January 2013 14
Whisky, Red Wine, Beer and Health Benefits
It’s true that alcohol, when consumed in excess, is bad for you and can cause a massive range of health and social problems, from cirrhosis of the liver to families breaking up among other things. However, when alcohol is enjoyed responsibly, in moderation, it can actually benefit your health. Here’s a look at some of the surprising ways whisky, red wine, and beer can make you a healthier person.
One of life’s little luxuries is a bit of good, single-malt Scotch whisky. Along with being fat free and extremely low in carbohydrates, two drams or servings of whisky or any other type of alcohol will lower your chances of developing dementia or having a stroke by 50 percent. Furthermore, the risk of developing diabetes can be reduced up to 40%; this is due to alcohol’s ability to increase your body’s “good” cholesterol levels and decrease blood clots.
Another thing that alcohol is good for is fighting cancer; it contains ellagic acid, a chemical that destroys cells that are cancerous. Scotch whisky is the type of alcohol that contains the highest amount of ellagic acid, so don’t be afraid to have one or two ounces per day. You’ll be decreasing your risk of developing cancer.
If you’re watching your weight, whisky is probably better for you than drinking wine or other types of alcohol: whisky only has 55 calories per serving. To compare, red wine has about 90 calories, and a serving of light beer contains around 100.
Drinking a moderate amount of red wine is also very good for your health. It contains a staggering number of antioxidants and is claimed to have an anti-aging effect. The rejuvenating properties were so well publicized that there were even spas that began offering red-wine facials and baths; however, it appears as though the wine needs to actually be consumed in order for a benefit to occur. Facials and baths have the annoying tendency of staining your skin, so they are best avoided.
The main benefit of drinking red wine appears to be a healthy heart. Thanks to resveratrol and other antioxidants, red wine reduces the risk of developing heart and cardiovascular disease. Resveratrol has also been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease; other studies have shown that it can also contribute towards a longer lifespan.
Having a glass of red wine that’s rich in melatonin may also help you get a good night’s sleep. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chianti are varietals that contain the substance which regulates the body clock, so a glad before bedtime might be a good idea if you want better rest. Melatonin is also an antioxidant, which means it has anti-aging properties and can help prevent cancer.
As mentioned above, red wine can help prevent cancer. Researchers from Spain’s Santiago de Compostela University found that a glass of red wine per day reduces the risk of developing lung cancer by 13 percent. The overall risk for men developing prostate cancer is cut by 50% by drinking four or more glasses of red wine every seven days, and moderate red wine consumption can cut women’s risk of breast cancer. However, women must be very careful not to overindulge; too much red wine can actually increase the risk of breast cancer, so it’s best to keep to only one or two servings of red wine per day.
Interestingly, researchers also found that people who drink more than two glasses of red wine per day don’t catch colds as often as people who don’t drink wine at all.
Finally, red wine, because of the presence of the already-mentioned resveratrol and saponins, has anti-inflammatory properties and can lower LDL cholesterol.
When it comes to health and fitness, beer usually isn’t the first substance that comes to mind. Beer is associated with the infamous “beer belly”, weight gain, and Homer Simpson. While beer does have negative effects when too much is consumed, when it’s taken in moderation, it has some truly stunning health benefits.
Most surprising is the fact that drinking one beer a day for women and two beers a day for men can make your bones stronger. Because beer is high in silicon, moderate drinking gives your bones a boost. However, drinking more than the recommended amount can put you at a higher risk for suffering a fracture. Again, moderation is the key!
A pint of beer a day also appears to be good for your heart by reducing the risk of heart disease by about 30 percent. Having one or two beers also appears to contribute to an increase in your body’s levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol.
One or two beers a day can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 25%. However, once again researchers showed that consuming more than 2 beers had absolutely no benefit in this department.
Beer drinking seems to be particularly good for women; along with the other health benefits of a pint a day, women 25-40 years of age are less likely to develop high blood pressure.
Whisky, Red Wine and Beer
All three types of alcohol contribute towards longevity and a better quality of life if and only if consumed in moderation. In fact, some researchers boldly state that if Europeans stopped drinking their one or two beers a day, life expectancy on the continent would decrease by two years. Happiness, it is suspected, would also decrease drastically.
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What exactly is One Serving or Unit of Alcohol?
Alcoholic beverages are kind of funny when it comes to serving sizes and measurements, and there does seem to be a persisting belief that all drinks containing alcohol contain the exact same amount of inebriant. To many, a glass of wine, a glass of scotch, a glass of alcopop, and a glass of beer will all have the same effect, and this can and does quite often lead to disastrous results.
After downing a glass of hard liquor, a person might claim “I’m not drunk, I’ve only had one drink”, but their behaviour and blood alcohol levels will beg to differ. Likewise, a person who is naive about alcohol may emphatically state “I’m so wasted, I’ve had an entire glass of beer” and may delude themselves into thinking that they are indeed drunk.
There is a lot of confusion in the media and in the general public about what constitutes “one serving” of alcohol, and the confusion gets even worse when some official organizations start talking about “units” of alcohol. Here we will define exactly what one “serving” and one “unit” mean so that you can make wiser choices when going out with friends or staying at home and enjoying a few drinks in good company.
Alcohol by Volume (ABV) versus Proof
First of all, while it may be common sense to some, one glass of beer does not equal one glass of wine or a glass of hard liquor; each type of drink contains different alcohol content. This is why you won’t feel much if you have a glass of beer but will feel very drunk if you have a glass of undiluted, straight gin or vodka. Beer usually has 4.7 percent alcohol by volume, or ABV. Wine contains anywhere from 11 percent to 14 percent alcohol by volume, and hard liquor such as vodka, gin, rum, and tequila will contain 35 to 40 percent ABV. Some hard liquor and liqueurs will contain even more, with some being up to 54 percent ABV. This means that a glass of rum will contain far more alcohol than a glass of beer or wine.
In the United States, along with the ABV measurement, they will sometimes use the term “proof”, which is defines as being twice the ABV. Hence, a rum that has a 40 percent ABV may also be called “80 proof”. The famous Bacardi 151 is 151 proof and contains 75.5 percent ABV. The high concentration of alcohol is what makes it flammable.
One Serving Measure
One serving or one standard drink of alcohol will contain 0.6 fluid ounces or 17.8 millilitres of pure alcohol. This translates to:
• 12 ounces or 355 mlof standard 4.5 percent ABV beer or wine cooler
• 8 ounces or 237 ml of malt liquor
• 5 ounces or 178 ml of table wine
• 3.5 ounces or 103 ml of fortified wine such as sherry or port wine with a 17 percent ABV
• 2.5 ounces or 74 ml of cordial, liqueur, aperitif or digestif with a 24% ABV
• 1.5 ounces or 44 ml of “hard liquor” with 40 percent ABV such as most commercially available rum, gin, vodka, brandy, and tequila.
One Unit Measure – United Kingdom and Australia
In the United Kingdom and Australia, a unit of alcohol is defined as a measure of the volume of pure alcohol in an alcoholic beverage. In the U.K., one unit is equal to 10 millilitres of pure alcohol, while in Australia one unit is defined as 10 grams (12.7 ml) of alcohol. In Great Britain, the number of alcohol units will be published on the container’s label.
For a healthy adult, 75% of an Australian unit can be metabolized in an hour, and 95% of a U.K. unit can be metabolized in the same amount of time.
If you’re in the United Kingdom, and find yourself in a pub, you can do a quick calculation of the number of alcohol units. For example, a pint of beer contains 568 millilitres. Multiply the volume of the drink by the ABV percent, which, in this case, is 4 % (but keep in mind ABV varies from beer to beer). Then divide the number by 1000.
(568 X4) / 1000 = 2.3 units
Because most beers in the U.K. have an ABV of more than 4 percent, a pint will have almost 3 units of alcohol.
Here are the units of alcohol that typical popular beverages will contain:
• A large glass of wine will contain about 3 units, while a smaller glass (175 ml) will only have two.
• A small glass (50 ml) of sherry will contain approximately one unit of alcohol.
• A 25 ml measure of hard liquor such as vodka or rum will contain one unit.
• A 35 ml measure of hard liquor (common in pubs) will contain 1.4 units.
• Alcopops, which are pre-mixed cocktails consisting of hard liquor/grain alcohol and juice or pop, usually contain 1.4 to 1.5 units of alcohol per bottle.
The government of the U.K. recommends that men drink no more than four units of alcohol per day, while women should drink no more than three.
In Canada, the recommended maximum is two standard drinks per day for men, and two standard drinks per day for women with a weekly total of nine.
In the United States, for both men and women, it is recommended that no more than one standard drink per day is consumed.
In Australia, the government recommends no more than two Australian units per day for both men and women.
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Top Ten Non-Alcoholic Cocktails for Designated Drivers
Is it your turn to be the designated driver for your group’s next big night out? Don’t worry, just because you can’t drink alcohol doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. You also won’t be stuck sipping plain soda and lime or soft drinks; here are some of the best non-alcoholic cocktails you’ll be able to enjoy while assuring your party that everyone will get home safe and sound.
10. Orange-Lime Mocktail
1 highball glass, chilled
2.5 ounces orange juice
1 ounce lime juice
5 ounces Sprite or 7-up
1 wedge of lime for garnish
Pour the sprite into a chilled cocktail shaker, add the orange and lime juices, and shake well. Pour into the chilled highball glass, and garnish with a wedge of lime or an orange slice.
9. Shirley Temple
1 Highball glass, full of ice cubes
Dash of lime syrup
Sprite or 7 up
Fill glass 1/3 with orange juice. Add some pineapple juice and a dash of lime syrup. Fill the glass with sprite or 7up. Top with grenadine. Garnish with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.
8. Roy Rogers
1 Highball glass, full of ice cubes
Dash of lime syrup
Fill glass 1/3 with orange juice. Add some pineapple juice and a dash of lime syrup. Fill the glass with Coca-cola. Top with grenadine. Garnish with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.
7. Strawberry Piña Colada Mocktail
1 Cocktail or wine glass or Highball glass
1 cup crushed ice
2 ounces coconut milk
3 ounces pineapple juice
2 tablespoons strawberry syrup
1 tablespoon sugar syrup
Handful fresh strawberries
Cinnamon stick and orange slice for garnish.
Put ice, coconut milk, pineapple juice, sugar syrup, strawberry syrup and strawberries into blender or shaker. Shake well, do not strain. Pour into glass. Garnish with orange slice and cinnamon stick.
6. Mock Margarita
Do not make the mistake of thinking that simply throwing some pre-made margarita mix into a blender with some ice will make a great non-alcoholic drink. Many of these mixes have strange aftertastes and are simply too sweet. The best solution is to make your own mock margarita from scratch.
1 cocktail glass, rimmed with coarse sea salt
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice (use more for a more tart drink)
2 ounces of freshly squeezed orange juice (adjust to your liking)
1 teaspoon or sugar (again adjust to your liking)
About 3.4 cup ice
Place all ingredients into a blender, and blend well. Adjust the amount of lime juice or orange juice according to your personal preference. Pour into the cocktail glass, and garnish with a slice of lime.
To make this a fruit margarita, simply add a handful of fresh or frozen fruit, and use a sugared rim instead of a salted one.
5. Karachi Lemonade
1 tall glass
1 ounce of lime or lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Sugar to taste
Pinch of salt
Carbonated mineral water
Place the lime juice, sugar, and salt in the glass and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the carbonated mineral water and ice cubes, stir and serve. An excellent drink when it’s hot outside.
4. Rail Splitter
1 tall glass
1 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 teaspoons sugar syrup or plain sugar
Mix the lemon juice and sugar together in a tall glass. Once the sugar has dissolved, fill glass with ginger ale and add ice cubes if desired.
3. Spicy Mock Salty Dog
1 cocktail glass, rimmed with coarse sea salt
3 ounces grapefruit juice
1 dash Tabasco sauce
1 small pinch cayenne pepper
Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake well, at least 30 seconds, strain and pour into a salt-rimmed cocktail glass.
2. Tamarind Mocktail
1 tall glass
1 teaspoon of tamarind paste with seeds removed (see method below)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 generous pinch of salt
1 generous pinch of cayenne pepper
Water or soda water
Mix the tamarind paste with sugar, salt, and cayenne pepper in the bottom of a tall glass. Fill the glass with water or soda water, and add ice cubes if desired.
There are many tamarind pastes available on the market that do not contain seeds; however if the paste is hard are there are seeds, you’ll just need to follow a few short steps. Take about a tablespoon of the paste, place it in a bowl, and pour some hot water over it. Stir, and a few minutes later, you’ll be able to remove the seeds and the paste will be ready to use.
And our number one non-alcoholic cocktail is…
The Mock Caesar
This classic Canadian cocktail is the perfect non-alcoholic drink; it’s tasty without being too thick, it’s spicy without being overpowering, and it is excellent for those who want something other than the run-of-the-mill sugary non-boozy offerings. It’s also much more flavorful than the world-renowned Bloody Mary due to the use of clamato juice instead of plain tomato juice. If clamato juice is not available in your area, please see the note below.
1 Highball glass or tulip glass, rimmed with celery salt and filled with ice cubes.
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, not syrup
3-4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2-3 drops Tabasco sauce
Celery stick for garnish
Pour the lime juice, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces and Clamato juice over the ice cubes, and stir. Add a dash of salt and pepper if you like, and garnish with a wedge of lime and a celery stick. For better visual effect, use a stalk that still has leaves on it.
If you cannot get clamato juice in your area, you can make your own by mixing tomato juice and the juice from a tin of prepared clams.
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The Best Margarita Mixes: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
We all want to be star bartenders when we give a party at home; however, because of the number of guests it may very well be impossible to make fancy frozen drinks from scratch with fresh ingredients. Time becomes of the essence and instead of making the perfect cocktail, guests simply want a cocktail that tastes good. One of the ways you can cut down on your drink-making time at your party is to use packaged mixes; this way your guests can have a tasty drink and you’ll be able to enjoy your get-together and chat with your friends instead of slaving away behind your home bar.
The most popular cocktail in North America to serve to men and women at parties is the famous Margarita. It can be a sweet “girly” drink by simply adding fruit and substituting a salted rim for a sugared one; the original version with its combination of tequila, sweet, sour and salty pleases even the most macho of guests. Here is our selection of the best Margarita mixes to use at your next house party.
This sugary-sweet mix, while it isn’t nearly as good as a freshly-made drink, is still good enough to use when you’re pressed for time. Although it doesn’t contain any juice, reviewers state that it’s tart enough to go well with salt. It does have a slight chemical aftertaste, and people who’ve tried say that cocktails made with it taste like hard lemonade.
Ingredients include water, corn syrup, citric acid, sodium citrate, cellulose gum for texture, gum acacia, natural flavors, preservatives, and food coloring.
Williams-Sonoma Key Lime
This offering has a few more organic ingredients and items that are a bit more recognizable as edible; although it tastes strongly of orange rather than limes, it’s good enough to serve at a party. One of the more unexpected flavors from this mix is the faint taste of honey, and reviewers say that “it hits the spot”.
Ingredients include filtered water, organic agave syrup (to highlight the taste of the tequila), sugar, tangerine juice, key lime juice, citric acid, natural flavors, key lime extract and ascorbic acid which serves as a preservative.
Jose Cuervo Original Margarita Mix
From the makers of Jose Cuervo tequila, this pre-made mix does the job and is recommended for people who prefer their margaritas on the sweeter side. Described as “yummy juice”, it is also a bit salty to bring some balance to the cocktail and also keeps the drink from tasting more like a sweet daiquiri.
Key ingredients include water, high fructose corn syrup, wine, citric acid, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate, cellulose gum, natural flavors, food coloring and preservatives.
Master of Mixes
Although this mix makes a cocktail that tastes more like a sweet lemonade and definitely needs more lime flavor, it still works for party situations. It has key lime notes, but some reviewers claim it tastes of chemicals.
The list of ingredients for this pre-packaged mix include water and high fructose corn syrup, lime juice and lemon juice from concentrate, citric acid, sugar, natural flavors, agave nectar, corn starch, and an entire host of chemicals that act as preservatives and colorants.
Mr. & Mrs. T Margarita Mix
This mix has been generously described as strangely floral and soapy. Some tasters claim the sweet to sour ratio is good, but most think the mix is simply far too sweet. Unless you like sugary and soapy margaritas, you’re better off giving this one a pass. The only natural ingredient in this mix appears to be agave nectar.
Daily’s Margarita Mix
Overpoweringly sweet with absolutely no lime taste, Daily’s actually makes the world’s most refreshing cocktail cloying, heavy, and no fun to drink. The only reason why a person should serve this at a party is absolutely nothing else is available.
Bacardi Margarita Mix
Sold as concentrate to which water and tequila are added, Bacardi’s mix looks beautiful and makes a handsome cocktail. However, that is as far as it goes; where taste is concerned, it’s a sugar bomb while being overwhelmingly sour. It tastes too much like the sour candies we used to eat as children.
TGI Friday’s Margarita Blenders
This one leaves a waxy residue in your mouth and tastes of chemicals like those found in bug spray. Enough said!
Skinny Girl Margarita
Skinny Girl Margarita isn’t technically a mix; it’s a pre-made bottled cocktail, ready to pour. It’s on our list because it should never be served, no matter how much of a rush you’re in at your party. Although it’s heavily hyped in the media because it’s the brainchild of “Real Housewives of NYC” star Bethenny Frankel, the truth is the beverage is awful. Generous reviewers call the drink “watery”, while others complained the cocktail tasted of onions. The citrus flavor is too heavy, the chemical aftertaste strong, and Skinny Girl Margarita also has the delightful taste of soap.
Both of the “ugly” margarita mixes do come in handy, though; if you want to shut the party down and go to bed, these two mixes will certainly encourage guests to leave!
Remember that Fresh is Always Best
Margarita mixes, no matter how good they are, will never be as good as freshly made cocktails. If you’ve got the time, then make them from scratch. However, if you don’t, then don’t panic; our selections in the “good” category will do. If you can’t find these mixes in your local shops, just remember this rule of thumb: margarita mixes that contain alcohol will usually not taste good. Go for the ones where you need to add alcohol yourself.
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What’s the Difference between Champagne and Sparkling Wine?
When it comes to special occasions, everybody likes a glass of bubbly to celebrate in style. Champagne is the first thing that comes to mind when milestones are reached and nothing evokes the image of luxury more than sound of a champagne cork popping. However, there are some misconceptions about Champagne and sparkling white wine. Ask a person on the street if there is a difference, and the typical answer will be that sparkling white wine is cheap and inferior while Champagne is the more refined beverage. This is not necessarily true, and here we will explain why.
Champagne is a sparkling wine that comes from the French region named “Champagne”, hence the name. Standards of wine labeling in France are a little bit different than in other wine regions of the world: while other countries will use the name of the grape varietal, French wines will use the name of the region where the grapes were grown.
In almost all countries of the world, “Champagne” must be made from grapes grown in the Champagne region and fermented using a prescribed method which is based on international trademark agreements outlined in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles.
Sparkling wine is the exact same thing as Champagne; it is simply produced in other regions of the world. Many times, the method used to produce sparkling wine is exactly the same that is used in Champagne, France. However, as mentioned above, the name or “appellation” Champagne is legally protected; hardly any other countries are allowed to call their product Champagne.
However, in the United States, due to national labeling laws, it is legal for wine producers to call their sparkling wines “champagne”.
Is There a Difference in Quality?
While at first glance, many people might say no, all sparkling wines are the same, but the truth is that quality can range from terrible to absolutely sublime. First of all, there are many reasons why Champagne is considered to be the King of All Wines. All Champagne is basically made the same way and all production is held to an incredibly high standard; furthermore, any Champagne, even one that is relatively inexpensive, will be considered to be the finest of the fine wines.
This means that no matter what bottle of Champagne you choose, you’re going to be happy; and even though the entry-level Champagnes are great, the more expensive ones simply get better the higher the price is.
On the other hand, sparkling wines, because they only need to be “fizzy” and aren’t held to the same high standards, can range from truly awful to simply beautiful. One of the reasons why some sparkling wines can taste so bad is that they are not made by the same methods as Champagne. The French product takes years to make, while imitation champagne and inferior sparkling wines only need a few months.
Therefore, in general terms, Champagne is a sparkling wine, but not all wines that sparkle are Champagne.
How do I Select a Good Sparkling Wine or Champagne?
First of all, avoid half bottles or the tiny single serving bottles of champagne or sparkling wine. They are simply not worth it; they’re usually not fresh and won’t taste good. Always get a full-sized bottle or better yet, get a magnum, which is the equivalent of two bottles. Larger bottles let the Champagne age more gently. Some of the best Champagne and sparkling wine will come in a double magnum.
Champagne comes in a range from bone-dry to super-sweet. As a rule of thumb, any Champagne with the word “Brut” on the label will mean that it is dry to extra dry; “Sec” means medium dry, while “Doux” means sweet. As mentioned earlier, due to high production standards, all Champagne will be expensive but well worth the money.
Cava is sparkling wine from Spain. Although it is very good quality, it is not produced with the same hand-made method; the process is mechanized. This means that the price will be a fraction of those of French Champagnes. Cava tends to be dry with a hint of green apples and smoke. If budget is a concern, then Cava might be the best sparkling wine for you to try.
Prosecco from Italy is a sweeter sparkling wine that is also made differently from Champagne and Cava. This is a very good wine for casual sipping, and is very affordable. Professional wine reviewers like the fruity flavors and state that this is an excellent alternative to Champagne if price is a concern.
Asti is another Italian sparkling wine that is sweet, affordable, and quite low in alcohol content. For those who like sweet wines, Asti is a balanced sparkler that is never cloying. It only contains half the amount of alcohol that Champagne has.
Crémant sparkling wine from France is the one you want to try if you can’t afford Champagne but still want something of superior quality. Basically, it is the same as Champagne, made with the same methods but the grape varietals used may be different. The average price for a bottle of Crémant is about $20 USD, an absolute bargain for the quality of wine you get.
Sparkling Wines to Avoid
A good rule of thumb is that there are plenty of good sparkling wines that are under $20 USD. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get good quality. You do however, need to spend something. Dirt-cheap sparkling wines usually have a low alcohol content and will taste like fizzy soft drinks, cloyingly sweet and pinkish in color. They are made with the lowest common denominator when it comes to quality. With all the affordable and beautiful-tasting sparkling wines on the market, there’s no reason to select something that will leave you unsatisfied and unhappy!
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The Top 5 Hot Drinks for Cold Weather
When it’s snowing outside and the temperatures dip below the freezing point, there’s nothing nicer than coming back indoors and enjoying a nice hot beverage. Instead of having a regular cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate, why not jazz things up a bit with one of our top five hot cocktails?
5. Blueberry Tea
This drink is an old-fashioned, sophisticated classic; while present-day bartenders may not be familiar with it, the recipe is easy enough to describe and it can be made at home in a jiffy.
1 brandy snifter (a footed glass with a large bowl), with a sugared rim
1 ounce Grand Marnier
1 ounce Amaretto
Hot black tea, unsweetened (orange pekoe or Assam black tea work best)
Slice of orange for garnish
For maximum aroma and flavor, first warm the glass by pouring in hot (not boiling) water, and let it sit for a minute or two, then empty out the water and sugar the rim. Pour in the Grand Marnier, Amaretto, and fill the glass with the hot brewed tea. Garnish with a slice of orange. Perfect for those who want a winter warmer that isn’t heavy with cream or other thick liquids. The caffeine from the tea will also work as a pick-me-up to help you recover from the cold.
For an extra special treat, use Earl Grey tea instead of a plain black version. Herbal tea may also be used.
4. Spanish Coffee
This timeless after-dinner dessert drink also is perfect after an evening walk in the snow or cold weather. To get the best flavors, only use freshly brewed drip coffee because instant coffee will taste somewhat metallic.
1 coffee mug or pousse-cafe glass, with a sugared rim
1 ounce Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
1 ounce white or silver unaged rum (Bacardi works best)
Black, freshly brewed coffee
Orange slice for garnish
Warm the coffee mug first by pouring some hot water in it and leaving it for about 30 seconds. Remove the water, sugar the rim, and add the Kahlua and Bacardi rum. Fill the mug with hot black coffee, and top with whipped cream. Garnish with an orange.
To make the Spanish Coffee a bit more elaborate, drizzle some Kahlua over top of the whipped cream and add a maraschino cherry.
3. Hot Toddy
A favorite with the older generation, this is a beautiful hot drink that should not be ignored by the younger crowd. The combination of spices and hard liquor will warm you up, and anecdotal evidence exists that a hot toddy can help alleviate some of the symptoms of a common cold.
1 coffee mug or pousse-cafe glass
1 ounce blended whisky
2 teaspoons honey (add more to taste)
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 slice of lemon
In a pot, boil the water with the spices and slice of lemon, let simmer for a few minutes so that the spices infuse the water. In the coffee mug, add the whiskey and honey, stir. Add the spiced water, serve, and enjoy.
2. Hot Buttered Rum
Another old-time favorite hot drink, hot buttered rum is an absolute delight to drink on cold, wet, and windy days. White unaged rum can be used, but if you want a cocktail that will delight your taste buds and knock your socks off, try the dark, spiced rum that comes from the West Indies.
1 coffee mug
1 or two ounces of dark spiced rum
1 teaspoon butter
1 or 2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 slice of lemon
1 star anise
Boil the water in a pot with the spices and lemon slice. While everything is simmering, place the butter and brown sugar in the coffee mug, and muddle the two together. Add the spiced hot water, and add the rum. Give everything a stir and enjoy.
And our choice for the best hot drink for cold weather is…
Polar Bear Hot Chocolate
This is the grown up version of a drink we all grew up with; hot chocolate. Nothing in the world beats a creamy smooth hot chocolate topped with a spoonful of whipped cream; here’s how to make it with a delightful adult twist. The Polar Bear is more than likely to become your new favorite winter-time beverage. It can be made with a pre-packaged instant hot chocolate powder, but it is simply phenomenal when made from scratch.
1 coffee mug
1 ounce white crème de menthe liqueur or Koskenkorva Minttu if available
1 ounce chocolate liqueur
5 or six ounces of milk
2 or 3 pieces of semi-sweet chocolate
Orange slice and maraschino cherry for garnish
Warm the milk in a pan, and add the pieces of chocolate, stirring often until the chocolate is melted and you have basic hot chocolate. Add the Koskenkorva Minttu and chocolate liqueur to the mug, then pour in the hot chocolate. Stir briefly, then top with whipping cream, and garnish with an orange slice and maraschino cherry.
To add to this drink’s wow factor, drizzle a small amount of green crème de menthe liqueur on top of the whipped cream and top with the maraschino cherry; the combination of white, green and red will make the drink look like a gorgeous liquid peppermint candy.
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A Canadian Delight: Home-made Maple Syrup Liqueur
When most people think about Canada, their thoughts will usually run to some of the country’s most famous (or infamous) culinary and cultural exports; Canadian back bacon, Celine Dion and Justin Bieber (who do tend to act like hams during live shows), ice hockey, butter tarts, Nanaimo bars and William Shatner.
Fortunately, there are some other things that Canadians are good for that can compliment or make up for the other exports, and one of the most important things is maple syrup. Sweet and uniquely flavoured, for centuries it was the only sweetener available in North America and was used to make maple butter, candies, sweets, cakes, and deliciously enough, cocktails and liqueurs.
Maple syrup liqueur isn’t exactly a huge industry in Canada; this is probably because good home-made liqueur can be made at home. Quite soon though, as international demand for all things maple syrup increases, we can be sure to see our liquor store shelves festooned with bottles of commercially produced maple syrup liqueur.
Although quite rare, there are some commercially available specimens: N.V. Maison des Futailles Sortilège Maple Syrup and Canadian Whiskey Liqueur from Quebec is one that is building a good reputation for itself. If you can’t find the deliciousness that is a maple syrup liqueur in your area, there’s no need to despair; you can easily make it at home yourself.
Making Maple Syrup Liqueur at Home
The recipe itself is easy: Just get a clean jar with a lid that seals properly, or a bottle that can be corked, and pour in one cup of Canadian rye whiskey and one cup of maple syrup. Close the jar, and give everything a good shake, then put it in the refrigerator for about two weeks. It will then be ready to serve.
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Well, before you run out and buy a bottle of Aunt Jemima pancake syrup and a bottle of generic Canadian rye whiskey, you have to keep in mind that the liqueur making process will only work if you use proper ingredients. The syrup that you usually put on pancakes at a breakfast restaurant usually doesn’t contain maple syrup at all; it just contains hi-fructose corn syrup and some maple flavoring. If you use this in your recipe, you’ll end up with something that will taste overpoweringly sweet with not much flavor.
Real maple syrup must be used. This is the stuff that’s usually three or four or even five times the price of Mrs. Butterworth’s Pancake Syrup, and it’s pricier for good reason. Maple syrup is a pure ingredient; no additives or preservatives are added to it. Real maple syrup comes from Eastern Canada – namely Quebec and Vermont in the north-eastern United States. Maple syrup is also produced in Ontario, Canada and in the American state of Maine. It comes in various grades and has a very strong flavor that almost all find incredibly tasty. The highest grade of maple syrup is Grade A Light Amber, which is delicate, sweet and floral; however, if you want a liqueur with a strong maple note, then you might want to go for a grade B syrup: in general terms, the darker the syrup, the stronger the maple taste.
As far as rye whiskey is concerned, get a good one. Crown Royal is almost always a winner and can be enjoyed on its own, and Canadian Club is also a good
By mixing top quality maple syrup and rye whiskey, you’ll get a terrific tasting and uniquely Canadian liqueur.
But How do you Drink Maple Liqueur?
There are several ways to drink maple liqueur. Because it is a very warm flavor, it’s probably a drink to consume during the winter time or on wet, rainy days. The best way to drink it is neat, served in a nice port wine glass or footed shot glass. It can also be served on the rocks.
A traditional favorite way to drink the homemade liqueur is to make a fancy coffee with it. If you’ve got maple sugar, use it to rim a coffee mug. Simply pour in some freshly brewed coffee, add one or two ounces of the liqueur, and top with some whipped cream.
Maple liqueur also makes an interesting substitute for Kahlua in the cocktail known as a Paralyzer. In a glass full of ice cubes, simply pour in ½ ounce of vodka, 1.5 ounces of maple liqueur, and pour in some Coca-cola until almost the top of the glass. Float some Half&Half or whole-fat milk on top, and garnish with a slice of lime.
Maple Ginger & Rye
A hiball drink that’s very common is rye and ginger ale. The two flavours go together perfectly, making a drink that’s smooth with just a hint of sweetness, making it perfect for people who find rum and coke to be too sugary. Maple liqueur would be a great addition; however to make the most of the flavors and avoid too much of a sugar flavor, it should be made in a tall glass.
Simply fill a very tall glass with ice cubes, pour one or two ounces of maple liqueur, ½ ounce of rye, and ginger ale over the ice cubes. Give a stir and serve.
Just like the famous Black Russian cocktail, this one will also be dark, sweet, and strong. When you’re asked if you’d like a second one, you’ll surely shout “oui”! In a short glass with a few ice cubes, pour 1.5 ounces of maple liqueur and ½ ounce of vodka. Stir and drink.
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Does the City of Harbin Make the Best Beer?
Harbin is a city in northern China and is the capital of the Heilongjiang province. The tenth largest city in the country with over 5 million inhabitants living in the city limits, it also has something that can be considered a national treasure: China’s oldest beer brewery.
Harbin is a city that is famous for a few things; in the winter-time it’s bitterly cold but artists manage to make a city of ice sculptures that is unparalleled anywhere in the world, and it is also a UNESCO “City of Music”. Because Harbin at different times throughout its history belonged to China and Russia, the city is also known for its buildings and architecture that reflect its incredibly multi-cultural past. In fact, in the early 1900’s during railway construction, the city of Harbin was made up of residents from 53 different countries, and 45 languages were spoken on the city’s streets.
Due to wars and political situations, many of Harbin’s residents had to leave the country, but one thing that got left behind was a deep love and understanding of beer. The Harbin Brewery, which some critics say make “plain” beer, is a jewel in China’s beer crown. While many will claim that Tsingtao beer from further east in the country is better; people who live in Harbin and people who have been fortunate enough to spend some time there know that Harbin Brewery beer is good, but there are independent brew pubs all over the place in the city and these are the places to go if you want a beer that is simply outstanding.
Harbin is an extraordinary place for beer lovers. During the summer, beer gardens abound where local micro-breweries offer their wares along with the best kebabs and bread on the continent. During the winter time, brew-pubs offer hot spicy foods that make their in-house beer taste even better. The citizens’ love of beer can be seen everywhere from the omnipresent Harbin Brewery products to the street decorations which happen to be old beer barrels. Harbin is the best city to visit in Asia for beer tourism, hands down. Here are some of the varieties of beer that you can get in brew-pubs in Harbin.
Black beer A personal favorite of mine, and one of the main reasons why I’ll be going back to Harbin for a “beercation”. This dark brew offered in many brew-pubs but not available in cans or bottles at the supermarket is a real treat; unlike Scottish or Irish stout beers, Harbin’s black beers are more along the lines of Mexican black beer like Modelo Negra, but with a touch more of an espresso note and a slightly creamier texture. If you’re expecting something like a Guinness, you’ll be a bit disappointed because Harbin’s black beer is a bit more refreshing in nature. Black beer goes beautifully well with typical Harbin dishes that are loaded up with cumin and chilies.
Seaweed beer While seaweed beer is still something new and not mainstream, the stuff they make at brewpubs in Harbin will make you wonder why it isn’t mass produced for the international market. It’s nice, with a flavor that makes you think of the ocean. Like a fine whiskey, this is a beer that needs to be savored. It goes very nicely with beer snacks such as fresh cucumbers covered in a sesame oil and garlic sauce. It’s also great with tofu dishes.
Wheat beer Also known as white beer, this is one variety that is absolutely terrific in Harbin’s brew pubs. Mostly made with wheat, it is top-fermented and is generally known as a German type of beer. The beverage is cloudy-looking, and generally is not made with hops and is instead flavored with things such as herbs, orange peels, or even coriander. A small amount of hops may be used. The result is a delightful beer that is slightly sour and goes beautifully with dishes such as hot and sour soup. Furthermore, a Harbin wheat beer in the afternoon with a thick slice of Harbin’s famous da-lie-ba bread and renowned sausages is a treat that no visitor to the city should go without.
Harbin is the city of beer; and there is no other place in the world like it. Beer is delicious, it is inexpensive, and there are a number of brewpubs that will suit every taste and budget; from places that serve traditional Chinese food from other regions, pubs that serve Russian food, and tiny, locally known places that serve Harbin’s delightfully multi-cultural infused cuisine. There is a beer for every palate, and it’s worth spending the money to take a trip to the northern city just to sample their fantastic brews.
Another great thing that makes Harbin the beer capital of Asia and one of the world’s greatest beer-producing cities of the world is that the public transit system is great. Buses run frequently, are clean, go everywhere you need to go in the city and announce all the stops in Chinese and English, all for an incredibly reasonable price. This means you can go to Harbin, enjoy all the beer you wish, and you’ll make it home safely without putting anyone else in danger because you won’t be behind the wheel of a car.
Therefore, to answer the question : “Does Harbin make the world’s best beer?” we must say we don’t know yet and we must gladly make a few more trips to the frozen city in China’s Heilongjiang province, sample some more of the brews on offer to be doubly sure.
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Is Home-made Wine Any Good? How do you make Your Own Wine?
Due to high costs and/or personal preference, for centuries people have been making their own wine at home with varying results. Some home wine-makers are true craftsmen and make wines that can easily rival the best of the best that’s on the market; others just want something cheap, simple to make and not too terrible tasting. To answer the question above, the only thing that can be said is “it depends”. It depends on the person making the wine, their goals, and it also depends on personal preference. It can range from barely drinkable to fantastic. Here we’ll have a look at one of the most basic methods of home winemaking, results, and what steps you can take to dramatically improve the quality of your wine.
“Jug and Balloon” wine making
This method is the most basic and it’s inexpensive. Wine experts will turn up their nose at this method, but if you’re not too fussy, it will be worth a try.
You’ll need a sterilized gallon (4-liter) plastic jug and a large balloon that’s been rinsed out (balloons sometimes have a thin coating of powder, so don’t forget this step).
1 package (0.25 ounce) package of dry active yeast (the same type you use to bake bread)
4 cups of sugar
1 can of thawed fruit juice concentrate (use any flavor except citrus)
3 ½ quarts (3.3 litres) of cold water; use more or less if necessary
Before mixing any of the ingredients, use a sterilized needle to poke a miniscule hole in the tip of the balloon: this will allow gasses to escape while preventing any oxygen from getting in and ruining the flavor of the wine.
Mix the sugar, dry yeast and fruit juice concentrate together, and pour into the sterilized jug. Fill the jug with cold water, and then fit the balloon over the opening of the jug. Use a rubber band if necessary to secure the balloon in place.
Place the jug in a cool, dark place. In a day or so, you’ll notice the balloon starting to inflate; this is due to the sugar turning into alcohol. During this process, gasses are released. When the balloon has deflated back down to its original size, it means the wine is ready to drink. It usually takes about six weeks for this to occur.
Results: This recipe for home-made wine will give you a beverage that is quite high in alcohol content and taste, according to reviewers, can range from “unbearable” to “ok to sip”. The problem with this method of wine making is that the wine doesn’t get siphoned off from the resulting sediment at the end of the fermentation process; furthermore, if the balloon doesn’t have a small hole in it, the wine will develop an “off” taste. If the hole is too big, the resulting exposure to oxygen and other microbes in the air can make the wine taste musty. However, if you’re new to winemaking and want to try something simple before running out to buy expensive equipment, this might be a good method to try.
Also working in favor of this recipe is the fact that a degree of experimentation can be done; sugar can be reduced and proper wine yeast may be used to improve flavor.
According to home wine-makers with years of experience under their belts, the above process can be improved tremendously by two factors: siphoning after “primary fermentation” and “aging” in a sealed sterile container in a cold place for about a month.
When the balloon has deflated, it’s a sign that the primary fermentation is complete. With plastic tubing, siphon the wine; however be careful not to disturb the sediment at the bottom. The sediment is the stuff that will make the wine taste bad. Make sure the new container is also sterile, and glass will work much better than plastic.
Tightly seal the new container once it’s been filled with the wine; no gasses will need to escape. Keep the wine in a dark cool place like a refrigerator, and let it sit for about a month. The taste will be comparable to that of an inexpensive commercial wine, but the alcohol content will still be higher.
For more professional results, it will cost more money. First of all, instead of using a fruit juice concentrate, fresh fruit can be used, but this fresh fruit will need to be processed by crushing, chopping, or boiling, depending on the variety used. This “must” will also need to be strained.
A wine kit including things like primary and secondary fermentation containers, 6 feet of food-grade tubing, thermometer, bung and airlock and straining bag can be purchased in a specialty shop, along with ingredients such as special wine yeast, campden tablets, acid blends, and pectic enzymes.
Many more steps are required to make professional-quality wine at home, and for this reason most wine drinkers simply prefer to buy a commercially available variety. In countries like Canada, there are businesses that cater to “home-made” wine makers; they have all the supplies, will mix your ingredients for you, store your wine while it ferments, and when the wine is ready, they may even siphon the wine into the secondary fermentation containers for you; some of these “U-Brew” companies will even bottle your wine so that all you have to do is pick it up when it’s ready.
The Final Verdict
Making basic wine at home with the jug and balloon method can bring mixed results. That being said, one of the best wines I’ve ever had was a home-made wine; the winemaker used a jug and balloon, fresh peaches picked at their ripest stage, very little sugar, and wine yeast. She siphoned the wine into big glass jugs, sealed them and let them age for several months in the cool basement of her home. The result was a wonderfully dry white wine that was crisp and had the aroma and flavor of dried apricots and snap peas.
The point of making wine at home is to experiment while keeping costs down. With a bit of practice, you’ll find a recipe and method that suits you and your tastes just fine.
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The Best Hangover Remedies
We’ve all had those nights where we’ve had far too much to drink and we pay the heavy price the next morning. Nausea, headache, weakness, and general malaise are only some of the symptoms that we must put up with. Some home remedies to treat a hangover can actually make you feel worse; a heavy, greasy breakfast can aggravate your nausea and the famous “hair of the dog”, which is basically an alcoholic beverage, will simply get you drunk again and will only put off a hangover until later.
What we are listing here are a few tried-and-true home remedies that will ease your suffering somewhat; however we must emphatically state that this does not constitute medical advice or medical treatment and we are not doctors. If you are suffering from a violent reaction to alcohol or are worried about the severity of your hangover, get professional medical help immediately.
Now, with that out of the way, here are some of the best hangover remedies.
Eating a banana might seem like a strange remedy, but it’s the best way to replace all the potassium that was lost the night before. Drinking copious amounts of alcohol makes you urinate much more than usual; when you urinate, you also happen to eliminate potassium. Having a banana will give you a bit of energy to face the day.
Ginger has been used to fight nausea for millennia; it’s great to combat seasickness as well. The easiest way to consume ginger is in the form of ginger ale or ginger beer, which are both non-alcoholic soft drinks.
What some experts claim is more effective in alleviating a hangover is fresh ginger tea; if you are feeling all right enough to stand up for a few minutes, peel some ginger root and cut about 10 slices of it. Place the slices in a pot with about four cups of water and boil for ten minutes. Strain it, and add the juice of half a lemon and the juice of one orange. Sweeten with about one half a cup of honey, and sip as much as needed.
Overindulging in alcohol dehydrates you, and it’s the dehydration that can leave you feeling weak with a pounding headache. It’s necessary to replenish your body’s fluids, so have at least eight glasses of water. Water also works well to prevent a hangover; have a couple of glasses of it before going to bed or make sure that while you’re drinking alcohol you have a few rounds of plain water as well.
Lemon and Honey Tea
While this sounds too simple to work, it’s actually very effective. It will replenish fluids and sugars that get lost to a hangover. The honey, which contains fructose, competes for the metabolism of alcohol and will prevent the headache which occurs when there is a rapid change in alcohol level. Plain sugar will not be absorbed as quickly as honey and will therefore not work as well.
To make lemon and honey tea, boil about one cup of water, and add as much freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey as you like. The more you drink, the better.
While food might be the last thing you want to think about due to your topsy-turvy stomach, you will need to eat something to regain your strength. The best things you can ingest are plain, dry toast, clear soup, or plain rice.
If you don’t think you can tolerate solids, start off with a plain chicken or beef broth, and later work your way up to toast or rice. Leave the heavy, spicy food until much later, when you’re feeling more like your normal self.
If your head is pounding, one of the quickest ways to get relief is to put some ice cubes or crushed ice in a plastic bag, wrap it in a towel, and place it on your head. A washcloth dipped in cold water will also work. For this treatment to be effective, you’ll also need to lie down and rest while applying the ice pack or cool cloth.
Sport drinks will replace electrolytes, fluids, and glucose. They are great to combat dehydration. If you don’t have sport drinks at home, you can make one yourself. Simply squeeze the juice of one lemon into a tall glass of water, add sugar along with a pinch of salt, and give it a stir.
Fruit juices are a good way to replace the vitamins, minerals and sugars that were lost during the night of cocktails. Freshly squeezed juice will raise your blood sugar levels back to normal. If you think that orange juice will be too acidic for your already upset stomach, apple juice will also do the trick.
Multivitamins and Antacids
Taking a multivitamin that contains B vitamins will be a good idea as well, and you can always take an antacid such as Pepto-Bismol to calm a “funny tummy”. However, before taking a medication such as an antacid, it will be best to check with your doctor to see if it is appropriate for you.
Research has shown over and over again that the best remedy for a hangover is time. If possible, stay in bed with the curtains closed and sleep for as long as you can. And remember, chances are that by tomorrow, you’ll be good as new.
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