Sunday, 31 January 2010

Dam Tasty Beaver Beer

The Florence
131-133 Dulwich Road
London SE24 0NG

Any microbrewery deserves the utmost respect at all times and for all time, but The Florence, in Herne Hill, demands special attention for its Dam Tasty Beaver Beer, the finest London-made ale I've tasted thus far in the Twenty-Tens.

Beaver is served cold, but not icy, and is cloudy in appearance. The aromas are floral and citrus, which ain't surprising given it's made with bitter orange, along with American hops and wheat.

It's described accurately as "fresh, slightly spicy and a little satsumery", not unlike my favourite Yank beer, the Blue Moon. For all those sceptical about wheat, fear not, the Beaver is no bitter Hoegaarden. Indeed, it's a joy - smooth and refreshing, despite carrying 4.8% abv, and not bland either. Even my lager-obsessed companion B was convinced, admitting (in a complimentary way) he'd never tasted beer like it, and at £3.20 a pint we felt unable to deny ourselves a second.
The only mystery is why The Florence, which apparently produces three beers on site and rotates them intermittently, doesn't make more of its wonderful wares (there's barely a mention on its website).

If you live in London, and even if you don't, go check out some Beaver. You won't regret it.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Texan Vodka

Two vodkas from Texas. I tasted them blind so I wouldn't be biased against Dripping Springs for its uninspiring labelling policy.

Tito's: This vodka has balls. It's got a heavy kind of mouthfeel - tasting almost raw, if that makes sense. Like grass, or rice. You wouldn't describe it as smooth - it tingles - but smooth is often overrated and this drink has character. The label says it's micro-distilled in an old-fashioned pot still, "just like fine single malt scotches and high-end French cognacs". Steady on.

Dripping Springs: Now, forget what I just said about smooth being overrated - this vodka is smooth in a deliciously warming way. A little sweetness, like honey: I'm looking forward to making a vodka martini with this one. By the way, it's "handcrafted in a copper still from Hill Country artesian spring water", obviously.

It's interesting how often you hear people say vodka "doesn't taste of anything". Sure, it's a more subtle spirit than others, like whisky or tequila, which is why it mixes well with pretty much anything. But Tito's and Dripping Spring (both 40% abv) certainly taste of plenty to me.

Thursday, 28 January 2010


I remember being a bit nauseated by a Cobra marketing campaign some years ago that went on about how little gas the beer contained, in order to help curry fans avoid that bloating feeling, as if referencing the human digestive process is in any way appropriate, in any context. Of course, the intention was to impress on consumers how well it paired with curry, and I have to concede it may have worked, as Cobra is now considered the beer of choice at most Indian restaurants. It's smooth, and easier to drink than some of the more heavily carbonated lagers that seem to be designed for grown-up children, and it tastes pretty good too. But I can't imagine drinking it with anything other than a curry, so maybe the marketing was too effective by half.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Johnnie Walker Blue

This is without doubt the most expensive whisky to have ever troubled my liver. Johnnie Walker Blue Label is about as "premium" as it gets (at least, before the point at which one starts attending auctions) and I've long wondered what, if you don't mind me saying so, the fuss was all about. Fortunately for me, and vicariously you, dear reader, my friend T was gifted a bottle and I almost leapt at his offer to try a dram or two.

The first thought that occured to me, once I'd stopped salivating over the beautiful blue-green bottle, was that this whisky is a blend, when so much is usually made of the supremacy of single malts. I suppose when every malt you're blending is of the highest order - and older than your average pop star - it makes little sense to defend the purity of unmixed single malts like some 20th century racist.

The second thing to record, on sniffing the glass, was that JWB produces next to no aroma. At least, if it had one it went undetected by my nose and those of my companions. The initial taste was smooth and nutty, like almonds, and yet there was little discernable sign of the promised "explosion of flavours" - until I swallowed, and "the finish" started, the heat of the spirit spreading gently but inexorably to the back of the throat and down towards the heart for 1, 2, 3 seconds, or longer.

"It's all about the finish", said T, knowledgably, and I wouldn't argue. "It's like waiting for an episode of Hollyoaks to end," said M, and I think I know what he meant.

Is it worth spending £170 for 0.7 litres of Johnnie Walker Blue? No, of course not. But would I like to taste this whisky every day for the rest of my life - and beyond? Certainly.

Sunday, 24 January 2010


So, there's this thing called Mixology Monday, in which online cocktail enthusiasts exchange wisdom about mixed drinks. This month's challenge was to come up with a winning concoction involving tea, and I thought I'd dip in my oar.

Rooibos is not technically a tea at all, but fortunately the design brief permitted other infusions (known as tisanes, apparently), so I immediately fell upon my box of Rooibos Vanilla, which I insist tastes like custard. The only vanilla-ey bottle in my collection was the brandy-based Tuaca liqueur, which also hints at orange, and that reminded me of a lovely rum blazer I'd had at a Soho bar a couple of years ago, which used orange peel to great effect, prompting me to pull out my Havana Club (Anejo Reserva). A little more sweetness was needed, triggering the triple sec, with an orange twist to underline the point.


90ml (3oz) Rooibos Vanilla tea
30ml (1oz) golden rum
15ml (0.5oz) Tuaca
15ml (0.5oz) triple sec
Orange twist

Steep one Rooibos Vanilla teabag in about 4oz of boiling water for a good five minutes to make the most of it. While it's stewing, pour the rum, Tuaca and triple sec into a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Add 3oz of (still hot) tea and stir well to make everything cold. Strain into a delicate-looking glass and garnish with an orange twist, taking care to spray the surface with a good deal of oil from the peel.

This is a most partakable brew tasting of vanilla and orange and - is that caramel? Easy to drink (not too sweet, not too bitter), just about enough booze to count, and, crucially, it doesn't taste like cold tea. If anyone's willing to give it a try I'd love to hear their comments. But first, go to CocktailVirgin, the host of this month's episode of MxMo, and see what delightful drinks the experts have conjured.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Tequila Old Fashioned

I found an interesting recipe advocating a simple tweak to the traditional Old Fashioned, replacing the bourbon with tequila. Perhaps it should be called the New Fangled.

Tequila Old Fashioned

60ml (2oz) reposado tequila
Three dashes Angostura bitters*
Two dashes agave syrup
Lime peel

*Grapefruit or lemon bitters have been suggested as a substitute.

Place syrup and bitters in an Old Fashioned (tumbler) glass along with an ice cube and mix well. Steadily add the tequila and further ice cubes, one at a time, stirring all the while. Garnish with twist of lime peel.

It works! Even as a firm fan of tequila I must admit I sometimes tire of sipping the stuff neat. This is a great way of diluting it a little to reduce the burn while protecting its essence and flavours - qualities that are sometimes lost in Tequila Sunrises or even Margaritas.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva

Having enjoyed Campo Viejo's Crianza, and also its Gran Reserva, it was time to have a go on the middle sibling - the Reserva. This 2005 vintage, aged 18 months in oak, is smooth with some spice, suggesting rich, jammy blackcurrant - another decent rioja. Nevertheless, if I was being harsh, I might say it sits somewhat awkwardly between the chugging capability of the Crianza and the more substantial Gran. I seem to recall the label boasting about flavours of "cigar box", to which I must add, ruefully, "but no cigar".

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum

I can't decide whether or not I really like rum. My top rum experience was probably a warming Rum Blazer from The Star at Night a couple of years ago. Other than that, I occasionally turn to my bottle of Havana Club for a Cuba Libre, and that's about it. Then recently I came across an interesting list of recommended rums for the beginner looking to start a collection. In the spiced rum section it suggested Sailor Jerry, and by coincidence the very next night I found myself in a pub with a bottle behind the bar, and ordered a shot. Note the ridiculous glassware (above) - I really don't understand why it's beyond most English pubs to cater for spirits fans.

Sadly, while the vanilla on the nose was appreciated, this was mainly sickly-sweet and flavourless, save for a strangely chemical spice. Perhaps it might work with cola, but sipping this stuff neat was not fun, and yet again I was left wondering why anyone would choose rum over a decent Scotch. Of course, it's unfair to compare a spirit recommended as a base for rum punch with a proper single malt. For a fair fight the rum would have to be an appropriately aged one, and the relevant section of the same beginner's guide suggests the Appleton Estate 12-year old. To be continued...

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Ramos Gin Fizz

The Ramos Gin Fizz has a cool name. Hailing from New Orleans, it uses egg white and orange flower water to transform the gin into a refreshing, velvety foam of a drink. It's not necessarily simple to make, but it's worth it. You're worth it.

45ml (1.5oz) gin
15ml (0.5oz) fresh lemon juice

15ml (0.5oz) fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp cream
1 egg white*
1 Tbsp icing/caster sugar
Few drops of orange flower water
Soda water

* To save the hassle of constantly half-using fresh eggs I recently procured a tub of powdered egg whites, which have to be prepared by whisking for a few seconds with a little warm water. They seem to work fine, although if I was making this drink for a few people I'd use the real thing.

Pour all the ingredients except the soda water into cocktail shaker without ice. Shake well to emulsify. Add ice and shake again, vigorously, for longer than seems appropriate. Strain into a high ball glass with ice and top up with soda water.

This drink is smooth, light and refreshing. You almost forget you're consuming gin at all. Gin Air, more like. Careful you don't overdo the citrus, as I almost did.

Regular readers, assuming such creatures exist, might recall my amazement on trying a variation of the Ramos Gin Fizz at 69 Colebrooke Row. This is nothing like the same recipe, since I suspect Colebrooke Row uses some kind of molecular alchemy to get its Fizz so incredibly airy and light. But it's a start.

FACT! When the Ramos Gin Fizz was at its peak of pre-prohibition popularity the New Orleans bar where it was invented employed "shaker boys" to make the drinks during busy periods. Like a Polaroid picture.

LOOK! Click here to watch cocktail expert Robert Hess make a Ramos Gin Fizz like only he can (brilliantly and very slowly).

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Kir Royale

Boulevard Brasserie

36 Wellington Street


This Kir Royale formed part of a French restaurant's set menu. The recipe is simply a splash of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) topped with champagne. I hope I'm not being too cynical in suspecting the champagne was probably a generic sparkling wine, to the disbenefit of nothing more than good manners and Trading Standards: as we all know, such a drink should properly be advertised as a Kir Pétillant. No matter, this was a good way of using fizz - with the dry bubbly and sweet blackcurrent playing well together.

Variations can switch out the crème de cassis in favour of de mûre (blackberry) or de pèche (peach), the latter sometimes known as a Kir Peche. A truncated Kir replaces the champagne with dry white wine.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Basilica Cafaggio (Chianti Classico)

Having enjoyed a deliciously chocolatey wine from Texas, made from 50% Sangiovese grapes, I challenged myself to go forth and seek out this grape for further scrutiny. And so, on a visit to M&S, I picked up a bottle of Basilica Cafaggio's Chianti Classico, made with 100% Sangiovese (a varietal, I believe they call it). I am happy to admit that my knowledge of wine is - how shall we say? - undeveloped, and my preferences rather vague, aside from a general fondness for Spanish riojas and Californian reds. So this was a wine mission into the unknown, inspired by that unforgettable line from All The President's Men: "Follow the grapes".

It soon became clear that Sangiovese, shorn of its accompanying Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and rendered as a Chianti Classico, is a very different cup of tea. This wine was acidic, dry; like tart cherries. Medium bodied and savory, rather than sweet, it tasted like essence of grape, without any of the oak and vanilla and chocolate and, well, fun stuff. I think the key word here may be tannic. To be reasonable, it did become more drinkable after a few gulps, and went much better with dinner (cheese). Still, this was unexpected.

FACT! Chianti Classico is one of eight districts of the Chianti wine region, in Italian Tuscany.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Woodchuck Cider (Pear)

Recent times have been good to pears. Not since the days of Babysham
has the fruit been such a powerful force in the world of booze. Sales of so-called "pear cider" have risen ten-fold in the past couple of years, led by brands like Magners, Brothers, Gaymers and Kopparberg. I'm a big fan of the Swedish Kopparberg in particular - quite sweet but very refreshing (no ice needed) but until recently my top choice was Woodchuck Pear, from Vermont, which has the sweet and the sharp working in harmony like a fine pear orchestra. I say "until recently", because I recently discovered that Woodchuck isn't even made from pears - it's an apple cider with added "natural pear flavoring". Is it unreasonable for me to feel cheated by this revelation? Can it really be a pear cider if the pear is merely an afterthought?

It turns out that controversy reigns in pear matters in a way probably unimagined outside the pear fraternity. A lot comes down to labeling. The traditional name for the pear-equivalent of apple cider is "perry". The National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) says a perry must be made from at least 75% pear juice (25% apple being tolerable). This is where things get complicated. Magners, for example, has based an entire (and entirely nauseating) advertising campaign around the claim that its pear drink is made from "100% pear" (a campaign mocked to death by Stewart Lee). But while the juice from which it is made may be all pear and no apple (or guava, for that matter), is that enough to secure it perry status? In a word - unlikely. The NACM prohibits the addition of sugar, colouring and flavouring, while Magners' fondness for sugar, colouring, malic acid and sulphites is a matter of record.

the purists, like Camra
, any industrially produced, carbonated, sugary substance is out of bounds; snubbed as nothing more than fizzy pear juice for the "inexperienced or undiscerning". For them, a proper perry must be produced naturally, from perry pears only, and neither carbonated nor pasteurised.

Where all this leaves Woodchuck's prospects, I'm not sure. Pear-shaped, presumably.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Vanilla Villain

The Hideout

617 Congress Avenue
Texas 78701

A brief stop to rest from the cold - and WAKE UP - before new year's celebrations went off demanded caffeine in some form. Being a dedicated experimentalist, I shunned the Americano and turned to a strange concoction called the Vanilla Villain. Described as a cappuccino with vanilla foam, this was simply a shot of expresso, several squirts of vanilla syrup and a giant cloud of dairy foam. But it was strong without being too rich - and nice and light. If this is villainy then 2010 will be okay.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Gluten Free Beer

Everyone should be able to drink beer, even gluten intolerants - no, especially gluten intolerants. But most beer is made with barley, which contains hordein, which presents problems for people with allergies. The answer could be Green's Gluten Free Beers, which hail from West Yorkshire and are made using "pseudo-cereals" sorghum, millet, buckwheat and brown rice.

But do they taste any good? I sampled Green's Quest Tripel Blonde in a bar in Texas, of all places. At 8.5% alcohol by volume, it packed too much punch for my palate - some interesting flavours, but ultimately more syrupy than refreshing - although I imagine it would have tasted fine with food.

 brews another seven beers, including some with a lower alcohol content (the 4% Herald, 4.7% Trailblazer and 5% Pioneer for starters), which are said to be available from a number of British supermarkets. Worth checking out, particularly if you're barley averse.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010


Texas Embassy
709 East 6th Street
Texas 78701

Manhattan cocktails have been a favourite of mine since I spent a happy evening getting to know them in an Austin bar last year (I like that many American bars are willing to try making cocktails, even if they're not on the menu).

The Manhattan is mainly whiskey, with some sweet vermouth and a couple of dashes of (Angostura) bitters to counter the sweetness. It's usually stirred well with ice then strained into a glass and served with a maraschino cherry.

The one pictured above, posing alongside some New Year tinsel, was made for me at Austin's Texas Embassy bar using smooth 'n' sweet Maker's Mark bourbon and, by the looks of it, shaken festively rather than stirred.

This was a highly partakable whiskey drink - and a far better cocktail than the so-called margarita I received shortly afterwards, which was so badly made I shudder at the memory. Bizarrely, if you're looking for a decent margarita at a Texas Embassy, you're better off heading to the one in London.

Manhattan Trivia: Make a Manhattan with Scotch whisky and it becomes a Rob Roy. A Dry Manhattan is made with dry vermouth instead of sweet vermouth and served with a twist of lemon. A Perfect Manhattan is made with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Pearl Light

The first time I saw a "light" beer for sale in the States I avoided it, fearing it meant low alcohol. I soon learned that generally, in the US at least, light usually means low calories (diet beer, anyone?). I still tend to avoid beers bearing this tag, but when M ordered a small (12oz) can of Pearl Light, brewed in Fort Worth, Texas, and weighing in at a tiny 68 calories, I snuck a taste. Watery! But what do you expect from a drink containing less energy than four jelly babies? Oh, and this one was low in alcohol too (just 2.2%). I'm afraid that Pearl Light may not, technically, be a good drink at all.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Root Beer

What is root beer? It's weird tasting. Or, as M would have it, "root beery". It says a lot about this non-alcoholic drink, which some claim predates cola, that one of its key ingredients - oil from the bark of the sassafras tree - was banned as a cancer risk in 1960. Shortly afterwards, producers found a way of removing the bad stuff, although these days artificial sassafras flavouring is often used instead, complemented by a range of other flavours and spices. But there's no common recipe.

Barq's (pictured above) is unusual in making its root beer with caffeine, its other ingredients listed as carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel colour, sodium benzoate, citric acid, artificial and natural flavours and the pod-bearing plant acacia. My tasting notes read: "Refreshing, sweet, caramel, liquorice and anise flavours, a medicinal aftertaste. Like Dr Pepper without the cherries."

Barq's has been making this stuff since 1898, and people keep buying it. It's certainly sharp and refreshing, and you can't say that about every drink. But it's still weird.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Fredericksburg Brewing Company

Fredericksburg Brewing Company
245 East Main Street

Texas 78624

I like the idea of a microbrewery with a beer hall attached. So
Fredericksburg Brewing Company was right up my alley. Surprisingly the guy behind the bar, who admittedly looked like a student, was a bit sniffy about letting us taste before we bought. But he succumbed to my British "charm" and I tried and buyed a pint of Peacepipe Pale. This was slightly carbonated, with a bitter finish. As with most American beers, it was served very chilled, presumably because it's normally insufferably hot outside. But I'm not sure - I think drinking ale ice cold deadens the flavours somewhat. Nevertheless, a reasonable drop. M ordered - and I drank most of - a pint of Honey Cream. This was a little thin. A mild taste of butter, with a slightly hoppy finish: an ale for people who aren't convinced about ale. At $9 for a brace of beers, this wasn't cheap by Texan standards, but if we hadn't been keen to check out some wine elsewhere we may have stayed to try a couple more.

Thursday, 7 January 2010


Snack Bar
1224 South Congress 
Texas 78704

*Guest post by Marina*

The michelada is a drink that sounds so curious I had to try it. Advertised as beer, spicy tomato juice, pepper and lime over ice, I was intrigued because I love bloody marys and this sounded similar but perhaps without the alcoholic kick. I was right. It's a much milder version of a bloody mary, with carbonation from the beer (in this case Mexican Pacifico Clara). It had a good finish from the spice and pepper and the lime added just the right amount of acidity. It was really easy to finish this drink, so it might be more dangerous than it looks...

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Lone Star Reserve

Put away your prejudices: there is such a thing as a fine Texan wine. I know for I have tried it. Admittedly, my eureka moment, on a visit to quaintish town Fredericksburg in the heart of the Hill Country wine region, followed more than half a dozen tastes of sickly sweet reds that I wouldn't have wished on anyone.

But the Lone Star Reserve (Super Texan), from D'Vine Wine, was worth the wait. Barrel aged for over six months, this wine is a blend of 50% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot, and boasts flavours of American oak, chocolate and a hint of plums.

I wanted a bottle but the $34.95 price tag put me off. Fortunately, D'Vine, which ships grape juice in from suppliers before crafting its own wines on site, also sold Lone Star Reserve by the glass - or by takeaway plastic cup.

I know plastic cups are strictly frowned upon as wine vessells, and usually I'd agree, but the prospect of walking down Main Street drinking freely in a way that could see me arrested in less hospitable parts of Texas was too great a temptation.

As I wandered with my cup of Lone Star, it was the chocolate that stood out first - this is a highly sniffable wine. Tasting revealed flavours of black cherries and sturdy oak. It was rich, to be sure, but without the cloying sweetness of others I'd tried. You might even have described it as light bodied, had you been there.

The winery suggests trying Lone Star Reserve with smoked brisket, and I say it would be churlish not to. Until then, I plan to acquiant myself more thoroughly with Sangiovese, the Italian grape variety that functions as Lone Star's main ingredient, and to which I have hitherto paid little attention.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Blue Moon

I'm not a huge fan of white beers but for some reason I can't get enough of Blue Moon Belgian White. Brewed in the US state of Colorado, using orange peel and coriander alongside white wheat and oat, this beer is full of flavour yet incredibly smooth and refreshing at the same time. More superficially, I love the striking design of the bottle and the fact it's served with a slice of orange, which brings out the spices and subtle fruit. Unquestionably my top choice of American beer, so far.

HELP! Anyone know which pubs, if any, serve Blue Moon in London? If you find it anywhere please get in touch.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Coffee (Unlimited)

"Coffee?" I hear you ask, full of doubt. "Since when has a bog-standard cup of ground beans and hot water represented a bloggably Good Drink?" When it costs $2 (£1.20), including unlimited refills from a friendly waiter, and tastes amazing. This one (or three) came from Kerbey Lane Cafe, in Austin, but it might have come from any number of places in the States. I've only ever seen the bottomless coffee cup in London once or twice (including in Borders bookshop, weirdly) and I say it's time Britons started demanding it more often. Right is surely on our side. Until that time a never-ending supply of reasonably priced quality coffee is secured across the capital, perhaps we should strive to support those establishments already doing it the American way.

HELP! Know any places in London offering free coffee refills? Please let me know in the comments!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Tequila Flights

Iron Cactus
10001 Stonelake Blvd 
Texas 78759

Never mind flights "of fancy" - the only flights that matter can be found at one of Austin's Iron Cactus tequila bars. The menu presented me with a bewildering choice of silver, reposado (rested) and anejo (aged) varieties from more than a dozen distilleries. These could be bought individually in two-ounce pours, or as flights of three smaller half-ounce pours, ordered by distillery or by mixing and matching more randomly.

To start I went for a Milagro flight ($8.75). I'd never tried any of its tequilas previously, having been slightly put off by its tacky packaging, but it was one of our waitress's recommendations, and I decided it's just not right to judge a tequila by its bottle. The three Milagro shots (if these were half-ounce pours they were generous ones) arrived on  a metal tray with lime wedges and (nice touch, this) a flip chart describing the drinks laid before me (pictured right). They truly know the way to a drink geek's heart/wallet.

My own sipping notes recall Milagro's silver as smooth and sweet with noticeable vanilla as well as agave flavours. The reposado - aged for six months in oak - retained the character of the silver while adding even more smoothness. My brief note on the anejo (aged for 18 months) was "woody - but not Scotch". This was in response to an unfortunate flip chart claim that Milagro's aged tequila gave "a sense of a fine Scotch or Cognac", a comparison that did the drink few favours since it reminded me that when it comes to depth and complexity, tequila - at least the ones I've tried - is still the immature sibling to a decent single malt. Nevertheless, taken as they are, Milagro's tequilas are fine spirits, and I want some more.

Next, I decided to mix it up a bit, ordering reposados from three distilleries - El Tesoro, Don Julio and Patron (total cost about $10). I have a bottle of El Tesoro's silver at home and like how the spicy taste of the agave plant really comes through. The reposado retained most of this intensity while adding oak and vanilla - a top drink. The Don Julio was a big surprise, since it tasted strongly of chocolate (a decent dessert tequila?) and the Patron - one of the most mainstream of premium tequilas - was frankly boring.

The only downer on our visit to the Iron Cactus - one of five across Texas - was our poor timing: we arrived just as the karaoke night was starting up. Luckily, it takes more than dreadful singing to spoil good tequila.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

New Mexican Martini

11680 Research Blvd
Texas 78759

The New Mexican Martini, which I discovered at Austin Tex-Mex favourite Chuy's, is an astonishing drink, involving green chili-infused El Jimador silver tequila, Cointreau and fresh lime juice. It was served in a shaker full of ice alongside a salt-rimmed martini glass and a garnish of jalapeno-stuffed olives. The chili in the tequila was subtle, but definitely present, and the sweet orange Cointreau, bitter lime and salt rim combined to commit a serious sensory assault on the taste buds. While it resembled a margarita, this was stronger and less sweet - a little more grown up. The way the drink was served kept it cold - pretty important in Texas - and the pecuniary damage was a reasonable $7.75 (4.80 sterling). Despite all the above, I only wanted one of these, the chili heat making multiple servings less appealing. But as a pre-dinner platform for tequila, particularly when that dinner has the word Mex in it, this will fill you with wonder or nothing will.

Buy El Jimador tequila from The Drink Shop here.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Matcha Green Tea Blast

Jamba Juice
600 Congress Ave. #G280

The scary-looking green stuff in the polystyrene cup, obtained from US fruit smoothie merchant 
Jamba Juice, was an excruciatingly cold but tasty beverage, made by blending matcha (powdered green tea), soya milk, plain sorbet, non-fat vanilla frozen yoghurt and ice. I got a 16oz serving, the "small" size (costing $4.25 - around 2.60 sterling), but in true American style they were also offering a 32oz cup - that's two pints! Jamba likes to stress the alleged health benefits of the green tea, which also provides a 75mg caffeine lift in each serving, but the Matcha Green Tea Blast tasted more indulgent than worthy. The guy making mine suggested adding banana at home, and I would also have left out the sorbet, which probably made it sweeter than I needed. For me, this drink was badly timed (brainfreeze in December is not necessarily pleasant, even in Texas) but it was good value, and further welcome evidence that the future will be made of frozen yoghurt.