Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Beverages - Prague and Berlin

It's snaining out.

Basically, it means we've all gotten a day off of work (at least those of us in the government/education/nonprofit sectors, and everyone who works for Yahoo! because they can't work from home) for the fact that it's cold, windy, and spewing some sort of snow-rain combination from the sky. The National Weather Service keeps promising that the snow will begin in full force over the next couple of hours, and that we're guaranteed 4-8 inches (heh heh), but I have my doubts.

Nonetheless, I am embracing my day off in true "snow day" style - yoga pants and my old University of South Florida sweatshirt, cinnamon gingerbread coffee, and a mimosa. (Duh.) My plans for the day include finishing up this blog, and then going back to "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" (which I CANNOT PUT DOWN) and perhaps some more episodes of Downton Abbey later on, although I can't say that I'm particularly pleased with the current plot line. I'm still catching up on Season 3, and I feel like I've spent the last couple of episodes transitioning from sobs of despair to tears of joy and back again. 

So, it seems like the perfect day to listen to some Stan Getz, drink mimosas, daydream about the fact that in less than 3 weeks I'll be in Cancun, and reminisce about all the delicious things we drank in Prague and Berlin.

Now THAT is an Irish Coffee. Strong, barely sweetened, with lots of real whipped cream on top. And full of caffeine! So that you can stay up late and drink more drinks!
So, let me be clear and say that neither my boyfriend nor I particularly LOVES absinthe. I am not a fan of liquorice to begin with, and a very strong alcoholic beverage that smacks of anise and liquorice is not my cup of hallucinogens. Which brings me to another point: despite popular opinion, no where in the world still sells wormwood-laced absinthe. This is not the Green Fairy of legends - it's just a super strong, gasoline-smelling, thick liqueur that people order for the sheer thrill of ordering absinthe. But it's making a comeback in America. Absinthe was big in Philly when we were there a couple of years ago; I remember it being a key ingredient in a lot of cocktails at various bars. And that we enjoyed as well, because when mixed with the right ingredients, absinthe can really pull a cocktail together.

That all having been said, there's a pomp and circumstance with straight absinthe that almost makes it worth the taste, and for this alone The Gentleman and I tend to order it whenever we see it on a specialty bar menu, just to compare presentations. So, naturally, our first night in Prague when we saw absinthe on the menu, we ordered it. 

At this particular Czech establishment (Staropramen Brewery in Praha 1), it came with its own pitcher of sugar water. Normally, there is some sort of sugar-cube/fire/dripping water process, but this one just came straight up with sugar water on the side. All absinthe is meant to be drank with sugar and water, but this was the first time we'd had to do all of the work ourselves. It was exhausting.

Because we were there a few days after Christmas, all of the Christmas markets were still up and running. Wooden stalls selling sausages, beers, mulled wine, and trinkets line pedestrian areas. And you can buy alcoholic beverages and walk around on a cold winter's eve with warmth in your hands. I AM STILL NOT OVER THIS.

Warm honey mead at a stall at one of the Christmas Markets. It basically tastes like warm, alcoholic honey. It was a bit sweet, but I could totally see adding this to some hot tea for a delightful toddy.

After we sampled the absinthe at Staropramen, I ordered an apple liqueur. It tasted like apple-infused gasoline and warmed me right up. 

One night, without any real plans in mind, we stumbled luckily across the Prague Beer Museum.  Here, you can order flights of beer selected from their impressive (and detailed) menu. Each beer is outlined with its own history, tasting notes, notes on the brewer, and interesting facts about the brewing culture at the time the recipe was originally brewed. We sampled about 14 flights of beer. No, not really. But kind of. Maybe.

Damn, Prague has good beer. And it's not stingy, either. Competing with Germany for Largest Stein:

I mean, it's basically the size of my head. And that beer drank like a meal. I think I finished about half of it and gave the rest to The Gentleman who drank that in addition to his own Giant Stein O' Beer. Because he is badass.
 Because we were in Prague for New Years Eve, we'd booked tickets for a Jazz Cruise. Don't be fooled - it's not nearly as swank as it sounds, but it WAS fun. It was definitely Czech-down-homey, complete with a "welcome drink" (a shot of schnappes) and jazz that definitely sounded more "OOMPAH" than "BA DA DAAA". I think the tickets were like $75 each, and included champagne, welcome drink, and a buffet dinner. The rest of the drinks we had to pay for, and while they weren't the cheapest drinks we'd had in Prague (where a Giant Stein O' Beer will cost you about $4), they were certainly cheaper than anything you'd find stateside or in the rest of Europe. I think a bottle of champagne was about $20, and individual glasses of wine/beer were about $7. 

We shared a table (because you have to share tables on this cruise) with a young British couple who got engaged that night. We celebrated their engagement with champagne and shots (Jeger for the boys, Sambuca for the girls). At midnight, everyone went up onto the roof of the boat for the fireworks that exploded up and down the river. It was a perfectly beautiful way to ring in 2013. 

The first round.

Later that evening....

I mentioned there was a vineyard next to the Prague Castle.I should also mention that the wine served there is....young. Very, very young wine. The kind that makes you suck in your cheeks. And possibly your eyes might water a bit. Just tell yourself it's the breathtaking scenery. 

A typical order in a typical Czech restaurant of: a dark beer and a white wine, please. Someone in this picture is getting gypped. 

I have no idea why, but there is some obsession in Prague with cannabis-flavored everything. Teas, beers, energy drinks...I can't imagine why you'd want to flavor a perfectly good beverage with the taste of my college roommate's breath.  

One night, we went out to "Europe's Only 360-degree Rotating Bar" at the Fusion Hotel. I had expected some sort of giant tower/rotating floor situation, but it turns out that the room stays still and the bar ITSELF moves. It was still pretty awesome, and they played good music and had a nice crowd. They also have side rooms with Playstations and couches. My God, I love Prague.

Drinks at 360 - this was some kind of whiskey strawberry concoction that looks a lot fruitier than it tasted.

We stayed at the Boscolo Hotel in Prague, and I fell in love with the bar in the lobby. 

I WANT THIS. Glass rack at lobby bar, Boscolo Hotel.

To Go-sie mulled wine at a Christmas Market. At 8:30am. IF THEY'RE SELLING, I'M BUYING.

There were also Christmas Markets still set up in Berlin when we arrived on January 2. SELLING MULLED WINE AND BEER AND SAUSAGES. Hooray!

Drinks at the rotating bar at the top of the Berliner Fernsehturm. Mine was some sort of cranberry-bourbon-spritzer thing that was deeeelisshus.

For a hotel bar, Catwalk at the Marriott in Berlin was gorgeous and had an excellent cocktail menu. We wound up there on our last night, because it was cold and raining and we had to get up at 7am to catch our respective flights back to Baltimore and the United Arab Emirates. After a week of traipsing around Eastern Europe, it was lovely to kick back in an up-scale bar twelve floors below our room and just enjoy cocktails and pretty scenery.
A grand "cheers" to end our week-long trip to Prague and Berlin for New Years, 2013. More adventures to come!

And so, I wrap up our holiday trip. Just in time to prep for heading out to New Mexico and Mexico in a couple of weeks when The Gentleman comes home for leave! Hooray vacation! 

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