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Of Recent Note

Bottled Drinks

With Labor Day gaining fast, summer is almost over. Rather than mourn its demise with a sack of hooch, we should toast our memories with a bottle of something special. The writers have some suggestions.

Cracking open the fridge on a sweltering August day, there is an endless choice of beverages: flavors unnatural or natural; pops or sodas or cokes; beer or wine or alco-pops, but always in the correct order. How to choose? Excepting that packet of Capri-Sun at the back, the better choice is: plastic or glass? While the former is appropriate for the road-trip cup holder, it’s glass that promises refreshment. Given those options, here are the drinks we’d reach for.

 

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Of Recent Note Recently my wife and I spent a weekend in Provence, where I learned how to drink rosé. We were staying with friends and their family—about 30 people in all—in a large country house that dated back to the 14th century. The rosé was served from a cardboard box in the cellar refrigerator. It was what everyone drank at lunch, around a giant table, or for a mid-morning snack, or by the pool when the sun was still up in the afternoon. It probably cost six euros per box, and it was delicious. What I learned is that you treat what’s cheap, cheap: On a hot day, pour over ice for refreshment, and a slight fatigue after six or seven refills. What more do you want from a tart? —Rosecrans Baldwin




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Of Recent Note Every year or so I rediscover Orangina. While most fizzy drinks are so packed with carbon dioxide as to take the roof of your mouth off, Orangina is only mildly carbonated. TV ads even used to encourage us to “shake the bottle and wake the drink”—presumably so the two percent of orange pulp that lurks in each bobbly glass bottle was sufficiently dispersed around its intriguingly bulbous shape (otherwise your Orangina experience began rather thinly, with an unwelcome mouthful of pith at the bottom of the bottle). Bonus points for tasting quite like orange, without being the same hue as a high-visibility vest and for actually quenching thirst without leaving your mouth full of sugary residue. —Jonathan Bell




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Of Recent Note A few months ago, I swore off soft drinks. No more high-fructose corn syrup for me! And then one day, while my laundry was spinning and rinsing at the laundromat, I found myself in the grip of an unbelievable thirst. The kind of thirst only a bottle of pop can dissolve. At my local deli, looking for something healthier than Coca-Cola and even Diet Coke, I found a bottle of Grown-Up Soda. Made with cane sugar instead of corn syrup, and in flavors including grapefruit, pomegranate, and cranberry, it’s truly for refined palates. My favorite flavor: ginger ale. —Kate Schlegel




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Of Recent Note I am not a big beer drinker. (Sorry, alcoholics!) When ordering, I usually stick to the basics: Budweiser (shame on me), Stella Artois (shame on us for pretending this is anything but Budweiser with a fancy name), and Yeungling. I avoid brewpubs the way I avoid bald men with ponytails, and I certainly don’t coo with delight when the happy hour special is one of those annoyingly precious, whimsically named small brews: Magic Hat Fat Angel or Rogue’s Old Bastard or whatever the surviving members of the Grateful Dead drink when they’re partying with Ben and Jerry. But recently, while on a supply run for a BYOB Sri Lankan restaurant in the East Village, a friend suggested we pick up an assortment of Smuttynose beers to tamp the fire of Mulligatawny soup. Actually, change “suggested” to “insisted.” In any case, he was right. The Smuttynose IPA was the perfect match for dinner, and a really tasty pale ale—even though at the time all I could remember was, “I really liked the one with the two old guys sitting in lawn chairs on the label.” —Todd Levin




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Of Recent Note I lived in Germany for a little over a year, and spent many a meal drinking fizzy water. The best, by far, was Gerolsteiner. It’s bottled at a spring at a volcano in the Rhineland, and it comes in naturally carbonated and still varieties. The gentle fizzing causes gentle burps, and doesn’t hurt the stomach the way artificially carbonated beverages do. It’s available in stores in the U.S., and the taste is much more delicate and light than your Pellegrinos or Perriers. Mix it with some pomegranate juice, tequila, and triple sec, add a squeeze of lime, and you’ve got a delicious, fizzy German margarita. Prost!Meave Gallagher




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Of Recent Note Somewhere between five and 15 percent of all wine bottles are corked—that is, the cork is contaminated with bacteria that make the wine taste like, well, rotting, bacteria-ridden cork. Maybe I’m just being paranoid about that (good thing wine calms the paranoia), but I usually opt for screw-cap wine—it can’t become corked. Jim Jim 2006 Unoaked Chardonnay is not just sans-cork, it’s also sans-oak. While most Chardonnays are aged in oak caskets, taking on the sweet, nutty flavor of flying coach, the unoaked variety flaunts the grape’s natural crispness. —Andrew Womack




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Of Recent Note I am a lifetime fan of good, old-fashioned, breakfast-worthy orange juice, and so I generally shy from sweet, fizzy things that call themselves carbonated juices. During a recent trip to California, however, I discovered Izze Sparkling Clementine Juice, a slightly more tropical alternative to my former carbonated standby, Orangina. A delicious concoction of sparkling water and 70 percent fruit juices, Izze juice is neither overwhelmingly carbonated nor too sweet to drink with a meal. Unlike the miniscule, pear-shaped bottles of their predecessor in my life, this one seemed nearly bottomless, and by the end of dinner at a patio restaurant overlooking Lake Tahoe, I was all, orange juice who? —Bridget Fitzgerald




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Of Recent Note Reed’s Original Brew Ginger Ale comes in a green glass bottle with a metal twist-off cap. You may want to keep this in mind the next time you pick one up on your lunch break. Because when you waltz into one of your first meetings on an important project and start gulping away as you crack office-level jokes, there will be stares. And when you answer the question, “What are you drinking?” at said meeting with, “ALE! HAHA!” those stares won’t go away. In all likelihood… Did I mention it’s fake-stuff-free and is the perfect complement to sushi on a hot afternoon? —Heather Rasley




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Of Recent Note I spent four pre-Katrina years in New Orleans. Whenever I meet someone from there we inevitably talk about trips to the Abita Brewery located just north of Lake Pontchartrain. They give tours every weekend during which one can, if inclined, drink a more than fair amount of their product for free by 2:00 p.m. It’s harder to find the stuff here in New York, so I was happily surprised on my first visit to Shake Shack to find them selling bottles of Amber, Abita’s flagship lager. It’s like honey, if honey could get you drunk. Also, they donate a lot to the L.A. Disaster Recovery Foundation, which is a far better excuse than many I’ve come up with to drink a good beer. —Erik Bryan




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Of Recent Note In the future when we’re living in skyscraper utopias and piloting helicopters to work, it’s Frostie Blue Cream Soda that we’ll be knocking back our vitamin meals with at lunchtime. After carbonated water, the top ingredient in this seriously bright blue brew actually isn’t antifreeze—it’s high fructose corn syrup. So you may want to limit your intake of this soda until the future, when they invent cures for whatever diseases they discover HFCS causes. On the plus side, it’s caffeine-free, which means you can drink it in the evening; however, your bed-mate may complain about the bright blue glow you’re emitting. —Andrew Womack




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Of Recent Note I am not adventurous when it comes to beer; when I find one I like, I stick with it. Thus, I have a favorite in each taxonomical division of suds—Mac & Jacks African Amber, Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale, Shakespeare Stout, etc.-—and will rarely deviate from my mental menu. There is, however, one huge exception: I will willingly drink any goddamned concoction the Deschutes Brewery puts into bottles. Mirror Pond is my default bring-to-poker-night six-pack; Black Butte Porter is about the only thing that prevents me from descending into madness during the long, gray Seattle winters. And although I generally regard “seasonal beers” to be about as necessary as Paris Hilton, I’m even a fan of Buzzsaw Brown and Jubelale. Ask me what my favorite beer is and I’ll answer depending on my mood; ask me what my favorite brand of beer is, and it will be Deschutes every time. —Matthew Baldwin




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Of Recent Note I have deep reservations about recommending this product, because I think it might have opposite-than-intended effects. But hey, you’re all adults, decide for yourselves. G.T.’s Kombucha is some sort of root drink thing that costs four dollars at the amazing, unpretentious wonderland of a grocery by my house. My roommate thinks it tastes like carbonated soy sauce; I think it tastes like heaven; it will probably put hair on my chest. If I could turn back time, I’d think twice before diving headfirst into this pool of hippie-mumbo-crap. But if I ever come down with cancer, Kombucha’s going to cure the shit out of it. Says so on the bottle. —Nicole Pasulka




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Of Recent Note Dublin Dr Pepper is a beverage with a history, something lacking in most over-the-counter beverages these days. It is Dr Pepper-esque, but it is not the Dr Pepper you know. When I first tried it, I thought: How different from regular Dr Pepper could it be? I mean sure, it uses cane sugar instead of HFCS, but still, come on, let’s be serious. And then I took a sip and my soul DIED AND WAS REBORN. I was like: Oh my god. This is what Dr Pepper tasted like when I was a kid. It was like suddenly realizing that my parents weren’t my actual parents. Do you get what I’m saying? A beverage so good that it unleashes repressed memories and makes you question whether reality is really reality? Don’t you think that’s a beverage more people should know about? Well? Don’t you? —Kevin Fanning
 

TMN’s Contributing Writers know where to find the purple couch. Long live the pan flute, mini mafia, and Michael Jackson. More by The Writers