Saturday, October 29, 2011

Real Brew & Henry Weinhard's root beer.

Oh, the bottles are trying to make friends again. In italic, brushy fonts they vaunt of "complex flavours" and "hand-finished"-ness.
All right, I'll bite.
First up is Real Brew Root Beer.
Common in local groceries but as yet untried. We picked it up with some Ginger Ale in the same brand. Below its appealing label is a little block of text declaring it to be:
"A complex flavour of sweet birch, licorice root, sarsaparilla, anise and other natural flavours."
Other descriptions on the bottle include Traditional Quality, Supreme, Subtle, Creamy, et cetera. Unfortunately, I don't think this soda has quite earned its own hype. It's good, don't take me wrong, but its sheer sweetness overwhelms any notion of subtlety or nuance. It's like drinking candy (my mother described it as "bubblegum" repeatedly), and I wouldn't imbibe it in great quantities.
Next is Henry Weinhard's Root Beer, which, interestingly, seems to be trying very hard to look like regular beer.
It's a good look, though. I approve of Mr. Weinhard's bemoustached visage glaring out at you as your drink. It adds ambience. And on the obligitory boasting front we have: "Draught style head", "Gourmet" "Hand finished with only the highest quality ingredients, including sassafras, honey and vanilla" aaaand I can't say I'm entirely derisive. This soda may not be as strong as the Real Brew, but there's more to taste. A slight tingle on the tongue, a strong undertone and aftertaste of honey, a thick, herbal construction... I heartily recommend it. Unfortunately, it seems a little harder to find. (My mother and sister picked up a couple of bottles from a place called The Carrot, which, in the slurry of artsy and fartsy "grassroot" cafés may in fact be the artsiest and most fartsy). If your come across it, pick up a bottle!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Reed's micro brewed ginger sodas

Spiced Apple Ginger Brew
Micro brewed spiced apple ginger soda
cost: under $2

Not too long ago, during a trip to a new Bulk Barn in our area, we found the Reed's brand of "ginger brew" pop.  This is a brand of  micro-brewed natural sodas and traditional Jamaican brews.  The old style sodas - the type you can make in your own kitchen (which we do intend to try out!) taste quite different from the large scale pops.  

We tried only one flavour the first time out and enjoyed it enough to head back and get two more to try.  The first taste test was of the Spiced Apple flavour.  The label boasts that it is made with 60% juice, which is actually higher than a lot of drinks "made with real fruit juice!" on the market.

In appearance, it has a deeper colour than a typical ginger ale.  We could smell both the apple and the ginger; it reminded my younger daughter of apple pie and Spindle found it reminded her of the spiced apple cider we sometimes make.

We all found it quite sweet, but not in an overpowering, cloying way.  All the promised flavours could be recognised.  It was very refreshing and delicious.  The label and company website boast about its ingredients, methods and care, and this is a drink that lives up to that promise.  So much so that we were really looking forward to trying new flavours.

Our next taste tests were for the Cherry and Raspberry flavours.  

Cherry is, I find, a difficult flavour to market, mostly because of its strong association with cough syrup.  It's hard to find a cherry flavoured drink that's doesn't make me think of cold medication.

Unlike the spiced apple, the cherry drink didn't really smell like the flavour it was supposed to be.  In fact, it didn't smell much of anything, reminding me somewhat of those flavoured waters.  Spindle found it reminded her of something she couldn't quite put her finger on, but she found it rather tinny and gross.  In flavour, she found the ginger flavour more dominant than the cherry; something I didn't notice quite as much.  It was a take it or leave it sort of thing for her, while I quite enjoyed it.  Based on how faint the smell was, I was expecting far less flavour and was pleased to be wrong on that.  We both definitely noticed that it tasted like "cherry juice" rather than "cherry flavoured beverage."

The raspberry also had a distinct lack of scent to it and, like the cherry, the lack of scent belied the much more intense flavour.  We both liked it a lot.  Though Spindle still found the ginger flavour predominant, the raspberry flavour was nicely intense.

Of the three, the spiced apple was the overall favourite, with the raspberry running second place.  Definitely a drink we will be picking up again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cranberry Punch

To the Canadians out there, I hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend.  For those of you in the US, I'd extend the same wishes for Columbus Day, but apparently that's not politically correct anymore.  *scratches head in confusion*

Years ago I discovered a ridiculously easy, delicious and beautiful punch that has regularly graced our table for special dinners.  It only requires three incredients.

cranberry juice
Ginger Ale
frozen berries

The cranberry juice can be from frozen concentrate, if you wish.  Pick the best quality brand of Ginger Ale - something that actually uses ginger in it, rather than relying on "natural flavours."  And forget about diet versions.  They suck.

But that might be just me.

For the punch, just mix equal quantities of cranberry juice and Ginger Ale (adjust ratio to taste), then add a generous amount of frozen berries.  The berries not only add flavour, but double as ice cubes.

The result is an effervescent and refreshing drink.  I don't even like Ginger Ale, but I love this drink.  It goes over well with the entire family, though my younger daughter isn't too keen on the wild berry mix I like to use.  She doesn't like blueberries, so she sneaks them out of her glass and into Spindle's when she's not looking.  Since Spindle like blueberries, that's hardly a problem. 

The bright red, sparkling carbonation and frozen berries makes it an attractive drink, too; perfect for festive occasions.  Or any occasions.  It's just really, really good.  Try it with a splash of orange juice, too.  Very nice.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cayenne hot chocolate.

I'd been meaning to exhibit this recipe of mine for while. It's simple but versatile and I like to think it hearkens back to chocolate's ubiquity as a savoury ingredient taken with meats and spices. Fiddle with it and come up with your own variations!

I used:

Unsweetened baking chocolate (1 ounce pieces).

Cayenne pepper.

Coarsely ground black pepper.

Homogenised milk. (Get your giggling out of the way.)

Brown sugar.

Whipped cream. (For topping.)

I chopped up the chocolate (about three chunks) and melted it, then slowly and carefully stirred in some milk. How you do this part is really up to you. I handle the melting of chocolate so poorly that it would make the sturdiest of chocolatiers weep.

Once the milk mixture is smooth, I add in the spices (about a teaspoon of Cayenne and just a dash of black pepper) and then add brown sugar to taste, whisking frequently.

Warm it up, pour it, cap it with whipped cream (and a dash of brown sugar for photographic purposes) and you're done!

Now for the interesting part.

I handed the beverage first to my sister, who sniffed it, declared it delicious, and tasted it.

She choked. Then coughed. Then said, with a look of baleful unhappiness: "It's spicy."

It's not! I declared. I used hardly any pepper at all!

As if to prove my point, I passed it on to my mother who... well, let me allow her notes to speak for themselves.

oh, dear. Hit hard by the cayenne. burns. barely taste the chocolate. Cannot drink it.


Ah, well. More for me.

In conclusion, let me say that this drink will be no challenge at all for a lover of spice. If you're not, though.... Consider replacing the cayenne with something more to your taste.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Naked Grape Chardonnay Wine Spritzer

Elephant & Castle

Checking out Elephant & Castle's short list of less expensive drinks, I decided to try out a wine spritzer.  I've had wine coolers before, but not spritzers, so I wanted to see what difference there was.

I admit to not expecting much.  Spindle and I have tried both a red and a white Chardonnay before and it's not something we're fond of.  So I wasn't expecting to be blown away or anything.

The spritzer itself is 4.5% alcohol.  It has a nice, fruity smell and a lovely sparkle to it.  It came with a big glass of ice and slices of lemon and lime and looks rather pretty.

The flavour?

Well, I haven't been suddenly converted to enjoying Chardonnay.  I'm afraid "okay" is about the best I can give it.  It wasn't bad, by any means.  Just... meh.  Unless you already like a Chardonnay, don't bother.  If you do, it'll probably be quite grand.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Alexander Keith's Dark Ale

Elephant & Castle.
So I had an epiphany. It came up while mulling over this beverage but is only really tangentially related to it.
I cannot taste bitter.
Not in the conventional way, anyhow.
The basic division twixt my mother and I of "This is bitter." and "what? No it isn't." led to this fascinating discovery that makes a whole lot of sense in retrospect. It explains why I wax eloquent over ~notes of citrus and caramel undertones~ in a cup of black coffee and my compatriots cock their heads and look at me like some strange mushroom. It also explains my derision toward Guinness. After all that build-up, the only description I could give it was something along the lines of "tepid ditch-water".
Sorry, Guinness. I guess the problem was on my end.
But back to this drink.
Alexander Keith's dark ale is the second I've tried of the brand, having quite liked the amber ale. I wasn't disappointed at all. The taste is very mild but it's deep and smooth with pleasant hints of fruitiness. A good ale for a light meal. I recommend it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Strawberry Orange Banana

An evening walk found Spindle and I stopping at a nearby Elephant & Castle for a chat over drinks.  Normally I would have tried another cocktail, having been rather pleased with what I'd tried the last time we were there, quite a while ago.  Alas, it seems they were only available for the summer. 

Perusing their drinks menu is an interesting challenge for me.  I don't like beer, so their extensive beer list is of little use to me.  I'm cheap, so the wine and hard liquors weren't up my alley, either.  That left the ciders and coolers.

The Vex intrigued me.  It's a hard lemonade, with strawberry, orange and banana.  That's a lot of fruit.  I like fruit.  I like vodka.  I figured this would be safe.

On viewing the label, Spindle was decidedly unimpressed by its design.  She mumbled something that I couldn't quite hear.  Something about it looking like the sort of drink a woman of questionable morals might drink while visiting numerous establishments that were purveyors of alcohol, though not that wordy. 

Not sure what that says about my choosing it. ;-)  It was amusing, though.

Well, the drink certainly does have its hit of vodka.  It's 7.0%, which is pretty fair.  As for the fruit... Yes, it tasted very fruity.  To me, it tasted like pineapple.  Spindle thought it tasted like grapefruit.  Looking at the ingredients list, however, yielded a listing of lemon juice and natural flavours.

Alrighty, then.

It was, however, tasty.  Stronger than I expected, so not the sort of thing I'd drink more than one of, but definitely something I'd order again.

Even with the label of questionable repute.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Boylan Cane Cola

Boylan Bottling Company
Cane Cola

Normally, I'm a Coke Zero drinker, but if it's not available, I'll drink Coke or Pepsi, so long as it's not the diet versions.  Basically, I like cola. 
Usually, that means whatever is on sale at the grocery store. 

When I want to indulge, however, and we're shopping at The Italian Centre, we pick up some Boylan Soda.  It's more expensive at about $1.66 (plus deposit) for a 355ml bottle, and comes in a variety of flavours.  Black cherry, ginger ale, cream soda, birch beer, orange, grape, and basic cane cola - the cane referring to the type of sugar used to sweeten it.  Now, I don't particularly care whether the sugar came from cane or beets.  If anything, I lean toward beet sugar, since I'm from Manitoba, which has a fairly large sugar beet industry, and I like to support local industry.

No matter.  Sugar is sugar, and personally, I can't tell the difference in taste.  In many ways, Boylan Soda reminds me of the Pic a Pop of my childhood.  

Boylan Soda touts itself as "vintage soda pop," and we've worked our way through all the flavours available locally since discovering the brand. It's a family owned business that's been in operation since 1891.  The Cane Cola ingredients list is refreshingly short.  Carbonated water.  Cane sugar.  Natural flavours.  Colour.  Phosphoric acid.  Caffeine - from coffee (where else does one get caffeine from?  I'd never really thought of that before.)

But is it any good?

In a word, yes.

The Cane Cola has that cola taste without the harsh, tinny bite the big name versions have.  It's smooth and creamy, without tasting like over sugared crack.  This is a cola even Spindle likes, and she has never liked cola.  Her sister prefers the Birch Beer and they both really like the Ginger Ale.  I like the Black Cherry, but my preference is the Cane Cola.   

If you can find it, give it a try.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

MASH, ripe mango & blood orange

Hey, do you remember the first time you picked up a bottle of Jones Soda? I do. I was in my early adolescent years and, being from the boonies, I wasn't familiar with a huge variety of sodas in general. I remember thinking that the photos on the labels were a really cute idea, and I was taken by the laid-back-dude element in the product descriptions.

Since then, I have become far more cynical. The point is that it was my introduction to beverages that like to talk to you, the viewer. They want to win you over with a friendly, chatty image, like the vitamin water that goes off on a tangent about work-outs and sick-days and breakfast with orange juice. MASH seems at first to be running with the same gimmick but oh, oh no. This drink is feisty.

"MASH was conceived with everyone in mind, taking all that's good from a number of well-liked beverages."

It says, and I raise an eyebrow. A number of well-liked beverages, huh?

"It's not 100% juice, it's not soda-pop. nor will you get vitamins or energy from it (we still believe in getting a good night's sleep and eating your vegetables)."

Really. You can almost hear the "Unlike those OTHER guys" muttered sidelong.

"But you will love its natural fruit essence and its very light sweetness (and low calories!). So whatever you do or study, MASH is for you... when you're looking for something to drink other than water (water water, that is)."

I'll love no matter what I study? Sweet! I'm always looking for a drink that isn't at odds with my perusal of Chaucer.

But seriously, MASH, there's a point where you can just get too colloquial... "Water water"? Really? It makes me imagine a room full of marketing experts trying to figure out how they can snark their competitors whilst retaining that Casual, Down To Earth tone that the kids are into these days.

But you're probably tired of my nitpicking.... How is the drink itself?

Boring. Sorry. It's sugary and carbonated to a degree that had all three of us comparing it to lemon candy. Maybe focus more on the blood-orange than the prose next time, MASH?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

George's Good Drink mango hibiscus & vanilla

George's Good Drink Hibiscus & Vanilla Mango Tea is part of that fascinating branch of beverage culture. You know, the one that splashes 'ALL NATURAL' around its label as though it were an Olympic medal, uses nice understated colours and a self-consciously vintage, quirky design... their little cartoon man (an arrow helpfully naming him as the titular 'George') assuring you that this is, indeed, a good drink. It knows it's audience is what I'm saying.

Is it a Good Drink, though?


It has a light, fruity scent and a crisp flavour. The mango is evident, the floral and vanilla flavours slightly less so, and it has an unusually clean finish that led me to conclude part way through tasting that this is what flavoured waters are trying to be. As someone who waters down her fruit-juices on a regular basis, I have some issues with most flavoured waters. They're going for 'light and clean' and somehow fall flat in the territory of 'indistinguishable and sugary'. This, however, pulls it off. It's nice and refreshing with hardly an aftertaste of which to speak. Give a try if you're looking for a thirst quencher.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sanpellegrino Chinotto

I vaguely remembered having something of Sanpellegrino brand before and being... none too impressed. It's a very popular drink in the cafés and groceries around my city, but I've been avoiding it.

Until now, dear readers. Oh, the things I sacrifice in the name of journalism...

I kid. Either my memory is faulty or there's a horrible flavour into which I'll run someday and tell you all about and this isn't it. All talk of "Citrus" and "Herbal" aside, this drink tastes rather like bubblegum. It has a pleasant dark red-brown colour and a hint of dessert spices, definitely a unique beverage. Not to mention that the label and can design is just lovely. It's a tad sweet for me, but I'd recommend giving it try.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Club.Malz malt beverage

Ah, another non-alcoholic malt beverage! This time in an adorable wee bottle! How does it compare to our last brush with the type? ...Not extremely well. A lot of the elements of the Tiger Malt are there, making this a shorter review, but in place of the Tiger's thick, creamy molasses taste we have a sharp, hollow, carbonated sweetness. Losing the richness but maintaining the ever-so-slightly burnt aftertaste. Not a good trade, if you ask me. Skip it unless you're collecting bottle caps!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kirin Ichiban

Place: Kyoto

Cost: About five dollars.

This is something I'd been meaning to try for a while. I'd never had a Japanese beer, and the label is just beautiful. When I finally got around to it, I was presented with this light, golden brew in a bottle of unusually thin glass. Upon tasting it...

all right, I admit that I'm not very keen on light beers in general. I gravitate toward dark, smooth and flavourful. So my first impression was of acidic tastelessness that hit the back of my tongue with a certain hostility and lingered there with obstinacy. It got better once I was a few bites into my meal (Chirashi, delicious.) and I detected the tiniest notes of other, mellow flavours hanging around, but I found them to be drowned out by that overbearing non-flavour that seems ubiquitous in light beers. And Guinness.

And "One of the world's most unique premium beers" as it says on the label? No, sorry. Also, there are no degrees of uniqueness. But I digress.

I'd recommend it if you like the general type, but drink it with food and drink it cold.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Planters Punch

under $5

The girls and I headed out for a late evening nosh at one of our favourite restaurants.  One of the handy things about Lazia being within walking distance of home is that it allows me to try something alcoholic and not have to be concerned about driving, later. 

This drink was one of their specials of the day; a mixture of tropical fruit juices, grenadine and rum.  Sadly, it was quite dark and my camera just wouldn't focus on the glass at all, so this picture was the best I could do.  It's quite a pretty little drink.  Unlike the mojito I'd tried during our last visit, I could actually taste the rum over the other flavours.  It was really quite a refreshing drink, with just the right combination of fruitiness, grenadine sweetness and rum.  Definitely one worth ordering again!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Master Cafe Tiramisu Coffee Drink

Another coffee drink to try out; this time with Tiramisu flavour.  It should be good, no? 

Actually, it was rather confusing.

The girls both thought it smelled like coffee and chocolate.  Both used the term "creamy" to describe it.  My younger daughter found it very sweet and nice, while Spindle got the sense they tried to give it an alcoholic flavour; rum or cognac, perhaps.  She too found it sweet, but also a little watery.

Me?  I thought it smelled like the Pokka Milk Coffee.  I agreed that it had a slightly watery taste, but I also tasted a coffee bitterness that lingered.  Tiramisu?  Not really.  At least not like any I've had before.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pokka Milk Coffee

This is one of two coffee drinks we taste tested that didn't exactly rock our boats.  They weren't bad, by any means.  Just... not much to say.

My younger daughter thought this drink had a very faint coffee smell, which is completely the opposite of what Spindle and I found.  She also thought it tasted like coffee and pepperoni sticks, with a meaty aftertaste, so I'm not sure what to make of that!  She also felt it tasted a bit like chocolate and caramel.  Spindle, on the other hand, said it reminded her of Vietnamese coffee, with that sweetened condensed milk taste.  To her, it had a tinny after taste, though she also tasted hints of caramel as well. 

As for myself, I must make a disclaimer here.  I thoroughly dislike coffee as a beverage.  I like coffee flavoured things, but as a drink I find it thoroughly unpleasant, much to Spindle's frustration.  For me, this fell into the "coffee flavoured" rather than "coffee with flavour" category.  Basically, I thought it tasted like milk with coffee flavour added to it.  Lightly sweet and without that coffee bitterness.  So for me, it was better than a cup of coffee, but since I also dislike milk as a beverage, it's far from a winner for me. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Strawberry Früli.

At: Lazia

Cost: $4.25

Lazia doesn't carry many of my usual selections, so I did what I always do in such situations.

Pepper the staff with annoying questions.

What's a Strawberry Früli?

"Well, it's a white beer that's flavoured with strawberries."

Fascinating! Now what's a Kronenbourg 1664?

"It's... French."

Well it looks like the Kronenbourg will wait for another day. My Früli came with a cheerful label and a big glass tankard into which I dutifully poured it, revealing in the process a beautiful pink colour that is, sadly, not done any justice in the photograph.

The scent is sweet and has a definite note of berry. The taste is... oddly divisive.

I, enjoying beer as a whole, found it a bit baffling. My mother, not being particularly fond of beer, quite liked it.

The undisputed point: the Früli does not taste like beer at all.

Not to say it tastes bad, oh no. It's smooth and flavourful (with 30% pure strawberry juice. I think that's more than most actual packaged fruit-juice.) and makes me think of a rather pleasant cocktail. I would recommend it highly.

Just, you know, not if you're looking to drink beer.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tiger Malt

Tiger Malt

Non-alcoholic malt beverage

We've had a method to our little tasting parties thus far. I take photos of the drink and it's then passed around. I taste first, my sister second, and my mother third, taking notes all the while. The problem we encountered with this is that after I delivered my conclusions, my sister would shrug and agree with me, adding little of her own input. What can I say? She's a very mellow lady. So this time she went first, to voice her opinions uninfluenced.

She sniffed it. Paused. Her brow knitted as she searched for the right words.

"Tomato soup." Pause. "Or ketchup."

She sniffed again.

"With a bit of cheese. And maple syrup."

We stared at her, mouths agape.

"What?" I asked.

She stood by her conclusion. The only thing the scent reminded me of was a rather egregious batch of "Haytime Switchel" we once made. I'll tell you about it some time.

All absurdity aside, this drink smells and tastes heavily of molasses with notes of caramel. It's a bit sweeter than expected and has a sort of burnt aftertaste which is odd, but not entirely unpleasant. It looks lovely, dark and smooth and foamy, with an attractive design. I'd actually recommend it as a beer-substitute for the teetotaller. It's creamy and heavy and might not be to everyone's taste, so I'd give it a try just to see.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The taste of desperation.

"Did you make a drink?"

I pause, wary, hand hovering over my cup. Whhhyyy?

"Should I be writing about it?"

Um, sure. I guess. It's nothing amazing.

"Let me get a document going. You want to take pictures?"

And lo, we get to the real reason I started this blog. A love of beverages that, more often than not, has me rifling through the cupboards and throwing miscellaneous items into a saucepan. In this case, my motivation was little more than a desire for caffeine. A desire as yet unfulfilled since I have been waylaid into writing. I have a love-hate relationship with coffee that, for reasons I won't get into, has left me with my only resource of the moment being, yes...

Instant coffee.

That bane of all that bears only the most coincidental resemblance to anything that could be described as coffee, sitting on the shelf in waiting for various desserts. Ruefully, I grab the bottle and proceed to contemplate what could make it more palatable.

Into the unwholesome brew (using about two cups of lactose free milk as a base) goes a few spoons full of cocoa (Dutch processed), a healthy dash of cayenne pepper, an egg yolk, a sprinkling of smoked salt, something like a tablespoon-and-a-bit of sugar, a pinch of ground ginger, a splash of vanilla, and a bit of cinnamon to top it off. All capped with a fluffy lid of whipped cream that has dwindled to a pathetic foam during the course of this post.

The resulting drink is heavy and a bit bitter with a pleasant bite of spice that was... a bit too much for my poor sister. Most importantly, the taste of instant coffee is almost entirely disguised. Mission accomplished. Excuse me while I replace my ignominiously slain whipped cream.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Special of the day: under $5

Spindle and I tend to develop an hankering to go out late inthe day, only to discover most of the places we'd like to go are either closedor soon to close. Not being thebar-hopping sort, our choices were limited. Thus, we were quite pleased to discover that one of our favouriterestaurants, Lazia, is open late. Wepromptly took advantage of it. If youever go, have their mushroom soup with truffle oil. It's pure bliss. Actually, we've enjoyed every dish we've evertried there. A wonderful place.

This particular night we wanted to try new drinks. Sadly, I only had my cell phone camera, but abad picture is better than no picture at all. The daily special was the mojito, a cocktail I'd never triedbefore. I'd ordered one in wild berry.

I get my drink and we both go into reviewer mode,discussing the appearance, the smell, the taste... Something is wrong, though,and I can't quite put my finger on it.

It was only after a while that it hit me.




Hadn't I ordered wild berry?

Suddenly I couldn't remember! No matter.

I couldn't remember what type of alcohol was used in amojito, and after trying it, I still wasn't sure. It was strong in mint and lime and somethingelse I wasn't quite sure of. Looking upa basic recipe, a basic mojito is light rum, lime, sugar, mint and soda water. Ah, that was what I was tasting. Soda water. I still couldn't really identify that it was rum specifically. In truth, the whole thing tasted a lot likethe Summer Garden Bowl we'd made earlier. The only real difference was the type of alcohol. We both enjoyed the drink well enough, but itwas too soon after making the Summer Garden Bowl for it to stand on its own.

As for getting the wrong flavour, I never bothered to sayanything since I was fine with what I got. When it came time for our bill, however, our waitress apologized for hermistake and took it off the bill, which I appreciated.

I can see us taking advantage of the late hours at Laziafairly regularly! Will have to rememberto bring a proper camera!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Casal Domingo Light Wine Cooler

Light wine cooler
Wild Harvest Berry
"low alcohol wine beverage" .5% alcohol

Spindle asked me to write this review, what with my prior experience with wine coolers and all.  Uhm... sure.  *scratches head*

I actually remember when vodka and wine coolers first came out on the market.  How's that for dating myself? I did like the vodka coolers, but having turned my nose up at imbibing long ago (nothing like watching one's peers stagger around, pants falling off, then puking behind a bush to turn one off of alcohol), I never really got into them. 

That was 20 odd years ago.

I didn't start trying out different alcoholic drinks until Spindle turned 18 and expressed a curiosity in trying out different types of booze.  Why not? sez I! 

I still don't particularly like alcohol.

When she suggested the wine cooler to try, however, I remembered the coolers I'd had long ago and rather liked the idea.  Especially when we found the Wild Harvest Berry flavour.  Me like berries. 

This, however, has a low enough alcohol level to be sold in the grocery store (for those of you outside of Canada, Quebec is the only province where alcoholic drinks can be purchased in grocery stores.  We are not in Quebec). Which meant my younger daughter could try it out, too.

We all agreed that it had a very faint smell of berries.  I found it immediate; not so much the girls.  They also could smell the wine, which I couldn't.  It has a carbonated burn and bitterness to it.  My younger daughter felt it tasted a bit like berry yogurt - you know the type that has the berries on the bottom that need to be mixed in?  Like that, before mixing it in.  Personally, I felt the carbonation overpowered the berry flavours.  It reminded me a lot of a punch we like to make, using frozen berries and Ginger Ale, except using tonic water instead of the Ginger Ale.

Our conclusions?  Nice.  Mild flavour.  Very carbonated.  I liked it enough to finish off the bottle, which I usually leave to the kids.  I can see developing a taste for it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

O.N.E. Coconut Water

O. N. E. Coconut water
Mango flavour

Confession time.
I really, really do not like coconut.
Wait, not true. I like coconut in it's raw, mature form. Crack it open, drain it, carve out the meat, that's all lovely. In its myriad other forms, though? On chocolates and cakes and cookies and in trail-mixes and "young", adorned with umbrellas? No. No, no, no. Go away.
That said... this drink is okay. I picked it out because the packaging seemed very chipper ("Good source of electrolytes!") and because I was curious about the combination of coconut and mango. It smells like one of those syrup-packaged fruit cups I think most of us had as children and the taste goes along the same lines. The mango flavour is very light, but, oddly, so is the coconut. Its mildness is probably, as my mother said, it's only saving grace. I would categorise it overall as merely uninspiring. Pass it up unless you find yourself seduced by the cheery packaging.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Calamansi Fruit Juice Drink

Another one that's already met my approval and that I've pushed on my unsuspecting family. Its draw for me was the singularly pretty fruit on the package which lists itself as "Philippine lemon" but seems to have a whole host of common names having nothing to do with lemons at all. Does the intriguing source hold up as a beverage?
Well, we all certainly smelled lemon... and aside from me (I tasted hints of naval orange) we all tasted lemon.... So, in the end, this drink is pretty much lemonade.
The best lemonade.
No, really. On the sliding scale of lemonade this drink is a perfect balance between sweetness and tartness. It's not too sugary, it doesn't burn, it's not too sour. If you're looking for some kind of unique and exotic fruit experience, seek elsewhere, but if you're looking for a soothing balm to heal the wounds left by those all too common encounters with either syrup or battery acid? You may have found your prize.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Summer Garden Bowl

I (Spindle's mother) love Madame Benoit.  I first discovered her when I got her book, Madame Benoit Cooks at Home, as a promotional freebie.  I call it a book, rather than a cookbook, as it was filled with stories.  She wrote of growing up as a child in the early 1900's, of her time doing a cooking show, of her own family and, of course, tidbits of history and anecdotes connected with individual recipes.  It's a gold mind of information.  Over time I picked up The Canadiana Cookbook and all but one volume of her Library of Canadian Cooking, which turned out to be the English translation of the French version my mother-in-law has the original of.  It had been released a section at a time and, once complete, she had it bound into a single volume.

Madame Benoit  Cooks at Home remained my favourite.  Unfortunately, after many moves, my hardcover copy disappeared.  So I was thrilled to find the paperback copy at a recent library book sale.  If you get the opportunity, I recommend picking up a copy.

The following recipe is from this book.  She writes:

Summer Garden Bowl
So called because it was made as needed, with basil or marjoram or mint freshly cut in the garden, and it was served in a punch bowl set on a tray in a bed of herbs or wild flowers.

We decided to go with basil and picked up some fresh organic basil at the grocery store, my not having been able to do any herbs on our balcony this year.  Unfortunately, the next day, they had gone black and slimy.  So back to the grocery store we went.  The other basil didn't look to good, so we went with mint.

Here is the original recipe.

8-10 sprigs of basil, marjoram or mint
2 Tbsp (30 ml) sugar
1 bottle dry white wine
2 bottles rose wine of your choice
1 large bottle of soda water
3 limes or 2 lemons, thinly sliced

We decided to do a half recipe.

We're not big wine drinkers, so we weren't sure what to get.  We decided to go with wines from the same vintner.  They were only $10.99 a bottle.  I wasn't sure if I should consider that a good thing or not. *L*

The first step is to put the herbs and sugar in a punch bowl (we don't have one, so we used a salad bowl) and mash them together with your hands to release the oils.

Then a cup (or for our half recipes, 1/2 cup) of white wine is added and it's set aside for 1 hour.

After sitting for 1 hour, the rest of the wine is added.  We had tasted the white wine on its own (it's all right) and, with the half cup already out, there was little more than half a bottle left, so we used the whole thing.

This made up for the amount of rose we used up to give it a taste (better than the white).


At this point, it was getting late, so we were going to let it sit in the fridge overnight. When we found ourselves staying up late anyhow, we did end up trying it after 4 hours.

At which point, the soda water is added, the herbs removed (we used a small sieve to scoop them out) and the limes added.

To serve, ice the glasses (not the bowl) and fill with punch.

And there we are!

It is definitely a pretty little drink.  We could both smell the mint strongest, but I could also smell the lime a bit.  The smell of wine was pretty faint, competing with the soda water smell. 

For flavour, it went over well with my daughter.  She found it refreshing, not overly sweet, and it went down easy (as she shakes her glass with nothing but ice left to demonstrate).  None of the flavours overpowered the others, which she liked. 

Me, I'm not so sure.  I don't like soda water, so that didn't help much.  Still, it didn't overpower the other flavours.  The mint and lime went well with the wines, and the two types of wine mixed together worked out just fine. 

We both liked it, but not necessarily enough to make it again.  It's nice, but not really a drink that seems to warrant the length of time needed to make it.  It's just not interesting enough.  We'd order it in a restaurant, though.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hedley's Tea Masters Ceylon Supreme

This tea is quite proud of itself.
The side of this tall, rectangular tin that isn't dedicated to a photograph of rolling green hills is determined to drum into your head just how amazing everything about this tea is with a quick thanks and a tale about their humble, traditional origins and their dedication to quality. Speaking of quality, the lid proclaims in capital letters:
Signed, Saman Kasthurirathne. A name which I include because that is the best name ever. I mean, I thought my name gave people pause when it came to spelling, but that is just a whole new level. Wear that name proudly, good sir.
Back to the tea.
Luckily, the bravado seems not to be empty. This is a strong, rounded black tea. It's intense and robust unsweetened, and with a tiny bit of sugar its flavours mellow out to display a more fruity, citrus flavour. I find it quite nice with milk, but I'd only recommend it if you normally take milk in your tea to begin with. My milk-disliking mother found that it overpowered the tea entirely.
Whatever you do, though, do not make this tea too strong or oversteep it. The threshold twixt "robust" and "tastes like burnt coffee" is a fine one indeed.
In the end, this is a lovely tea for quiet mornings packed in a very talkative tin. I recommend it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Paldo Aloe Pomegranate flavour

As you may be able to tell, I've had this one for a bit longer than the other beverages featured here. My mother brought it to me one day with a gleam in her eye that said "You like drinks with chewy bits floating it them, don't you...?"
Well, yes, I generally do, I also like pomegranate juice quite a bit and so was quite eager to try this out. Unfortunately it falls square into the mediocre side of things. The Aloe flavour is present but, sadly, no hint of pomegranate at all. And it is sweet. My sister described it along the lines of melted popsicles and my mother as a kind of "watery" sweetness. It's sharp and a little sickly, going straight to the stomach. I've been eyeing the remainder of the bottle with a mixture of exasperation and resentment.
You should be tasty, O, Aloe vera Pomegranate... why do you fall so short of goodness?
Melodrama aside, pass this one up.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Jumex Strawberry Banana Nectar

Well this one seems nice and safe, no? Strawberry and banana is a respectable combination, if slightly unusual for a canned drink, this can't be all bad, can it...?
I'm just kidding with you. It's fine.
Actually it's really nice, even though I'm not personally a fanatic for strawberry & banana beverages at the best of times. It smells more like strawberries and cream but tastes more like banana with a hint of the berry, overall well balanced and not too sweet. Quite refreshing, no carbonation and none of the flavours are overpowering. I definitely recommend it as a summertime thirst-quencher.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Before Peardrax (and what a fabulous name) I had never tried any kind of pear drink, and this was definitely not what I was expecting. It's smooth and refreshing with a slightly malty scent and taste. I likened it to a non-alcoholic dessert wine, a sentiment echoed by my sister but not my mother, who only tasted strong pear. The carbonation is so light as to be undetectable. The design (especially the bottle cap) is jaunty and attractive, easy to pick out on the shelf, so make sure you try it when you see it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Brasilena Espresso Coffee Soda

I was particularly eager to try this one. Coffee soda? Despite the oddity of this concept I was cautiously optimistic and, for a change, it paid off. This is a natty little drink, distinctly coffee from scent to aftertaste but, I hasten to add, not necessarily good coffee... enthusiasts of the bean (such as myself) won't get much purist satisfaction from it. The whole experience is more like coffee-flavoured candy or syrup. Even the faint carbonation is strange to the taste buds in light of its flavour, but you'll probably get used to it fast. It's an interesting soda and the adorable little bottle is just bonus, so give it a go if you come across it!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Guarana Brazilia

After our last endeavour, we were all a little worried about this unfamiliar fruit drink, but our trepidation was needless as this is probably the least offensive beverage I've tried in a while. It's sweet in scent and taste and has a distinct cream-soda or cotton candy flavour with a slight carbonated bite. If you see this cheerfully coloured can, give it a try! Especially good for a hot summer day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

V Fresh Pandan Drink with Basil seed.

"It's frog-spawn" whispered my mother in horror as I tilted the bottled to and fro before her. "Frog-spawn. You can even see the tadpoles. I'm not drinking that."

But my mother is nothing if not brave in the face of adversity.

As you could likely tell, the oddity of this drink revolves around its appearance. Little black seeds floating lazily in a slightly viscous green liquid.


The smell is unmistakably plant-like. What plant was up for debate. I labelled it sappy and vine-ish, my mother and sister were convinced of varying degrees of cucumber.

It tastes quite a bit sweeter than it smells, and by then I could definitely attest to the cucumber similarity. Did I like it? No, but it's inoffensive and the texture doesn't distract from the taste.

According to me, anyway. The rest of my little tasting party promptly fell to the least analytical of techniques, that is making weird faces and choking noises. "I think I'm going to hurl" my dear mother muttered as I defiantly drained the glass.

I... probably shouldn't have done that last part. My stomach hasn't taken well to it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nikka Sweet Tamarind Juice Drink.

Congratulations, Sweet Tamarind Juice Drink, you have earned the dubious honour of being the first (undoubtedly not the last) beverage to truly stump us. We passed the faintly amber-coloured drink around, sniffing it warily and entering timid conclusions of... Sweet? Pulpy?

The mystery was no less after we tasted it. It's definitely sweet, a little bit tangy, slightly reminiscent of citrus, and has a severely strange after-taste. None among us could finish it. Unless you already like Tamarind, I'd pass over this squat little tin can in the shelf.