Unusual Cocktails & Drinks

Did the title of this post spark your interest? I hope so because it’s a vast and fascinating subject when you begin looking at the interesting concoctions being crafted by bartenders around the world. This topic is virtually endless and I’m sure many of you could add your own experiences to this post. Please do. Add your suggestions or thoughts on some “unusual cocktails and drinks” in the comments section. I’m sure some interesting dialogue will be triggered here.

I came across this post http://www.casinotop10.net/Unusual-Cocktails-and-Drinks and it provided the inspiration for today’s topic. However I am taking a different perspective on “unusual”. The following four drinks are insanely popular in their respective countries of origin. In fact they may be the most popular drinks in those countries. However like many things internationally they are relatively unknown to most in North America if you haven’t had the chance to visit these places you likely haven’t had any of the following.

1. Ouzo – Greece

Ouzo

Ouzo

Ouzo is an Anise flavoured liquor which is insanely popular in Greece. If you haven’t been there then you likely have not had it. It is usually served on it’s own as an aperitif or is often served with appetizers in restaurants. It usually sipped slowly (or in shots by tourists) sometimes mixed with water or on ice. The closest comparison we are going to find in North America would be Sambuca. Yes, that black licorice flavour is prominent in Ouzo.
I also decided to take to Twitter to find out what the public had to say about Ouzo and was interested to find some mixed results.
“Easy Sipping Liquor.” (@bsaunders33)
“Tastes like black licorice to me.” (@paproconsulting)
“Gasoline #highoctane…sorry that’s grappa.” (@mortgageblogger)
“Gross” (@brettvdb)

2. Pisco – Chile/Peru

Pisco Sour - Peru

Pisco Sour – Peru

In 2010 I was fortunate enough to visit Chile on my honeymoon and there I experienced plenty of Pisco Sours. Peru claims exclusive right to use the name Pisco (according to Wikipedia that is) but if it’s coming from Chile don’t let the confusing label get the better of you as they have to call it “Chilean Pisco”. Though rarely aged in oak, where it will gain some amber colouring, it is most often colourless. At the core it is a grape based brandy made in much the same way as the more typical brandy’s we would find in North America. However it is a harsher flavour and thus is most often used in the cocktail “Pisco Sour.” The Pisco Sour is actually the Peruvian National Cocktail prepared with egg white, ice shavings, lime juice, simple syrup, and bitters. The Chilean version by comparison usually omits the bitters. It’s actually quite an enjoyable cocktail, especially when your consuming it in the home country.

3. Caipirinha – Brazil

Caipirinha

Caipirinha

This one I must admit that I have never had, but I have read about it many times before so it was top of mind when I decided to write this post. Caipirinha has been proclaimed the national cocktail of Brazil. It is usually made with Cachaca, sugar, and lime and very much resembles a Mojito without the mint. Cachaca is an alcohol that is almost identical to rum with the big difference being that rum is made with Molasses and Cachaca is made with pure sugar cane juice. Just like rum you can get aged and dark versions which have seen time in oak, but most at the lower price point which is used in the cocktail would be colourless. Of course you could theoretically make this cocktail with rum and it would be virtually identical… but it would not be Caipirinha.

4. Snow Beer – China

SnowBeer_China

Snow Beer

So here is your next pub stumper when you’re at the bar with your friends. “Do you know what the #1 beer brand in the world is by sales volume?” Yes folks that’s right… SNOW BEER! Apparently the Chinese like their beer. It is commonly known as a pale ale, most closely resembling Bud Light and at 3.0%-3.9% alcohol you could probably have a ton of them. Well it appears that the Chinese do. Snow Beer brands sold 50.8 Million barrels in 2011, dwarfing sales by the worlds second most popular brand… Bud Light (45.4 Million barrels). To put that into context the Chinese drank 16.5 Billion pints of Snow in 2011. As the mass beer market shrinks year over year in North America, this continues to be the flagship moneymaker for beer powerhouse SABMiller, the makers of Peroni, Grolsch, and Miller Light. **All stats from The Drinks Business I’m sure you have more to add. What have you tried that could be considered an “unusual cocktail or drink?” Please share it with us in the comments section below.

- Mark

Follow me on Twitter: @towineman

Chile & Argentina Vintages Wine Tasting – July 25, 2012

This week I attended a great Chile and Argentina wine tasting event hosted by the LCBO’s Vintages department.  The event was a great success.  I got the chance to visit the brand new Corus Entertainment building, check out the revamped waterfront on Toronto’s east end, and of course sample some great wines and great food.  I have declared many times that Chile and Argentina hold a special place in my heart as they both provided wonderful hospitality on my 2010 honeymoon.  Plus they make great wines and their offerings in the Canadian marketplace are getting better every year.   So I was pumped for this event and I did not leave disappointed.   I would expect the same sentiments from the 200+ other people who were in attendance.

There were over 25 wine stations available for sampling and a ton of food.  There is no way I can recap the finer nuances of each wine for you… nor would you want me to.  At these events I think you need to assess the big take-aways for yourself and really what you got out of the event.

Here are my 8 biggest take-aways from the Vintages “Heat of the Moment” event on July 25th.

8) Chile and Argentina continue to bring exceptional value wines to the Canadian marketplace.  Most of the wines sampled last night I would consider buying and I didn’t sample a single wine over $20.  If you are seeking bang for your buck Chile and Argentina are very tough to beat.

7) I was shocked that there was only one booth serving up Torrentes.  It’s the white grape variety that put Argentinean whites on the map.  Sure they are making headway with other white wine varieties and their Chardonnay’s have come a very long way, but they need to continue to support Torrentes.

6) The food at this event was the best wine event food I have ever had.  It brought back outstanding memories of the meat in Argentina, and the empanadas and cerviche in Chile.

5) For the most part the wine rep’s were fantastic but there were a few who weren’t.  Personally I expect the level of service to be great at every booth.  These are the people representing their wines to the paying customers and on more than one occasion I found them to be disinterested, in a hurry, and in one case even talking down to the customers. Generally I find wine reps to be knowledgable, passionate people who properly represent the brand, but I would expect that to the standard by which all should follow.

4) My favourites included The Dante Robino Bonarda, The Catena Chardonnay, The Montes Cab Sauv/Carmenere blend and the Perez Cruz Syrah, while I was left extremely unimpressed by The Santa Rita Reserva Chardonnay, The Manos Negras Pinot Noir, and the Trivento Fair Trade Malbec.

3) The Carmenere based blends coming out of Chile are very impressive.  I am not a big fan of Carmenere on its own, but when blended with either Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon some very nice wines are being produced.  Try the Montes Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere (LCBO #292169, $14.95) or the Vina Maipo Gran Devocion Carmenere/Syrah (LCBO #274100, $16.95 – available September 1st in Vintages)

2) The next great wine coming out of these regions is the Bonarda from Argentina.  A smooth red wine with so much ripe fruit flavour there is almost a hint of sweetness.  These days it’s grown almost exclusively in Argentina.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say move over Malbec, but watch out for Bonarda’s in the next few years.  One to try is The Dante Robino Bonarda … coming to Vintages on August 4th and a steal at $13.95.

1) The LCBO knows how to put on an event.  For $49 your ticket included all you can drink from over 40 different wine booths. It also included all you can eat and the food was excellent and didn’t stop coming out of the kitchen all night long.  Plus! As I learned last night when you leave the event they will give you a chit for a cab ride home, regardless of where you live.  All you pay is the tip.  Amazing.

- Mark
Follow me on Twitter: @towineman