August. Alabama. Shouldn’t we all be someplace else? “Staycations” are a hot trend — possibly too hot for Mobile. We may say we like the heat, but I’m thinking we really don’t.
Actually, I’m not thinking. My brain has officially shut down and left town, like most of the French government. My survival instincts have kicked in; I’m minimizing activity and keeping well hydrated. Beer, wine and cocktails that require no effort — not even the mental kind — are on the agenda.
When you can’t hit the road to beat the heat, you can at least take some hits of Sweetwater Brewing Company’s summer seasonal: Road Trip. It started out as a pilsner, but ended up as an ale, with a blurb on the label explaining the (ultimately lucky) detour. The color is cloudy yellow, looking kinda like fizzy pineapple juice with a frothy head. It has fruity, citrusy flavors (possibly from the Golding hops) that are dry and slightly bitter. I’d call it a light-bodied American Pale Ale, if anyone asked.
Road Trip travels well with grilled burgers, or just a big bowl of popcorn. Heat advisory: Use caution drinking Road Trip with sharp, spicy foods; its bitterness can rev up the heat. (5.2 percent ABV; available at better package stores.)
If your go-to summer wine is Pinot Grigio, I’ve got a better idea: Leese-Fitch’s California Sauvignon Blanc. The first thing you notice about this wine is its way-cool cap-cork combo closure — it’s like a Champagne cork you can stick back in the bottle. Or maybe it’s more like a Scotch-bottle stopper. Either way, it gives your brain a break on two fronts — no corkscrew to find and no cap to lose.
The wine is fresh and uncomplicated, almost colorless, with faint floral aromas, some clove and bell pepper. Flavors include ripe lemon, honeydew melon, white peach and grapefruit, with a long, dry finish. The taste is actually a happy surprise after the light fragrance and color. This Sauvignon Blanc is extremely drinkable by itself, or with grilled seafood. It may not be a “serious” wine but I liked it a lot and it’s seriously good value. (2012; 13.5 percent ABV; $11 at Lap’s Grocery on the Causeway.)
Looking for an easy pizza wine? Ruffino’s 2011 Chianti (their basic Chianti, not the Classico Riserva) hits the mark. It’s a young wine, with a deep ruby color and red-fruit aromas. The predominant flavors are red fruits, like cranberry, with some white pepper. It’s light-bodied and acidic — ideal for washing down melty mozzarella. This is not a “great” wine, but it’s a perfectly decent wine for any night when you want something simple and good. And cheap! (13 percent ABV; $8; available at grocery stores and on line.)
The summer heat brought blueberries, and now that you’re tired of pies, jam and muffins, you can re-purpose those berries as a Blue Gin Fizz. In the bottom of a champagne flute, muddle (a fancy word for mash) 3-5 blueberries.
Add two ounces of gin (Beefeater works fine; keep it in the fridge for best results), and stir. Top-up the glass with chilled Prosecco or Cava (not Champagne). Granted, you’ll have to make bucketfulls to use up the two gallons of berries you picked, but everyone needs a challenge.
The Pimm’s Cup is a different kind of fruit-based cocktail. Like the gin-and-tonic, it’s a concoction brought to us by our friends the Brits. (It’s basically British Sangria — which may sound slightly scary, but the drink truly isn’t.) The Pimm’s Cup is the cocktail of choice at Wimbledon and letting summer go by without one would be like skipping a Julep at the Derby.
To make a Pimm’s Cup, you start with Pimm’s Number 1 (a gin-based liqueur with light spice and fruit flavors, sold at most ABC stores). From there the recipe — both ingredients and proportions — varies widely so (here’s the good news) there’s no need to measure or worry.
Basically, you pour the Pimm’s liqueur into a pitcher and stop when it looks like enough; add club soda, 7-Up or ginger ale, depending on the degree of sweetness you’re going for, and then add freshly chopped apples, cucumbers and oranges, and fresh mint. (OK, you really want roughly a 3-to-1 ratio between the soda and the Pimm’s, but this is not carved in stone.) Mix well, pour into tumblers of ice and sip. Some people love it, some people hate it, but at least you can say you’ve tried it.
Now, if you really are stuck at work, reading Lagniappe on the sly, you need a VIP (Vacation-in-Place) moment. So I’ve got a little game for you, and only you need know you’re playing. Look at your co-workers (be subtle; don’t stare) and then read my list of real-life wine descriptions (lovingly plagiarized from glossy wine publications that I pay money to read).
See how many matches you can make between your colleagues and the wine-speak. We’ll start with easy ones: “A bit past its prime.” “Fruity and lively.” “Rich, but lacks depth.” “Full-bodied and supple.” “No discernible backbone.” “Should be left several years to mature.” (Have you recognized Liz in accounting? Or maybe Mike, the owner’s son?)
Try some more, you’ve got time: “Assertive and forward.” “A slightly off-putting nose.” “Earthy, with a whiff of barnyard.” “Somewhat unbalanced.” “Complex and mysterious.” “Unapproachable, for now.” “Young, but shows promise.” “Light and sneaky.” “A bit tight.” “Will keep for years.” The parallels are amazing, once you start noticing (and you can play this game almost anywhere, actually).
Don’t forget the (Abita) Top of the Hops Beer Fest at the Wharf, Orange Beach, Aug. 10! It’ll be stupid-hot, so enjoy the beer but drink water, too. When my brain gets back from vacation, maybe I’ll plan a Thirsty Work Groundhog Day Beer Festival. All the fun, without all the sweat. Cheers!!