The drinks cabinet is beginning to run dry, but there’s still some gems waiting to be discovered. Here’s the third week’s worth of my journey through the dark recesses of a kitchen cupboard…
Teichenné Chocolate Schnapps, Spain
Spain seems to have a penchant for these flavoured liquors (which is not necessarily a good thing) – this time it’s chocolate that gets the liquid treatment. According to the distillers themselves: “Not only does Teichenné Chocolate act as a unique ingredient by adding unparalleled natural flavour, but it also provides an additional alcoholic element that never alters the colour of the cocktail due to the natural clarity of the liquid.” As for taste, it is, they say, “pleasant and silky in the mouth, rounded and balanced, it has a good structure and a persistent palate”.
Who writes this tosh? While all this corporate babble may be true – if you knew what it meant – they don’t say what type of footballer it would be do they? The only way to truly test a drink is to pour it into a shot glass and down it. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat… and I can honestly say, it tasted like chocolate, was very moreish and it got me a bit pissed.
However, it left me with that slightly sick feeling after – like the one you get when you say to yourself, ‘I’ll just have a couple of squares of Dairy Milk. Hmm, that was nice, the whole row won’t hurt, will it? Just one more row, then I’ll put it away. Oh, I might as well finish the bar now’.
If it was a footballer, it would be: Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock, who was known for liking a chocolate bar or four. The lardy journeyman, who had to get his shorts specially made so they’d fit over his fat arse, topped the scales at 25 stone (159kg) after hanging up his boots. To be fair to him though, he still put in a performance on the pitch.
Tia Maria, Jamaica
You can sum up Tia Maria in one word: ‘versatile’. As well as being decent in its own right, this cheeky liqueur mixes it with the best of them, forming the basis for many a classic cocktail – Black Russian, White Russian, Espresso Martini – and some dubious ones as well – going 50:50 with milk and with cola. You can even use it to pep up your hot chocolate or, for a double hit of caffeine, your coffee.
I tried the latter, which may explain why I didn’t get much sleep last night. Still, the same combination has pepped me right up this morning.
Tia Maria is made from coffee beans – providing the “distinctive roasted, full-bloodied rich taste”; vanilla – providing a “pronounced but delicate, fragrant black note; and Jamaican rum – “the ingredient that gives us our body, depth and structure.”
According to the peops at Tia Maria, the drink dates back to the 17th century, when a “beautiful young Spanish aristocrat fled the turmoil colonial war brought to Jamaica”. Not sure her looks are relevant, but I’m all for a bit of spice. Anyway, “Her maid saved one family treasure… an ancient manuscript with the recipe for a mysterious liqueur”. That maid’s name was Maria and ‘tia’ is Spanish for ‘aunt’. And the rest, as they say, is history.
If it was a footballer, it would be: I would have said the play-anywhere James Milner, but that would be a bit boring. Instead, I’ve plumped for the versatile Chelsea stalwart of the ’90s, the Reggae Boyz’ Frank Sinclair – who was also prone to the odd own goal or two.
Warninks Advocaat, Holland
“It’s like swallowing phlegm,” exclaimed the wife, after tasting a sample of the Dutch staple. From a consistency point of view, I would have to agree – although, for me, it was more like sucking down the insides of a Cadbury’s Creme Egg.
The first problem I encountered was trying to get the stuff – you cannot call it a liquid – out of the bottle. At first, I thought the egg-based drink had solidified – hard-boiled, if you like – but it turns out it’s supposed to be like that. So, after sticking a skewer down the bottle neck and giving it a stir, then turning it upside down and smacking it on the bottom, as if it were a ketchup bottle, the first dollops of advocaat (or eggnog, as it is more commonly known) splattered into my glass – and over the table.
Advocaat is renowned for being the main ingredient of a Snowball, but not having any lemonade I opted for the Dutch method of consuming it – neat over ice, with a squirt of lime juice for added flavour.
Alcoholic cold custard is not the most refreshing of drinks, but in these dark times needs must. But, apparently, that’s how the Dutch like it. As thespruceeats.com says: “The Dutch prefer their advocaat thicker than the eggnog you might be used to. So thick that you can – in fact, must – eat it with a spoon.” Is this a drink or a trifle?
The thing with advocaat is that every home has one. It lurks in dark cupboards, never seeing the light of day. Occasionally coming out at Christmas, when you brush the dust of it, exclaim, “What the feck is that?” and put it back.
It never puts in an appearance, just sits there taking up space – keeping the shelf warm. And, when it does eventually come out to play, you realise how shit it is.
If it was a footballer, it would be: Winston Bogarde. In his four years at the club, Chelsea’s infamous bench warmer earnt a staggering £8.4m for just 12 appearances (8 as a sub).
Rating: 4 (part of me actually enjoyed it)
Thomas Hardy’s Ale Vintage 1996, UK
This particular stray bottle has been languishing in my cupboard (via five house moves) for 24 years. Why? You may ask – and with good reason. But there is method to my madness, which is to be found on the label: ”One of the few British beers bottled with its natural yeast, to mature in the bottle… its flavour will improve and last for at least 25 years.”
In The Trumpet Major Hardy wrote of Dorchester’s strong beer, “It was of the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist in beer could desire; full in body, yet brisk as a volcano; piquant, yet without a twang; luminous as an autumn sunset.”
No, I’m not a literary know-it-all – just good at copying labels. But, I couldn’t have put it better myself. I’ll give it a go, though: “It’s alreet, that”.
Although, the first sip was a bit of a shock to the system, I soon acquired a taste for it: it was like nectar from the gods, to be savoured, not rushed. Fruity, almost port-like, the dark treacle-like liquid awakened senses I didn’t know I had. It’s also 12% alcohol – bonus. No wonder my head was banging this morning.
There’s no doubting this ale has matured – although I didn’t try it all those years ago, so I’m only guessing. But Internet beer nerds seem to agree.
In researching a bit of background to the ale – which incidentally was brewed in Dorchester, Thomas Hardy’s home town, hence the name – I’ve just discovered that it’s a rare brew and a “full bottle” – can you sell a not-full bottle? – is going for US$150. Arse.
If it was a footballer, it would be: Didier Drogba. At first, an acquired taste and prone to being, well, prone a lot, he matured into a beast of a striker, bullying defences (particularly Arsenal’s) and scoring big goals in big games.
Silver Bay Point red wine, UK
I was expecting much from this. It was from Tesco. It cost three quid. And it was British wine. I bought it on a whim during the current crisis, with a little bit of optimism in my heart – ‘You never know’, I thought.
Now, there is a difference between English and British wine. English wine is actually grown in this country and, contrary to popular belief, is pretty good (particularly the sparkling wines of the South Downs, which I had the pleasure of sampling at some vineyards in the old days when we were allowed out); British wine, as the label informs me, is “produced from imported grape juice”. Nice.
The makers claim: “Silver Bay Point’s easy drinking style perfectly complements most tastes and moods.” That’s fair – as long as you have no taste buds and are in a terrible mood. “With hints of juicy red fruits, this style is extremely soft and mellow and is perfect when served slightly cool.” If Ribena is your thing, it’s definitely a cheaper alternative.
I found a forum extolling the virtues of this so-called wine. Mizhog says: “Was given a bottle by someone at work. It’s absolutely abhorrent. The most vile drink I have ever tasted.” To which they received the reply: “Your colleague can’t think very much of you.”
Vosne commented: “This is the most foul, disgusting wine I have ever tasted. It should not be called wine at all… we even poured some into second glasses as we thought the first wine glasses were still soapy from being cleaned – nope, that’s what it tastes like, soap.”
I can concur that this ‘drink’ is shit. In fact, it’s beyond shit.
If it was a footballer, it would be: Ali Dia. Back in November 1996, Dia convinced then Southampton manager Graeme Souness that he was George Weah’s cousin. Souness took the bait and signed him on a whim. Within 20 minutes of his debut (as a sub), Dia was so bad that he himself was substituted. He was never seen again.
“Licor delicioso”, proclaims the bottle. You don’t need a Spanish degree to work out they quite like this coffee-based liqueur in El Mexico. I couldn’t wait to find out for myself… except I did. I couldn’t get the lid off. A lot of effing and jeffing and a pair of pliers later I managed to unlock the drink from its cage. Not wanting to waste anymore time making it into any one of the multitude of cocktails it’s famous for being a part of, or even mixing it with milk as is suggested – milk? Why would you do that? – I whacked it over ice and drained the glass. I can confirm that it is well ‘delicioso’.
Made from rum, sugar, vanilla and coffee, this dark, rich liquid is a taste sensation. While very similar to Tia Maria, for me, Kahlúa just shaves it (probably because I can’t recall what Tia Maria tasted like) – although others will no doubt disagree – there is many a debate to be found on the interweb on this very matter. For example, Magnusfl concludes: “Tia Maria is not competition to Kahlúa, that’s like saying Ford is a competitor to Lamborghini.” While justintoxicate.com goes the other way: “Kahlua is more syrupy, aggressively sweeter, less smooth/more nasal burn, less depth and length of flavour, and a sugary cloying finish. I will never buy again.”
So which is the GOAT of coffee liqueurs? Fight…
If it was a footballer, it would be: Diego Armando Maradona. Now bear with me on this one. For some reason, I just couldn’t get his name out of my head when I was trying to think about the perennial question – mainly because I’m watching Maradona in Mexico on Netflix at the moment. Well worth a watch by the way – the guy is an absolute loon. Anyway, to continue the analogy: too many Kahlúas and your eyes start to take on a drug-crazed look and pouring milk on a drink has to be the alcohol equivalent of the ‘Hand of God’ – very poor form.
Stop press: I know it’s only 8.53am but, for the sake of my art, I decided to try a cheeky Kahlúa and milk for breakfast – it’s actually exquisite; reminiscent of Maradona’s mazy dribble through the hapless English defence in ‘that’ game.
Cutty Sark Blended Scotch Whisky, Scotland
“The spirit of adventure lives in us all. It is the courage of our convictions. The mark of true character and the desire to be different. It is the original easy-drinking scotch,” proclaims the label on this well-known inferior whisky. “It’s a bit ordinary,” it didn’t but should have added.
Blended from 40 different single malts, Cutty Sark features in a number of books and films, most famously Goodfellas, but, perhaps most poignantly in these current times, it gets a mention in Stephen King’s short story, The man who would not shake hands.
Pallid, with a harsh bite on the tongue, this hard-working but no frills scotch is definitely made to be mixed, not endured neat. But having said that, it’s perfectly adequate for a quick snifter with a splash before dinner.
I’m not alone in these thoughts. A quick Google of “Is Cutty Sark a good whisky?” gets the response, “It’s not the best.” Jason’s Scotch Whisky Reviews adds: “Cutty Sark occupies a spot on the shelves… that is devoted to ‘economy blends’. In other words, bottom-shelf scotch.”
Perhaps the most cutting indictment comes from scotchwhisky.com: “The light yet complex blend became such a hit among sophisticated Americans during Prohibition that its popularity remains even today.” Sophisticated andAmerican?
If it was a footballer, it would be: A poor man’s N’Golo Kanté, Scott-ch Parker (sorry).
This is my drink. Like Thomas Hardy’s Ale, it gets better with age. Except with this little black (and white) beauty you don’t have to wait 25 years, just the 119.53 seconds that are required for the perfect ‘double’ pour.
The opening gambit on the drink of drinks’ website is: “Guinness. Made of more.” Enough said. But in the interest of entertainment, I’ll babble on for a bit longer.
Guinness is the world’s first nitro beer, courtesy of the genius ‘surge and settle’ system that enables the iron man of stouts to be served on draught and creating that thick, creamy head.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not black but a very dark ruby red – a colour created by the roasted barley from which it is made. And, remember kids, a pint of Guinness has less calories than a pint of orange juice.
This perfection in a glass is, perhaps, best summed up by some anonymous person on the web: “It’s a meal not a snack. The Guinness I had in Shannon was the second-best drink I’d ever had in my life, only to be followed by the first best, which was another Guinness.”
It is the pint of champions. It’s refreshing, strong in body, full of flavour and it never lets you down – apart from the odd dodgy pint abroad. What you see is what you get – it’s there in black (alright, dark ruby) and white. It is the captain among drinks. A leader. A legend.
If it was a footballer, it would be: It should really be a definitive Irishman, Roy Keane perhaps. Or, because I had to drink this one out of a can not on draught, a faux Irishman such as (we don’t need another hero, we’ve got) Tony Cascarino. But for me, it is the captain, leader and legend among beers, and nationality is of little consequence. Arise Sir John Terry of St James’s Gate.