There’s a bunch of West Indians who grace my local. You can catch them there of a Friday. Or a Wednesday. Or a Tuesday. Oh, hell, they’re there pretty much any day that has a ‘y’ in it. They’re related in ways that I don’t fully understand.
The other thing they have in common is the Irish Car Bomb. They all drink them.
The Irish Car Bomb is a cocktail, although that noun seems altogether too effete for what the thing actually is. What is certain is that the bomb part is accurate. The Irish Car Bomb is alcohol’s equivalent of an incendiary device—cobbled together and hard on the body.
When I once jokingly protested that the name might be a tiny bit, oh, I don’t know, racist, the Grenadian looked me in the eye and said with a straight face.
And he told me his name. His first name is Irish. Think of the most common Irish men’s name and it’s his name. His second name is Irish. Think of the second most common name for Irish men and it’s his name. His surname is Irish.
His name is as Irish as Paddy’s pigs.
He weighs 275 pounds.
I don’t know how tall he is, because I’ve never seen him standing up. He sits, always, with his Irish Car Bombs and he drinks them methodically, steadily, one after the other.
His record is ten.
I’ve never seen him look or sound even remotely blasted. He’s an intelligent, well read man with a confident grasp of ancient history. Want to discuss the historical significance of the battle of Thermopylae? He’ll be happy to.
I came across him the other night. I asked him how many Irish Car Bombs he’d had. That’s the standard conversational opener with this crowd.
“Four,” he said promptly.
Counting your Irish Car Bombs is very important. You keep track, you just do. It’s a point of pride. Quiet pride, because the Irish Car Bombers are quiet men. But still, they do count. They always know which Irish Car Bomb they are on.
I asked him how he felt. Was he buzzed? Even just a little?
“Nearly,” he said holding a finger and thumb close together to show how far he was away from feeling a tiny bit intoxicated, and then he proceeded to offer a cogent summary of the speakers at the Democratic National Convention. He was surprised that he liked Joe Biden’s speech. He’s a bit sad that Hillary Clinton has said she will be retiring and probably won’t run in 2016. He’d like to see her become the first female president. He thinks it’s time there was a woman in the Oval Office.
But back to the Irish Car Bomb. To demonstrate what an audacious accomplishment of booze-baggery even four is, let me tell you what goes into one. You take some Guinness and put it in a pint glass, but you don’t fill it to the top. You leave maybe an inch and a half. (The reason for which will become clear.) You take a shot of Jamesons and put that in a shot glass and dump some Baileys Irish Cream on top. (The Grenadian waves away the effect of the Baileys. He says that it’s “just for taste”. But, like, dude, it’s still alcohol.)
You set the shot glass beside the not quite filled glass of Guinness.
And you wait.
The ritual of the Irish Car Bomb is also important.
When the time comes, and this often happens in unison with your fellow Irish Car Bombers, although there are never any signals, spoken or otherwise, you plop the shot glass into the pint glass and down the lot in a single go.
You can see why cocktail is not the most apt descriptor. When I think of cocktails I think of elegant, slim-stemmed glasses. I think of Martinis, Manhattans and Side Cars. I think of celery sticks and olives. When I think of cocktails on vacation, I think of complicated fruit garnishes and cute little paper umbrellas.
The Irish Car Bomb takes a sledgehammer to all that.
So, back to the Grenadian’s record. He was at a bar on the Upper East Side, pacing through the ICBs. Putting in his usual steady, unassuming performance. His fellow patrons noticed and had the same reaction that every right thinking drinker has—just what, precisely, is the logical conclusion? And how soon can we find out?
“They egged me on a bit,” he said.
I’ve taken the New York State driving test and one of the many useful things you learn is the effect that time has on the body’s ability to process alcohol. One hour for one unit is the basic rule of thumb, so if you drink one glass of wine every hour, you’re golden, even if you have five or six.
So I’m thinking maybe the Grenadian accomplished this Olympic-level feat of alcohol bothering over several hours. Maybe even a whole day. That would explain it, surely?
I asked him how long it took. Ten Irish Car Bombs.
“Two hours,” he said promptly. Because you never forget how long it takes to drink ten Irish Car Bombs.
Right. Two hours.
Naturally I was curious to know how he got home after that. Ten Irish Car Bombs in two hours. Did he go, perchance, via the ER? Were doctors and stomach pumps involved? Embarrassing public acts of insobriety? Did he perhaps fetch up on YouTube after being filmed singing a Backstreet Boys medley on the subway?
The Grenadian looked a little puzzled.
“How did I get home? I took the train,” he said slowly, like he was explaining something to a developmentally challenged child. “You know, the MTA.”