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Your fave drink discoveries of '19? (Esp. aperitifs, wine, liqueurs, but brews welcome, too)

I like to hear from the RS forum folks about their favorite tippling tales of recent travels!
What aperitifs and cocktails and local brews got your head in the clouds this year? Include some context, for color. :-)

Two quick items for me were rosé apple cider in a sports bar with soccer on wall-to-wall tv screens and the pleasant discovery that Maurin is again making their quina ( the famous poster with the green devil ) available in the USA. It's a cherry liqueur with the bite of cinchona like other quina/kina drinks.

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3931 posts

We found that rosé is much better in Provence than in the States - at least better than in Oklahoma. And we discovered pinot gris in (I think) Vaison-la-Romaine. Way better than any pinot gris or pinot grigio we have ever had, before or since.

Lesson learned: try the wine of the region. I suspect it's true for beer and cider, as well.

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1869 posts

I did enjoy the red wines in Hungary in '19. Our favorite tastings were at the Kadarka Wine Bar in Budapest. (Highly recommended by Sir James E. ;) Also discovered the BEST Aperol Spritz at Cafe Vian in Budapest! Who knew? Unexpected surprise. I read that the Aperol Spritz became widely popular outside of Italy around 2018 and was ranked as the worlds 9th bestselling cocktail in 2019. The Italian aperitif Aperol was created in Padua. Hmm, now Padua is on my radar.

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1792 posts

Over the summer of 2019, while hiking along the Czech/Polish border, close to the spa town of Ustron, I found a small hut at the top of one of the forested mountains, which sold the best medieval Czech mead I ever had, made with spiced honey, the mead is called St. Ambrosius (Ambrose). As far as I can tell, that's the only place that sells that specific mead. It was so good that I hiked up to the top of the mountain again the next day, just to buy a few more bottles to take home with me :-)

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13904 posts

Hi Avi. Thanks for another fun topic. This year forum member Kathryn introduced me to green wine in Cascais, Portugal. Double bonus - a new forum friend and a delightfully light, little bit sparkling drink, perfect on a sunny afternoon or before a meal. Even better, it was at the beginning of my trip, so I had 3 weeks to drink much more of it. And of course, there were excellent ports in the Douro Valley. Another Portuguese discovery was ginjinha, a liqueur very much like sour cherries, just a teensy bit peppery, the best was in Obidos, at the RS recommended tavern. That reminds me - I have a bottle I brought home, and NYE is right around the corner . . .

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3931 posts

Janis, we were delighted to encounter spritzes (both Aperol and Campari) in Padua when we were there in 2017 for the Village Italy tour.

Carlos, our first taste of mead was in Poland in the 1970s. My husband was hooked immediately. We used to be able to buy a Polish brand of mead here in the States, but we haven't seen it in many years. Sounds like a trip to the Czech/Polish border may be in order. He's started talking about a trip back to Poland. Hmmm...

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1869 posts

Thanks Jane! I have tried Aperol Spritzes in Italy, and they have been "weak." Being that I am a "light weight" when it comes to alcohol, the Aperol Spritz I had in Budapest made it challenging for the 10 minute walk back to our apartment! My DH says I'm a cheap date! ;)
Cheers.

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3931 posts

Janis, I had an Aperol spritz here in the States recently, at a local Italian bistro, and had much the same experience. I ordered it because we were early for a wine tasting, and I wanted something light. Well, the spritz I got was much stronger than the ones we had in Padua! It was good, but not what I had in mind. :-0

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1106 posts

This spritz talk is more evidence that what is true for clothing fashions – wait long enough and styles come back around – is true for dining and drinking. Our elders in the Mad Men era would have a Campari and soda where we today do the Aperol spritz. I personally like the tinto de verano option, (which is really just a fast sangria, no?) when I want something light.

Chani, there is a bottle of vinho verde in the cabinet beside me right this minute, no kidding.
And now you’ve put ginjinha on my radar to put beside Luxardo and Maurin cherry derivations.

Carlos, if you get up to Santa Cruz county, not far from where Chani lived in her American years IIRC, you can check out the Bargetto Winery in the town of Soquel. They make an award-winning mead called Chaucer’s, certainly not as saintly as Ambrose and a different environment from Ustron – or maybe not – but worth a taste.

Jane, I felt the same way about the rosé in Catalunya – very impressive compared to most of what shows up here in the USA. I’m afraid I can’t remember now what wine I drank at my luncheon on a terrace on the other side of the river in Vaison-la-Romaine, but I do remember the composed salad looked almost too good to eat :-)

A side note: This is going to be my 1000th comment on the RS Forum! So much fun and valuable info these past few years.

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1869 posts

Avirosemail- Congrats on your # 1,000! I could go for a Sangria! That’s what I enjoy in Catalunya.

In Obidos I liked the cherry liqueur in the chocolate cup.

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3931 posts

After reading avirosemail's comment about reaching 1000 posts, I thought I'd look to see if I was anywhere near that many. Good heavens, I had 3400. No wonder I never get anything done!

Posted by
13904 posts

Ah, Bargetto - love that winery. That's where I was introduced to mead, it's especially good mulled. Do they still sell it with a sachet of spices? They had one or two other Chaucer wines, fruit-flavored and also fun. If I get to the Bay Area this spring I will definitely put it on my list, Avi. Maybe we could go together. Thank you for reminding me.

Janis - I decided that the ginjinha was better on its own and to save the calories for a much better grade of chocolate. Hmmm, maybe I'll pick up a bar of Swiss chocolate to savor with the ginjinha. Thanks!

Posted by
102 posts

Cocktail aficianado here. While not a 2019 find exactly, I've taken to the low ABV option of drinking amari/aperitivos/liquers of the bitterish variety with tonic, and a bit of lemon.

Cynar, Bonal, Byrrh are favorites, also Amer Picon (Black label). I've been rationing the Picon though, as it is not available in the US. What's really galling about that, is that it you can find it in pretty much any of the larger corner shops in Brussels for under 20euro. I have accumulated several bottles. :-)

And, as always, Campari and Soda. Not a fan of the Aperol spritz.

Oh, and Calvados. I ordered one at a cafe in Paris, and the waiter kissed my hand! I think he was surprised that an American even knew what it was.

Posted by
3214 posts

Wow!

This is like a foreign language to me. I haven't consumed any kind of alcohol since 1990. My husband has gout, so he can't drink beer, but he's very fond of ciders and wine.

Perhaps I should start another thread about non-alcoholic drinks, but I bet there'd be very few responses.

Cheers!

Posted by
3931 posts

Lo, since so many people post questions about whether or not they would "fit in" on a RS tour, given the amount of alcohol related activities, you might be surprised at how many responses you would get to a post about non-alcoholic drinks.

And I'm always glad when you chime in on one of those threads. I remember that on the tour we shared, you were one of three non-drinkers, and nobody cared. If anyone every belittled you for not drinking, you never mentioned it.

As I recall, on that tour one didn't drink for medical reasons, one was under-age (although I think her mom let her have a tiny glass of wine at our last dinner), and I don't remember (or care) why the third person didn't drink. I'd bet, in fact, that most people never even noticed that you and the other adult passed on the wine. I only noticed because you, Debbie, Stan and I spent so much time together.

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1106 posts

If you try the search bar at the top of these RS pages you'll find several threads discussing soft drinks and non-alcoholic beverages worth trying out all across Europe.

Jodi -- I was just thinking about Picon last week when I watched the original movie versions of Marius/Fanny/Cesar by Marcel Pagnol: there is a bottle of Picon behind the bar that gets brought out more than once...

Posted by
102 posts

I was just thinking about Picon last week when I watched the original movie versions of Marius/Fanny/Cesar by Marcel Pagnol: there is a bottle of Picon behind the bar that gets brought out more than once...

Sadly, that Picon is no longer in production. It was around 40% ABV. But there are now two lower ABV formulations: Picon Biere - which is about 18% - and is very good with beer, and the black labeled one, which is what I have - 21% ABV, and more like the original from what I've been told.

I see you are in northern California. They have Torani Amer there, which is as close is you can get in the US. A bartender friend of mine clued me into that, and told me about Picon Punch - which I had never heard of. Very popular with the Basque enclaves in the states.

Now I want to go home and make a cocktail - there are two that originally used Picon - the Brooklyn, and the Liberal.

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29 posts

great topic! Here’s one from a bartender in Luxembourg, the Luke Special; gin, amaretto, ginger ale and apple juice served on the rocks in a tall glass with an apple slice garnish. Quite refreshing

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7628 posts

For those of you who like mead/honey wine, check out the Farmers' markets in Germany at the honey stands. They often will have honey wine for sale all year round. Sometimes several different flavors. The Christmas markets will often sell it hot. The Frankfurt market has a 2 story half-timbered house owned by a beekeeper that they put up and they have dozens of varieties of honey wine/mead, to taste and buy.

My favorite non-alcoholic drinks in Germany are Bitter Lemon (which I search for in the US without success) and a Kiba which is cherry juice with a swirl of banana juice in it.

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3931 posts

Ms. Jo, my DH loves mead. We haven't found any we really like since we lived in Poland. Thanks for the tip.