Mike’s Hard Lemonade gets the low-cal treatment

I’ve never been much of a beer guy, but I do love a good glass of wine every now and again. Unfortunately, a dry red wine doesn’t really hit the spot on a hot summer day, which is probably where the idea for wine coolers came from. But those are a little too girly – even for someone who doesn’t like the taste of beer – and that’s why I started drinking Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Granted, they’re both variations of malt liquor, but you don’t feel like a total pansy knocking back a few bottles of Mike’s in front of your friends.

In recent years, the company has introduced a number of varieties to expand the Mike’s brand – including Mike’s Harder Lemonade, the Classic Margarita and Mike’s Hard Punch – but it’s a bit surprising that it’s taken this long for them to come out with a low calorie version of their classic drink. Mike’s Lite Hard Lemonade not only has half the calories (109 versus 220), but approximately half the sugar and carbs as well. It’s also gluten-free for those unlucky bastards who have to worry about things like that, and is available in the drink’s two most popular flavors: Lemonade and Cranberry Lemonade.

The guys at Mike’s were kind enough to send over samples of both flavors for me to try out, and although it boasts the same great sweet and sour flavor of the original variety, Mike’s Lite has a slight aftertaste that’s similar to most diet sodas. That wasn’t totally unexpected considering the nutritional info, but it was a bit disappointing nonetheless, even if those who are used to that distinctly diet taste won’t notice it. If you’re looking for ways to cut calories without completely removing alcohol from your diet, Mike’s Lite Hard Lemonade is certainly one of the best low-cal alternatives on the market, but for me, it’s just not worth it when a regular Mike’s Hard Lemonade tastes so much better.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Pimm’s Cup

Pimm's CupLike Campari, Sambuca, and the like, Pimm’s Cup #1 is a bottle you’ll see at a lot of bars but which, at least here in the States, no bartender ever seems to open and which most barfolk will tend to discourage you from trying. They have their reasons because, on its own, it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s a concoction of gin and various herbs that has a nicely sweet but also fairly bitter flavor. It’s somewhere between a liqueur and Angostura.

It may be a little harsh straight, but it can mix very accessibly. A popular cocktail classic in the UK that has been referenced on both “Mad Men” and “Boardwalk Empire,” Pimm’s Cup, the cocktail, combines this relatively low alcohol (50 proof) base spirit with various types of soda and fruit and vegetable garnishes.

In my experiments, I avoided some of the very elaborate recipes which are more like very large and very wet fruit salads and eventually settled on the simple recipe below, adapted freely from the method used by Minneapolis mixologist D.J. Kukielka. It’s a winner — a tasty refreshment for lightweights with discerning palettes.

The Pimm’s Cup

2 ounces Pimm’s Cup #1
4 ounces (approximately) ginger beer or ginger ale
Cut-up cucumber (to taste)
Cucumber slice (garnish)
Lemon slice (garnish)

Place cucumbers in cocktail shaker and muddle. (Having an actual muddler on hand is a real help here, and essential if you want a truly well-stocked bar.) Add Pimm’s Cup #1 and ice. Shake very vigorously and strain into a Tom Collins glass over ice (preferably crushed). Top off with ginger ale and garnishes. Stir with swizzle stick or barspoon.

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I’m barely exaggerating when I say that there are a million recipes for this beverage on line, and they’re all pretty different from each other, which I suppose befits a drink that is something like the British equivalent of sangria. I get the impression that you could pretty much throw any fruit you can think of in, if you want. Still, I had by far the best luck with the recipe above and, though it’s more expensive, ginger beer does work slightly better than good old Canada Dry.

If you want to be really authentic, however, be aware that the original recipes often call for lemonade. The confusion here is that what the British call lemonade and what we Yanks call it are two different things. UK lemonade is a lemon soda which some compare to 7-Up — and many online recipes specially call for American-style lemon-lime soda — but Brits inform us that true British lemon soda tastes fairly different than our uncolas. If you’re lucky enough to live in a city like Los Angeles with a large British ex-pat population and specialty stores to go with it, or want to go online and don’t mind spending a little extra cash, I bet you can find some and go full Brit.

  

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