Are You Tasting the Pith? - 9th January 05
Yes, the new year is upon us, and like everyone else, I've made a series of rash resolutions that I hope to stick to over the next twelve months. Some of you, no doubt, will be looking to drink a little less and exercise a little more. If so, then to help you with the first part of this, you could do worse than tracking down some Fentimans botanically brewed soft drinks
I have four of their range in front of me; cola, lemonade, orangeade and ginger beer. The Curiosity Cola (to give it its full name) is softly carbonated, and less immediately sweet than other colas. It smells slightly soapy, though not in a bad way - it's just a bit more perfumed than others, so rather that just a nondescript caramel and citrus aroma, it is quite complex, maybe with hints of Parma Violet sweets. In the mouth it is again less fizzy on the tongue, and the flavour is a dead ringer for the 1p cola bottles we all used to buy as kids. Having experimented with it in a Cuba Libre, the classic trinity of rum, cola and lime, I have to say that it's better drunk without adulteration (much to my chagrin)
The Ginger Beer is a real classic of the style - mouthwatering, spicy-hot and persisitently gingery in the finish. Again, it's much less sweet than other brands, so actually refreshes rather than leaving a scummy sugar film on the tongue and throat. Or is that just a matter between me and my dental hygienist?
Victorian Lemonade is the classic that we all used to make in our childhood, or more honestly, used to read about in Famous Five / Secret Seven books. It has a real homemade quality to it, right down to what appears to be little bits of lemon zest floating in it. It smells of real lemon, tastes of real lemon, and has the slightly bitter, granular cream-of-tartar finish that real lemonade has. Given all this, its probably fair to call it Real Lemonade.
The Mandarin and Seville Orange Jigger set me sniggering. Can one really differentiate between mandarins and oranges when used as ingredients in a drink? Well, yes actaully, and it's quite obvious. The orange combines the slight soapiness of the cola with the zestiness of the lemonade, producing a very grown up drink indeed.
In short, these are definitely drinks for the discerning adult, rather than mass-market pop for kids of all ages. If you've ever tried Hendrick's gin, then you'll be familiar with the kind of aroma and flavour to be found in a bottle of Fentimans.
If you do want to cut down your alcohol intake, but enjoy drinking too much, my best tip (other than "stop being a spineless, weak-willed, beer-swilling oaf") is to buy pint bottles of hoppy ale, for example Rolling Hitch IPA, and adulterate it half-and-half with 0.5% abv alcohol "free" lager (Jupiler NA is the best I've found). The low alcohol lager acts as a fairly neutral extender base, and you end up with a fairly palatable 2.5%abv ale. However, bear in mind that most purists will think this Very Poor Form, and a waste of good beer (sorry Warren).
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