Bottom Shelf research coordinator Emily and I had a grand and overdue Halloween couch party the other night featuring "Law and Order: Ice-T," delivered chicken, and homemade pumpkin beer. The T was as Icy as ever and the chicken was the perfect blend of spicy and sketchy (I don't know where Wings Over Somerville finds these 9-inch strips of brick-thick white meat, nor do I need to know), but the undisputed star of the evening was the beer. I don't want to stray too far into our homebrew correspondents' turf, so I'll keep this part brief by describing the entire brewing process from start to finish:
1) Pour a can of fizzy yellow beer into a pint glass,
2) top with two glugs of Hiram Walker Pumpkin Spice liqueur.
The finished product is a gorgeous pale orange and it works like two charms. We learned the obvious way that sugary orange liqueurs have exceptional carpet-staining powers, but this particular drink produced a curiously mild hangover. Emily's alarm went off at 6:30 this morning, because she is hideously inconsiderate when it comes to getting up early to go earn our chicken money, and I preemptively moaned and groaned and mimicked coping with a pounding hair-ache for a good couple minutes before I realized that I'd somehow emerged from the pumpkin party only lightly scathed. That's evidence of quality homebrewing right there.
I'm sure I've had prouder moments as a recipe developer—the Slim Jim-studded hamburger of summer 2008 comes to mind—but this was my biggest strictly liquid breakthrough in months. I've gotten lazy in the drinking portion of the kitchen. I've actually been in a slump when it comes to the solids, too. Two of my last three batches of meatballs failed, and I need to stop trying to cram thyme where it doesn't belong. But my ambition and focus remain strong when it comes to dinner, so I expect things will pick back up in that regard. I'm not a good cook by any reasonable measure, but I'm a pretty willing one, so I can usually manage to get us fed in an acceptable fashion.
But when it comes to home drinking, I've gotten increasingly lazier in the past year. I love a really well made drink, but for whatever reason, Emily and I haven't been drinking that classily since we left Amherst in June. Quick plug for high-end Amherst drinking options: Even though it's a weird woodchucky college town, Amherst has at least two places to get excellent cocktails. Our friends Kristin at Amherst Coffee and Colin and Tabela's have made us some of the best drinks of our lives. If you live out that way, go say hi and please and thank you.
Amherst is a cool town but not necessarily our kind of town, so we were relieved to move back to Cambridge, but I think being back where we kinda belong has made us complacent. I no longer take as many matters into my own hands, and we've also somehow managed to assemble an out-of-house drinking map that misses most of the nice places in the neighborhood.
This means it's time for me to revisit my old nemesis, the RTD. That's what industry folk call "ready to drink" premixed cocktails. I've had some decent ones before, but never any that I'd actually recommend to any but the laziest drinkers. Now that I'm a very lazy drinker myself, I figure I should reinvestigate this overpopulated and underachieving category. The Jeremiah Weed brand has never done me wrong (also never done me right or done me anything in between), so I decided we'd give their three 5.8% ABV "adult malt beverages" a whirl. Lightning Lemonade, Spiked Cola, and Sweet Tea all come in 12-ounce cans for about $8 a six-pack in stores that sell Budweiser for $6 and Samuel Adams for $10. Here we go.
Jeremiah Weed Spiked Cola: This is a strange one. It smells like cheap vodka and complicated cola. It pours with an aggressive fizz that disappears in half a jiffy, so by the time you drink it, you've got a flat, weird cola drink. As usual, the problem here is more the generic cola than the alcohol. Emily thought it tasted like bad Cherry Coke, I thought it tasted like bad Cinnamon Coke. Not sure which of us is right, but I'm pretty sure JW Spiked Cola is wrong.
Jeremiah Weed Lightning Lemonade: Oh man. This tastes like really harsh powdered lemonade. The strong lime note is a novel touch, which is not to say a good one. Don't drink this.
Jeremiah Weed Roadhouse Tea: All right, now we're on to something. It smells like real lemon juice up top, and then it gets sneakily sweet but not too sweet. The tea character is there but fairly understated. It's not syrupy and is better than straight uncut Snapple. Do drink this.