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" caf├ęs 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.