Drinking the Bottom Shelf

Will Gordon drinks his way through the bottom shelf of the liquor store...so you don’t have to.

Eyewitness Booze Investigation: Gosling's Dark 'n Stormy

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Drinks editor Maggie whipped up a lot of Cinco de Mayo coverage recently, which led her to write what is both the kindest and cruelest email I've ever received: "I would give you so much good tequila if you were here right now." The kindness is obvious and the cruelty comes in the implied follow-up: "But since you're outside of hand-delivery range and there's no such thing as UPS, how about if I just forward you a press release about a new mayonnaise-flavored vodka?"

But though I'm sometimes frustrated by my inability to extract decent booze from Serious Eats, for the most part I've made peace with the fact that all I can expect from this gig are fame, fortune, and corned beef schnapps. Fair enough. I have no reason to expect anything more, plus I get to share the occasional fancy food and drink perk Bottom Shelf research director Emily picks up at her job. It makes sense that she would have better access to top-notch freebies, seeing as how she's a combination butcher's apprentice/liquor distributor. Oh wait—no, she works at a hospital. Damn it, Serious Eats, where is my tequila!?!

As I was saying, Emily's boss recently gave her a bottle of Allagash Curieux for the crazy reason that she appreciates her hard work and her thirst. That's some damn fine beer. I'd love to give it a proper review here, but Maggie doesn't let me talk about nice things. In fact, if you never hear from me again it's because she made good on her threat to beat me to death with a bottle of mocha guava malt liquor the next time she catches me drinking something strictly for pleasure.

So I loved the Curieux and will have it again the next time I'm in the market for a $20 bottle of beer, which means I'll never have it again, but I'll always remember it fondly for being stuff that finally convinced me I'll never get around to brewing my own beer.

I'm not super ambitious in the kitchen but I don't mind cooking and sometimes I downright enjoy messing around with lazy sorts of pickling and dehydrating projects; I realize—or at least I think I realize—that home brewing is a much more complicated endeavor than just boiling the bottom of the vegetable drawer in vinegar, but it still seems like my kind of food undertaking, ending as it does with beer.

But for all the noise I've made about picking up bootlegging one of these days, I've never come very close to committing, mostly because I'm a do-nothing slob and/or lack the space and now also, post-Allagash epiphany, because I've come to the happy understanding that the world is already full to bursting with more great beer than I could ever drink. I don't have the sort of hubris or energy necessary to compete with the beer that so many other kind souls have already bottled for me.

When it comes to most culinary matters, I take the efficient way out unless my version of Food X is markedly better than what I could buy at the grocery store. For instance, I have been blessed and cursed with a divine meatball-making gift. I didn't ask for this burden but I bear it as nobly as I can; no matter how busy I am or how tired I am of food processing oatmeal and turkey, I accept that it would be irresponsible for me to pay for pre-balled meat. I have been similarly touched as regards lentil soup and chicken salad (sour cream!).

I have no reason to believe these talents would extend to home-brewing, so I'll leave that to the professionals and the Moxeys. I do like to take the simpler drinking matters into my own hands, though, which is why I'm so distrustful of premade canned cocktails. I've reviewed several of them and liked precious few. The problems tend to be proportion and mixer quality: The drinks are usually around 5 percent ABV, whereas a bar-made version is likely to be at least double that; and the producers brag about using their name-brand base liquor but then undermine it with crappy soda (a problem exacerbated by the double-dose of said soda).

So I came to my tasting of Gosling's premade Dark and Stormy with mixed expectations. On the one hand, why on earth would you ever need to buy a canned version of a two-ingredient drink? No matter how tired I am or how much meat I have left to ball, I'm never too busy to mix dark rum and ginger beer. And don't tell me that these premixed numbers are intended for people with more active lifestyles. I refuse to believe there are enough hard-drinking hikers and boaters to justify this market category if us couch-partiers don't partake as well.

But then the Gosling's Dark and Stormy does have a couple of things going for it. It's a hearty 9 percent ABV, which gives it a shot to taste as rummy as we've come to expect, and since Gosling's makes their own perfectly acceptable ginger beer, the drink's not going to be doomed by off-brand soda in the same sad manner as the premade Jack Daniel's and Cola.

Verdict: Yup, this works just fine. It tastes a little on the soft side, boozatorially speaking, but the rum's certainly there. The soda is better than credible—more heavily carbonated than most bar sodas and not overly sweet. I don't know that I'll ever pony up $10 for a 4-pack, because it doesn't suit my lifestyle, but I encourage you to pack some next time you sail up a mountain or whatever it is you people do.

About the author: Will Gordon loves life and hates mayonnaise. You can eat and drink with him in Boston or follow him on twitter @WillGordonAgain.

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