My Christmas shopping isn’t done and I have no idea what we’ll be doing for New Years Eve, but I’m determined to stay on top of my “best of” posts for 2014. Last year, I didn’t get around to it until January, and by that time, everyone is out of the spirited, reflective holiday mood and into the gung-ho, forward-thinking resolution mode. And I decided to break down the year into at least two categories: the best things I drank, and the best thing I ate. I might even throw in a general “why 2014 was the best year of my life” post, if there is time. Because it really was! Not only because I got to drink all of the yummy things listed below, but because I got to share it all with my husband, my family, my friends and here on Mandible! What were the best things you drank this year?
The Coral Fizz – 69 Colebrooke Row, London
These things are in no particular order, other than this cocktail, which absolutely takes the number one spot. I’ve already raved about it in here, but here goes a very cheesy, nostalgic recap: this drink was magical, and completely unlike anything I have yet to imbibe. The components: rose vodka, Peychaud’s bitters, Champagne, and a sugar cube. Combine, and you will know what it is to taste a color.
Guinness Stout, on tap – Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin
Another highlight from our honeymoon. I’ve had pints of the black stuff before and since our trip, but nothing compares to the pints poured here. Forcing patrons to wonder through floors of exhibits and sensory experiences is a stroke of genius on the part of Guinness; by the time you’ve got a beer in your hand you’ve spent a few hours growing more and more anxious to take that first glorious sip. And this one I got to pour myself.
Alpenglow Weizenbock, on tap – Fathead’s Brewery and Taphouse, Middleburg Heights, OH
This has always been one of my favorite Fathead’s beers, but the glass I had before taking a tour of the brewery this fall was truly a thing of beauty. It went down smooth, yet the flavors — caramel, raisin, banana — were so round and well-balanced. Of course I’m partial to our hometown breweries, but I wasn’t surprised to see this beer take home the gold medal in its category (German-style wheat ale) at the Great American Beer Festival this year.
Pour-over coffee – Rising Star Coffee Roasters, Cleveland, OH
Alcohol > caffeine, always. In 2014, however, I totally got sucked into being a coffee snob. And I’m not sorry about it. Between our honeymoon, our Michigan and New York trips, and the discovery of several phenomenal local coffee roasters, I’ve slowly learned how freshly roasted, flavorful beans can truly change your morning outlook. Rising Star does it right, no matter what you order. The first time I ordered a pour-over, they suggested something I previously thought to be insane: NOT adding milk and sugar. Well, okay, I thought. It was the best cup of coffee I had in my life. The best espresso drink of 2014? Hands down, the Honey Almond Latte from Roos Roast, in Ann Arbor.
Something about whiplash-inducing bus ride through the hilly, green terrain north of Glasgow really put me in the mood for a wee dram of whisky. Glengoyne doesn’t produce your stereotypical smoky Scotches since the barley is dried with warm air, rather than peat fire. That’s okay with me, because this leaves room for plenty of other flavors to develop. The Teapot Dram, which is made in limited batches and is only available at the distillery, is a very special blend of sherry cask-aged whiskies. Not only was this one of the most unique whiskies I’ve tasted, but it has a kick-ass story behind it — you can read all about it in the link above.
Bee Sneeze – Booker and Dax, New York City
Mad culinary scientist Dave Arnold runs this cozy, upscale bar in NYC, and for those that aren’t aware, my husband has a giant man-crush on Dave Arnold. So of course, we stopped in while we were in the city in October. Not only did I get to watch Matt swoon when we met Mr. Arnold, but he gave us a quick run-down of his cocktail menu — how things are made, who came up with what, why everything tastes so damn fresh. The Bee Sneeze (milk-washed gin, honey, lemon, cracked black pepper) transported me to a sunny afternoon picnic in the park. A close runner-up: the super-herbacious Thai Basil Daiquiri.
I’m a stout girl, and I probably drank more of them this year than any other type of beer. This Imperial brew, which we stumbled upon one night when we were wandering around Tremont, was the most memorable. It had hints of chocolate — just the right amount for me — but what I really fell for was the addition of the dark rock candi sugar. This is one rich brew (not for those looking for something light & crisp) but it’s not super syrupy like some Imperial Stouts.
Collaborate Mead – Brothers Drake, Columbus, OH
This is going all the way back to January, when Matt and I spent a weekend on a food tour of Ohio’s capital. Our tour and tasting at Brothers Drake was a highlight of the trip, and this mead, aged in gin barrels from Watershed Distillery, forced me to rethink the whole genre of honeywine. The gin botanicals bring so much complexity to this stuff, making it so much more than your run-of-the-mill, uber-sweet mead. When we visited, Brothers Drake had no plans to expand their distribution, but we began spotting their bottles in the Cleveland area a few months ago.
Lake Erie Monster Imperial IPA, bottled – Great Lakes Brewing Company
The brews mentioned above — Alpenglow, The Muddy, even Guinness — all fall right into my beer sweet spot. I’m much pickier about IPAs, but I found myself craving this lovely creature in the late spring and summer this year. I first tried it at Danny Boys Pizza, after Matt ordered one, and I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it. It has something to do with the lack of that cloyingly bitter aftertaste that very often turns me off from a lot of IPAs. The hops are bold, but the malts are almost equally so, which leads me to believe that GL mixed this up just for me.