Sip Trips #63: Asian Antics (Part 1)

Mrs. Sip and I recently returned from a five-week vacation throughout Asia, which featured as much beer, wine and spirits as we could cram in. Here is part one of some of the notable experiences we enjoyed on our journey:

The fun all got started when we joined Mrs. Sip’s parents and sister in Singapore. Drinks in the city are very expensive and we had to work hard to find happy hour deals, where beverages could be had on a buy one-get one basis (or as they promoted it, one-for-one).

Happy Hour Savings

We also managed to track down some craft beer in Singapore, passing by the Red Dot Brewhouse, by chance. I ordered the Monster Green Lager, which was infused with spirulina and advertised as a must-try novelty beer, while Mrs. Sip asked for the Lime Wheat (brewed with local lime). The brewery’s name has an interesting story: the owner was touring South Africa in 1997 when he was first introduced to home brewing. When he visited a shop to bring some supplies back home, his options were for an ale or a lager… one marked with a red dot and the other not. The rest is history, as they say.

Our last night in Singapore was spent staying at the Marina Bay Sands. We splurged and booked one of their club rooms, which for the “low” price of $600, provided us with invitations to an afternoon tea, cocktail hour and breakfast. To justify the costly indulgence, Mrs. Sip and I made sure to drink $250-plus worth of booze during the cocktail hour! It was during this binge that I completed the four horseman challenge, consuming one beverage each featuring Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, Jose Cuervo, and Johnnie Walker (all doubles, of course)!

Next up was our 18-day cruise, with port stops throughout Asia. These stops included Bangkok, Thailand; Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang, Vietnam; Hong Kong and Shanghai, China; Taipei, Taiwan; Nagasaki, Japan; and Busan, South Korea.

Cruise Ship Pirate

I’ve written about our booze strategies on cruises before, but we learned some new things on this trip. One of our first tasks was to purchase a wine package. We went with the silver-level 12-bottle card, which meant our nightly bottle with dinner would cost as cheap as $20 each, as opposed to the $29 price point.

Another savings we regularly took advantage of was the ship’s BOGO hours, where two drinks could be purchased with the second only costing $1. We learned early on that this could also be applied to beers (which we would stock up on and save for days at sea as we relaxed poolside) and even wine bottles. Speaking of beers, Princess Cruises has introduced a third brew to their burgeoning Seawitch craft beer line-up, adding a Blonde Ale to their IPA and Red Ale (my personal fave).

My one not-so-good drinking experience on the ship was ordering a specialty margarita to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. I asked for the Chili and Chocolate (Don Julio Reposado, White Creme de Cacao, jalapenos) option and the bartender had to look up the recipe. Shouldn’t that be a prerequisite of working the Margarita Bar? The drink was passable, but not as good as the previous serving I’ve had of it. The bartender used chocolate sauce in the margarita which made it look dirty and threw the flavour off.

Cinco de Mayo

As far as drinking off the ship, one of my favourite stops of the cruise was our two-day layover in Hong Kong. This gave us a rare chance to experience the city’s night life, which cruises don’t often provide. With Mrs. Sip having a couple friends living in Hong Kong, we had an inside edge and ended up at the Happy Valley Racecourse, which had its own beer garden. There, with a pitcher of Kronenboug Blanc in hand, I enjoyed our groups’ only betting win of the evening!

With the cruise over, we flew to Japan where we would spend the next two weeks trekking across the country… but that’s a story for another Sip Trips!

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Sip Trips #43: California Dreamin’ (Part 1)

With many of our family and friends asking, “Do they ever work?”, Mrs. Sip and I were out of town again the past week and a half, enjoying a coastal cruise aboard the Star Princess, followed by a few days with her parents at a resort in Escondido, California. Here’s part one of all the fun we got up to:

One of the first things we do after boarding our ship is search out potential drinks deals and get a lay of the land. One of these deals came to us, as our steward dropped off two complimentary drink tickets upon meeting us. We used these later to grab a couple of their cocktails. While Mrs. Sip ordered an Ultimate Mai Tai – her favourite Princess beverage – I tried The Isaac, designed for Princess Cruises 50th anniversary, by the man who played the bartender on The Love Boat. The drink combined Bacardi Rum with lime and pomegranate juices and it was fun to have a drink made by the fictional liquor slinger.

Isaac The Love Boat

Mrs. Sip and I are platinum members with the cruise line and therefore have access to their Elite Lounge from 5-7pm each day of the voyage. This includes feature drinks and appies. While there used to just be one drink on the menu priced at $5, they now feature a line of about a half dozen cocktails that are discounted. We worked our way through the list over our four-day cruise, which included the Chairman of the Board; Rob Roy; Mojito; Japanese Slipper; Brezza Marina; and Cosmopolitan. I like that they picked strong drinks for the lounge options.

Another trick of the trade was the ship’s new BOGO hours, which allowed passengers to buy one drink and get a second of the same for only one dollar more. We used this on a couple occasions, to get Mojitos and Beverly Hills Iced Teas.

As far as bringing alcohol on board the ship, passengers are allowed one bottle of wine each, but we always bring on a little more. To cover the entire gamut, we brought on one red, one white, and one bubbly. We also typically tuck a couple mini liquor bottles into our toiletry kits, which go perfectly with the complimentary lemonade you can get at the buffet. On this cruise, we combined the soft drink with Evan Williams Cherry Liqueur, Smirnoff Watermelon and Camarena Reposado Tequila, Absolut Raspberri and Camarena Reposado Tequila, and Pinnacle Peach Vodka and Cruzan Coconut Rum.

pirate cruise

As previously mentioned, Princess Cruises is currently celebrating their 50th anniversary and had some specially designed drinks to ring in their golden anniversary year. Mrs. Sip and I splurged and tried a couple – at $12 per cocktail, we couldn’t enjoy them all – including the Anniversary Bliss (Bulleit Bourbon, Peach Schnapps, Frangelico, simple syrup, mint leaves) and 50 Years More (Don Julio, Blue Curacao, White Creme de Cacao, Galiano, lime juice). Both drinks we nicely crafted and blended some interesting ingredients.

Despite being on international waters, craft beer could still be found. We tried both the Seawitch Denali Red Alaska Style Red Ale and the Seawitch West Coast IPA, brewed exclusively for Princess Cruises by Denali Brewing and Strike Brewing, respectively. The Red Ale was the better of the two, as the IPA had a copper aftertaste, although that dissipated as you consumed more of the beer.

A new find for the Sip Advisor on this cruise was the Margarita Bar, which featured a number of great recipes. Mrs. Sip and I shared their Strawberry & Black Pepper (Cazadores Reposado, strawberry juice, black pepper) and Chocolate & Chili (Don Julio, White Creme de Cacao, fresh jalapeños) options. I loved the Chocolate & Chili, as the chocolate really balances out the jalapeños. There was also a Sweet & Smokey (Tequila, Scotch, Grand Marnier, orange juice) I was interested in, but did not get a chance to try.

margaritas archer

On our final evening of cruising, we went to the Vines wine bar, where they were advertising a wine and chocolate pairing. Unfortunately, they only had one set of the chocolates left, so I let Mrs. Sip be the fortunate recipient (chivalry is far from dead, my little sippers!) of the truffles designed by chocolatier Norman Love. Her pairing combined one light, medium and heavy red with chocolates using cocoa from five different countries (Venezuela, Tanzania, Peru, Dominican Republic, Ghana). On the server’s recommendation, I did New World wine flight which included Wild Horse Pinot Noir (USA), Caliterra Carmenere (Chile), and McPherson Shiraz (Australia).

I suppose my only complaint from the cruise would be that near the end, they had run out of a number of supplies, such as the aforementioned chocolates to pair with the wines and some other chocolate ingredients that were meant to go with a menu of cocktail concoctions intended to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

Only half way through our little vacation, part two will look at our time spent in the San Diego County area, with a journey into the Temecula Valley Wine Country and time spent exploring the city’s craft beer community!