The internet has been my gateway to a lot of confusing, upsetting, and offensive stuff. But lately the thing that’s caused me the most revulsion has been a photoset of someone pouring tequila into a mason jar full of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. “How much do you have to hate yourself to do this,” one of the post’s replies read. Buddy, you have no idea.
Welcome to Gizmodo’s Happy Hour. Substance abuse for nerds.
I won’t make any excuses for this recipe. It looks revolting. But from a scientific perspective it should be the most addictive beverage since original recipe 4Loko (RIP caffeinated alcohol).
Alcohol causes a release of endorphins in the brain, and spicy foods are widely believed to do the same (though there haven’t been any studies done on the subject). Although reports of cocaine-like properties are entirely false, cheese does activate the brain’s reward center. And the human body is known to crave salt, sugar, and fat—all of which Cheetos have in abundance. In theory, this hootch should light up your brain like the Fourth of July and have you coming back for more while being legally unable to operate a car or heavy machinery.
Chemically, it could be the best beverage since drinkable weed.
I let the tequila and Cheetos infuse for about three days in a mason jar covered with plastic wrap to keep evaporation to a minimum. In the interest of variety I made three additional batches, testing the spicy snack’s effects on cheap vodka, as well as letting both types of alcohol get friendly with Cheetos’ Cheddar Jalapeño flavor. And going off the photoset alone this seemed like the most sensible way to extract maximum Cheetos flavor.
However, a couple days into the process, I stumbled across some new details. The actual recipe only calls for giving the concoction a quick shake. I’d made a huge mistake! But A) either method would probably get similar (if maybe milder) results, B) I was committed to the drinking the atrocity steeping on my desk, and C) there were no more Cheetos.
At the end of three days, the jars were moved to a freezer so that the fatty scum on the surface could solidify and be more easily strained out (the second ingredient in Cheetos is vegetable oil). In a sense this qualifies as a form of fatwashing, albeit a gross misuse of the technique that should cause any self respecting bartender to break out in a cold sweat.
As I pondered the neon red and orange cocktails before me, I thought like a bodega-shelf mixologist. Tequila has an agave base, and vodka—which can be made from damn near anything—is most often associated with potatoes. Cheetos have lots of corn and yeast, which could impart corn whiskey and beer notes on these unrelated base sprits.
So I don’t need to tell you all of these were bad, do I. What was interesting was just how terrible they were. The Flamin’ Hot varietals had a diapery, wet trash smell, while the Cheddar Jalapeño batches didn’t meld whatsoever—imagine knocking back bottom shelf booze with a mouth full of Cheese Doodles and you’re there. Cheese and vodka are not compatible flavors!
My deeply self-sacrificing coworker Alex Cranz volunteered to help sample this drinkable mistake and described it as “spicy vomit.” Thankfully neither of us puked to confirm its increased potency on the way out.
The saltiness was probably the biggest surprise, even thought salt is listed twice on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos’ ingredients list. A full mason jar of the stuff has, by my estimation, four times the sodium of a 20-ounce Gatorade. Salt has a longstanding association with tequila shots but its purpose is to coat the tongue with saliva to make everything go down easier. When mixed in with tequila it has none of the same effects, since salt has a tendency to make things taste more like themselves, and this tastes like poison.
Residual fats, concentrated food dyes, and absurd quantities of MSG were also unwelcome additions to an already unpleasant mix—which got me thinking about why Cheetos are good in the first place.
Besides the obvious demotivating force of poor flavor here, Cheetos fail as a beverage because they lose all texture and mouthfeel. Crunchy foods are deeply satisfying, possibly because crispiness was an indicator of freshness to earlier humans. Converting Cheetos into a drink removes the I’ll-just-have-one-more quality that crunchy foods like chips and pretzels are known for.
Scientific pontification aside, this is easily the worst thing I’ve ever drank. Do not feed this to your worst enemy.