What We're Drinking

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What We're Drinking

The WQ editors set aside their books for the Memorial Day holiday.

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Every now and then, we like to note what we’re reading in our down time. But with Memorial Day upon us, hydration, not edification, is on our minds. Here are a few of our favorite around-the-grill swills. Feel free to list your own in the comments—we’re always on the lookout for new summer drinks. Enjoy!

Cullen Nutt: Earlier this week, a tractor trailer carrying 4,000 cases of beer worth $50,000 overturned on Route 95 in Florida. It took seven hours to clear the road of broken Heineken and Amstel Light bottles. The message is foamy but clear: Drink American beer this Memorial Day weekend, and drink it out of a can. My choice will be Bud Light.

Meredith Keller: When I was in Rio de Janeiro, the ubiquitous caipirinha quickly became my go-to drink. Made with cachaça, a Brazilian rum derived from fermented sugarcane juice, limes, and raw sugar, the national cocktail of Brazil is a favorite at asados, or barbeques. While it’s not quite as easy to find a caipirinha at the typical U.S. bar, it’s the perfect drink to make at home for a Memorial Day barbeque. Just muddle 1/2 lime (cut into wedges) and two teaspoons raw sugar in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass, add ice and cachaça. For a summery twist, use passion fruit instead of limes, and add some chili pepper flakes for an extra kick.

Megan Buskey: Coconut water is a good alternative for people whose tongues, like mine, go numb at the thought of Gatorade. I sampled the drink after hearing the buzz about its health benefits—it’s been linked to lowering hypertension and promoting antioxidant system function and contains vitamins B and C. The only caveat I would add to my endorsement is to make sure to drink it chilled—coconut’s earthy taste isn’t so refreshing when lukewarm.

Darcy Courteau: Now that my garden mint is going full-bore, I’ll be drinking a mojito. Hemingway’s favorite cocktail was not mine until, digging through my sister’s fridge, I found both rum and Perrier Pamplemousse Rose, an unsweetened pink grapefruit-flavored carbonated water. It’s a ridiculous thing to spend money on—or even for your sister to spend money on—but it turns out to be a wonderful mixer. Soon, I was making seconds for everyone, even the neighbors. Here’s the recipe: Muddle a handful of mint leaves and a quartered lime in a glass (I like to add a few grains of salt). Mix in simple syrup, your favorite rum, the Pamplemousse, and ice.

Sarah Courteau: This weekend I’ll be drinking whiskey sours—those old-fashioned drinks that, when ordered today in most bars, are a disappointment, laced as they are with a commercial mix that’s more sweet than sour. But my boyfriend has started making his own sour mix, with sugar and lemons and a knuckle-grating amount of lemon zest, and it’s been a revelation. Suddenly, this drink has become fun and flirty—a girl in a springtime dress, not some old-timer smoking his life away in a corner. It’s so delicious it’s hard not to drink two, especially with a couple of cherries at the bottom of the glass to pop in your mouth when you’re done!

And in response to the esteemed colleague who was rooting around in my fridge, I would only note that for a scavenger to also be a critic is perilous indeed. Unless that scavenger makes me a mojito while she’s trash talking my high-falutin’ beverage choices.

Steven Lagerfeld: Summer poses a challenge for red wine lovers like me. Many cool weather standbys—cabernet sauvignon, syrah, malbec—are too big. There’s lots of lighter potable red plonk around, but I’m still looking for some complexity. I’ve got the answer: rioja. It’s the well known magic ingredient in sangria, the fuel for many jolly summer nights, but as my wife and I discovered on a visit to Spain last year, it can be much more. I think of it as Bordeaux for the summer.

Much of the Rioja region is a vast winemaking machine, where the vines in many places are planted like rows of corn. That’s where your sangria wine comes from, along with a lot of drinkable, inexpensive wines. On the hillsides, however, something different happens, and we were lucky enough to have as our guide to the Alavesa area a local wine exporter who is the brother of a friend.

Our first stop was Valserrano, one of the larger quality producers, whose uniformly good wines are pretty widely available in this country. The Crianza, a younger, less expensive wine, gets you off to a good start. Bodega Miguel Merino occupies a few cool, cavernous rooms in the medieval village of Briones—nothing fancy about it except the product. Merino, who greeted us by telephone during our visit, is a classicist. His delicious 2005 Reserva is hard to beat, and it recently made it to American shores. Don’t miss it.

The last stop on our increasingly inebriated tour brought us to the garage-style bodega of two raucous brothers who are more experimental in their approach, producing a spectrum of intriguing wines. Alas, the wines aren’t widely available in the United States, but if you get a chance to try anything from one of their two labels, Tierra Agrícola Labastida and Bodegas Exeo, go for it, especially if you can get your hands on the latter’s Cifras Blanco, a white garnacha, or the Cifras Tinto.

I can’t resist a parting plug for Aperol, because its name makes it sound like a medicine but its taste, well, really is a kind of medicine. Mix this orange-colored Italian aperitif with some prosecco or champagne, then head for Rioja.

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Photo by Ciera Hozenthal via flickr