Charles' Top 5 Drinks of 2014!

My booze corner! Featuring three of this year's winners
My booze corner! Featuring three of this year's winners
Photo by Charles Lam

A year goes by quick, doesn't it? One day, you're wandering around Newport drinking irresponsibly and the next, you're getting ready to wander around Long Beach and drink irresponsibly.

Where did all that time go? All those cover stories and camping trips and miles on the 405 all seem so distant now.

Oh, I remember where they went. I drank a bunch of them away. But hey, it was a good year with plenty of great booze so here's the best I had in 2014 and to another wonderful year!

5. Rainier.. Again

This is the one you want
This is the one you want
Photo by Charles Lam

Now before you say anything, I know Rainier was my lead-off last year. But between now and then something magical happened. BevMo, my least favorite giant liquor store became my second favorite giant liquor store (all the love to Hi-Time).

How? They started carrying Rainier, my favorite cheap beer, regularly.

If you haven't tried Vitamin R, you need too. It flows like water in the Pacific Northwest, and at $6 for a six-pack of tall boys at BevMo, it near flows as cheap as water down here. Just make sure you get the Rainier lager, not the ale (the ale is basically malt liquor in a can).

Now if only the Observatory would start selling it instead of those trashy 22-ounce PBR tall boys..

4. The Generic $6 Boilermaker

OK, this one probably doesn't cost $6..
OK, this one probably doesn't cost $6..

Journalism doesn't pay much, and dive bars are awesome so the $6 boilermaker is my own personal manna from heaven.

Seriously though, a shot and a beer for less than ten dollars is ridiculous, and it makes everything you drink afterwards taste better. So frugal.

I get mine from the V Room in Long Beach. There, you can get any domestic can of beer and a shot of either Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, or Powers Whiskey. Not well swill at all. In Orange County, Little Sparrow used to do $6 boilermakers during their Tuesday dive bar nights (though I'm not sure if that's still ongoing), and Newport Brew Co does $7 boilermakers from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Hey, it's close enough.

3. Rodenbach Grand Cru

It looks like this!
It looks like this!
Photo by Charles Lam

I went on a big kick this year where for a good few months, the only beer I'd buy would be a sour. That's (mostly) over now, but I still love Rodenbach Grand Cru. It's one of the most price efficient sours I've had, coming in at a little over $10 for a 750ml bottle. It's a little funky, but it's probably the easiest introduction to spontaneously fermented beer you can make.

Find it at Hi-Time or BevMo, and make sure you get the Grand Cru, not the standard red ale.   2. Green Spot Irish Whiskey

Unf so good.
Unf so good.
Photo by Charles Lam

Green Spot is my favorite Whiskey with an e, and it's been available in the United States since St. Patrick's day.

For more, my Drink of the Week:

As of Thursday, May 15, Hi Time had five bottle of Green Spot single pot still Irish whiskey left in stock. It pains to write this review because I have half a mind to go right now and buy every single remaining bottle for myself, but some dude once said "Kill your darlings," so here we go.

Green Spot is the best whiskey I've ever had. The fact that it's even available in the United States is amazing. Less than 1,200 bottles of Green Spot are produced a year and most of them are sold before traveling out of Ireland. Hi Time, the amazing store that it is, somehow managed a shipment just in time for St. Patrick's Day--I will note here that this was one of the first times the whiskey was ever available outside of Ireland--and then they scored a second shipment a few weeks after. Those five bottle I mentioned are the last survivors of the second shipment.

On the nose, it's pleasant and unintimidating, with hints of peppermint, citrus rind and toasted grains. At first taste, it's spicy and bright but with an oaky backbone that keeps it from washing away too quickly. It almost clings to the inside of your mouth, numbing and tingling your gums not unlike a Szechwan pepper. Some people say Green Spot is the best Irish you can get, that's it's the ultimately refinement of the style popularized by Red Breast. I'm not a regular whiskey drinker, so all I'm going to say is that it's amazing.

And how much are you going to pay for amazing? Well, in Ireland, a bottle of Green Spot sells for 40 GBP, roughly $70. If you want to get it shipped into the United States? You're looking at around 60 GBP -- basically $100. At Hi Time? Just north of $40. God damn.

1. Wild Medicine at Lola Gaspar

It doesn't photo well, but it tastes amazing
It doesn't photo well, but it tastes amazing
Photo by Charles Lam

The apple bourbon wild medicine at Lola Gaspar is the best alcoholic drink I've ever drank. You first take a shot of bourbon. then you chase it with a shot of a Jefferson van Billiard-made apple shrub, and then you relish the warmth of the alcohol melding into the spiciness of the shrub. Your mouth puckers slightly from the acidity of the vinegar, but it calms finally as you taste the preserved apple juice.

My friends say it tastes like an alcoholic apple pie. But it's so much more. Every time I shoot it, I wish I could have that sensation in my mouth forever. Too bad for me (and you) that the wild medicine menu at Lola Gaspar is on rotation. But really, that's alright, because there are always great things there, from picklebacks to curry pineapple.

Try them, try them all.

Follow Stick a Fork In It on Twitter @ocweeklyfood or on Facebook! And don't forget to download our free Best Of App here!

You can also follow Charles Lam on Twitter @charlesnlam. He's less sardonic there, we swear.


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