, but why not them a try? The Communist doesn’t even have vodka in it, so what gives?
In conclusion, I’m sure that if Senator McCarthy were alive today, I have no doubt his mouth would love to have a Cherry Bomb/Bloody Cougar/Ron Burgundy in it. He just needs the opportunity. Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.