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Hit-Or-Miss

Counting Calories In The 50 Most Popular Beers

Written by VinePair.com‘s Joshua Malin

In the last few years, we’ve seen the world’s largest brewers introduce beers with fewer and fewer calories. The point of these beers — which pack very little alcohol — isn’t to create a delicious brew, but to save you some calories while you’re drinking. Some of these beers certainly do cut out a good number of calories, but as the below infographic of 50 popular beers shows, you’re really not saving much in the way of calories as a reward for your flavor-sacrifice. Drink what you like, but drink smarter!

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Written by VinePair.com’s Joshua Malin

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Health

The Best Alcohol for Great Sex? It’s Red Wine

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Written by VinePair‘s Adam Teeter

If you ask Leon Phelps – aka the “Ladies Man” – about the most essential ingredient for love, Courvoisier will be his answer every time. As he so famously said in his trademark lisp, “usually it only takes me a bottle of Courvoisier and some Lou Rawls to get excited, you know?” Booze, and red wine in particular, is listed as one of the top ten aphrodisiacs for love, but have a bit too much, and alcohol can turn from being good for your sex drive to being bad very quickly – don’t pretend you’re the only one who hasn’t had a few too many and then had a not-so-fun romp in the sheets. So what’s the ideal dosage for love? Let us prescribe it to you.

When we first take a sip of booze, alcohol’s initial effects as one of the world’s greatest social lubricants begins to take hold. We feel looser, more open and often, much more relaxed. This is the liquid courage we hear so much about, and it’s why so many of us seem to have the most success when meeting someone out at a bar. At this initial stage, we feel more confident to take a risk – which includes talking to that attractive person across the room.

It’s at the level of about one to two drinks, when most people report feeling the most pleasure. Alcohol stimulates the receptors in our brain, and at one or two drinks in, that slight buzz and warm feeling aren’t being overwhelmed by the feelings of dizziness, nausea and even depression, which can set in after consuming a good bit. It’s also at this light level of alcohol intake when we’re most likely to perform our best – drinking and driving is not the only thing you should avoid when drunk.

And while all alcohol in moderation helps a bit when it comes to sexual pleasure and desire, none has more benefits than red wine, both for males and females. For the ladies, red wine causes the sex drive to be even more pronounced than with other drinks, at least according to a group of Italian researchers who discovered that the compounds in the wine actually enhance levels of sexual desire in the fairer sex. What the researchers uncovered was that the red wine specifically increased blood flow to women’s erogenous areas, which in turn led to increased levels of desire. The researchers were quick to point out, however, that after more than a drink or two the other effects of alcohol began to take hold, which led to a less pleasurable experience. Moderation, it seems, is key.

For men, not only does a drink or two loosen things up and increase blood flow to essential areas, but red wine also seems to increase levels of testosterone in the blood, a necessary hormone when it comes to male sexual arousal and “appetite.” Normally a male’s body rids itself of testosterone when an enzyme called UGT2B17 attaches specific molecules to testosterone, enabling the body to identify it and get rid of it through the urine. But when consuming a glass of red, a compound inside the wine called quercetin effectively blocks UGT2B17, preventing the body from excreting it, and thereby raising levels of testosterone in the blood. However, just as with women, a few too many drinks and all alcohol, including red wine, can have the reverse effect, lowering testosterone and decreasing the sex drive.

So when it comes to alcohol and sex, the best prescription is opening and splitting a bottle of red with your partner. It’s the perfect amount for you to each have two glasses and experience the positive effects the combination of wine and sex can deliver, with a smaller chance of the negatives.

Written by VinePair‘s Adam Teeter

Header Image via Shutterstock.com 

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Hit-Or-Miss

These Are The 20 Most Popular Beers In America Right Now

Big Beer is a big business in America. Total annual sales stand around $100 billion. Craft Beers, as defined by the Brewer’s Association, are booming, yet still only account for around 15% of the beer sold in America. On a volume basis, craft beer’s share of the market is about half of that, due to its premium pricing. So what’s America drinking? A whole lot of light beer, most of which is made by a handful of monstrous macro brewers. America’s most popular beer is Bud Light – by a couple billion dollars. Yes, Bud Light’s U.S. sales alone would lodge it firmly within the Fortune 500.

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Written by VinePair‘s Joshua Malin

Categories
Health

You CAN Drink When You’re Sick, Hot Toddy Has Curative Powers

hot-toddy

According to the CDC, we’re currently in the middle of one of the worst cold and flu seasons in recent memory. Chances are, you or someone you know has the bug right now, and since this year’s strain of the flu vaccine doesn’t seem to be helping all that much, you’re probably looking for relief anywhere you can get it. But instead of wasting your money wandering the aisles of your local pharmacy, trying every over the counter remedy you can get your hands on, head to your liquor store, grab a nice bottle of whiskey and make a hot toddy instead.

One of the main ways your body is able to fight off a cold is by getting enough sleep so that you’re well rested. While you could turn to Nyquil to try and help you with that job, a hot toddy works just as well, and a bit more naturally, at relieving your symptoms so you can rock off to sleep – plus you won’t have that hazy Nyquil hangover many people often say they develop in the morning.

For decades people have used the hot toddy as a natural remedy for easing all those aches and pains that are associated with the common cold, and for the most part, it was just assumed that it was one of those natural remedies, like chicken soup, that works because your brain thinks it works, not because there is actual science behind it. But as it turns out, a hot toddy is actually pretty great, from a scientific perspective, at soothing your cold.

The reason we like drugs like Nyquil is because they not only ease our congestion, they help us fall asleep, and it turns out the ingredients in a hot toddy do the exact same thing. Not only that, but the alcohol inside the whiskey also helps fight off infection and the growth of microorganisms!

Whiskey is a great decongestant — the alcohol dilates the blood vessels, making it easier for your mucus membranes to deal with the infection — and, combined with the herbal tea, squeeze of honey, lemon, and the warm steam emanating from the drink, you have the perfect concoction for helping to clear up your cold symptoms. And by the time you finish the drink, you won’t only be breathing a bit easier, but the alcohol will also start working its magic in the sleep department, making you just groggy enough so you can get some much needed shuteye.

As with any remedy that incorporates booze as a main ingredient, there is such a thing as too many hot toddies if your goal is to actually feel better. While the alcohol in one drink is great for falling asleep and feeling refreshed, one too many and the sleep you receive won’t be that refreshing at all, and could cause you to wake up the next morning with worse symptoms than you had before. So stick to one, and you should be good to go.

Here’s Our Ideal Recipe:

8oz Hot Water
1 Bag Herbal Tea
1oz Bourbon
1 Tablespoon Honey
1 Lemon Wedge

Pour hot water into mug and steep tea for 2-3 minutes. Remove tea bag and add honey, stirring to dissolve. Pour in whiskey, add squeeze of lemon, stir and find relief.

Written by VinePair‘s Adam Teeter

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Hit-Or-Miss

Don’t Fear Boxed Wine: The Benefits Of Wine In A Box

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Boxed wine gets a bad rap. That’s because when most of us hear that we’re about to be served wine from a box, our memories immediately return to an earlier time in our drinking journey, most likely college, and to a box of Franzia and a game called slap the bag.

If your exposure to boxed wine was literally ripping the bladder out of the box and taking turns drunkenly slapping the contents inside, while also binge drinking, it’s not hard to see why you wouldn’t have much respect for wine served out of this type of container later down the road. On the contrary, a plausible first experience with wine in a bottle was probably sneaking it from your parents’ cabinet to shyly finish the contents in your basement before playing a game where you and a bunch of your pimpled-faced friends all sat in a circle, spinning the empty bottle around on the ground with hopes of landing a kiss or two. At least with the bottle there was a bit of romanticism involved, all that comes from playing slap the bag is regrets.

But memories of the morning after and cheap wine hangovers should not turn you off from boxed wine, because when done well, boxed wine is really awesome.

You know those nights when you’ve had a long day of work, and all you want is a glass of wine, but you don’t want to bother opening, and feeling compelled to drink, a whole bottle? Boxed wine to the rescue. What about when you have a recipe that calls for just a cup of white or red? There’s boxed wine again to save the day. What makes boxed wine so fantastic, is that every glass poured is like opening a new bottle.

When boxed wine was invented in Australia during the 1960s – yep the Aussies are responsible for both the box and popularizing the screw cap – the technology was initially intended to serve this need of Penfolds, who sponsored the research. The company was looking for a way to sell its entry-level wine at a lower price, while still offering consumers the quality they had come to expect — boxed wine to the rescue! When wine is sealed inside the pressurized bag that sits inside the box, an airtight seal is created that allows wine to come out, but no air to get in. By maintaining an airtight seal, each glass poured from the spout is like popping a new bottle of wine, so there’s no fear of opening a box and worrying that it might spoil later, as long as you keep the box in the fridge and finish the contents about a month after opening it.

Where boxed wine went wrong is when the affordable packaging led to many companies putting less than stellar contents inside. Since boxed wine’s packaging is simply cardboard and a plastic bladder, it has a low carbon footprint, but these materials also means it’s really cheap to produce, and when companies often encounter a cheap vessel, they wind up putting their cheapest contents inside of them. And thus we have how boxed wine was ruined.

But cheap boxed wine’s days are numbered, or at least, there are several quality producers out there that are realizing they can give their consumers great bang for their buck by putting their wine in a box, and lower their carbon footprint at the same time. These are wines that make up that 98% of wine out there that’s meant to be drunk young; they’re great wines that don’t need to be in a bottle, so producers are electing to put them in a box instead.

And if you’re still one of those people out there that swears no matter what we say, you will never drink wine from a box, we bet in a way you already are and don’t even realize it. You see, a lot of the affordable international wine that you buy was probably shipped over to the U.S. in a big box of wine. That’s right, before that affordable Cotes de Rhone was bottled at a U.S. facility and sold to you in the store, it probably spent time in a large plastic bladder while making its way across the ocean. Shipping the wine in a large box, instead of individual bottles, is a much cheaper way to ensure the juice makes it to our shores without any damage, and it keeps the cost low for you too, even if you ultimately drink that wine from the bottle they finally sold it to you in.

So forget those bad college memories, and give boxed wine another try. If you’re looking for a casual weeknight glass or two, you’ll be glad you have a box in the fridge.

And, if you’re looking for a good Boxed Wine, check out The Reverse Wine Snob’s rundown.

Written by VinePair‘s Adam Teeter

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Hit-Or-Miss

Beer and Wine Trends for 2015: Session Beers, Orange Wine and On-Demand Liquor

predictions-wine-industry

Have you ever heard of orange (aka amber) wine, let alone drank it? Odds are you probably haven’t, yet a few years ago, according to many in the industry, it was going to be the next big craze. That clearly never happened, but it didn’t stop a lot of smart people from jumping on the orange wine bandwagon.

This happens all the time when it come to wine, beer and cocktails, and because we run a site devoted to booze, we’re exposed to tons of messages from publicists and industry insiders all with a very similar pitch: that what they’d like us to write about, guaranteed, is the next big thing. More often than not, that isn’t the case, but booze is one of the more trend-focused industries around and big things do come and go all the time, so hypothesizing about what’s going to be hot next is a lot of fun. It clearly wasn’t orange wine a few years ago, but we also guess no one really predicted Moscato blowing up either, well besides Drake.

We’d like to think our crystal ball here at VinePair is fairly accurate, at least batting .500, but as you can see, making predictions is never easy and we’re sure we’ll receive all sorts of feedback on our visions of the future. But since we’re beginning a new year, and are excited about what’s to come, here are our predictions for what we can expect in the world of wine, beer and cocktails in 2015.

 

Whites from Greece will be all the rage this summer, especially Assyrtiko from Santorini.

Fast-casual restaurants will continue to add wine, beer and even craft cocktails to their menus.

While sommeliers continue to focus on obscure regions, everyday consumers will look to historically consistent Old-World regions from France, Spain, and Italy for their wine. The challenge for these historically successful regions in 2015 will be whether or not they can transition away from the entrenched enthusiast wine market, and learn to speak to a new generation of consumers in a different way.

The region that does this most effectively will be victorious in 2015.

Emerging American wine regions will continue to rise in relevance. Virginia will solidify its place as the next exciting region for American wine. (Texas and New Jersey, you’re also on our radar.)

Aged and craft rums will become the next great spirit, giving whiskey a run for its money.

On-demand booze delivery will become a big thing.

We’ll all keep drinking a ton of craft beer, and less mass market varieties, despite the best efforts of the Budweisers of the world.

Session beers will become a massive style of craft beer as brewers turn away from making bigger and bigger IPAs, favoring restraint when it comes to alcohol level, allowing us to drink more beers without getting completely wasted.

Wine will continue to become more portable, with Zipz making a big splash thanks to its massive Shark Tank money.

There will be more “cocktail kits” and bottles of pre-mixed cocktails, as we see in Europe.

More and more good wine will be offered by the glass at restaurants and bars, as the Coravin system continues to spread, giving restaurants an affordable way to list multiple bottles.

The big alcohol companies will continue to make massive purchases of craft wineries, breweries, distilleries and brands this year in an effort to strengthen their portfolios and continue as market leaders.

While well intentioned, the beer Cicerone movement will push craft beer closer and closer to setting off snoberry-induced backlash from consumers.

Sherry will continue to be the next big thing that is not actually the next big thing.

A state government agency will pick the wrong fight in either direct-to-consumer shipping (most likely unconstitutionally) or in the murky world of on-demand booze delivery. For once they’ll lash out at someone with the money to fight back, and they’ll lose. Consumers will finally win.

Despite a lot of hype Starbucks’s wine program won’t make a big impact.

The venture-backed wine apps, from scanning to on-demand delivery, will begin to consolidate.

There will be at least one major Italian wine scandal. 99% of consumers will neither know nor care.

Multiple low calorie wine brands will see success.

Robert Parker is still dead.

Written by Adam Teeter and the VinePair staff

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Hit-Or-Miss

Pairing A $3.99 Box Of Popeyes With $170 Dom Perignon, Surprisingly Fantastic

The night air was so sharp and biting that upon heading out on my journey, I considered turning back. Snow was beginning to fall, crowds of people were all over the sidewalk, and I seriously began to wonder if fried chicken and Champagne could really be worth all of this effort. But I had promised a group of hungry writers a test of one of the ultimate pairings, so I was headed to Popeyes.

In recent years Popeyes has taken on an almost mythic status among food writers. Considered the best fast-food fried chicken around, the chain can seemingly do no wrong when it comes to its food innovations. Just as popular in recent months has been the idea of pairing Champagne with fried chicken. A themed restaurant has even opened on Manhattan’s trendy Lower East Side –Birds & Bubbles – touting this, and only this, epic pairing. The food critic Adam Platt even recently sung the restaurant’s praise, where a fried chicken dinner with sides costs $65 and that’s before you even get to the cost of the Champagne.

With the release of Popeyes’s new Spicebox Chicken, it was almost as if the company was taunting us to try this epic combo for ourselves. But the most famous fast food chicken around could not be paired with just any old Champagne. If we were to prove to ourselves that fried chicken and Champagne really do belong together, we were going to do it with a $3.99 box of Popeyes chicken, and a bottle of Dom Pérignon.

As I trudged out into the cold, I fantasized about New Orleans, the birthplace of Popeyes, and even began to believe that upon entering their location on 14th street, I’d be transported there, enveloped by the warm climate and laissez les bons temps rouler attitude. Instead I found myself among tourists and locals inside a fast food location that looked like most any other fast food location in America, except that this one was selling that delicious chicken.

After I procured the chicken for the team, I headed back to our offices, where I met up with Josh, Adam Chandler, a writer for The Atlantic who often covers fast food, and Bari Weiss, who is an editor at The Wall Street Journal. We all had high hopes for this pairing, but no real idea if it would actually work. Champagne can cut through fat and grease beautifully, but what if either the Champagne or the chicken overwhelmed the flavor of the other? Or what if the chicken just wasn’t that good? It was time to figure that all out.

We opened the boxed, dove in, and were blown away. The pairing worked. Not only did it work, it was absolutely delicious. The only thing in the entire experience that left something to be desired was the Popeyes french fries, but that’s a problem we felt they’ve been aware of for some time now – hopefully they’ll remedy it soon. The chicken, though, was incredible – juicy, flavorful and spicy. The wine cut through it beautifully, marrying it all together. It was like we were at Birds & Bubbles, we just hadn’t spent $65 for the chicken. We all agreed, the next time we wouldn’t shell out for such a pricey Champagne as well, but it was fun to drink the Dom.

Written by VinePair’s Adam Teeter

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Hit-Or-Miss

A Guide to Eating Like a Real Italian, at Olive Garden

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Written by VinePair‘s Keith Beavers

Italy is a magical place for food and wine. It’s as if every time you sit down at a table anywhere on the boot it’s a time for leisurely celebration. Here in the States, Italian restaurant owners like myself try to recreate that experience for you. There is a specific pace at which a formal Italian meal is enjoyed and although not all Italian restaurants will offer this pace exactly the same way, I’m going to share with you how to take control and have a when-in-Rome experience.

In Italy there are generally three types of eating establishments. First there’s the trattoria, which is similar to the French bistro or American cafe. Often trattorias have no menus, simply daily specials and wine is primarily served by the glass. They’re the perfect stopping point for a quick lunch and their owners aim to turn the tables quickly. Then you have the osteria, where menus are available but are small and focused; these are usually accompanied by a quaint wine list that pairs well with a leisurely lunch. And finally there is the restaurant where you sit down, take your time and have a full formal meal covering several courses. Here in the U.S. of A this concept is often combined with the first two styles of Italian restaurants to create an all-inclusive Italian experience. But you should know that whether you’re at a chain like the Olive Garden or a charming little mom and pop trattoria or even at a nicer ristorante like In Vino, where one is guided through the meal, you can navigate the whole experience yourself if you wish and create an awesome multi-course meal that will automatically transport you to the mountains of Piedmont or the rolling hills of Tuscany. Here’s how you do it.

So you’ve been seated, the menus and wine list have been presented, and you’re ready to dive in. What next? Let’s go on a date!

 

Aperitivo

The best way to start an Italian meal is with a glass of bubbly. Wine lists will often have an affordable glass pour of the house spumante (sparkling wine) and, if they do, this is definitely what you should order. This is the aperitivo. It’s meant to stimulate your appetite and get your palate excited for what comes next. Before you even look at your menu, order these two glasses of bubbly and then casually take a look at the first course, the antipasto.

At Olive Garden: Sparkling Prosecco Zonin

Antipasto

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Antipasto means “before the meal,” and in Italy these dishes are primarily made up of plates of food that receive no real cooking at all, such as fresh salumi, various cheeses and olives. Here in America we take the antipasto to another level, getting creative while trying to maintain the simplistic nature of this portion of the meal. Often that means you’ll see dishes labeled antipasto that have indeed been cooked, but regardless of whether they’re cooked or cold, the point is they’re meant for sharing. The best way to enjoy this course is to choose a couple of antipasti among the table and share them over a glass of white wine, a light red or even that bubbly you’re still sipping on; however, if you want to keep pace with the Italians, finish your bubbly first and then order your antipasti along with two glasses of the house white or red or ask for a suggestion if there is not a “house” pour. And if you see burrata on the menu, definitely add it to your order. Having fun yet? I know I am.

At Olive Garden: Bread Sticks & The ‘Create A Sampler Italiano’ with a Quartino of Porta Vita Rosso

 

Primi

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Italian cuisine is mostly about sharing and this is where the meal diverges a bit from the normal American pace. Primo in Italian means the first course and Primi (plural) traditionally consist of pasta dishes or casseroles such as lasagna that are a great bridge between the antipasto and the secondi. If you’re thinking lasagna seems nuts for a first course, since it usually puts you straight into a food coma, that’s because we often treat this course as something we’re supposed to order and eat by ourselves. But if you do as the Italians do and order a couple of primi, let’s say a lasagna, and a plate of fettuccine con funghi trifolati (pasta with mushrooms sautéed with garlic, parsley and olive oil), sharing both, you’ll still be more than ready to move into the next course.

It’s at this point in the meal that you may also want to order another glass of wine or start thinking about getting a bottle. This is the perfect time to tell your server what you want for the secondi, which might help them assist you in choosing the right wine. If you are at a restaurant that doesn’t assist with this, the best bet is to keep going by the glass.

At Olive Garden: Ravioli di Portobello & Spaghetti with Italian Sausage with a Quartino of Sangiovese-Syrah Rocca delle Macie SaSyr

Secondi/Contorni

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In American restaurants we often equate the secondi with the entrée, but the word entrée is actually the French term for what the Italians call the antipasti or entry to the meal. Yet in North America we’ve taken the word and flipped it to mean the main course — got to love how language evolves! This course can either be ordered at the same time as when you choose your primi, or you can always ask to see the menu again following your primi course and continue the dialogue with your server if it is that kind of place. Now we’re finally at the point in the meal where most people order individual dishes, though some do still share, which are often larger and richer such as bistecca (steak) or a more involved seafood dish such as capesanta (scallops).

Along with ordering your secondi, you will often see a section on the menu called “contorni” (side dish). These are items the chef has created to complement the secondi, like roasted brussel sprouts with chestnuts or Tuscan kale with pearl onions. Ask your server which ones they like best to complement what you’ve ordered.

At Olive Garden: Parmesan Crusted Filet with a bottle of Amarone Bertani (yes Olive Garden serves Amarone!)

Dolce/Digestivi

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La Dolce Vida. You’ve been living the sweet life, moving casually through the meal and have filled yourself with great wine, great food and great conversation. Your plates are cleared, the table is wiped down and the server then brings the dolce (dessert) menu. Italian dessert menus will likely have some sorbet, a gelato or two and some other specialties, such a torta di formaggio (cheesecake) with seasonal fruits. You may even see a cheese course of a set selection by the chef. In addition to this there might be a small selection of dessert wines or liquors.

Dessert wines can be a bit tricky, so here are some tips on how to get the best out of the end of your meal. Italian dessert wines are basically wines that are made from dried grapes. By using grapes that have basically turned into prunes, the winemaker is able to concentrate the sugars in the remaining juice to produce a clean, yet sweet, high-alcohol wine that is often served in three-ounce pours. The idea here is that the dessert wine IS the dessert. If you were to order a tiramisu and a dessert wine your palate may go into dolce overload. If you want a bite to eat with your dessert wine, order the cheese course or ask your server what would go well with your passito (dessert wine). Sometimes dessert wines are steeped in herbs and spices and are aromatic enough, like chinato, to be consumed with a sweet dessert, so ask your server what might go best.

If wine is not for you perhaps try a digestivo or liquor. Grappa is always a fantastic choice, or perhaps there’s the famous limoncello on the list, a booze that’s made from grain alcohol and whole lemons. These drinks are meant to encourage digestion and calm the stomach after a great meal. After that, and if it is not too late, you may want to have an espresso to seal the deal — in Italy a cappuccino is breakfast thing.

At Olive Garden: Apple Tuscan Bread Pudding

And there you have it! This will help you do what the Italians do. If the menu is categorized more for the American public (appetizer, pasta, entrée, sides) you may not be guided through your meal by your server but you can use this primer to craft an authentic experience with any Italian menu no matter where you’re dining.

Written by VinePair‘s Keith Beavers