Cheese Vodka

At the start of (well, a week or so into) every new academic year at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University, all of the current mathematicians (such as me) band together, spend a reasonable proportion of the T. Batterby Society (mathematicians' society)'s annual budget on vodka and assorted other alcoholic drinks, and have an amicable get-together in somebody's room to welcome the newcomers. Such societal get-togethers are called squashes in Cambridge, so this was the mathmo squash. In 2002 I was among those newcomers. There were about fifteen of us altogether.

I had the good fortune to retire to my room relatively early that night, because some time later in the evening, I'm told, a second-year called Dom got out a fondue set. The details of what happened after that are a little confused, but basically, somebody else also got out a small lump of greenish cheese which he had bought at the dining hall some days previously and never mustered the courage to eat. Alcohol did its sinful work, and the idea arose to melt the cheese. Into half a bottle of vodka.

Apparently (and understandably), nobody was able to manage more than a few sips of this crime against humanity of a drink without dire ill effects. The vast majority of the cheese vodka went undrunk and the bottle sort of hung around for the rest of the term... and the next term... and the next, gradually being handed from person to person as each one tried to get rid of it without actually drinking any of it or sacreligiously throwing it away.

The mathmo squash took place in October 2002. Towards the end of June 2003, it was decided that enough was enough. The cheese vodka had had its day. It was buried in what I'm told was a rather tearful ceremony in Botolph Court, being a rather grubby area of grass in the middle of some of Corpus' student accommodation. Apparently they emptied some tea over the grave; tea being another major interest of a significant number of Corpus mathematicians.

Fast-forward to October 2003 and the next mathmo squash. I was now among the second-years welcoming the first-years, and obviously we told them our various anecdotes of years gone by. We got to the cheese vodka story. Alcohol once again did its sinful work, and the idea popped into the collective head to go back to Botolph Court and dig it up again.

Which we did.

It was crawling up the side of the bottle to get out.

It comes pretty close to the all-time Worst Idea In Alcoholic History. Not quite up there with "let's drink Lenin's embalming fluid", but pretty darned close. I think Faye, one of the first-years, was the only person who tried any of the one-year-old matured cheese vodka. She managed a record-breaking whole capful. She was alternately paralytic and unpleasantly violent for the rest of the evening. Eventually I was one of the ones who helped carry her back to her room, by which time she was already being seriously considered for that year's Most Drunken Mathmo award, usually given in summer.

The cheese vodka is now missing, presumed poured down a sink somewhere, but I suspect that in the fullness of time it will resurface like an old supervillain. If there is a point to this story, it is this: Never make cheese vodka.

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