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!

 

November 11 – Gibson

Hall of Fame 2015

In 2013, we launched The Sip Advisor Hall of Fame and since then, have filled its hallowed halls with 14 entrants worthy of enshrinement. This has included a Beer and Wine Wing, as well as one for Mixers. If you’re curious about past inductees, you can check out the 2013 and 2014 festivities. Tonight, however, is all about the class of 2015!

Captain Morgan Rum

Captain Morgan was the first spiced rum I ever enjoyed and it introduced me to a wonderful world of rum variants. Since then, I’ve also become a fan of the brand’s Lime Bite release, although it is impossible to find in Canada, despite having a large Canadian presence. I won’t be petty about that, though, and blacklist the company from the Hall of Fame. As far as new products go, I’m looking forward to trying the recently released Barrel Blast (cinnamon and citrus in a cannonball-themed bottle).

Captain Morgan Cannon Blast

Absolut Vodka

Over the years, I’ve been able to try some really unique vodka flavours from Absolut, including Texas (cucumber and serrano chili), and Karnival (passion fruit and orange blossom), but there are many more to try, such as Orient Apple (ginger and red apple). Absolut was even the Sip Advisor’s selection for the Sweden entry of my Around the World project. While Absolut may not be the finest vodka on the market, it plays an important role in cocktail development, thanks to incredibly diverse line-up.

Bols Melon Liqueur

The Sip Advisor has always been a fan of melon-flavoured items and this green gem is no different. Perfect for martinis, cocktails, and shots, it is a bottle that I’m quick to replace when it runs dry. There are so many great recipes I’ve used that incorporate Melon Liqueur that it’s hard to narrow down a top choice. The House of Bols released their liqueurs in foam dispensers a couple years back (we have Blue Curacao and Crème de Bananes) and I’d love to track down the Melon Liqueur one.

Jim Beam Black Cherry Bourbon

Like Absolut Vodka, Jim Beam Bourbon played a role in the Around the World project, representing the United States. My affinity for the alcohol goes back much further, though. The Sip Advisor was once a participant in a murder mystery game, given the character of Jimmy Bourbon. While my Cajun accent was atrocious, I did get to carry around and drink from a bottle of Jim Beam Bourbon all night, so all was well. Later, I levelled up and grabbed the company’s Black Cherry Bourbon and the rest is history!

jim beam black cherry bourbon

Ouzo/Sambuca

These cousins are perfect for an after meal shot, helping with digestion. When Mrs. Sip and I travelled to Athens and Santorini, Greece (you know, before the country went down the crapper), a highlight of our amazing dinners was sharing some Ouzo, sometimes with the staff who has served us. The restaurants outside of Greece that have adopted the tradition are tops in my books. While the licorice-flavoured liqueurs don’t factor into many cocktails, they are still very useful spirits.

Unibroue Beer

Mrs. Sip and I are big fans of this Quebec-based brewery (perhaps the best thing since poutine and smoked meat sandwiches to come from the Canadian province), which has a line of beers that are each interesting and delicious. Last year, we were lucky to attend a pairing dinner, featuring Unibroue selections and this year we’ll be repeating the feat later this month. Our favourites from the brewery include Blanche de Chambly, La Fin du Monde, Trois Pistoles, and La Resolution.

Lemon-Lime Soda

With Pepsi and Dr. Pepper already enjoying spots within the Hall of Fame’s Mixer Wing, it’s time for Lemon-Lime Soda to join the fray. I can’t really narrow down whether I like Sprite or 7-Up (or a non-name brand variation) better, so I’ll just enshrine the entire genre. Lemon-Lime Soda doesn’t stay on the Sip Advisor’s shelf for long, often used in Tom Collins experimentation, as I try different gins. As the King of Mojitos, I’m also quick to use Lemon-Lime Soda over Club Soda, for that added flavour kick.

Hall of Fame 2015: Gibson

  • 2.5 oz Gin
  • 0.5 oz Dry Vermouth
  • Garnish with a Cocktail Onion

Thank you for joining us on this festive evening, as we salute the booze that has made The Sip Advisor possible. Where will 2016 take us, you ask? Only time will tell!