ASTROLIQUOR for September 21-27—What the stars say you should drink!

My Fellow Inebriates,

Here’s your booze horoscope:

Aries, for a change your ideas are in sync with those of your colleagues. This is an excellent time to boss them around. It’s also a good time to renegotiate financial matters, but make sure you state your case plainly. Don’t be afraid to lay on a sob story if you need to. Your vulnerability makes you charming this week! So fill up on rum and triple sec before you meet your banker, and things will go great.

Taurus, you have a smooth week ahead—perfect for coasting. Hang with some friends, read a good book, or see a movie. Have a martini party with that new Islay gin that my parents have refused to buy me. Don’t scrub the sink or clean any toilets; those tasks will kill your buzz. Avoid mess by barfing outside if you need to, and if you’re inside, try to aim properly.

Gemini, even if you don’t take the initiative, a drinking buddy will probably give you a call, inviting you to lunch. At first you’ll think it’s a debt collector and be all like I don’t know what you’re talking about; that person doesn’t live here. But then you’ll shake off last night’s vodka buzz and realize: this friend is awesome! Have a Midori Melon liquid lunch together.

Avoid all kinds of conversation this week, Cancer. No one’s telling you what you want to hear, and the basic subject matter is boring. This goes double for work-related interactions, so call in sick and hole up with a big-ass tequila bottle. Commune with no one except via email. Until this antisocial phase passes, the only pal you need is José Cuervo.

Leo, parts of your job description are downright unappealing. You want to skip them entirely, but if you do, your boss will rain holy shit on you. You could seek comfort in knowing that most people spend their lives doing unsuitable jobs that don’t engage their interests. Or you could just go to work drunk. Brain cells handle filing and mail-sorting best when they’re saturated with rum.

Get ready to meet a special person, Virgo. Not a love interest, so pull your pants up, but a new, super-durable friend who’ll like you for you no matter how much Kahlua’s sloshing around your head. So make yourself available—answer emails, texts, the phone even, because you don’t want to miss out on this new friendship. Oh yeah, and this is a good week to gamble with substantial sums of money too.

Libra, the stars say socialize. You’ll meet cool people this week—just not partner material. That’s okay, though…you have some bad habits to kick before you start scoping for a mate. For instance, you need to stop drinking Bud Light. Libras are supposed to have good taste, friend. The only night you should remain inside is Thursday (shit-faced Thursday, as your local pub calls it). Avoid that bar fight!

Resisting your spiritual side has produced an unfortunate side effect, Scorpio: a defensive wall around you that thwarts new friendships. Not everything is baloney, Scorpio—just most of it. Keen insights await you if you open the neuronal floodgates with some Jamaican dark rum. The more you drink, the more wonderful other people seem, as long as you don’t drink with assholes.

Sagittarius, it’s time to bear down and finish some projects. Even if they don’t end up too pretty, at least they’ll be done, and then you can enjoy Happy Hour. Your industrious phase will last through December, when you can relax and have Happy Days rather than just Happy Hours—not just one Grey Goose martini but ten. Start working!

Your star chart is crazy this week, Capricorn. What the hell those constellations mean, you’d have to ask a better astrologer. To me they say “Plymouth Gin.” Don’t let people con you into doing their work this week. You’ll thank yourself in December when the shit hits the fan at work and those people get blamed for that particular work being unfinished. Have a nice flirtation instead, or maybe just drink gin at work while your coworkers scamper around working.

Aquarius, you get the urge to run away from the mundane toward something novel. Do it! But remember that your ordinary world will continue to turn. All kinds of shit could go wrong in your absence if you don’t delegate before you run. Luckily the stars are furnishing you with charisma this week; people will fall over themselves to obey you. Your drink is equal parts amaretto, cream de cacao, and cream. Ahhh! Delegation indeed.

Pisces, don’t be coerced into taking on undesirable work. Be strong on this point, even if a colleague attacks you personally—even if someone blackmails you with the empty rum-bottle collection at the back of your desk. People at work can be dickheads, so watch your back! Either clean up those empties or start sharing your booze, or you’ll spend the week fending off attacks.

BEEFEATER 24—Because the market can bear more gin

My Fellow Inebriates,

Don’t tell Julia Gale, but I’m cheating on her with another gin.

I couldn’t help it. I’ve been waiting and waiting for BROKER’S GIN to make an appearance at my local government booze shop, but the last time I checked, it wasn’t there, and…well…the sun was shining, which means G&T time. The stars were lining up: we even had limes and tonic water ready in the fridge.

It wasn’t intentional. My dad had bought the tonic for his sore stomach and my mum had earmarked the limes for some sort of peanut-lime chicken abomination. They had no plans to buy gin, but…well, the stars lined up.

Faced with a paralyzing selection of beer and an even more overwhelming array of wine, my mum hit the gin aisle, where she would have to cope with only 14 brands.

Those 14 brands divide into 34 gin variations, however, posing less confusion than the wine and beer sections, but certainly enough for my addlepated mother. Whereas weirdo gin producers such as Hendrick’s sport only one style and size, brands such as TANQUERAY and BEEFEATER not only come in multiple sizes; they also boast premium versions that cost an arm and a leg. Tanqueray 10 is particularly pricey ($42.99 per 750mL versus $24.99 for the original). And if gin goes the way of vodka, the liquor store will have to build a new shelf for a host of new dipshit flavors.

What’s the history behind this? I suspect it goes like this: Charles Tanqueray creates a perfect London gin in 1830, predating Beefeater but not Plymouth and besting both, and these “establishment” brands then elbow out all the cheap gin joints in England, alleviating the social problems you’d expect from turpentine-flavored moonshine. But the market is quickly crowded by other gin manufacturers offering both mainstream gin flavorings and bizarre variants such as cucumber essence, and next thing you know my easily puzzled parent is staring at a massive selection and wondering if early Alzheimer’s is kicking in.

The marketing intelligence goes like this. The main decent contenders with any history are Tanqueray and Beefeater. Put Tanqueray on the shelf beside Beefeater and you’ve got a shoot-out. With Tanqueray costing only a dollar more than Beefeater, the choice comes down to how subtle you like your gin—flirting at you with juniper or belting you with it. If you haven’t tried either product, the odds are probably 50/50 you’ll pick either one.

Now put Tanq 10 beside Tanqueray and Beefeater. Sixty percent higher in price, this exorbitant sibling tastes cleaner, lighter, and arguably more refined. If anything it argues for diminishing returns—how good does gin really get, and do you have to refine the character right out of it to hit this price point?

But it doesn’t matter how Tanq 10 tastes. Its very presence on the shelf has accomplished a marketing coup—it’s redirected the dilemma. Instead of considering the merits of two almost equally priced gins, the consumer now sees the choice as between Tanqueray and Tanqueray 10, with Beefeater characterizing the bottom shelf—whether or not it deserves to be relegated to that position. Whereas ordinary Tanqueray, at $1 above Beefeater, didn’t seem like a deal before, now it seems like a steal. Now you can get a steal without being cheap.

Even though Tanqueray figured this out first, Beefeater eventually got into the game with BEEFEATER 24. Launched in 2008, this tea-infused variant, which would probably make founder James Burrough roll over in his grave, dials back the juniper in favor of a more balanced, 12-botanical recipe intended to channel the sensibilities of Burrough’s tea-merchant father. At $6 more than original BEEFEATER for 750mL, BEEFEATER 24 is invoking the same strategy as Tanqueray—creating choice within the brand, thereby satisfying the shopper’s urge to experiment without deserting the brand. Without cheating, that is.

Ahhhh, I never told Julia I wouldn’t cheat, but by now you must realize I’ve gone and made a gin & tonic with BEEFEATER 24. But what’s done is done, so let’s talk taste.

Like Tanq 10, BEEFEATER 24 is a cleaner version of the original, lacking the characteristic juniper burst of its big sibling and infused with specialty teas and grapefruit peel. The scent is heady and inviting—definitely flirtier than the original and admittedly more sophisticated. The tea infusion contributes a noticeable parching tannic quality, slightly distracting in a gin & tonic, especially if it’s a GIN & tonic like mine. As I sip it, I can’t help thinking fondly of the classic juniper clouting you get with the original, and I almost feel robbed of $6.

Which isn’t to say BEEFEATER 24 is bad. Not at all! It’s quite wonderful. It’s just a departure from Beefeater. I bet the founder, who was pretty worked up about achieving the perfect recipe, probably wouldn’t appreciate it. Chances are Beefeater headquarters are experiencing all sorts of bumps in the night from an angry James Burrough lurching around half-cut on celestial Beefeater and knocking people’s teacups off counters. Still better than having a possessed bear in your house, but not by much.

But once again it doesn’t matter what BEEFEATER 24 actually tastes like. It’s made an intelligent marketing maneuver that will keep customers loyal to its brand and probably grab some market share from competitors.

If only Beefeater HQ would learn how to make web pages that don’t take 45 seconds* to load.

*no exaggeration