This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES on December 8, 2014.
It was ten years ago today that "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott—of legendary metal band Pantera—was gunned down while performing onstage at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio, leaving a nation of fans and friends in shock and mourning. Though it's hard to believe that a whole decade has passed since, Dimebag's legacy continues to be carried on through his music, his bandmates, and his signature drink—the Black Tooth Grin.
In addition to being a brutally talented guitarist and songwriter, Dimebag had a well-known proclivity for boozing, and with it, his very own cocktail (if that slightly lofty word can be applied to something comprised of four ounces of whiskey doused in a bit of soda). "If you want to ride with the Cowboys from Hell, this is the drink," says YouTube bartender Johnny Diablo.
Named after a lyric from Megadeth's "Sweating Bullets," the Black Tooth Grin is essentially a double shot of Seagram's 7 and a double shot of Crown Royal tossed over ice (or not) and splashed with just enough Coca-Cola to give it a darkened hue. Though some fans, perhaps in their haste or for the sake of simplicity, opt to omit the Coke entirely.
To get some background on the background and legacy of the grin, I called up Zac Crain, author of Black Tooth Grin: The High Life, Good Times, and Tragic End of "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott.
"I started thinking about it a few days ago—I realized it was about that time," Crain told me of Dimebag's passing. "I remember that night, how the news was spreading around. I can't believe it's been ten years."
Crain says that the Big Bang of Grin origin stories doesn't seem to exist, but that his impression was that it was a way to make it a little more palatable to do unimaginable numbers of whiskey shots in one night—something that was a regular pastime for Dimebag.
"I spent like a whole chapter talking about him and alcohol," he tells me. "He was your number-one stereotypical party-time guy, always drinking. In a good way. I think that's probably bad when you're out in public and every single person you see wants to buy you a shot. People said that he would start throwing shots over his shoulder. He drank a lot of them, but people would just show up with trays of shots."
Adding a splash of Coke took the edge off for Dimebag, but Crain says that he finds the drink a little too sweet himself. "It kind of sounds like something a 17-year-old would come up with, but he was kind of an eternal 17-year-old at heart. I've surmised that if there was any origin to it, it was, "
Throughout Dimebag's career and to this day, the Black Tooth Grin serves as a way to drink in his spirit. At his memorial, Crain—who was covering it for SPIN—observed a 200-yard-long line of fans spilling out of the convention center in Arlington, many with Grins (or the components needed to make them) in hand. Crain spoke to dozens of his fans as they waited to pay their respects. "It was written on cars in shoe polish in the backs of windows, stuff like that. The dangers of being someone known for drinking a certain shot. Every single person I'd talked to had a story about doing shots with him. The drink is definitely part of his legacy. I don't think anyone would think of that kind of shot without thinking of him."
Even now, many metal bars continue to serve the drink in his honor. At The Clubhouse, the Dallas strip club that Dimebag cofounded with his brother and bandmate Vinnie, Crain recalls seeing trays of Grins being passed around. "Any place that plays a lot of metal or hard rock, I'm sure you could order a Black Tooth Grin and not have to explain what it is," he assures me. In 2009, a local grill even came up with a Blacktooth Whiskey Burger, made with whiskey-grilled Black Angus beef and Coca-Cola-caramelized onions.
Though Crain never knew Dimebag personally, he studied his life extensively during the creation of his book, and feels confident that "he definitely seemed like the kind of guy you'd want to drink with most of the time, but then if you didn't watch yourself, might talk you into doing something you shouldn't do. Could get you into a slight bit of mischief." Sounds like behavior that could easily be fueled by a combination of whiskey, sugar, and caffeine.
One helpful tip that Crain gleaned from the story of the Black Tooth Grin: "[Dimebag] used Pedialyte as a hangover remedy. I've tried that before and it does work really well."
Crain chose to use the Black Tooth Grin as the title of his book because he wanted to use something that encapsulated Dimebag without being as obvious as the title of one of his songs. A little sweet, a little scary, and very potent, it seemed like the best three syllables for capturing Dimebag. "As soon as I thought about it, it seemed to fit," Crain says.
So grab a glass tonight, add some ice if you wish, and fill it with a strong pour of Seagram's and a strong pour of Crown Royal. Top it off with a second-long dash of Coke. Then pour a little out for Dimebag, and say cheers.
The legend may have made the drink, but now the drink makes the legend.