Season's eatings! The weather may be getting colder, but Dining Month on OnMilwaukee is just cooking up, dishing out your winning picks in this year's Best of Dining poll. Dining Month is brought to you by Fein Brothers, your premier food service equipment and supply dealer in Wisconsin since 1929. Congratulations to all of the winners, and happy eating for all those who voted!
Most people like to eat. Some prefer their nourishment healthy, handsome and high-class; others enjoy a diet less discriminating. This series is a celebration of the gastronomically grotesque, a repudiation of culinary conceit. It is a space to commune and connect for those perhaps poor in taste, poor in pocketbook and poor in cooking proficiency, but rich in spirit and self-reliance. Simply put, it’s a place to write about gross food.
In the history of the world, some of humankind’s best ideas took a long time to catch on, like heliocentrism and non-maggot medical wound treatment. But other ideas become hugely popular right away, like In Poor Taste. Due to the saliva-stimulating success of the first installment of this critically acclaimed series, for which I made Dorito ranch sriracha pizza and nobody on social media yelled at me, we are continuing the gross food chronicles.
Actually, in this case, it’s a gross drink. Today, we are making candy corn vodka, a sentence that made my roommate cringe and caused me to look up whether candy corn is a proper noun that should be capitalized. It’s not! And it doesn’t deserve to be; candy corn is pretty awful.
But it’s almost Halloween and, in an effort to be festive and ironic and to appease the goons who want to see me suffer terrible gastronomic ordeals, I decided to concoct a sweet and scary craft cocktail that will make you the life (or, if you dress up as zombie Taylor Swift, the death) of your friends’ All Hallows’ Eve party.
You know how they say two wrongs always make a right? That was sort of my operating mixology philosophy when I thought to combine candy corn (which tastes bad) and vodka (which also tastes bad). It’s got to turn out great, right? And believe me, it turns out. It turns out that you will get sick if you drink this!
But first, some brief Wikipedia history (and don’t @ me about Wikipedia; as a society, we have all collectively decided that it’s totally fine to use and cite Wikipedia for anything, except possibly high school term papers). Candy corn was invented in the 1880s by George Renninger, who worked at a candy company in Philadelphia. Around the turn of the century, a confectionary that would become Jelly Belly began producing candy corn, calling it "Chicken Feed" and marketing it largely to rural America. Nowadays, the stuff exists primarily to be given out to trick-or-treaters by horrible people who are dead inside and hate the world.
Candy corn is made from sugar, corn syrup (so, binding sugar), confectioner’s wax and artificial coloring. Specifically, three colors: a yellow bottom, a tapered orange middle and a pointed white tip, which resemble a real kernel of corn. The National Confectioners Association estimates 20 million pounds of candy corn are sold annually and, fun fact, that’s way too much!
The history of vodka is that Poles and Russians found out around the 14th century that it makes you really drunk, really fast, and really belligerent, which was the preferred way to ride out the end of the Middle Ages. I’m listening to "O Fortuna (Carmina Burana)" on full blast as I write this.
Since candy corn is ubiquitous and inescapable at Halloween time, you’ll probably have plenty of it around. And, if you’re the kind of person who has a lot of it left over from going trick-or-treating and you’re old enough to drink alcohol, then you’re probably also the kind of person who has a lot of spare vodka around the house. This is definitely the frightening, sucrose-infused, radioactive-looking drink for you!
Candy corn vodka requires just two ingredients: candy corn, in oversized-bag-from-Walgreens form, and vodka, in cheap-plastic-bottle form. How much of each? Well, this is obviously going to be a super-delicious, highly sought-after drink that will not make people gag, dump it out and tell you to leave the party and take your weird, viscous, neon-orange vodka with you and then it sits in your house for months afterward. So, yeah, you’re gonna want to go with one cup of candy corn and one 750-mL bottle of vodka. American excess is the best kind of patriotism!
As for preparation, here’s what you do: pour all of the vodka and candy corn into an airtight container, like a Tupperware Tumbler or a coffin. Next, turn on the TV and go to the Spike network; whatever time it is, the loud and strangely compelling reality show "Bar Rescue" will definitely be on. Watch that for about 20 minutes, or until the veteran mixologist from Las Vegas comes on and shows the bar staff how to properly mix cocktails ("use two hands and DON’T FORGET TO COVER IT! SHUT IT DOWN!").
Then, pick up your own container, shake vigorously until your arms get kind of tired and put it down. Let the awful amalgamation sit for three or four hours – or a couple days, if you want that primo infusion. Finally, chill it, pour it into some kind of vessel that’s more socially acceptable than a giant plastic jug, exhale dramatically and shake your head, and then take a drink.
Mmm! Wait, no ... Hmm! Kind of gooey, right? Like, a little unsettling how thick it is? Yep, you did it right. And the taste? I mean, it tastes pretty much exactly like its two fundamental ingredients were put together in an unholy marriage that can only be the termination point of our culture’s obsession with making every single thing into an occasion for alcohol. But, hey, it’s sweet and gets you drunk. Spooky fun!
Candy corn vodka (ratings 1-5)
Preparation difficulty: 1
Chef quote: "Infusing the horribleness of candy corn and the shamefulness of cheap vodka turns this delightful dish into something you'll wanna forget."
Advanced evolution: For a hip and fancy, next-level, citrusy candy corn vodka cocktail, simply add a splash of lime juice and a little bit of orange liqueur. Or, if you want to, just put some crushed-up ibuprofen in the original. You’ll need it.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.