In this episode, Brent and Neola talk about summer drinks.
Ah, summertime. In Mississippi, summer means sweltering heat, sunburn and lots and lots of chafing in places no one wants to be chafed. People keep cool by whatever means available. Kids run through the spray from water hoses, and old women make fans out of church bulletins. And if you own a pool, you suddenly find yourself the most popular person on the block.
Pool or not, though, there is one constant that unites the sweaty masses, be they rich or poor, black or white, Republican or Democrat: alcohol.
That's right, the devil's nectar is to summer what hot chocolate is to winter. It is a salve to the blistered tongue (at least until the dehydration kicks in), and it's as much of a part of a Mississippi summer as complaining about the heat.
As I have stated in previous columns, I am a bit of a girlie-drink drinker. I like the alcoholic beverages I consume to—GASP!—actually taste good. When it comes to alcohol consumption, I'm more of a "quality" than a "quantity" kind of guy, so I want maximum flavor for my drinking dollar.
So what does a girlie-drink drinker's summer stash look like? It's lots of what my girlfriend lovingly (or derisively) refers to as "alco-pop." (She can be as derisive as she wants, as long as I get to have some ice-cold, refreshing Bacardi Watermelon and Smirnoff Ice.)
Guys, if you want to take a step up from the candy-flavored pseudo-beers but still want to keep your girlie drinker cred, think about something that balances the wussy flavors we girlie drinkers love with a bit more substance. I'm digging the Strawberry Abita (and from what I've gathered, so is most of the metro area). I am also partial to Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale. I've gotten both at McDade's in Fondren. They are very different beers, but they both have that bit of sweetness I so crave, tempered by an actual beer taste, which apparently some beer drinkers want. Savages.
Wow. I had no idea Brent had moved into true beerdom. I snicker a little when I see him proudly knocking back those Bacardi Watermelon drinks. I'm actually pretty proud of him for stepping into what I consider my territory.
Back when I was a wee one, I had a run in with some Natty Light (note: when I say wee one, I really mean, "When I was 18 and at a fraternity party ...") and wondered if that was all beer had to offer. It was summer and sweltering; everyone was covered in a thin film of perspiration, but that wasn't the only thing we all had in common. Everyone also had a sweaty, cold beer in hand. It was then that I made the connection of an ice-cold beer being the perfect antidote to the oppressive heat and humidity in Mississippi.
Eventually, I moved on from that first Natty Light into more palate-pleasing fare. I started learning about microbrews and what my mouth really delighted in, settling on nut-brown ales or chocolate porters. Something about those dark beers, though, seem to clash with summer for me.
As the year progresses into miserable heat, my beers lighten up. I'm grossly anti-IPA (India Pale Ale) as they're too hoppy (aka bitter) for me, but I've often declared my love for Pabst Blue Ribbon, and it's my summer staple. I recently learned that Old German is made alongside my beloved PBR, and I couldn't be happier. I have just as many memories of porch sitting with Old German tallboys in hand as I do with PBR.
Have y'all ever noticed that vodka goes really well with beer? Stop the gagging. It really does. Recently, I went to a tasting of delicious new Cathead vodka (made in Mississippi), and their drink of choice was a vodka, light beer and pink lemonade concentrate combo served over ice. It was the heavenly, effervescent, soothing cocktail I needed after a long day at work and the oven that is summer in Mississippi.
This was the drink of choice for my 24th birthday party several years ago and, as my birthday falls in the hottest part of July, it was ideal refreshment. At the time, I thought it might be kind of disgusting, but it's the perfect blend of summery flavors and keeps my favorite summer beverage—beer—involved. When you host your next barbecue this summer and can't decide on a special cocktail or beer for guests, why not go for both?
I think Brent and I just might have found our intersection of the so-called "girlie" and "manly" drinks—slightly sweet, bubbly and altogether delicious. Cheers!
Perfect Punch (Makes four servings)
1 can frozen pink lemonade concentrate
12 ounces lager
12 ounces vodka
1 small lime, sliced for garnish
Mix first three ingredients and pour over crushed ice in a pitcher. Serve with lime wedges. For a little flair, consider using a fruit-infused vodka.