Unlike your average college kid, I have never been partial to beer, simply because my stomach and my tastebuds are quite adverse to it. I much preferred the likes of hard spirits and dark spirits. Since I was a child, we had a bar in the house (hailing from my father’s bachelor days), which was complete with all sorts of liquor. As a neat party-trick, I would stand at the bar and help the hired bartenders with their orders for our house parties. The guests would “oooh” and “aah” and exclaim “how sweet”. There was something so cute about a kid, knowing how to pour a drink and know what a “jigger” meant. Today, it is essential to know your liquors in our globalized world of corporate parties, networking, and socializing. It is no longer an indicator of good class or breeding. It is an indicator of knowledge.
The other night, I witnessed a happy-go-lucky bartender crack an egg into the foreign-sounding drink that I had ordered. With fear in my eyes, and salmonella on my mind, I was eventually coaxed into trying it. And it was amazing.
So instead of turning to your regular corner-store variety vodka/bourbon/rum/tequila, venture out of the box and try something out of the ordinary. If you are still drinking like you are in college (ie drinking alcohol that tastes like perfume,) this is the list for you. Step away from that bottle of Wild Turkey, and try something new…
DON’T BE A CHEAP DRUNK
BE A CLASSY ONE.
This is a pretty common beverage that we all know of, but do not appreciate enough. We commonly use amaretto in baking and in cocktails (ie Amaretto Sour). This is an Italian drink, the name of which loosely translates into “somewhat bitter”. The drink is almond flavored, but it can be made using almond pits and apricot pits. Amaretto is often associated with “desserts” and is a beautiful and rich liquor to consume.
PAIR WITH: cold weather, sweet mixers, after a hearty meal, with coffee, and a big smile
With Jagermeister being the ultimate symbol for frat parties, underaged drinking, and college-life, Barenjager is a classy alternative. It’s name translates to “bear hunter”, as it is a honey-infused liquor with orange-blossom and woodsy undertones. It dates back to the 1400s, and allegedly originates in Prussia, though the honey used in this drink hails from Mexico. Barenjager is 70% proof and $23 a bottle.
PAIR WITH: autumn nights, cider, apples, and a nice wood-burning fire,
Chambord hails from France, and hails back to the 17th century when monarchs used to drink it. This liquor is mainly associated with raspberries, but that flavor is infused with blackberries, Madagascar vanilla, Moroccan citrus peel, honey and cognac. Chambord is too sickeningly sweet to be served on its own. Chambord can be used to update the classic cocktails such as Manhattans, Daiquiris, and Margaritas. If you were to shoot Chambord, you might as well just drink a shot of caramel. It is often paired with a creamy or milky mixer, or a very acidic mixer to balance out the sweetness. If you are at a bar, ask your local bartender about a Peanut Butter and Jelly shot. It is very sticky, so if you are playing bartender at home, I would recommend that you be very weary.
PAIR WITH: brie and other such creamy cheeses, lavish surroundings, a royal state of mind
Cachaça, pronounced “ka-SHA-sah”, this is a Portuguese liquor made from fresh sugarcane juice. A national symbol of Brazilian life and culture, with 1.5 billion liters is consumed annually by throngs of obviously very drunk Brazilians. This is always used in the world-famous Brazilian cocktail, “Caiperinha”. (Some bars try to get away with using vodka or rum in a Caiperinha, do not be fooled. It is not a Caiperinha without cachaca) Today, cachaca can go anywhere between $15-400 a bottle, as there are different grades based on age and whether they are wood-infused (aged in wooden barrels). Cachaca is light and goes down smoothly, but do not be fooled. Even for a heavyweight drinker such as myself, two cachaca-based cocktails can get your head spinning and your speech slurring.
PAIR WITH: jazz-infused samba music, summer nights, tropical colors, and acidic mixers.
Hailing from the South of Italy, this liquor channels island living, hot Mediterranean nights, and ocean breezes. It is traditionally served as an after-dinner drink in chilled glasses. Made from the extracts of lemon zests as well as syrup, the product of this is a bright yellow liquid that can easily be made at home. Most bartenders appreciate this liquor as it provides the lemon flavor without the sourness or bitterness of a lemon. These days, this drink is most appreciated by celebrities and are quickly becoming a standard on menus across the world.
PAIR WITH: warm sticky afternoons, lots and lots of ice, mint, and sorbets
A few years ago, one of my friends from a state “party school” raved to me about Goldschlager. It is a cinnamon based liquor, that is a bit of a novelty since it contains 24-carat gold flakes. This tradition dates back to the 1850’s Californian gold rush. The gold flakes in Goldschlager were rumored (amongst uncultured college kids, no doubt) to cut the insides of your throat, stomach to allow for the alcohol to directly enter your bloodstream. This is not true. Furthermore, there is only approximately 0.1 grams of gold in a bottle… Not something you would quit your job over. Essentially this is a mild cinnamon schnapps that originates from Switzerland and is often associated with wealth, luxury, and excess. There are other variations of gold-infused drinks. Japanese people drink sake with gold flakes on New Years. “Kuromatsu Hakushika Gold Yamada Nishiki Sake” costs $30 per 720 ml bottle. Furthermore, a gold-flakes vodka has also been released, going for $60 a bottle.
PAIRED WITH: celebrations, luxury, parties, old fashioned fun
1. Jagermeister – it was originally marketed as a medicinal product… Well enough said, because it tastes like cough syrup. I am mainly opposed to Jager because I consumed too many Jagerbombs in my early college days… That, and it tastes downright awful (which is why people choose to “bomb it” as opposed to shooting it straight)
2. Chartreuse – I detest herbal based liquor (ie Jager), especially ones that are anise based (ie Sambuca, Ouzo). I hate that this is quite spicy, and the smell of this is so strong, I can smell It from across the bar when it is being poured; some even compare it to hair-tonic.
3. Sambuca – black or white, I don’t discriminate when discriminating against the likes of this alcohol.
4. Ouzo – I hate the anise-taste of ouzo, but I did read that mixing it with cola destroys the taste of anise so I might not write it off so quickly