Every once in a while my editor says, “be brief.” It’s likely a space issue or the size of the ads (I have no idea how the newspaper editing process works); I just know about booze.
I do know that I usually have a mishmash of topics that aren’t a full column – but are worth sharing.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was feeling vaguely guilty for using pre-mixed cocktail mixers (like the excellent ones from Proof). Instead of squeezing juices and buying bitters, I just – hesitantly – ordered mixers. To my happy astonishment, they were delicious. I haven’t crafted a “from scratch” Moscow Mule or whiskey sour since.
Now it seems mixers are old school. You can, instead, buy completely ready-to-drink cocktails. In cans and ready to consume. Of course, I was doubtful until Bombay Sapphire came out with their own canned gin and tonic. Not only is the can iconically rendered, but the contents … well, pretty delicious!
A newcomer to the canned market is a savvy company called Tip Top. Their logo is a giraffe wearing a top hat and their tagline is “proper cocktails.” Their margarita, daiquiri, and (a throwback) Bee’s Knees were developed in collaboration with James Beard Award finalist Miles Macquarrie. Town & Country magazine gave “tip top” marks to their Negroni – and as it turns out so do I. It is, as the mag said, “perfectly bittersweet.” Since these little cans are sublimely portable I may have to start carrying a few orange peels in my pocket. I mean, you still gotta garnish!
Hard seltzers are, of course, passé this summer, but despite losing their cachet as the latest and trendiest things going, their sales remain strong. One new entrant in the market is Mexican mineral water giant Topo Chico. Interestingly, although promoted as “inspired” by the legendary mineral water, reading the label reveals it is not actually made using it. Still, I enjoyed an icy cold exotic pineapple during one of our recent scorchers.
And rum … oh my gosh! Vodka set the bar for most flavors (cotton candy, anyone?) but rum is pulling up fast. Strawberry rum? Mango? Yep. Both are available. (Can’t say I recommend either, not when coconut rum is readily and deliciously available).
Remember when wine with a screw top was considered gauche? Wonder what wine snobs think now, with more and more vinos coming in neat skinny aluminum cans? Frankly, I like the idea if for no other reason than chilled wines get chilled faster in a can than in a bottle. Plus, you avoid waste; if I just want a single serving – voila! No more half-empty bottles devolving into vinegar in the fridge. One to try: Hogwash rosé. Absolutely great with Southern Soul BBQ. And I maintain, pretty classy, too
Not so deliciously, at least to my taste, is the emergence of vinegar, specifically, balsamic vinegar, as a cocktail ingredient. Now I love a Caprese salad, of which balsamic vinegar is a key and crucial ingredient. But drinking it? The shrub, which utilizes sweetened vinegar and fruit essences, is an old standby – with emphasis on the sweetened. Balsamic vinegar is purely acidic. I have my doubts – despite an uppity Charleston bar called Peche that promotes its Balsamic Peach Spritz. Sure, I’ll bite.
Balsamic Peach Spritz
Fair warning, you have to plan ahead. Obtain some peach jam or preserves. Mix a spoonful of jam with a splash of white balsamic vinegar. Add in a spoon or two of vodka as well.
Shake this mixture up really well; add some ice and shake some more. Strain into a glass.
Then, grab a chilled bottle of Prosecco from the fridge (I told you advance prep was required). Top off the glass of the vinegar mixture with the Prosecco. Add a peach slice and a basil leaf for garnish. Hmm … surprisingly and intriguingly delightful.
Told you … I’m open to new trends. But I am not drinking strawberry rum – that’s just wrong.