I received a few booze-free spirit samples from the good folks at Lyre's recently, and the 'Dark Cane Style' (Rum-ish) one with its oaky caramel and clove notes called for a Mojito on a long-awaited sunny day. The spirit's a little heavy on the wood side, I felt it kinda masked the darker flavour components, which also include molasses and cola notes.
ANYHOW, with some muddled lime, mint, soda, and a smattering of sugar, all of those aspects fell into place, and it was a bevvie with a fine balance, and there'll certainly be more in our future.
Here in Vancouver you can order it from Sansorium, or pick some up at Drive Canteen.
One of my favourite things to make at home is the Rotisserie Chicken Ramen from Lucky Peach 101 Easy Asian Recipes. We buy a rotisserie chicken quite regularly; what we don't use right away we pull off in pieces to store in the freezer, which then come in handy for future salads, soups, sandwiches and snacks.
This recipe uses the leftover carcass to make an incredibly delicious and soothing ramen broth, incorporating scallions, ginger, bacon, carrot, and dried shiitake mushrooms. It's a two-hour-plus recipe, but it's more about checking in on the thing on occasion and making occasional tweaks; I find it calming and almost meditative. Bonus points are definitely given for our home smelling AMAZING for hours afterwards.
When it came time for putting together our ramen bowls, after adding some snap peas, nori, egg, noodles (obvs), fish sauce, soy sauce, and chili crisp (A MUST!), we were having a day away from wine and opted to go with Athletic Brewing's Run Wild Non-Alcoholic IPA. Here in Vancouver, it's widely available; I picked it up at our local Buy-Low Foods.
It's delicious! For those who don't like their hoppy beers overly pine-y or austere, you needn't worry. The hops are mostly Citra and Mosaic, expressing as ultra-citrusy with some flecks of tarragon and a good dash of white pepper on the finish. The malt component is perfectly integrated to give the beer some decent weight, body and soul, and it doesn't lend any sweetness. It's SO well-balanced and integrated.
With that salty, chicken-y broth, it was a perfect adversary, washing everything down easy and keeping the palate refreshed. A home run, indeed.
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We were at the Vancouver location of Everything Wine, saw this Barrels And Drums Alcohol-Free Chardonnay, and decided to give it a whirl. I can't find a ton of information on the wine (or the brand) online, though I did find a tech sheet in German, so there's that.
So I think the wine is from Germany, and the 4.3 grams of residual sugar sounds about right. It's sweet. And not overly wine-y. Honestly, I probably couldn't differentiate it from Welch's white grape juice.
There IS a lot of green grape in there, and (very) ripe mango with a squeeze of blood orange. I'd LOVE to see some acid in there; it would make it more lively and delicious. I dunno, if the sweetness were attractive to some (and I'm sure it is), I'd definitely go for spicy Thai curries, Nashville Hot Chicken, or (my personal choice) Jalapeño-Flavoured Miss Vickie's Potato Chips.
Over at Wine Enthusiast, they have a selection of best non-alcoholic wines based on customer reviews, plus a quick synopsis of the category which includes a blurb on how they do it:
"...the two most common ways are vacuum distillation and reverse osmosis. In vacuum distillation, the beverage is heated to the point where the alcohol evaporates. During the practice of reverse osmosis, wine is run “through a filter, and the filter separates the alcohol based on the size of the molecule,” Terry Donnelly, chairman and CEO of Hill Street Beverage Company Inc. told Wine Enthusiast. “Alcohol is a bigger molecule than water, so you can literally run it through like a microscopic strainer and filter the alcohol off.”
You can read the whole thing here. Looking to nab some juice here in Vancouver? Check out Sansorium, AFBev, and Drive Canteen!
For the longest time, the vast majority of non-alcohol beer out there was, uh, not good. I always equated the only ones really available to most of us, your big, industrial selections like Molson Exel and Labatt .5, with the likes of fizzy cereal water. Not exactly my thing.
But we have so many fun, high-quality options now, right? I mean, the discovery of these (plus enjoyable alcohol-free takes on wine, spirits and cocktails) is why I started this whole venture. People used to say that people like me, who DOES drink traditional wine, beer, and spirits on the regular, will never find anything of interest because, well, there's no booze in them.
O.K., but figuring I enjoy coffee, tea, sodas, kombucha, and so on led me to believe that couldn't be the case. And, really, I was right. The only reason that perspective resonated is because hardly any of us had tried great product, often made in small batches with care, using quality ingredients.
So as I'm on this journey exploring, among other things, non-alcoholic beer - even though I'm already really loving stuff from Big Drop Brewing, Sober Carpenter, Phillip's iOTA, Grüvi, and (so many) more, I know I'm still likely gonna stumble on duds.
When that happens, I'm going to revert to an old hack I've used when one of those 'fizzy cereal waters' have come into my possession:
Make it into a michelada. Seriously, it really fixes everything.
For those not in the know, here's the Wikipedia synopsis:
A michelada is a Mexican drink made with beer, lime juice, assorted sauces, spices, tomato juice, and chili peppers. It is served in a chilled, salt-rimmed glass. There are numerous variations of this beverage throughout Mexico.
That's the long and short of it, but as someone who's been everywhere from Mexico City to Oaxaca to La Paz, it definitely varies on region, who's making it, what's on hand, etc. Here in Canada and in the U.S. you'll occasionally see more cocktail-y takes on them, incorporating tequila or mezcal.
So, at home I'll usually grab a big glass, rim it with fresh lime, and then Tajin (or celery salt, or Montreal steak spice, or, or, or...), then pour in a good glug of Clamato juice, and hearty splashes each of Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. I'll squeeze in the rest of the lime, stir it good, then load the glass with ice. Then, it's just finishing topping things up with the beer. For me it's somewhere between 1/3 Clamato and sauces to 2/3 beer, and basically 50/50. Honestly, since many widely-available Mexican beers are so clean and refreshing, these don't taste that different to the real thing.
Ratios above are all to your personal taste, and there are a zillion different ingredients and ways of putting 'em together.
Just Google michelada, but more importantly - never settle for plain, fizzy cereal water again.
If you're into complex flavours incorporating plenty of both aromatic and bitter components, I'm SO digging these Casamara Club sodas. They should be a definite hit with fans of amaros everywhere from Campari to Fernets.
I love that they're not sweet, either. The 'Alta' is a fizzy take on a Negroni, composed of sparkling water, lemon juice, cane sugar, and extracts of Italian chinotto, juniper berry, orris Root, mandarin orange, allspice, clove, anise, and Mediterranean sea salt.
My other fave is the 'Capo' AKA 'Como' - more of an Aperol Spritz kinda thing. This one's a little juicier: sparkling water, lemon juice, orange blossom honey, plus extracts of Mandarin orange, chamomile, peppermint, licorice root, grapefruit, juniper berry, clove, cardamom, and Mediterranean sea salt.
Here in Vancouver you can nab 'em at Drive Canteen.
Decent reds in the alcohol-free category can be tough to find, but I was pretty impressed in this Catalunya bottling of Syrah from Spain's famous Torres family.
I'd definitely recommend it with a hint of a chill; it's more likely to retain it's lightly tannic, peppery structure that holds together gobs of blackberries, blueberries and mulberries.
It'll wash down barbecued ribs, hamburgers well, and would act as a good purple compote or jam with big, stinky cheeses and a charcuterie board.
I picked it up here in Vancouver at Legacy Liquor Store.