Alcoholic drinks largely absent in Brew City bars
Brew City has lots of non-beer beverage options -- from fancy wine to rip-roaring Red Bull mixers -- but there are plenty of potent potables that, to our knowledge, are yet to sweat on Milwaukee bar tops ... or do so only very rarely.
Mark Eckert has owned Von Trier, 2235 N. Farwell Ave., for 27 years. He's seen a lot of fad drinks come and go, and admits that, in general, Milwaukee is slow to embrace the latest libations.
"If there's a new drink that contains the market's newest product, we're usually one of the last to get it," says Eckert. "But once we're introduced, most (Milwaukeeans) are willing to give them a try."
Below is a list of some of these drinks from afar, and feel free to add your beyond-Milwaukee spirit by using the talkback feature.
Absinthe, available in many countries including France and Switzerland
Although the Swiss Parliament lifted a 96-year-old ban on absinthe in June 2004, it is not legal in the United States because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not allow the sales of spirited beverages that contain thujone. Real absinthe, a strong-herbal liqueur distilled with anise and wormwood, contains thujone which is a natural herb with psychedelic effects.
Amarula Cream, South Africa
Amarula Cream is made from the marula fruit, which grows wild on the marula tree. The fruit is pulped, sweetened and fermented, resulting in "marula spirit" that is then matured in oak casks for three years. Finally, the spirit is blended with fresh cream to create a smooth liqueur that's sweet and strong. It would be delicious in many mixed drinks, but South Africans drink it straight up.
Baijiu ("bye-jew"), China
The literal translation is white wine but it's far from a chardonnay. It's clear like vodka but burns on the way down like tequila. It's slightly sweet and packs a punch at 80 proof. The Chinese have been brewing the stuff for thousands of years and it accompanies every meal. They drink it straight up and prefer many rounds of ganbei, or bottoms up. A westerner should be careful though, too many bottoms up and you'll find yourself bottoms up under the table.
This traditional Brazilian drink is no longer the country's best-kept secret; it's wildly popular in Europe and parts of the US now, including a few spots in Milwaukee. The coveted cocktail contains two ounces of cachaca (sometimes replaced with vodka), lime, sugar and ice cubes. The ingredients are simply mixed together – be sure to extract enough lime juice or else it won't taste right – for a beverage that's strong and refreshing.
Dawa, Kenya, Africa
"Dawa" means medicine in Swahili, but the drink, luckily, tastes better than your average glass of, say, Robitussin. The ingredients are honey, sugar, club soda, limes and vodka and, not surprisingly, taste very sweet, but also quite refreshing.
Guavaberry Colada / Guavaberry and Teem, St. Martin
Just about the only place in the world you'll find guavaberry -- and drinks made with guavaberry liquor -- is on the half French, half Dutch Caribbean island of St. Martin. Despite its name, guavaberry tastes nothing like guava. Instead, the liquor, which is made from rum, cane sugar and guavaberry, tastes woody, fruity, spicy and bittersweet -- basically like Nyquil. However, once you mix the liquor into a pina colada or with a soda called Teem (it tastes just like Squirt), the flavor changes completely. Suddenly, your cocktail has a totally unique flavor, is pink in color, and is completely enchanting.
It's the Latino version of the Bloody Mary, and loosely translated, means "my cold beer." The main ingredients are beer (preferably dark beer like Negra Modelo, though Sol, Pacifico or Tecate is good, too), salsa, lime and salt, but sometimes you'll find it with pepper, Worcestershire and soy sauce, too. Basically, it tastes like a really spicy beer. Or maybe like some one spilled some salsa into your Corona.
Porter Milkshake, Boulder, Col.
It's amazing that we had to travel 600 miles from Brew City to sample our first beer milkshake. The Boulder Beer Brewery & Pub makes the Planet Porter Milkshake that combines their house porter with vanilla ice cream. Lakefront, Sprecher, Kopp's: Are you listening? Too bad At Random doesn't serve beer; this spiked fountain drink seems like it would be a perfect fit for that joint.
The Shandy, Ireland
This popular Irish drink mixes Harp -- or really any lager for that matter -- and orange soda. Sounds like something you'd serve at a highly dysfunctional birthday party for an 8-year-old.
Hard cider, in general, is much more popular in Europe -- particularly in French, Irish and English pubs where you'll sometimes find as many ciders on tap as there are beers. This classic British bevy swirls hard cider with lager for a delicious and dangerous drinkie-poo that really has a ssssssss-assy bite. You will occasionally find this in local pubs, but your choice of ciders is usually slim to one.
CO lover said: Attention New Belgium fans: Fat Tire is now available in Chicago (I saw it in the bars at least)...probably only a matter of time before it gets to Milwaukee. As people are saying, some of these faraway drinks have made their way into Milwaukee, but part of the fun of travel is to get those things that you can't find anywhere else. It's thrilling to go abroad and come back with a bottle of something that you can't find at home. Or take a road trip out west and sample the fabulous microbrews. What's the fun if you can get every drink in the world on your doorstep?
NC said: Leblon (cachaca) in coke, mojito, ... is excellent. www.liveloveleblon.com
Abby said: You can also get a Caipirinha at Moct in the 5th Ward.
Mike said: Vnuk's sells an ass-load of cider !! I see people drinking it everytime I go there !!
ivy said: I moved to Chicago awhile ago, and I always found it easier to get cider in Milwaukee than Chicago until just recently. Anyway, County Claire has Strongbow on tap, and Onopa Brewing Company has it in cans. And I could always find Woodchuck in the store. It's misleading to say that cider isn't popular in Milw. I think it's more popular than in other places.
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