Serious Eats: Drinks
Have You Ever Tried These Jamaican Irish Moss Drinks?
I've had my eye on these Irish Moss drinks for a while now and I couldn't resist grabbing them from the international section at my local supermarket. Just seeing the word "peanut" on a canned beverage is intriguing enough, but the next question is: what exactly is this stuff? A smoothie? Protein or milkshake? Meal replacement? There is a clue on the front label written in small font, the word carrageenan.
Carrageenan is extracted from red seaweed—or Irish Moss, scientifically known as Chondrus crispus (which is kind of fun to say.) It's used fairly regularly as a thickening agent for dairy products. What else is in the can? Water, sugar, milk, corn syrup. The peanut flavor has 280 calories (110 from fat), 12 grams of fat (6 grams saturated), 380 mg of sodium, 32 grams of sugar, to go along with 3 grams of protein. It's safe to say I didn't get through an entire can of either flavor in one sitting.
While the cans were not in a cooler when I bought them, I decided I would refrigerate them before tasting, since they were, you know, milky. I cracked open the peanut flavor and took a whiff: "peanut butter soy milk" is about the best I can do to describe its aroma. But the peanut flavor of this drink is a little more subtle than the scent would make you think, and the texture is somewhere between a milkshake and protein drink. With some bourbon and nutmeg, this might actually be an interesting twist on eggnog. After a few sips however, the thickness and intensity begins to take its toll. It leaves a chalky residue on your mouth, it's a bit heavy on the stomach, and the peanutty aftertaste is a bit unsettling.
How'd the vanilla flavor fare? It had a really intense aroma which reminded me of maybe pouring vanilla extract onto some vanilla ice cream. It was a little disconcerting to see actual chunks roll out of the can when I poured this one, but maybe that's my fault for not shaking enough? If the peanut flavor reminded me of store bought eggnog a little bit, then the vanilla flavor definitely did. But I couldn't get past the artificial vanilla flavor and intense sweetness, and this can lacked the novelty and subtlety of the peanut version.
While doing some research on these drinks, I came across several recipes for "Jamaican Peanut Punch." This seems to be a pretty classic cocktail (especially if you frequent Jamaican bars), and I can only assume it would outclass the canned version. It's also a known aphrodisiac. (Big Bamboo, get it?) Just like homemade eggnog is so much better than the store bought version, I'd like to think that handmade Jamaican Peanut Punch would beat this shelf-stable stuff in a taste test.
Have you tried these Irish Moss drinks? What did you think?
About the Author: Sam Hughes has toured the world with his band, making sure to try every local or novelty beverage along the way. Read some current and archived thoughts at @samhughesreview and thisiswhatidrink.blogspot.com