Welcome to thefifthdrink.com. This is a website about drinks of any kind. We believe that all drinks are related through their liquid form.
Furthermore, we believe that drinks deserve an equal standing with food. Drinks are just as important as food, even more so. After all, Planet Earth is mostly liquid.
We’re aiming for a higher form of drink. Not something elite and difficult to achieve, but something comprehensive. Drinks coming together, from water to wine, and becoming stronger in their unison. So drink up and enjoy.
Like a middle school teacher, I assign myself projects because I tend to get off-track. There are so many things that interest me, I have trouble focusing. Even with my self-assigned projects in hand, I inevitably deviate from my mission, but I always have an excuse.
In this case, my excuse is fresh, free, tree ripe fruit. My infusion project this year is to make my own green tea liqueur, and I’m haven’t given that up. But as of right now, I can’t let my fruit go to waste. Click here to continue reading the article.
Staring up at me from a plastic bag, I had a bushel of lychees, more than I’ve ever had in my life, and they needed to be consumed within the next couple of days. I went out and bought a 750 ml bottle of Ketel One, rolled up my sleeves and got to work.
Anyone who has peeled and pitted lychees or longans knows this is no easy task. The tough outer hull needs to be pierced with a knife, and they often squirt back in revenge. There’s a phrase that’s often used when describing certain fruits: “the flesh clings tenaciously to the seed.” Happy to use the word “tenacious”, I am applying that phrase to lychees. They’re not the worst offenders, but they can compete in that league (the worst is mamoncillo in my opinion, a close relative of the lychee and longan). The flesh is significantly juicy, so you end up doing lots of counter top wiping and hand washing.
When I’m experimenting with an infusion for the first time, my rule has always been to use as much fruit as possible, so I filled a large jar roughly half way with lychees and poured in the vodka. Now I’m going to wait. I don’t have much to go on here—the various on-line recipes call for anywhere from five days to one month of maceration. After only a day of soaking, the vodka had already taken on a nice lychee flavor. Regular tasting will have to suffice, and I’ll be the first and final judge as to when it’s done.
My ultimate goal is to make a great lychee martini. The infused vodka may not have enough flavor to put it over the top, because the few reviews on-line describe lychee vodka as subtle and perhaps disappointing. I’m guessing that the final formula will also involve the use of a lychee liqueur and either juice or tinned fruit, but I won’t know until I try. I’ll report my progress as it comes.
Lychees are in season now, so you might be able to find some in the grocery store or at the farmer’s market. You may also be lucky enough to have a tree of your own. If you do get the itch, try an infusion and post your results somewhere on-line. There’s not enough information about lychee infusions out there, but there is interest. The lychee martini is one of the most popular new martinis, so in my humble opinion, this is a worthy avenue of mixological experimentation.
My title is a bit of an overstatement, or more fairly (fair to myself, a person with whom which I am always fair), the title decidedly omits a crucial detail for the sake of brevity. Titles are entitled to brevity. It is their job to be brief.
More specifically, Raging Bitch from the Flying Dog Brewery is the best of the new Belgian-style American IPAs. So what kind of beer is that exactly? It’s an ale fermented with Belgian yeast and heavily dosed with hops in the American IPA tradition.
We Americans, in spite of our brewing achievements, are not the indisputable kings of the Belgian IPA. Two Belgian ales from Belgium, Piraat and Urthel Hop-It, can go toe-to-toe with any American IPA brewed with Belgian yeast, and they may claim the belt depending on the judge (and his or her country of origin). That being said, several of the best American breweries tried their hand at this style in the past few months, and in my opinion, Flying Dog came out on top.
Before we even get to the beer, I have to touch on the name. “Raging Bitch” hints at the profane and is potentially tasteless, offensive even, but I’ll give them a pass in this case. With a name like “Flying Dog”, you only have so much canine related vocabulary to work with. “Bitch”, as in a “female dog”, is bound to come to the front of the line sooner or later. On top of that, this beer was created to celebrate their 20th anniversary as a working brewery. I would be raging too if I ran a craft brewery that lasted twenty years, especially in this economy. A lot of the former craft brewers are selling papers with the Dania Jai-Alai players at the I-95 exit. This is not an easy job.
The label on the bottle also gleefully touches on the limits of tolerance. I’m not sure what to say about it, except that you have to see it to believe it. Look closely, and you will believe this bitch’s rage is real. In case you were wondering, Ralph Steadman does the label art for Flying Dog. He’s the guy who did all of the illustrations for Hunter S. Thompson. Disturbingly brilliant. Look closely.
So what about the beer? It takes its chosen theme and executes it perfectly. That's all a beverage can really hope to do, so in a sensel, Raging Bitch is flawless. The trick with a Belgian IPA seems to be balance. You have to get both of the eccentric components, the yeast and the hops, to aggressively assert their presence without dominating the brew.
On the Belgian side, it’s the yeast. Belgian yeast gives a beer a distinct spicy quality, reminiscent of cloves, along with a strange but pleasant fruitiness, much like the aroma of bananas. In the American corner, it’s the hops. Americans have fallen hard for hops lately, and it’s no secret. We like them big, bold and bitter. Raging Bitch delivers both in spades, and neither gives ground or tones itself down for the sake of the other.
There’s also a bit of funk to this beer. I can’t tell if it’s from the malt, the hops or the yeast, but I suspect the hops. Regardless, it is intriguing and shows itself especially in the initial attack on the palate.
And when it comes to price, Raging Bitch springs to the lead like Mine That Bird in the home stretch of the 2009 Kentucky Derby (and how can you not root for a horse, or any living creature, who is both poor and castrated?). I can get a six-pack for $8.49, whereas some of the other bottles cost that much just for one. Grated, it may be a 750 ml, but still. I know this sounds a bit like drug dealing ("I got 2 for 5!), but come on, broke is the new black these days.
There are some whispers out there that Raging Bitch was better in the first batch. That may be true, but I suspect that the beer has also calmed down a bit in the bottle. That just happens—it’s only natural. You can’t stay frothing at the mouth forever, and if you do, someone is bound to put you down.
Raging Bitch is a limited release, and it doesn’t look like much is left on the shelves. There are some other good Belgian IPAs out there, but this is the one you should try first. Then compare it to Piraat and Urthel Hop-It. That’s the League of Champions right there if I have anything to say about it.
This post should be titled “Come On! Don't Just Drink Pinot Grigio For the Rest of Your Life, Jerky!” But my content box didn’t have the space for that.
This isn’t as much as a review as it is a bit of cataloguing. Italian wine is complex, and the whites are no easier than the reds. This is a brief list of noteworthy Italian white grape varietals: Arneis, Cortese, Falanghina, Fiano, Garganega, Grechetto, Greco, Verdicchio, Vermentino and Vernaccia.
For what it’s worth, both Grechetto and Greco have Ancient Greek origins, rather obviously revealed in their names. However, their precise origins, like all great Greek things, have been appropriately lost in time.
If that wasn’t enough, the Italians make good (and sometimes great) wine from these varietals originally from France and other parts of the world: Chardonnay, Malvasia, Moscato (Muscat), Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc), Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Tocai Friuliano (Sauvignon Vert) and Trebbiano (Ugni Blanc).
Then there’s the big dog, Pinot Grigio, which is actually Pinot Gris, the white grape cousin of Pinot Noir, both from France. How in the world Pinot Grigio muscled through that crowd to become the de facto Italian white wine, I don’t know, but I suspect it has something to do with Santa Margherita’s advertising dollars.
That’s a lot of wine, and I surely missed something (and misspelled something). You could spend your whole life studying Italian white wine without every getting to the serious reds. So let me help you and help myself with a few notes here.
This is a review of a specific Vernaccia di San Gimignano, the 2009 from Gattavecchi. I’m doing this mostly so I can remember what this wine tastes like, and possibly to help other people pick out an Italian white. Whites are the rule if you’re having an Italian seafood dish, so this is good and useful knowledge for the dinner party set.
I’m no expert on Vernaccia di San Gimignano. This is not a wine I get to drink often. In fact, I don’t get to drink any one single style of Italian white wine too often—there are so many. Still, I know it was awarded the very first DOC in 1966 (Denominazione di Origine Controllata, a “controlled name of origin”, similar to the French AOC), and it is the only good white wine from central Italy, an area more famous for reds made from Sangiovese, like Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. For the record, Vernaccia is the grape, and San Gimignano is the region.
Speaking of reds, Gattavecchi makes a good Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (from Sangiovese, with a dash of Canaiolo Nero), and their Reservas have garnered some nice accolades. I had their basic Vino Nobile recently, and it was really nice after about 2 hours in the decanter with a piece of ribeye (veggie people think mushrooms). So with that in mind, I gave their Vernaccia a spin on the merry-go-round gulliver that is my palate.
The color is pale and has the faintest hue of peach. The bottle notes describe it as “straw yellow with hints of gold". Fair enough, and poetic to boot. The nose is floral and fruity, with notes of peach (as the color suggested), lime and minerals. The lime tends towards the more powerful lime zest after the first sip, and it powers through to the finish. There’s a nice smack of both minerality and almond to compliment the fruit.
I had it with a nice piece of broiled fish, and I liked it. It reminds me of Sauvignon Blanc, but with a fuller body and more piercing citrus zest. I don’t detect any oak at all, although some producers do opt for some oak either during fermentation or aging.
This is definitely a wine for seafood, though I find it more expressive than many of the bland Italian whites that have become so popular recently. You could have it by itself at the beach or the pool, and it’s certainly a smart choice to beat the South Florida summer heat. Sweltering, it is for us now and for months to come. Please God, no Hurricanes.
Show off your nerdness and prove to your friends that you’re a real wine expert by bringing Vernaccia di San Gimignano to the party rather than Pinot Grigio. Come one, be brave—you can’t drink Santa Margherita for the rest of your life. Well, you can, believe me, I know you can. But you shouldn’t.
Why? Because Santa Margherita is going to cost you at least $20, and a this lovely Vernaccia shouldn’t be more than $15. If you keep buying expensive Pinot Grigio, those greedy Gollums will keep hiking the price. You think Pinot Grigio should cost $20 a bottle. You're insane. You know how young they pick those grapes? They're as green as emeralds. Nobody one cares so long as you, the consumer, refuses to care. So save money and grow a pair at the same time—how’s that for a wine recommendation?
It seems like everyone has seen the wine movie Sideways. Maybe not all 6 billion people on Earth, but it did make more than 109 million dollars. So a lot of people have seen the movie, and those who did remember the now iconic line: “I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!”
It was funny to me the first time I heard Paul Giamatti scream it, but I didn’t know exactly why. I knew that Merlot was a type of wine grape, but I was shocked that someone could be so profanely opposed to an agricultural product. We’re not talking about socialized healthcare or Dick Cheney here, we’re talking about a piece of fruit. Even bad wine is relatively harmless. Worst case scenario, it can still get you wasted.
I’ll make it official: The Oskar Blues Gubna Imperial IPA is the best damn can of beer ever . . . by a leap and a bound. There’s no other can that even comes close.
While the words “best”, “can” and “beer” may have been oxymoronic a few years ago, it’s a bold combination these days thanks to the Oskar Blues Brewery. (Check it right here, sirs and misses: http://www.oskarblues.com/)
They’ve been taking canned beer to new heights since 2002. Their Dale’s Pale Ale would have been my choice as the best canned beer even a couple of days ago, with the Yella Pils right on the heels and perhaps even better depending on the weather. Other breweries have also stepped up, including Wittekerke, a Belgian outfit offering a canned version of their immensely quaffable witbier (thanks to Tang for reminding me).
It’s common knowledge around these parts that Johnnie Walker Black Label is Miami’s favorite drink. It’s not just a sentiment—the Miami area is the largest market for Black Label in the United States, and I’ve seen the hunger with my own eyes. In any liquor store, the shelf space for Black Label is often barren and scattered.
Floor displays of Black Label cases take on the appearance of a medieval town pillaged by ravenous Vikings. People love Black Label here and buy it often and in great quantities. When I used to bartend for private parties in the Miami area (and I'm talking from Kendall to Weston), Black Label was often the only call I heard for hours on end. Soda, straight, on-the-rocks, it doesn't matter. Miami loves Jonhnnie Walker Black Label in any form.
So if you’re the company that owns Johnnie Walker, Diageo, you essentially have one of those good problems. Keep the party rolling and make sure everyone has enough Black Label to go around. Don’t rock the boat—there's no need to do anything crazy.
But that business model leads to the lack of innovation, and then there’s the subsequent reluctance to change, and finally resulting in closed distilleries and companies either being bought up or going under altogether. I read whisky history, and this tried-and-true formula to bankruptcy has been followed time and again by whisky makers all over the world.
Johnnie Walker has bucked the trend and survived by continuing to look for new opportunities, and that seems appropriate considering that their iconic mascot is the Striding Man. Johnnie is, in all his visual glory, a walking image, seemingly poised in a full and confident stride towards the future, and The Johnnie Walker Experience shows what he's still got a spring in his step.
Rejoice, the brief and beautiful ugly fruit season is upon us. The ugly fruit is in the citrus family and was first discovered growing wild in Jamaica over 80 years ago. It is technically a type of tangelo, because tangelos are a hybrids of a tangerine and either a grapefruit or a pomelo. The ugly fruit’s exact parentage is not known, but it may include the Seville orange, the grapefruit, the tangerine and perhaps the pomelo. Welcome to the imbroglio that is the citrus family. Uglies are marketed as either “ugli fruit” or “uniq fruit”, but these are both brand names. Citrus reticulata x Citrus paradisi is the word for the nerds like me who like dead languages that can’t be trademarked.
The ugly fruit has long been number one on my list of Top 5 Greatest Fruits of All Time (ugly fruit, longan, cherry, sweetsop and passion fruit for those who want to know). Why is ugly the king? First, because it’s ugly. Ugly fruits really are ugly to behold—their peel is bumpy, warty, wrinkled and cast in a sickly greenish-orange tint. It’s absolutely beautiful. Second, it’s the easiest citrus fruit to peel by far. The peel comes off all in one piece with only the slightest pressure, almost as though the ugly wants to be peeled by human hands. Third, it’s delicious. The ugly is juicy like a grapefruit, but even milder than an orange. None of the bitterness or sourness commonly found in citrus is unbalanced. It’s eminently edible, and it makes a great cocktail to boot.
Here’s my formula for the Ugly Daiquiri
Shake all of the ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled martini glass. I squeeze a bit of the peel over the drink and then wipe it around the rim for aroma, but I don’t drop it into the drink. The ugly peel is tough to separate from the pith, and you don’t want that bitter pith in your fine cocktail. You can also float a mint leaf if you have one handy.
For the rum, I save my 10 Cane for this one. Ugly juice is delicate, and so is 10 Cane. Besides, uglies only come around once a year for a brief few weeks, and they’re not cheap, running between $2 to $3 a piece. Ugly is the king, and the king deserves the best.
Look outside South Florida—you’re in the middle of a great loquat season! We've got a big crop this year, so I wanted to get this article posted while the fruits are reaching their peak ripeness. If you’re lucky enough to have a tree nearby, get out there and take advantage of its bounty.
A distant relative of the apple, the loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a beautiful tree, so it’s often used for landscaping. Still, many people don’t realize that their fruits are deliciously edible, so they often go to waste. But I won’t stand for that, especially this year. I'm going to make a homemade loquat liqueur. (Click here to read more . . .)
Forget Cîroc and NuVo, moscato is the hot drink now thanks to Degrassi actor and rapper Drake. Once his single “Do It Now” started getting radio play, mobs of people came running for this sweet wine like they were chasing the Warriors after Luther shot Cyrus. I’ve been living in the middle of this beverage maelstrom for the past few weeks—trust me.
Drake recalls a fine evening: “It’s a celebration/ clap clap bravo/ lobster and shrimp/ and a glass of moscato/ for the girl who’s a student/ and her friend who’s a model/ finish the whole bottle/ and we gonna do it big like this.”
I’m not sure what kind of moscato Drake and his lady friends are drinking in this song. It could be the still Californian version from large-scale producers like Gallo and Sutter Home. This stuff is OK, especially if you’re trying to kill a magnum for less than $10. Or maybe they were drinking Moscato d’Asti, the lightly sparkling version from northern Italy. These wines are better, sometimes very good. But if I had it my way, they would be drinking Australian Muscat.
“Muscat” and “Moscato” are two words for the same type of grape. The Muscat family is ancient, perhaps the oldest of all domesticated grapes, and comprises many different varietals grown all over the world. They are often made into sweet wine, and their color ranges from pale white to caramel brown. They taste distinctly grapey and musky, and this is the quality that gives the family its name.
I think the very best muscat wines come from Australia, because the Australians put the most time and effort into their muscat. They do two important things—they put their muscat wine in barrels that age in tin sheds exposed to the elements, and these sheds get very hot during the day. This heat bakes the juice, much like baking a brownie, and the subsequent wines are nearly as rich and chewy. They also use a solera system, which allows for the blending of older wines with younger wines. Consequently, their muscats will always contain some very old, concentrated juice. Some of the most rare and prestigious Australian muscats contain juice more than 100 years-old. Due to their age, these wines have a dark color, like brown sugar, and they’re quite viscous, which is why the Australians call them “stickies”.
Watching people stampeding for moscato made me yearn for some of this venerable Australian dessert wine, so I picked up a bottle of Yalumba Museum Reserve Muscat. Yalumba is the oldest family owned winery in Australia, and they have a reputation for quality stretching back to 1849. You can check out their website here: http://www.yalumba.com/.
This wine is fortified, so it has a high alcohol content of 18%. This is OK, because you’re only going to want a little bit. I like to drink it after a meal using my Riedel Port Glass with some blue cheese, in this case the Roaring Forties Blue Cheese from Kings Island Dairy located just north of Tasmania (http://www.kidairy.com.au/Products.aspx?product=31). I wanted to keep my Australian theme going, and the salty blue matched the sweet muscat perfectly.
The Yalumba Muscat has plenty of those caramel and burnt toffee notes I was expecting, but also more lively flavors like orange peel, ginger and mint. There’s even a bouquet of spices that reminds me of Thanksgiving and Christmas—think cinnamon and cloves. It has a lighter body than some of the other stickies I’ve had, though this is still a very rich wine. Unctuous is the right adjective here.
This wine gives you the intense experience of an aged Australian Sticky while retaining some of the fresh fruit character of the muscat grape. For this reason, I think it’s an excellent introduction to the style, especially for anyone interested in muscat a.k.a. moscato. It’s also a bargain at $17.99 for a 375 ml bottle. For those of you who like scores, Robert Parker gave this wine a whopping 98 points, and I give it four stars—highly recommended.
Welcome to the Telephonedrink Project. This mission, if you choose to accept it, will send drinks to your telephone by using Twitter.
I have four projects that you can choose from. Whenever I send a Twitter message, it will begin with one of these abbreviations:
|SHOT||Twitter Shot Project|
|MART||Twitter Martini Project|
|WINE||Twitter Wine Project|
|SAKE||Twitter Saké Project|
I tried to fit everything into 4 letters, but I couldn’t squeeze in the words martini or cocktail. I thought MART would be better than COCK, so that’s what I’m using. When you see one of those four letters, you will know the subject of the tweet, so you can either read it or delete it depending on your interest. (Click here to read more...)