What to Drink This Week – Springtime edition

It’s officially springtime, which means a few very important things for me.

I’m one of those people who gets energized exactly twice a year:  once in the fall, where thanks to twenty-three years of educational training my body is convinced that I have to start at least ten new things that last a semester; and once in the spring, when the snow melts away and I begin to have hope again that life is worth living.

I become absolutely (more) impossible to live with at this time of year.  I tidy incessantly, I open all the windows in the house when the temperature climbs to more than ten degrees, I take an unhealthy interest in pre-season baseball that dies by mid-May, and I begin to feel like if I just set aside five minutes every day then I could solve all the problems of the modern world.  It is SPRING!  My strength is MIGHTY!  I will RAKE DEAD GRASS and BALANCE THE FEDERAL BUDGET!

So with that new sense of enterprise and initiative in mind, meet two new undertakings:

  1. I have figured out our Choosy Beggars Facebook Fan Page, which I invite you all to join.  It has things like “discussions” and “events” and so on, which will make it even more fun when people want to ask us questions about whether Laura Calder is married and whether she does, in fact, bend over that much when she cooks.  (hints:  no, and yes!)
  2. I would like to tell you what to drink.  I have been vaguely suggestive about this before, but now I will offer you on a consistent basis a package of liquor, wine and beer that you should keep in mind the next time you go shopping for booze.

There are always new, exciting and sometimes hilarious products to try on the liquor store shelves.  It’s only too easy to fall into habits that keep you from exploring the wide world of substances that people will ferment, boil and flavor in order to make liquor — I will not allow you to rob yourself!

Onwards.  Let us explore your options.

Europa Lemon Meringue Dutch Cream

I have to tell you, I’m a total sucker for these kinds of drinks.  Way way back, when Voyant Chai Liqueur first came onto the market, I was absolutely enthralled by it.

“This tastes like Christmas,” I said to one of my good friends, who was sampling it with me.

“Yeah,” he said.  “Sure doesn’t taste like tea very much.”

“No!” I agreed.  “Because it tastes like CHRISTMAS, and that doesn’t taste like tea.”

“Okay.  Just… just calm down.”

This is a thing I do often.  I will tell Tina that I like it when she smells like sunshine, which irritates her endlessly.

“Am I sweaty? Is that what you’re picking up?  I was just outside, that could be it.”

“No!”  I’ll tell her.  “You just smell like… you know, like sunshine!  You smell like a warm afternoon right before the sun starts to set.”

“God, you are full of it.”

I know it makes me sound like a free-associating lunatic, but I can’t help myself.  And that’s why I love that flavor scientists (a term I love that I can use without a hint of hyperbole) can keep coming up with compounds that can so consistently evoke a specific taste, like Voyant did with Christmas, and like Europa does with summertime.

Anyone who’s read this site for any amount of time knows that I am most bitter when a product breaks its implied promise, and I was fully ready for that with Europa.  Lemon Meringue Pie, seriously?  And this is an attractive flavor to be associated with creamy booze? There were a number of things about this product that give me trouble:

  1. It is difficult to locate any information about its contents, means of manufacture or the identities of the people who produce it.  And I am PRETTY GOOD at Google.
  2. It is a cream liqueur, which generally holds the promise of being cloying and savage next-day headaches.
  3. It comes out in almost the same consistency, color and texture that my old banana-flavored penicillin used to do when I was seven years old.  I do not want to flash back to my elementary school years while drinking cocktails, thanks to you ever so much, lest I linger there and am forced to consume the bottle to once again repress the memory.

But instead, Europa delivers.  The creamy texture is undeniable but not overly-heavy, and the sweetness of the flavor is offset by a pleasant booziness.  And best of all, it REALLY DOES taste like lemon meringue pie — or more precisely, like a birthday party in the summertime.

For real, you will sip this and it will taste like a mid-July birthday party.  Just like one of those parties, you will only want the experience to last so long, but you will most certainly enjoy it while it lasts.

Hickinbotham Shiraz-Cabernet

Look, I’m the kind of guy who buys Chat-en-Oeuf once every three months because I think the label’s pretty funny, so you have to know that I’m vulnerable to catchy names.  Thus, whenever an Australian wine is willing to emphasize the HICK in their vintage, I am entirely happy to reward it.

And I’m so very glad that I did.  Here is a Shiraz-Cabernet that’s nicely balanced, fruity and surprisingly light.  This despite a color that is enjoyably dark and lush, and a price point that is aimed squarely at my dusty, squeaky, cheap little Scots heart:  Fifteen bucks for a bottle of pleasant, well-balanced Australian red is just fine by me, and gives me one more excuse to walk past the Wolf Blass and leave it lingering there for all eternity.

Plus, this is the kind of wine that gives you an opportunity to pull out that decanter you got as a wedding gift and thought was a flower vase.  Our first bottle was not at all well-filtered, which — when one takes the bottle-half-full view of life — means you get a chance to practice your decanting and aeration skills on a wine you won’t be that afraid to spill everywhere.

The results are well worth it.  This is a wine you don’t need to cellar, and that you can serve immediately with the utmost confidence that it’s a crowd pleaser.  Plus it turns out that Hickinbotham is a name with some relevance, after all.

“Oh, this wine?  Lovely isn’t it?  From Clarendon in Australia, named after a prominent wine scientist — oenologists, I think they call them? — in the region.  Here, let me fill you up from this decanter that looks like an abstract sculpture that I will soon hide in the closet again.”

Good price, lovely flavor, and classy wine knowledge.  The perfect package.


What I am going to do now is write, without any trace of snottiness, about why you should drink a beer that tastes like strawberries.

What’s important to realize about Früli is:  first of all, it’s got an umlaut in its name and that’s inherently awesome and METAL; and second, it really is beer that has pure strawberry juice blended right into it.

This isn’t like pumpkin beers, or nut beers or even spiced beers that may have had something introduced in the brewing process that influences the flavor.  Früli is a white Belgian beer that comes out of the boiler, and then is mixed with honest-to-God strawberry juice to produce a 4.1% ABV brew.

It’s bright red.

It makes you look like kind of a wuss when you order it.

It comes in small bottles, because it’s really sweet and you will never want a whole pint of it.

And it doesn’t matter, because it works.  Früli is like the brewed equivalent of Kir, a cold and sweet refreshment that’s meant to be taken slowly on a warm afternoon.  If beer can serve as an aperitif, then Früli is the perfect choice, and one that will delight your guests on the first warm spring afternoon that we can muster.

It may have turned gray this week, but this is how we can get the warmer months started:  with bright liqueurs, friendly reds and sprightly beers.  The time is now to experiment a little, and find the little surprises that make the next few weeks all the more fun.

The spring is on is!  This is what to drink!

  • Niki

    I still buy wine based on the name and/or label. I can’t help myself.

  • http://foodhappens.blogspot.com lo

    Heh. We’ve just started buying wines on the recommendation of the wine expert at our local liquor store. Turns out the ugly labels actually contain Very Good wine. Who knew??

    As for that Europa… anything that tastes like Christmas has to be good, right?

  • http://Thespitefulchef.blogspot.com Kristie

    That lemon business looks like it’d make a badass milkshake. Am I right? Also, I liked this post.

  • http://plasticless.com Martin

    The weekend after high school graduation, I spent an afternoon drinking vodka and lemonade in an abandoned farmhouse and singing free falling at the top of my lungs. When my fingers were feeling raw from clamping down on the same three chords, I stepped outside and sat my butt down on the porch with a fresh drink. The porch was beside an overgrown patch of Siberian Pea Shrub. A hummingbird flew right up in my face and almost took a sip of my drink.

    Your post somehow reminded me of that moment, thanks 🙂

  • http://www.tasteofbeirut.com tasteofbeirut

    Hey, i am all for trying a drink once! I love Kir, so maybe i would love that brew!