Friday, 16 March 2012

Booze Tourism Part 2 - Spain

So it's time for part 2 of my guide to Booze Tourism, where I relate tales of buying interesting booze souvenirs from foreign lands instead of the usual gift shop tat. This time I'll be looking at Spain, where in the past you might have bought a sombrero, a Barcelona shirt or a straw donkey.

Here we go...

In July of last year I was able to spend a week in San Javier, Spain playing golf and drinking with two friends (John and Chris), and this time I’d had chance to do a little booze research before heading out. I am already the relative you buy whisky for at Christmas, but on this holiday I became the person who brings the interesting booze to the party – in my own mind, at least.

As my targets I’d identified Cardinal Mendoza Solera Grand Reserva brandy (based on recommendations from and Licor 43 (or Cuarenta Y Tres). I actually found both the first time we went to the proper supermarket, and bought them immediately. I say ‘immediately’, it actually took an age for the stock boy to fetch the actual bottle of brandy to the checkout – it was one of those where you pick up an empty box, and the bottle is added later. I offered to let the people queuing behind us go first, but the staff didn’t seem to be able to deal with such maverick improvisation.

Now, I don’t actually know anything about the brandy, but it sure was nice. This blog isn’t about all the tiny details relating to a bottle of booze though, so if that’s what you’re looking for I’m sorry to disappoint you, though I am happy to point you in the direction of someone that can fulfil your requirements. On this occasion, a cursory internet search hasn’t yielded any information I’d consider interesting enough to tell you about so… yeah… sorry about that.

Between the three of us we drank the whole bottle comfortably before I needed to start thinking about how to pack my clothes and golf clubs without exceeding the weight limit again. We’d booked our flights assuming that if we selected the ‘golf clubs’ option we’d have no weight limit as long as everything was in the same bag. It turned out when we arrived at the airport that we were still only allowed 20kg – the same as everyone else. What had we paid extra for? No one at Monarch seemed to know. I was looking at paying £70 extra (£10 per kg), but by wearing a few extra layers and bunging some stuff in my hand luggage I managed to get it down to £20. Of course, the first thing they did when I returned to the check-in desk was weigh my hand luggage. It was an acceptable weight; just.

I made a careful plan for the way back, came in under weight, and though John was over, the staff at the Spanish end didn’t care anyway.

Back to the liquor though; Cardinal Mendoza Solera Gran Reserva is dark and sweet, and though I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it at first, any doubts were soon allayed and it made a pleasant companion for my afternoon shower and chilling on the balcony. Here’s a moody picture of the view from our balcony. That could have been at sunrise or senset. Not sure which. Lovely.

On one of the days I drove down to Granada to see Pablo – my first time driving on the er… wrong side of the road. It sure was fun when the SatNav sent me down a slip road before telling me to ‘turn around… when possible” and then gave up altogether on entry into Granada itself. The whole town was under renovation, and the roads didn’t make any sense.

Pablo, the most cheerful guy in the world, had stayed with Brenda and I for a month as a foreign language student, and I’d figured I’d better make an effort to visit while I was a mere 3 hour drive away. When I happened to mention that I’d bought some brandy, he said that brandy is for old people. I see. I’m not sure why brandy doesn’t have a cooler reputation – it’s stronger than beer, so logically it should be more revered among the young. Young people have a respect for you if you like whisky (or so I tell myself), so you’d think that respect would extend to brandy. Perhaps the flavour of brandy is easier to like, so it doesn’t give you the hardcore edge that whisky, vodka and tequila do. If you drink vodka or tequila neat, people think you’re a nutcase.

As for the Licor 43 – a liqueur so named because it is made from a secret combination of 43 herbs and spices – I had read that it’s nice over ice, or teamed with milk, lemonade or cola. Chris and I tried it over ice first (John wasn’t so interested) and Chris noticed it has an unusual appearance. I’ve tried to show it in a picture for you, but I’m not sure you can see. It’s like the melting ice and the liqueur are unable to mix, so they snuggle up against each other like germs in a petri dish.

The flavour’s a weird one, I don’t think I can describe it. It’s very sweet, and I don’t know if I’m tasting vanilla there – everything seems to taste of vanilla if you read reviews of spirits. I took more than half a bottle back home with me, and I can confirm, it adds an interesting twist if mixed with lemonade or cola (not so keen with milk)– so far it’s probably my favourite single item for making a soft drink slightly less soft since, unlike rum or whisky, I’d rather not drink it on its own, and at 31% alcohol it provides a happy medium between your full strength spirits and your half-strength liqueurs.

You can find suggestions for cocktails to make with Licor 43 on the website ( – or you could last time I looked [I had a look last night, and couldn’t really find anything useful].  I tried one of the simpler ones, but the best use I’ve found for this so far is the very first cocktail I have ever invented… and I’ll be posting about that at another time.

I was close to not getting a post up at all this week, but I’ve finally made it. I can’t say I have any special booze-related plans for the weekend, though I do have an idea for another cocktail that I’m going to try to put together tonight, and there’s something else I’ve been planning to do with The Devils Breath (see earlier post) for a while.. We’ll see how those go in a later post. Have a great weekend and a happy mother’s day, and I’ll probably be back next week.


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