The drinks world never requires much encouragement to jump on a bandwagon – particularly if it gives them the chance to create something terrible in the process. Fake Booze takes a look at the worst Halloween launches down the years.
Say they didn’t happen… if you dare.
Grey Ghost Vodka
Billed as ‘the spookiest spirit ever’ Grey Ghost came in a ‘spectral clouded bottle’ with unnerving ghostly eyes that were reputed to follow you around the room.
Marketing videos were Blair Witch in style, showing sweating members of the public attempting to avoid being presented with eye-watering bills for a quadruple-distilled liquid with no discernible taste whatsoever.
A brilliant triumph of style over substance, it is held up by some as the pinnacle of vodka marketing. But sadly the brand only lasted ten days before the owners of Grey Goose slapped a lawsuit on it that killed it stone dead.
Rumour has it that the ghostly eyes still haunt the Bacardi boardroom, though paranormal investigators believe this is more likely to be the long-dead soul of vodka’s credibility as a category.
Franken Wine’s Monster
‘It was only meant to have been a bit of fun – to see what was possible. But instead I created a monster.’ So said Gottfried Krapp of his 1970s venture into the dark arts.
Krapp blended together the cast-offs of wine vats from all over Germany, put them in a Franken wine bottle and marketed it as ‘proof of the omnipotence of man over nature.’
The problems came when the wine began to rampage across the wine press, acquiring good scores in blind tastings and leading some critics to talk about its ‘beautiful soul. and ‘refined character’.
Germany’s most aristocratic wine estates stormed Krapp’s winery with pitchforks and torches, emptying the tanks, smashing bottles and burning the place to the ground on the grounds that he was committing a crime against nature.
It remains a salutary lesson to winemakers about the dangers of playing God. Though one that they all ignore.
In the mid-1990s when gin was as fashionable as flares, the owners of Beefeater held an emergency meeting to revitalise the brand.
‘They were desperate times,’ said former head of marketing, Brandin Decline. ‘Nobody under the age of 50 drank gin, and a bottle with a bloke wearing multi-coloured pantaloons on the label wasn’t showing much sign of changing that.’
In a last-ditch attempt to woo a younger crowd they created a one-off Halloween special, replacing the septuagenarian pike-botherer with an image of a zombie drinking brains out of a martini glass.
‘I suppose there was some humour in the fact that we were using the undead to try and inject life into a moribund category,’ said Decline. ‘Though it’s probably no more ironic than hundreds of ‘artisanal gins’ being made by people who clearly haven’t got a clue what they’re doing.’
‘The Zombie-feater is reckoned to be the least successful range extension ever run by Allied Domecq,’ said marketing analyst, Anna Lyst. ‘Which is really saying something.’
Va Fan Ghoulo vermouth
Created by two bartending brothers at the Burlesconi bar in Milan, Va Fan Ghoulo vermouth was made by combining ‘locally sourced botanicals with repurposed sustainable liquids’.
‘Basically, it was anything we could steal from neighbouring gardens mixed with the contents of our drip-tray,’ said Stefano Bunga.
Critics described the drink as ‘tasting like a cross between a compost heap and oxidised Valpol’ though it became inexplicably popular with the Italian underground scene, who used it as a ‘terrifying alternative punishment shot’ to Fernet Branca.
Intended as an ‘ironic counterpoint to consumerism, marketing spin and exploitative capitalism’ the drink’s wider political narrative was somewhat undermined when the brothers agreed to sell it to Brown Forman for €1m.
Californian giant EJ Gallo admits that it ‘may have misjudged the market’ with this attempt to provide an adult spin on the trick or treat phenomenon.
Packaged in miniature bottles, householders were meant to give out the bottles at Halloween as treats to long-suffering parents schlepping around behind groups of sugar-drugged 8-year-olds.
Unfortunately the wine was so bad that the children soon realised that it was more potent to use it to threaten houses as a means of extracting more candy.
‘We used to tell parents that if they didn’t fill our bags with treats we’d tell everyone they liked this stuff,’ said one extorter – now in her 20s – who didn’t want to give her name.
‘If that didn’t work, we’d threaten to pour it through their letterbox. They usually caved in after that. Nobody wants their house smelling of cheap Californian Chardonnay.’
Click here for Fake Booze’s top Halloween themed cocktails.