Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak, Gawker’s chief restaurant critics, recently ate, drank, and gasped their way through every international pavilion and theme park attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot. This is their review.
Rich: The reason why people engage in the custom of “Drinking Around the World” at Epcot—having a drink at each of its 11 countries and its insultingly interstitial African Outpost—was a mystery to me before we did it. It’s an excuse to get drunk, and a way of making that fun. But who needs an excuse to get drunk—and isn’t the whole point that it’s inherently fun? Drinking games, even ones without any palpable competition such as Drinking Around the World, are like spoons full of sugar to help the sugar go down, except in this case, the sugar is fermented.
Now that we’ve drunk around the world, I have an even lesser understanding of why people do it.
Caity: I was excited to Drink Around the World. I don’t like drinking but I do like being tipsy, and I absolutely love the world—particularly the sparkling clean version of it recreated in stunning detail on the Disney property.
Rich: I thought it would be a nice way to get to know you even better. We’d had so few occasions to shoot the shit over the course of the solid 96 hours we’d spent together since we left New York.
Caity: We had spent so many hours talking to one another by that point (in line for rides, on rides, walking to dinner, during dinner, walking back to the rental car after dinner, chatting about dinner over IM the next day), that I thought the alcohol might be a boon. There are only so many things you can say about a bush trimmed into the shape of Cogsworth from Beauty & the Beast. I was reminded of a line from my favorite XTC song: ‘’The more that I have the drink, the more that I can think to say.’’
Rich: The more that I have the think, the more that I can drink to say.
To gauge our drunkenness throughout the experiment, we self-reported it on a scale of 1 (sober) to 10 (blackout).
Time: 3:20 p.m.
Starting level of drunk (1 to 10): Caity: 1.5 ; Rich 1.5
Drinks consumed: 1 Pimm’s Cup each
Rich: I had two glasses of a St. Germain Cocktail (made with champagne) at lunch. It was heavenly. And then I thrust myself into hell.
Caity: Like a couple of ‘Arry Potters, we popped into the Rose and Crown pub, approached the bar, and ordered two Pimm’s Cups. Forever and predominantly concerned about being arrested for an open container violation, I asked if we could get them to go.
“ROADIES!” bellowed the jolly barkeep.
Rich: The person next to us ordered a Tanqueray and grapefruit and the rugger-esque bartender asked, “Double pour, two dollars more?” It was like we stumbled into A Clockwork Orange all of a sudden. Fancy a bit of the old in out in out for your tip, chap?
Once on our roadie way, I immediately felt drunk. I heard someone say, “E-damn-zactly” to someone outside and that tickled me so. And then I watched you try to give your drink to a woman who inquired about it. That wasn’t part of the Rules , but it was half weird so I allowed it just to watch it play out.
Caity: She had a baby strapped to her and she seemed desperate to know what I was drinking. I identified the drink to her and then tried several times to just give it to her for free (illegal! (??)).
‘’You need it more than I do,’’ I said, and then hoped this wasn’t rude. She politely declined but did thank me “so much’’ and said my offer was ‘’so nice.’’ I bet she regretted not taking it. In retrospect, I certainly regret that she did not take it.
Rich: This was not my favorite Pimm’s cup. A bit too bitter. Our sense of purpose led us to chugging them, which gave me a brain freeze. That’s what I get for not attempting to pay my alcohol forward.
Caity: I have had Pimm’s cups before and found them O.K. I would rate this as ‘’also O.K., or slightly below it.”
At this early stage—our eventual drunken misery a barely perceptible gray cirrus on the horizon—we thought it might be fun to explore the shops and attractions of every country while drinking.
Rich: Just like we thought Drinking Around the World might be fun.
Caity: One of the “attractions” of Epcot UK is a small ‘’Shakespeare’s Garden,” that is home to like, four plants mentioned in Shakespeare. Ever wondered what a rose might look like? Head on down to Shakespeare’s Garden.
Rich: Back behind the garden was the easiest hedge maze ever conceived. The hedges come up to your thighs and there’s, like, one potential wrong turn you can take. Don’t get me wrong, we took that turn. But it was still easy.
Time: 3:41 p.m.
Starting level of drunk (1 to 10): Caity: 2; Rich 3
Drinks consumed: 1 St. Ambroise Apricot Wheat beer (Caity); ½ of 1 St. Ambroise Apricot Wheat beer (Rich)
Caity: From Epcot England, we traveled to Epcot Canada—the Epcot England of the world itself.
Rich: The thing about Canada is that they only sell liquor in the restaurant. If you want to buy a drink from a stand, you have to get beer, which really fucks up the whole “Beer before liquor, never sicker,” thing because there was no way in Epcot hell that I was going to drink 10 more pints/bottles/boots of beer during our journey. Pro-tip No. 1: When Drinking Around the World, make sure Canada is last. Pro-tip No. 2: When Drinking Around the World, immediately stop and do something more sensible with your time.
Caity: Epcot Canada holds the impressive distinction of serving as the setting for both my best Epcot memory (dinner) and my worst (this very moment). I asked the young Canadian running the beer stand (Lindsay from Alberta) which of her demon beers she would estimate was “the sweetest,” and she suggested the St. Ambroise Apricot Wheat. It was perhaps the sweetest beer, in the same way that the Dead Sea is the dryest lake.
Rich: It tasted like apricot that had been dried and stuck to my boot for the duration of a round-trip commute.
Caity: It tasted like beer that Lindsay LIED AND TOLD ME TASTED LIKE APRICOT.
Rich: I tasted the apricot, but I didn’t like the apricot. It was here where the notion of vomiting turned from something we both silently knew was a possibility to a topic of discussion that would go on to dominate our day.
Caity: I hated the beer so much that I resolved to drink it as quickly as possible. Chugging with abandon, I came as close to vomiting as a person can without actually blowing chunks: retching, convulsing, blinking, teary-eyed, at the fiberglass totem poles. I wondered aloud what would happen if I really did throw up. Would I be escorted out? Kids throw up at Epcot all the time (I assume)!
Rich: Perhaps Mary Poppins would come by to help clean it up or at least make your clean-up more musical and shame-filled. It was at this point where we altered our own Rules of Drinking Around the World: Only one of us had to finish the drink.
Caity: Correction: You altered the Rule right after I finished my beer because you didn’t want to drink the rest of yours.
Rich: I altered that Rule because I know my body well. I have literally thrown up in my mouth after taking a shot of Hennessey. I give you that you were a trooper who chugged your drink, and I’m sure your ability to do so was terrific for your social life in college. My body, on the other hand, wants what it wants and does what it does. I made two attempts to pour my drink out of my cup while lagging behind you as we walked, and both times you noticed what I was doing. You’re gonna be a great mom (I hate you, Mom). Even just a few sips in, I was feeling woozy and I knew that if and when I threw up, it would not be of ha-ha kiddie vomit, but oh-my-god-get-that-old-man-out-of-here-before-he-starts-scaring-children vomit.
Caity: For the record, I did not start drinking until I was almost 22, and even then it was only because my college friends and I were going to an all-inclusive resort for spring break. I could not, in my infinite frugality, allow myself to be charged for alcohol I wasn’t drinking; I started drinking about a month before the trip, in preparation.
Rich: You’re a natural, though, as you demonstrated in Mexico.
Time: 3:59 p.m.
Starting level of drunk (1 to 10): Caity: 4 or 5; Rich: 5 or 6
Drinks consumed: ½ of 1 Frozen Mango Margarita (Caity); 1 Frozen Mango Margarita (Rich); 1/2 of 1 Frozen Mango Margarita (Aunt Pam)
Caity: In Mexico, I proposed we skip the frozen margaritas and just take shots instead—a suggestion that made your face turn pale. Barely three countries in and I just wanted to get out of the World as fast as possible.
Rich: “I don’t want to drag it out, I’d rather get sick,” you said. “You always feel better after you throw up.” It’s sound reasoning. Lifehack: Throw up after everything and you’ll always feel great.
Caity: Instead of listening to our fairy godmother, who was me, we got Frozen Mango Margaritas (Spanish for Frozen Mango Margarets). The primary ingredient in mine was saltwater.
Rich: At first I loved my Margaret so much I wanted to call her Atwood. But after a few sips, I grew despondent and then hopeless. How would we ever finish these drinks, especially since we had to sip them through straws that were way too narrow for a slush of that consistency? It’s like Disney wanted us to fail. We heard a kid who walked by ask his mom, “Where are we going?” “Nowhere. Home forever,” she said. I became so jealous. It would have been great to leave the godforsaken Epcot forever.
Caity: Even if she had said “Nowhere. Home to die,” I would have been jealous.
I will say that Mexico, more than any other Epcot country, goes to a lot of effort to make itself seem fun. A Donald Duck dressed up like a traditional Mexican Donald Duck poses for photos in the shadow of a great Mayan pyramid. A mariachi band plays “Happy Birthday” to the sky. The structure that contains the restaurant even features an unbelievably boring boat ride attraction, the highlight of which is an It’s a Small Word rip-off:
I enjoyed the open-air gift shop, which was full of toys.
Rich: I amazed you with the ingeniously constructed Jacob’s Ladder toy, while you amazed everyone who walked by with your ability to get the ball in the cup that it was attached to via string. You picked that thing up and got it in there, first time, like an actual licensed ball-and-cup expert. Like a Disney employee. Like a real girl. You could have sold that cup to a plate.
Caity: “You could have sold that cup to a plate.” <— That made me laugh, but I don’t get it at all. Is there anything to get…?
Rich: You know that construction: “You could have sold that [PRODUCT] to [AN UNLIKELY BUYER],” to comment on someone’s ability as a salesperson?
Caity: Ice to an Eskimo.
Caity: But the joke is that you’re selling [PRODUCT] to [SOMETHING THAT ALREADY HAS TONS OF PRODUCT]. Does a plate have tons of cups?
Rich: Well it has a cup, probably. I thought the joke was that you could sell something to another thing that doesn’t need it, regardless of how much of that thing it has.
Caity: I could have sold that cup to a...closet full of cups.
One thing I did sell: about half of my frozen margarita, for free, to Aunt Pam!
Rich: Finally, we found a taker! If only we had been trying to poison someone.
Caity: One thing that will almost certainly happen to you if you hold any kind of potent potable at Disney World: Tons of strangers will come up to you to ask where you got it. Where’d you get that Pimm’s cup? Where’d you get that Margaret? Where’d you get that Starbucks?
The answer is almost always: about 20 feet from where we are standing.
Rich: Makes you wonder if these people have bought anything in their lives. “But what did you do to convince the man to give that to you? Pay with money? What’s that?” I think the truth is that everyone was really lonely even within their groups. Sometimes you wanna go where everybody is just as lonely and self-medicating with alcohol.
Caity: Back to Pam: While we were sitting outside a giant stone pyramid, baking in the Florida sun, an energetic woman of a certain age approached me and asked what I was drinking and where did I get it. “A mango margarita!” I answered. “Do you want it? Please take it!”
A new Rule I had invented privately, for myself, is that if you could convince a stranger to take your drink, you didn’t have to drink it.
Rich: Pam was adorable for trying to protest by saying that it would be unhealthy, as if any of the thousands of Disney’s food and drink offerings could ever be classified as healthy. When in Epcot, drink like no one’s watching. Eat like “calories” is not a concept.
Caity: Pam was mostly adorable in that she pretended for even one minute she wasn’t going to take that drink, when she was clearly picking out furniture for her timeshare in Margaritaville the second I offered it to her.
“My niece is gonna say, ‘Aunt Pam, you’re drinking someone else’s drink!’” she exclaimed. Some people are real fussy about taking free, partially-consumed food and beverages from strangers, but not Aunt Pam and not me. For more on this topic, please see: What happened in Germany two hours later.
Time: 4:41 p.m.
Starting level of drunk (1 to 10): Caity: 5; Rich: 5
Drinks consumed: 1 Linie Aquavit Glacier Shot each
Rich: In Norway, we had the choice of beer or a shot. Though I wished the shot could have been that from a gun, I settled for the next best thing. The shot offering was the Linie Aquavit Glacier Shot, which apparently ferments for five months while traveling by sea. Sounds way cooler than it tastes.
Caity: All this trudging from country to country reminded me of wandering from themed frat party to themed frat party in college. Around this time, I suggested that you and I make a deal:
“If anyone needs a volunteer, we’ll volunteer.”
“For anything?” you asked.
No one ever did! But we still ended up volunteering for tons of stuff. Forcing ourselves upon situations is maybe a more accurate way to put it.
This enormous shot tasted awful. When the young Norwegian behind the counter (a young man we’ll call...Stevie) served it to us, he said “Godspeed and good luck. That’s all I have to say.” Stevie, I am here to tell you that you are a bad luck charm, for when you wish good luck upon people, it does not befall them.
Actually, one lucky thing did happen: I had some days-old Teddy Grahams in my pocketbook that we used as chasers.
Rich: “That’s all I have to say.” So then you aren’t going to recite what you’ve written of your dissertation so far to us, at this register, Stevie? In this brief interaction with you we’ve come to depend so wholly on your wisdom and feedback. “Godspeed and good luck” is uncharacteristically terse of you, and I only know that because we’re such good friends.
Stevie was, perhaps in an act of expertise or self-hatred, shading what Epcot had decided was the official drink of his country. Stevie was not wrong. Linie Aquavit Glacier tastes like Jagermeister multiplied by razor blades. It was like licorice as a weapon.
Caity: Actually, in retrospect, Stevie was kind of mean. I asked him about his oddly American name (Not “Stevie” but something close) and his reply was brusque and unfriendly. Stevie, I’m just trying to find out more about your life and your vibe. My name’s Margarita! Put ‘er there.
Rich: I think he was just being a viking. He was giving us as immersive of an experience as possible without having to bring out his battleaxe. After our shot, we visited a museum (actually a tiny room) that I guess linked Frozen to Norwegian culture but I’ve never watched that movie all the way through and otherwise wasn’t very interested in paying attention so I just gazed into the eyes of the creepy mannequins.
Caity: I saw an outfit that was just like in Frozen.
The very, very worst thing about Epcot Norway was that its main attraction—the only real amusement park ride in all of the World Showcase except that awful baby boat ride in Mexico—was closed down when we visited. Since 1988, it’s existed as Maelstrom: a kind of flume tour of mythical Norway, complete with scary trolls and living trees. It was closed down last October so that it could be re-imagined as a Frozen-themed adventure, and has yet to re-open.
Still, we did manage to wring a little fun out of Norway, when we convinced an employee to badmouth some of the other Epcot countries. I approached a young woman in a Norwegian bunad who appeared to be standing around, doing nothing in particular, and asked her which countries we should be sure to visit that day. She suggested China and also Germany “because they have a Christmas store.” (N.B. Norway is basically also one big Christmas store.) Mexico, she added, because we wouldn’t have to go inside the pyramid to enjoy it (“just look at it from the outside”).
Then I asked her what countries we should skip.
THE UNITED STATES.
CANADA “BECAUSE IT HAS A VERY SMALL GIFT SHOP.”
Time: 4:55 p.m.
Starting level of drunk (1 to 10): Caity: 6; Rich: 5
Drinks consumed: 1 Honey Mango Wine Cooler each
Caity: If you’re planning a trip to China, the absolute best time of the year to go is right around 5 o’clock p.m. The sun was out, but not high. The air was warm but not hot. I was drunk but not in need of medical attention. We got there just in time for an acrobatic performance.
Rich: I guess you could say that I am the 8th grader of China in that I drank a wine cooler there, which is something I have not done in over 20 years. I wish I could say I tasted the sweet thrill of illicit drinking all over again, but there was so much sugar in our Honey Mango Wine Cooler that all I tasted was the sweet.
Caity: That’s probably why I had such a great time there. Honey wine! Isn’t that basically mead?
We were floating through China like a couple of drunk bumblebees in more ways than one, because our final day in Epcot coincided with the first day of the Epcot Flower Show. (To Disney, “flower” apparently translates to “topiary bush shaped like Disney character,” which outnumbered actual blooms by about 1000 to 1. But that was fine—I’m always down for any kind of show.) In honor of the Flower Show, Epcot played host to many small limited-time-only kiosks. Some of these were full of useless things, like $90 Minnie Mouse lawn ornaments. Epcot China’s kiosk, however, was marvelous. In addition to the aforementioned mead spritzer, it also offered a food item I will remember for as long as I live: “BEIJING-STYLE CANDIED STRAWBERRIES.”
Rich: The best thing that we got out of the Flower Show was the ability to avoid our enemy, the Joy of Tea. I wasn’t in the mood to fight anything but my body’s natural gag reflex. The Flower Show kiosk was a place of peace—a place of actual joy (but alas, again no tea for us in China).
Caity: Out of nowhere, I decided it was time to learn something. “How do you say ‘strawberries’ in Chinese?” I asked or screamed. (I wasn’t drunk enough to think that “Chinese” is a single language spoken by people from China, but I was drunk enough to be worried that I would over-correct and make a mistake if I tried to get more specific. I decided to just be ignorant.) “Cǎoméi” answered the young woman handing me candied cǎoméi’s.
“Cǎoméi?” I asked, reproducing what she said with 100% accuracy.
“Cǎoméi,” she repeated, I guess because, in addition to meaning strawberry, “cǎoméi” is also a word used to express the phrase: “You have pronounced this word exactly correctly—amazing.”
Rich: To my brutish ears, “Cǎoméi,” sounds like “chow mein,” but luckily the cǎoméi didn’t taste like chow mein. Tasted like heaven in a hard candy shell.
Caity: My wine-cooled brain expected the “candied strawberries” to be chocolate covered strawberries i.e. strawberries covered in a candy that is chocolate. These were—if you can believe it—even better. Like miniature strawberry candy apples. Once they were covered in the candy coating, they were also sprinkled with sesame seeds, which improved the taste even more, by adding a savory note.
I was so amped up about these Beijing-style candied strawberries (they came four or five to a stick, which we split and ate immediately, so no photo), that I sent an enthusiastic series of instant messages from my phone to our colleague Tom Scocca, who has written an entire book about Beijing. Over the course of these messages, I described the strawberries as both “like glass” and “one of my favorite tastes from my entire life to date.”
Tom replied that in Beijing, it’s more common to find candied dates.
LIKE I’M GONNA EAT A DATE.
Rich: While coating our stomachs in sugary slush yet again, we enjoyed the stylings of the Jeweled Dragon Acrobats, a group of seven Chinese youngsters and one oldster (their oppressive trainer, I assumed) who do all sorts of seemingly effortless things with their bodies, gravity, and Chinese yoyos. It was like watching an extended entry in a cheerleading competition, but you know, international. Bring It On: East Meets West. Watching it made me feel very open-minded and inclusive.
Caity: The only move I can recall vividly from that performance was the sudden, rigid head jerk to the left the two girls would perform (while smiling tightly) at the completion of every feat. But I also remember gasping over and over again, so the whole thing must have been incredible.
Rich: It was like they were nudging us to cheer. [Jerk] “Come on guys.” [Jerk] “Give it up for us!” I bet they are unabashedly braggy on Twitter, but truly, their skill warrants such bravado.
After about 20 minutes of watching them fly through the air and land in human pagoda formations, we hit China’s giant store. There I was tempted by Chinese ghost stories, giant fans to take with me to the club, and an incense burner with a dragon gazing into a crystal ball. I was drunk enough to very much consider buying that last object (“I haven’t treated myself to anything yet except, oh yeah, FOOD”), but you talked me down on account of being able to find it elsewhere for cheaper than the $30 that Epcot was charging. Thank you for dissuading me as gently as possible and without insulting my taste, Caity. Thank you for being a friend. And if you threw a party, you would see the biggest incense burner would be from me.
Caity: If you’re going to buy something made in China, you might as well get it on Amazon.
Where in the World? African Outpost
Time: 5:35 p.m.
Starting level of drunk (1 to 10): Caity: 6; Rich: 6
Drinks consumed: ½ of 1 Mango Starr (Caity); ½ of 1 Frozen Elephant (Rich)
Rich: Africa is barely represented in Epcot. I mean, there’s Morocco, which is a country in Africa, but hardly what anyone thinks of when they think of Africa. And then there is a small strip of kiosks on the curve between China and Germany (naturally) known as the African Outpost. It is full of portable Mexican musical instruments for sale (naturally) and has a refreshment stand that sells hot dogs. I guess that makes it African American? Anyway, Africa in Epcot is sort of the Black History Month of the U.S. calendar. They aren’t even ashamed of how paltry of an offering it is.
Caity: As a Halfrican American, I claim no part of the African Outpost, even though it has hot dogs, which are my favorite. Actually, when we first approached it, I mistook the theme for “Native American Outpost” based on the music being pumped out through hidden rock speakers.
For one beautiful moment while we were there, I thought that Epcot African Outpost might not sell alcohol, being that the list of things it did sell was so small, and consisted mostly of the aforementioned Mexican musical instruments. Unfortunately, it does: Frozen drinks.
Rich: On this trip, slush became my least favorite of all of water’s states. My least favorite state of slush, as I found out in Africa via a drink called the Frozen Elephant, is Coke flavored with cream liqueur. I curse the slush down in Africa!
Caity: My drink was called a “Mango Starr.” Like Ringo Starr, I guess? We are in Africa, after all.
I see from our notes that, around this time, I began singing “Ottawana frozen drink” inside the African Outpost. This is a reference to a fake single ( “Ottawana Go to Bed”) from a very funny Justin Bieber and Drake-inspired Kroll Show character named Brian LaCroix. I have no memory of saying “Ottawana frozen drink” but it 100% sums up my thoughts on the subject, at least at that point in time.
Rich: Underlining Disney’s deep respect of Africa, its customs, its people, and its slushies, two white kids in Kente cloth (Alex from Rhode Island and Chris from Orlando) served us our drinks.
Caity: Ottawana spend any more time than necessary in African Outpost; it’s depressing. We finished our drinks (or, at least, half, of them—honoring a NEW Rule we had invented, by which we were only required to drink half)and then, like the defeated Nazis driven out of Africa 70 years ago, trudged onward to Germany.
Time: 5:56 p.m.
Starting level of drunk (1 to 10): Caity: 6; Rich: “5...or maybe my anxiety has abated?”
Drinks consumed: 1 Berentzen Apfel Shot each
Rich: It was just before Germany that we realized that we were halfway done our Tour de Fuck’s Sake. I have never been so happy to be in Germany in my life (note: I’ve never been to Germany, only Epcot’s Germany, but, whatever, this was the best time yet).
Caity: The hour we spent traveling between China and Germany was definitely my most comfortably numb time. I continued getting drunker after that, but it was no longer enjoyable in any way. In Germany, we lined up at yet another small outdoor kiosk to purchase our drinks.
Rich: “Oh this one has pretzels!” you said in a gasp.
“You want a pretzel? Aren’t we going to get a funnel cake in a second?” I asked, referring to our planned dinner and trip back in time to when we were 8 and dreamed of eating funnel cakes for dinner (or maybe that was just me).
“I guess…” you sighed.
We decided that we would NOT be getting a pretzel, but some people just don’t take no for an answer. What follows is the exchange that happened with the man who was waiting in line behind us, a total stranger to whom we did not say so much as “Hello” before we began communicating with him:
Caity: Are you buying a pretzel, sir? Are you buying a pretzel?
Stranger: Uh yeah no. I never tried it yet.
Rich: You never tried a pretzel?
Stranger: I never tried this one.
Caity: Are you getting one now?
Stranger: Yes, I am.
Caity: Can I take a bite of it?
Stranger: Oh. You want to know if it’s good?
Caity: [Laughs] You don’t have to.
Stranger: O.K., but that means I get to go before you.
I admired his bargaining ability and told him so.
Caity: “You want to know if it’s good?” Yeah.—HAH. What a bold lie! I knew it would be good; it was a pretzel!
And so this gentleman stepped in line before us, to purchase our shared pretzel. When he received it, he dutifully presented it to me for my bite. I reached out to break off a small piece...and it was like high fiving the surface of the sun. My fingerprints burned right off my hands!!! I gasped and jerked back.
FULLY ONE-THIRD OF THE PRETZEL FELL TO THE GROUND.
OH MY GOD.
Afterward, I confessed to you that I felt bad “but it was like fire.”
You consoled me, very sweetly: “It’s O.K. He knew what he was getting into.”
Rich: You make the insane choice of letting a stranger put her hands on the food that you just bought, you pay the price.
Caity: He was nice about it. He let me grab another small piece. (To my horror, it was one of the worst soft pretzels I’ve ever eaten. Too dense).
Rich: Even though we had already experienced a lifetime’s worth of surprises, disappointments, hand burns, and awkward interactions with strangers, we still hadn’t ordered our drink at this point. When it was time, you used the Caity Weaver special for procuring the most awful substance to pour down your throat: You asked Krischan, “What are your...sweetest shots?”
Caity: Berentzen Apfel Shots! O.K., fine. We’ll take two. Much better than the Norwegian shots, because they tasted a little like apfels. They were over quickly, which is the best quality they could have possessed in that instant.
Rich: Shots put the speed in “Godspeed.” :) While you sat down, I looked at the nearby giant train model display, taking about 20 pictures of it (I don’t even like model trains that much, I was just drawn to anything that wasn’t alcohol) and singing Kraftwerk’s “Trans-Europe Express” to myself quietly.
Caity: In Epcot’s miniature Bavarian village, we encountered what I would guess is probably the worst shop to work in in the entire park: Volkskunst. As its name (the German word for folk art) implies, this shop is full of loud, clanging, fiercely German garbage. There is an enormous display of bells for children to shake. There is a shelf of singing beer steins. There is a wall of cuckoo clocks. It is filled, belly-to-belly, with people.
Another shop in Epcot is Kunstarbeit In Kristall, a store filled with dazzling Swarovski products, that called to mind the glittering glass of Kristallnacht.
Rich: I thought about getting a $90 crystal pig for my boyfriend, but then talked myself down (I’m getting better at shopping, right, Caity?!?). There’s also a toy store in Germany that sells plush baby versions of Disney characters, including big-eyed, quasi-adorable versions of Maleficent and The Little Mermaid’s Ursula. Consider that these monsters were once babies, just like you, these dolls say. This teaches children empathy—an empathy as deep as their parents’ pockets.
Incidentally, my vote for Best Epcot Germany Store in a Supporting Role goes to: Karamell-Küche.
Time: 6:05 p.m.
Starting level of drunk (1 to 10): Caity: 7; Rich: 6
Drinks consumed: 1 Strawberry Rossini each
Caity: Continuing our tour of Axis strongholds, we traveled next to Italy. There, we sampled the Italian delicacy of “Strawberry Rossinis”—prosecco, into which strawberry puree was dumped (from a bag, while we watched).
Rich: During their preparation, one of these rossinis was knocked over and our quasi-bartender had to begin again. I have never seen such a mistake made at Epcot in my life. Kinda killed the magic for me.
Caity: Italy was the first place on our trip we got carded, which is crazy because we look extremely young, like pre-teens, or even children. I asked one of the college-aged employees how to say “drunk” in Italian. He told me (“Ubriaco!”) and then asked if we were drunk.
“Absolutely,” I said.
“Getting there,” said Rich.
“O.K.!” said the cheery Italian man.
Rich: It was at this point that I decided that a good/bad scale no longer applied to what I was putting in my body—I wasn’t going to like it anyway, so it was now more about easy/hard. Prosecco with strawberries is an easy thing to drink, at least in my experience. It was a walk in the park—the park where someone just took a weedwacker to all of Strawberry Fields. Watching you fight the Rossini that was in your mouth while attempting to pour more of it in almost killed my buzz, though.
Caity: If the Rossini had been my first drink of the day, I think I would have loved it. As my tenth (a count that includes the two I had with lunch), it was disgusting.
We didn’t go to any of the Italian shops. I didn’t want to. Norway told us to skip it.
Rich: With viking hearts, we soldiered on.
Time: 6:15 p.m.
Starting level of drunk (1 to 10): Caity: 7; Rich: 6
Drinks consumed: ¼ of 1 Red Stag Lemonade (Caity); 1 Red Stag Lemonade (Rich)
Rich: Knock knock.
Caity: Who’s there?
Rich: More slush.
Caity: Leave us alone!
Only Epcot could turn America—a land I love—into a home that I hate and want to throw up on.
Epcot USA Is probably the least crowded of all the countries, in terms of buildings. They constructed a couple enormous colonial structures and then couldn’t think of anything else to put there. The most impressive of these is the pavilion housing the American Adventure attraction, which uses forced perspective to make a five story building look a more Revolutionary era-appropriate two stories tall. (Epcot Canada employs forced perspective to the opposite effect, making the three-story Hotel du Canada look like a more imposing six.)
Rich: Putting an America section in something as American as a theme park partially devoted to foreign lands is akin to the chain restaurant tradition of offering appetizer versions of the signature dish that everyone’s there to order in the first place—Pizza Hut’s breadsticks are nothing more than deconstructed pizza (thank you I’ll have both) and Pizzeria Uno’s nachos taste like pizza (yes please times two). In that sense, Epcot’s America very faithfully replicated the American experience of excess.
Also, the Red Stag Lemonade, which we ordered, tasted like the Red, White and Blue Turbo Rocket pops I’d get from the ice cream man as a child. That’s my America and it’s in my mouth.
Caity: I love the idea of putting a miniature America in an amusement park dedicated to highlighting some of the world’s most fabulous countries. It’s like me giving a PowerPoint about the most important women of the last hundred years, and on the last slide is a picture of me, for putting together this great PowerPoint.
A large section of the America store was devoted to dog shampoo!
Rich: In the America store, I watched as someone regarded the moonshine and said, “Should we get some?” The person she was with, maybe her mother or her sister or her daughter, replied “I thought that was illegal!” America is a land of learning.
Caity: I had about five bites of our funnel cake and about four sips of my alcoholic slushy before discreetly discarding it in the bathroom. New Rule: One of us has to drink at least half their drink.
On our way out of America, we passed a stand that was selling quote unquote Piggylicious Bacon Cupcakes. Even though I was not hungry at all, I wanted to badly to taste the Piggylicious Bacon Cupcake on my tongue. You suggested it might not be a good idea.
“Maybe on the way back,” I said aloud. I realize, now, that saying that did not make any sense, as we were not retracing our steps.
Rich: I knew that all along. We’d already suffered enough. America’s body is too piggylicious for us, babe.
Time: 6:36 p.m.
Starting level of drunk (1 to 10): Caity: 7; Rich: 6
Drinks consumed: 1 Sparkling Sake each
Rich: The woman who waited on us in Japan also carded us, upholding Japan’s standard of politeness. Thank you, Japan, for making me feel like I might look younger than 21, too. We ordered my favorite sushi accompaniment: sparkling sake. You regarded it, said, “So, not like a shot, right?” and then drank it in less than 40 seconds. I guess whether something qualifies a shot or not depends on how you hold the gun/glass.
Caity: This is yet another drink I might have enjoyed at, say, 9 a.m. (it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere), as opposed to twelfth in a line of mostly slush-filled drinks.
Constant compulsion to barf aside, I liked Epcot’s little taste of Japan: The restaurant reminded me of the little taste of Japan I enjoy back home in Harrisburg, PA: Benihana on Paxton St. where—warning to all—they charge for every soda refill. The store was hands down the best store in the World Showcase.
Rich: I wanted everything in the store, though I did find the Studio Ghibli section to be a little underwhelming (why can’t you let me buy a giant Totoro costume?—i.e. why can’t you let me be great?). There was a giant section of foodstuff in the back that included basically any candy you could think of in a green tea flavor. Green tea everything, and as I have already said, I love green tea (you’re welcome, inventor of green tea). Green tea incense. Green tea Kit Kats. Green tea waving cat.
Caity: The very, very, veryververy best part—of the store, of Epcot Japan, of Disney World, of the Virgo Supercluster of galaxies—was the “Pick a Pearl” booth.
Pick a Pearl booth was one of the most entrancing things I’ve ever seen. Rich explored the store for about twenty minutes. I watched 5 people pick pearls.
Here is how the Pick a Pearl booth works: First you MUST purchase a Pick a Pearl ticket at aaaany cash register in the store. When it is your turn to Pick a Pearl, the young Japanese woman manning the booth at that time will scream (SCREAM!!!!!) “Lucky number...17!” (the numbers are called in regular numerical order, but all of them are deemed “lucky.”) You will step to the front of the booth and peer into its two enormous, glass-walled tanks of oysters; curious patrons will horseshoe around you. You will point at an oyster, and the woman will scoop it out with tongs while screaming that you have made a VERY GOOD CHOICE. She will take a sharp knife and insert it into the shell. Then she will ask you if you know what happens next. You do, because you have been watching people Pick a Pearl all afternoon, or because you have read this blog post: What happens next is that you and she will count to three in Japanese. She will teach you how to count to three in Japanese. (“ICHI LIKE YOU’RE ITCHY! NI LIKE YOUR KNEE!!! SAN LIKE THE SUN!!!!!”) And then she will grow serious for a moment.
“You are very good at counting in Japanese.”
Then she will slice open your oyster to reveal your pearl! She will describe the pearl to you in a scream (“PRETTY PINKISH COLOR”) and hold out the shell for you to inspect. She will clean the pearl and measure it by dropping it through a series of different pearl-sized holes (which will take forever). Then she will place it in a bag and NOW YOU HAVE YOUR PEARL YOU HAVE PICKED A PEARL!!!!!!!
I really wanted to do it but I thought it would take too long to get to my lucky number.
Rich: I would have let you! I would have stuck some sand inside of me and created my own pearl, even. Anything to keep from drinking. It was here that the enormous stupidity of Drinking Around the World dawned on me: It’s incredibly time consuming—and time is precious at a theme park that you dropped almost $100 to get into. So basically, you paid $100 to pay another $100 (at least) to OD on sugar and maybe get half a buzz. Did you have any sense of the masochism of this exercise going into it?
Caity: Personally, I don’t think anything in the world is worth paying $100 for—not one thing. Drinking Around the World played out about as I thought it would but on an accelerated timeline. I thought the fun would last longer than it did. It turned dark very quickly. Perhaps man was not meant to travel the world.
Rich: At one point, I guess to make ourselves feel better or because we had just given up on our way to rock bottom, we sang “All About That Bass” together. This is what that was like (via The Comeback):
Time: 7:08 p.m.
Starting level of drunk (1 to 10): Caity: “69...Probably 8...’cause I made that joke”; Rich: (No answer/he doesn’t want to talk about it/leave him alone)
Drinks consumed: 1 Kasbah Coffee with hazlenut liqueur (Caity); 1 Mixed Berries Delight (Rich)
Rich: Even though I love coffee so much, I’ve considered mentioning it in my Grindr profile (kidding!), for some reason I ignored Morocco’s several coffee-and-liqueur offerings for more slush. Grindr, scrindr, I choose self-abuse. I ordered the Mixed Berries Delight.
I guess they forgot to put the delight in mine.
Caity: I hate coffee but, at 7:08 p.m., coffee sounded like a fantastic idea to me. I didn’t think I could make it to France (the final campaign of our doomed tour) without chemical assistance. I asked the man behind the counter “What is the sweetest coffee you have?” and he had no idea how to answer that question. I amended it to “What is the LEAST disgusting coffee that you have?” and he suggested: Kasbah Coffee, with hazelnut liqueur.
I felt better immediately. Practically sober. Or at least back to Epcot Mexico-levels of drunk
Rich: I guess I ordered a slush out of habit. By this point, I was used to tanginess coating my throat. Now I know what it’s like to be the stick in Pixy Stix.
Caity: Apart from the “apricot” beer in Canada, and the tiny quantities of vomit that regularly leapt up into my throat as we walked, the sip I took of your Mixed Berries Delight was the worst taste I had in my mouth all day. It tasted like medicine. But at least when you drink medicine, you know that eventually it will make you feel better. This had the taste of medicine and the effect of poison: Morocco!
Rich: Fuck medicine, I needed to have my head examined.
In Morocco, I saw three bad kids who looked like they frequented raves. I could tell they were bad kids because they were smoking. You’re not allowed to smoke in Disney except in “select outdoor smoking locations only.” One one of them had blonde hair that reminded me of the junkie in True Life: I’m Hooked on Molly. She had the appearance of a financial burden on her family.
Caity: Based on what I had seen on a couple episodes of The Real Housewives of New York City, I expected Morocco (or any place based on it) to be a hotbed of hatred, drama, and henna tattoos. There was a place where you could get henna tattoos but, by that point, I was too tired for drama. (One time my cousin got a henna tattoo while abroad and, on the way back, tried to declare it with customs. I love you, Courtney!)
Morocco appeared to have more little shops and souvenir stands than any other country but, as opposed to Japan (which had one store and eleven billion items), only seemed to sell about 4 things: Fezes, belly dancing outfits, rosewater, and teeny cups. We must have spent 30 minutes looking at various configurations of fezes, belly dancing outfits, rosewater, and teeny cups, because I wanted to visit every stand in search of the perfect souvenir. (As it turns out, the only perfect souvenir in Disney World is PICK A PEARL).
Rich: I was taken with these metal hats and even more taken with the mannequins who were modeling them. Hey ladiEEEES ;)
Caity: As my dear friend LuAnn always says: Ramona! RAMONA! Ya habibi.
Time: 7:21 p.m.
Starting level of drunk (1 to 10): Caity: 6; Rich: 6
Drinks consumed: Shared 1 La Vie en Rose Frozen Slush (Vodka, Grey Goose Orange, St. Germain Liqueur, and White and Red Cranberry Juice)
Rich: If slushes were tuna, we could say that we received TOO MUCH TUNA at Epcot that day, and this trip around the world was an elaborate, four-hour prank we played on ourselves. In a way it was, and in every way, I would have preferred the tuna.
That’s to say: In France, we ordered more slush from another Epcot Flower and Garden Festival pop-up pavilion. This one was called La Vie en Rose. More like La Vie en GROSS.
Caity: Did I even get one of these? I literally have no memory of it.
Rich: I think maybe I got it and you watched me drink it and not throw up on myself. I don’t remember your applause but I know I deserved it.
Caity: Maybe I had a sip or two. I DO remember ordering a confit de canard, which proves more definitively than any blood or memory-based test would, how drunk I was. Here is the description of the item, from the Fleur de Lys kiosk menu:
Confit de Canard, Pommes de Terre Sarladaise – Pulled Duck Confit with Garlic and Parsley Potatoes
The only item I like in that list is garlic! And I remember, quite clearly, thinking “Mmm...That one has garlic.” I thought it tasted bad but, of course I did—it was full of things I did not like.
I asked Pierre (pseudonym), the man selling me food and drink I hated, the same question I posed in Norway. If we only have a little bit of time left in Epcot, where should we go? (“Mexico is fine. Italy is fine—if you want to eat there it’s good. And then right here is England..Can-nad-uh.”)
Which was really an excuse to ask this trick question: What can we skip?
Pierre: (Quietly) Norway.
Rich: Norway, the one wit de horns, isn’t for everybody. Drinking Around the World is for nobody. If you see anyone with (what I assume are unofficial) T-shirts that broadcast DRINKING AROUND THE WORLD and have the names of all of the countries with check boxes next to them that are meant to actually be checked off, pen to fabric, pity those people even harder than you’d naturally be inclined to.
This exercise, really our entire stay, struck me as more evidence that you, Caity, are a masochist at heart. Choosing Epcot as the Disney park to visit four days in a row for at least eight hours at a time is not unlike choosing mozzarella sticks as your sole endless app to eat for 14 hours, AHEM. But I had...fun.
Caity: I did too. Burn in Hell, Epcot. I’ll see you when I have kids.
 Rules of Drinking Around the World: 1. Both Rich and Caity must finish one entire drink from every country represented in Epcot’s World Showcase. 2. No other rules.
 Rules of Drinking Around the World, Version II: 1. Either Rich or Caity must finish one entire drink from every country represented in Epcot’s World Showcase. 2. If someone does not finish their entire drink, they must drink at least half.
 Rules of Drinking Around the World, Version III (Caity only): 1. Either Rich or Caity must finish one entire drink from every country represented in Epcot’s World Showcase. 1b. If someone does not finish their entire drink, they must drink at least half. 2. If you can convince a stranger to take your drink, you don’t have to finish it.
 Rules of Drinking Around the World, Version IV: 1. Both Rich and Caity must finish at least half their drink from every country represented in Epcot’s World Showcase. World Showcase.
Rules of Drinking Around the World, Version V: 1. Either Rich or Caity must finish at least half their drink from every country represented in Epcot’s World Showcase. We give up.
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Images via Rich Juzwiak and Caity Weaver.