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What’s in the ‘nutcracker’: NYC’s illegal street-drink classic

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What’s in the ‘nutcracker’: NYC’s illegal street-drink classic

If you're from New York City, you may already know what a nutcracker is -- a boozy, fruity concoction sold in a plastic bottle at beaches and on the streets.

With each bottle sold for $5 or $10, the street drink is potent and popular, especially in the summer.

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"Before social media hit, it was really a block thing -- streets, beaches," said a Bronx nutcracker salesman who goes by Da Inphamus Amadeuz.

He said social media radically changed the nutcracker industry.

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Someone with a generous social media following and a strong clientele can make up to $4,000 a weekend, according to Da Inph.

He estimates there are thousands of nutcracker salesman in New York City, most of whom operate on his or her own. 

But of course, New York's alcoholic beverage laws say it's illegal to sell alcohol without a proper license or permit, deliver alcohol to public places, and also to purchase and drink the illicit alcoholic beverage on public parks, beaches, or out on the streets.

It's definitely a risky business, according to Da Inph, who has been making and selling nutcrackers for about five years.

He says he stays absolutely vigilant at all times. He has had to switch up his delivery vehicle to stay elusive. 

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Despite the risks, nutcrackers remain a summer staple.

"When I was really on it, I could probably go through like, 10 coolers a night, each cooler with about 40 bottles," Da Inph said. 

When Jose Chu, manager of an Upper West Side restaurant, first made the original nutcracker cocktail back in 1994, he had no idea he would establish such a legacy.

"I was a bartender here and people would often come to drink and watch sports," Chu said. "We came up with a drink that's strong and sweet. We wanted to have fun with it." 


And when a commercial for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular came on TV, they decided to name the drink "nutcracker."


It didn't take long for thenutcracker to gain popularity. According to Chu, the drink "really lived up to the name."

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A few years later, Chu learned that people were selling a version of his drink outdoors. He even ran into nutcracker peddlers in South Beach, Miami.

"I would never have the guts to sell it on the street myself," he laughed.

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