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Recipe for summer frivolity


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Whitey’s been playing with bargain refreshments for the summer.  He warns the Woolworths prices he quotes can change with no notice, but the fun index outlined below is as rock solid as frivolity can stretch.

Absolut Country of Sweden Vodka
$34/700 mL; 40% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points

It’s not that I’ve been whipping myself to find other excuses to visit Woolworths, but while their liquor stores always seem to offer the best prices on real German beer (Oettinger: $1.20/330mL stubby; $1.54/500mL can), and the best and cheapest blended whisky (Bailie Nicol Jarvie Scotch Whisky : $37/700mL), they also seem to offer the cheapest premium vodka in Absolut ($34.85/700mL; $50.90/1L).  This is quite literally the cleanest methanol I can find as such a price: it beats hands down most trendy scam brands passed off as far posher, more expensive spirits. And these are many.  Beware.  Headaches be there.

I’ve entertained my limp brain over the break making cocktails based on Absolut.  The best of these involve juices from Germany, of all places, marketed by Woolworths in its supermarket fridges under the very British name Cawston Press.  The apple and ginger juice ($4.29/L) makes a delicious long-glass refresher with a squeeze and a slice of lemon and/or fresh Buderim-ginger-root garnish on ice with soda and Absolut.

I’m also quite partial to a heart-starter of Absolut, ice, soda and a little cold espresso coffee, like the leftover from your pot.  But I’ve had even more perverse fun attempting to mix a drink that best emulates that most expensive of red wines, the salacious and sensual Pinot noir.  To one schlück of Absolut add one or two of Cawston Press Beetroot juice, and a cooled soup spoon of BonVit Roasted Dandelion coffee substitute, then top up with soda and ice.  I’d like to add some cherry cordial, but can’t find one good enough.  Your drink’ll be more like a proper sparkling Burgundy (made principally with Pinot, not Shiraz), and as it hasn’t been fermented, it’ll be a tad sweeter than a real one, but see what you think.

As for preferring German juice to the works of our troubled desert Riverlands, it’s an easy choice.  Just like wine grapes, juices made from cool-climate fruits and roots tend to blow away the sunbaked versions.  Especially if you’re teasing yourself by attempting to emulate Pinot, which, like the best beetroots, grows where it snows.

Brian Barry Jud’s Hill Clare Valley Riesling  2013
$162.76/1 dozen 750mL, 11.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+ points   

In immediate contradiction of my “cooler climates make better flavours” theory, here’s a princely Riesling from Clare, whose warm weather is nothing at all like the cold stuff of Germany, where Riesling originates. I have never yet heard a good simple explanation of how Riesling works so vibrantly in Clare and Eden Valley.  I mean, they’re cool for South Australia, but they’re not Germany cool.  Once again, Riesling’s a drink I play with in summer.  I love it with a big ice block and a good dash of soda.

This one’s from the famous 1977 Jud’s Hill Vineyard set up by Brian Barry, and now owned by his nephew Peter, of Jim Barry’s Wines.  For the true winerds, Brian says its pH, 2.9, is the lowest he’s ever seen in a white wine. It has a more gentle, delicate fragrance than the bigger Rieslings I recommended earlier in the summer – its citrus is as much pith as your normal  juice, and its florals more along the line of musky roses “too soft to touch, but too lovely to leave alone”, as Tim Hardin sang.  Its palate is similarly gentle, and is almost understated in its delicacy and beauty.  It’s a wine befitting the name of the gentleman with the most sensitive nose I have encountered in Australia.

I always say “vintage doesn’t happen until Brian Barry’s had his birthday”, which means, I think, that’ll be his 87th coming on in a few weeks.  You could make a great old man very happy by relieving him of a case of this special treasure: you buy it direct from Brian, cases only, on (08) 8363 6211.


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