Drinking Adventurously – In Meg’s Kitchen

Week 46 In the Year Of Drinking Adventurously. Pickleback – not so much a fail as, ‘eww, who drinks that?’

Briefly, pickleback –just so you know what it is and why I skipped it– is a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice as a chaser. Not appealing.

Anyway, remember the week we were supposed to drink Spanish Cidre and I ended up with the horrible, pathetic domestic alternative? Well, a fellow blogger kindly offered to help me out. My friend Javier offered to locate and ship a Spanish Cidre to me, and he totally came through. Not just with cidre but with some bonus swag as well:

And yes, my kitchen has a TV facing the bar. The giant inflatable bottle of beer will go out to the pool next summer. And, uh, ignore the mess…

The large bottle in the center is the star of the show, Gurutzeta Cidre from the Basque region of Spain. 

And oh, what a difference from the sickly sweet American imposter. This wasn’t sweet, was slightly tart, but still had a nice apple flavor and it had a ‘tiny bubble’ kind of carbonation, if that makes sense. Lovely, indeed. And in the weeks since cider was the adventure, I’ve done some research and discovered that making hard cider isn’t that much different from home brewing beer which brings me to chapter two of this post.

Last Friday, my girlfriend Cathy acquired six gallons of freshly pressed cider from a local orchard for each of us to convert to an alcoholic version.

I decided to make a traditional hard cider with hints of ginger, cinnamon, and allspice. I added 3 pounds of brown sugar to up the alcohol content. I realize that sounds like the cider will be sweet but that’s not the case. All that sugar will be converted to alcohol by the yeast as it ferments. When it’s finished, the cider should be rather dry and have an ABV of about 9% which is more than twice that of a standard beer. The fresh cider is warmed to about 80-90° F, the sugar and spices stirred in to dissolve, then transferred to the fermenting bucket before adding the yeast.

Cathy added honey and sour cherry concentrate to her batch, for a completely different flavor profile. Sounds amazing, right?  We’ll trade samples when it’s ready. Here’s the bad news – it probably won’t be finished for six months!

I’m going off the map again next week, too. But I haven’t a clue where I will end up! I wonder if Lula tried the pickle back…

The sketch in the header image is my own.

About that wall…

Week 45 in The Year of Drinking Adventurously. Berliner Weisse.

The Berlin Wall, that is… November 9, 1989 – marks 27 years since that wall fell. And that is the reason Berliner Weisse, a German wheat beer style is on tap (or in bottles) for this week’s drinking adventure.  Although sometimes released as a summer seasonal because of its light, refreshing quality, there’s no reason not to drink it any time of the year.

Berliner Weisse is technically a sour beer, a favorite style of mine. The guide made several suggestions for finding American products in the style but I came across a great bottle shop that had a nice selection of German imports, so I chose two to sample. And even though the bottles are large, the alcohol content is low so there was no risk of getting pickled.

Freigeist Kopenickiade. 3.5% ABV. A beer brewed with vineyard peaches. It’s very light with just a hint of the peach flavor. Freigiest is the experimental offshoot of Cologne’s revolutionary small brewery, Braustelle. According to the bottle: they… “strive to break the chains of industrial brewing by reviving and updating Germany’s unique historical beer styles. Brewed with spelt, barley malt and fresh fruit, kopenickade is a clean and fresh twist on Berlin’s feisty and unique specialty weisse beer.” Feisty — I love it.  

1809. 5% ABV. A weisse beer brewed by Dr. Fritz Briem of the Doeman’s Institute. And a little history thanks to the bottle: “Already in the 1600s the Berliner Weisse style beer was mentioned in documents by the French reformers Huguenots as they crossed Berlin on theier way to Flanders. in 1809 Napolean and his troops celebrated their Prussian victory with it. This Berliner Weisse style beer is brewed with traditional mash hopping and without wort boiling. This along with a traditional strain of lactic acid bacteria provide a fruity and dry but palateful character. A character that Napolean and his troops described as lively and elegant.” This was excellent, too. Without a distinct fruit flavor, it feels clean and sparkly on the tongue. 

A win for the week’s adventure? Yes. And a tribute to the tearing down of walls. 

I wonder how Lula toasted this week’s adventure?

Bloody Mary is the girl I love…

(Sung to the tune From South Pacific. And yes, this is likely to be a very silly post.)

It’s Week 44 in The Year of Drinking Adventurously. Bloody Mary.

I love a Bloody Mary. My ex-brother-in-law’s step-father, Sheldon, (long story) used to make the best Bloody Marys. Then he went and died without telling anyone his secret ingredient. Don’t you hate when that happens? Listen, if you have a secret recipe for something, for heaven’s sake write it down, lock it away where no one can get to it, but at least leave it behind for posterity. I’ve been trying to replicate it for twenty years.

Bloody Mary purists look away. The guide this week featured not just the classic bloody Mary (vodka, tomato juice, tabasco, Worcesterchire, salt and pepper and a stalk of celery) but a host of variants. Apparently there’s a place in Portland called Tasty and Sons (Lula I’m thinking you’ve been there!) which has a Bloody Mary menu. They offer something called a Tasty Mary which is fairly traditional save for the addition of horseradish, lemon and house pickles (I think this was old dead Sheldon’s secret ingredient, personally and the reason I can’t replicate it is because he used to buy the pickles from Goldstein’s Deli in Kingston, PA, two hours away) and swapping out the tabasco with Sriracha sauce.

They turn up the Eastern volume with a drink called the Dim Summore, which uses hoisin, lime and ginger. The Lady Vengeance (named for a Korean crime film) replaces vodka with rye whiskey (right there it quits being a Bloody Mary for me) adds in kimchi juice (gross), lime, fish sauce (even grosser), and Korean chili salt.

The bar also has a variation of the Bloody Maria which swaps out the vodka for tequila. It’s called the Cholullan and uses Cholula hot sauce, pimento and Calabrian chiles. Last but not least is the Scandinavian version called the Tasty Maiken, which has dill, pickles and Aquavit instead of vodka.

All right, whatever… Truth is, I am likely to keep working on my own twist on the classic. So this weekend, I experimented with the basic recipe and came up with this: The Bloody (Margaret) Mary:

2 oz premium vodka (life’s too short to drink cheap booze)
3 oz tomato juice (I make mine fresh with Italian plum tomatoes and season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon horseradish
2-3 dashes tabasco sauce
dash of Lawery’s seasoned salt (no MSG!)
1 teaspoon pickle juice from a good kosher dill pickle
garnish with celery stalk

Rot in hell, Sheldon.