Category Archives: Drink

Grüner Veltliner and Other Austrian Wines

Some shameless self-promotion:  if the type of information contained in this post interests you at all, I’m going to be hosting a tasting of sparkling wines on Thursday, February 11, as part of Little Brick’s Home School series.

 

Three examples of Grüner Veltliner available from wine shops here in Edmonton.I’ve been meaning to write about Austrian wine for some time.  Years, actually: ever since I wrote this post on Heurigen, which are rural taverns that serve young wine and cider.

Last week the Elm wine group did a tasting of Grüner Veltliner, the national grape of Austria, so I thought I would finally put down some info on Austrian wine.

If you haven’t had Austrian wine before, you’re not a freak or a philistine: there isn’t a whole … Continue reading.

Switchel – Old-Timey Drinking Vinegar

And in my thirst they gave me vinegar

-Psalm 69:21

Switchel, old-timey drinking vinegar, make with apple cider vinegar, molasses, and gingerThis post is part of an ongoing fight against the tyranny of the lemon.

In the ancient world drinking vinegar was for the destitute and god-forsaken.  In fact, it was the last thing Christ drank before he gave up the ghost.

So it is interesting that in North America, before we had access to cheap lemons and limes, we made several thirst-quenching drinks with vinegar.  The most famous of these was probably switchel, a mixture of apple cider vinegar, molasses, and ginger, diluted with cold water.  Switchel was often given to farmhands during the hot harvest season.

I know drinking vinegar sounds really weird, but with balancing sweetness and … Continue reading.

Aperitivo

Mise en place for Italian aperitivo.Aperitivo is the Italian word for aperitif.  Ostensibly it is a drink taken before dinner.

In practice it is both drink and food.  The fundamental idea of Italian aperitivo is that you order a drink and receive complimentary food.  That food may be a fistful  of olives, or it may be a no-kidding smorgasbord.  Isn’t that amazing?

Let’s talk about drinks, then about food.

A Simple Bar for Aperitivo

Amari.  If you can buy only one bottle of liqueur for aperitivo, it should be Campari.  Campari is a bitter liqueur of about 25% ABV, flavoured with obscure herbs and fruit (eg chinotto, the myrtle-leaved orange tree).  It was invented in Novara, Piedmont, by Gaspare Campari.  It was first … Continue reading.

Rye Whisky

Rye whiskey makes the band sound better,
Makes your baby cuter,
Makes itself taste sweeter.  Oh, boy!

-The Punch Brothers

 

I have friends that get mad when I say this, but Canadian whisky is not necessarily rye.  Unlike, for instance, Bourbon, which has very specific requirements for the grain bill (at least 51% corn), Canadian whisky is not highly regulated.  Actually you can read everything that the Food and Drug Regulations have to say about Canadian whisky in about 90 seconds, here.  Basically to be called Canadian whisky the drink needs to be made of cereal grain (no mention of specific types like barley or rye), it needs to be at least 40% alcohol, and it needs to … Continue reading.

On Spirits

brettosSpirits are distilled beverages, made by concentrating alcohol and other volatile, aromatic compounds to make heady, shelf-stable drinks.

The sheer number of different types of spirits available in most liquor stores can be confusing.  What, for instance, is the difference between Scotch whisky and Irish whiskey?  Or tequila and mezcal?  Why is all Cognac brandy, but not all brandy Cognac?  These questions can be answered by knowing a few things about how liquor is made.

All spirits can be classified using the following four pieces of information:

  • region of production;
  • ingredients, including the base fermentable material and any other flavourings like spices or caramel;
  • distillation details, including type of still used, number of distillations, and other nuances;
Continue reading.

Valpolicella

A view of Valpolicella vineyards and Lake GardaAmarone is the most fashionable Italian wine in North America.  I’m in no way qualified to make such a sweeping statement, but I think the shelves of boutique wine shops offer ample testament.  The wine is rich, concentrated, age-worthy, and expensive.  It is by its very nature more pricey than most other wines: made from partially-dried grapes, it requires more kilograms of fruit to produce a litre of wine.  The absolute cheapest bottles in Canada cost about $40, but most mid-level bottles sell for around $60.  My first taste of Amarone was in the home of a self-impressed eye doctor.  It was delicious.

Amarone is from Valpolicella,[1] a small region in northeast Italy, just outside Verona.  Valpolicella is an … Continue reading.

Rhubarb Iced Tea

Rhubarb iced tea on a shady stoop.

The Tyranny of the Lemon

I like lemons.  Tarte au citron and lemon meringue pie are two of my favourite desserts.  A quick squeeze of lemon adds friendly punch to everything from salads to roasted chickens and pots of tea.

However.

To me lemons are the epitome of our thoughtless dependence not just on imported ingredients, but imported cuisine.  Every week of the year the happy yellow fruits are shipped by the ton into our city to spread the insidious influence of Mediterranean and Californian food.

What is frustrating about our lemon dependence is that our region and its local plants do “sour” very well.  We are awash with tart, flavourful ingredients like … Continue reading.

Why Cider Matters to Edmonton

This week I am giving a presentation at Eat Alberta about how to make cider.  I’m not an expert by any leap of the imagination: I’ve only been making cider for three seasons, and truthfully everything (everything!) that I know I learned from Kevin and Chad and a handful of websites.

The preamble to my presentation is called “Why Cider Matters”, and I thought I’d share the gist of it with you.

An apple blossomBackyard cider-making is the single most exciting movement within our local food scene.  A bold statement, I know.  Of all the burgeoning activities related to food production – gardening, fishing, visiting farms, joining CSAs, foraging mushrooms, hunting – cider-making may be the most accessible, and the most … Continue reading.

Hot Toddy

A hot toddy make with The GlenlivetToddy, or hot toddy, is a Scots drink of whisky, sugar, and hot water.

I’ve read that the name refers to Tod’s Well, an ancient spring that once gave Edinburgh its water.[1]  In other words it is yet another instance of the charming tradition of referring to whisky as water.[2]

Ancestral wisdom tells us that taking a mug of toddy in bed before sleep will cure many ailments.

The traditional toddy recipe I have calls for equal parts whisky and water.  Modern recipes are more likely 2 parts whisky to 3 parts or more of water.  They also typically use citrus and spices.  Though not traditional, I think the citrus is essential, as the sweet, boozy cocktail absolutely … Continue reading.

Hot Chocolate

Chopping dark chocolate to make hot chocolateToday I made hot chocolate using chocolate.  It was the first time I had ever done that.

I grew up drinking hot chocolate made from prepared powder that came in little packets.  The baggies had tiny, desiccated marshmallows in them that rehydrated when combined with hot milk.  There was usually a portion of the talc that failed to dissolve and accumulated on the bottom of the mug.  (Yum!)  The drink tasted mildly of bad chocolate, but mostly it tasted like milk.

It first occurred to me that one could make hot chocolate from chocolate when I read The Polar Express, in which children are served hot chocolate “as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars.”  That caught my attention.  … Continue reading.