Contrary to popular belief, Winter Study can be a difficult time for students here at Williams. The lack of structured time, if not managed productively, can lead to boredom. From there it’s only a short trip to depression, anger or even Winter Study despair. As a senior, I’ve learned that the only way to avoid this kind of seasonally induced dementia is to avoid monotony and “switch it up” as much as possible. For instance, throughout one of my first Winter Studies, I made a challenge of sorts by attempting to drink no alcoholic beverage other than malt liquor. I was successful in my attempt, drinking Mickey’s almost exclusively for the entire month, though I wouldn’t suggest trying it – I couldn’t even watch a Walt Disney movie without cringing a little for almost a year. It was in that year that I learned: whether it is alcohol, scenery or making love, variety is the spice of life. In keeping with variety, for this issue of “Bottoms Up” I’ll be reviewing spirits that are a little uncommon to see at the typical Williams common room party. Perhaps, after this article, we can finally start seeing some alcoholic diversity at Williams.
Walking into the Spirit Shoppe on Cole Ave., I quickly realized that the most unique bottles were those situated right behind the counter, and the first one to catch my eye was a curious concoction called Rumple Minze. Perhaps it was the interesting name or the bright red text reading “100 proof” that got me, but it was the flavorful explosion that won me over. Rumple Minze is a traditional German recipe of peppermint schnapps. The initial smell that wafts out of the bottle is both cool and sweet, much like the first breath of fresh air on a cold winter night after a big meal and a mint from Thai Garden. Don’t let the scent deceive you – Rumple Minze has a bite to it. The second you swallow, a wave of heat rushes down into your stomach. I would suggest using the German creation with some extra-sweet hot chocolate – a perfect treat after a day of skiing, snowshoeing or just sitting around the house watching Discovery Channel for 11 straight hours.
The next drink that drew my eye was a slender bottle with a cerulean blue liquid in it called Hpnotiq. Don’t let the color fool you – this is not detergent, and it probably won’t kill you. In fact, upon closer inspection, you’ll see that it is not that mysterious after all, but “an exquisite blend of premium vodka, fine cognac and natural tropical fruit juices.” Though it has a strong alcoholic taste, it is a moderate 17 percent alcohol, a doggy with a bigger bark than bite. It ends up tasting like a highly fermented mango or pineapple wine, making its bright blue color even more mysterious. Regardless, I like pulling the cork-top out quickly, creating a delightful “pop,” before taking a pirate-like swig. Unlike me, most people enjoy Hpnotiq in hip nightclubs, lounges and other classy, overpriced venues. Lucky for us, we don’t have to worry about any of that here in Williamstown.
The next beverage that I reviewed is somewhat of a local favorite: Leroux’s Ginger Flavored Brandy. When I was at the Spirit Shoppe the man in line in front of me bought all but one bottle. I was then informed that the entire new shipment had been cleared out in a mere couple of days, to which I responded, “Well, I gotta try that.” At 35 percent alcohol, the brandy is strong enough so you can feel it, but not too strong to the point of making it unpleasant. The best part about the brandy is its ginger flavoring, giving it a subtle, sweet aftertaste that invokes images of New England winters and grandma’s gingerbread cookies. The brandy is delicious with anything or on its own – the locals know good booze.
Last comes a suggestion from the Spirit Shoppe’s owner, a mysterious bottle out of sight that he insisted was a must-try. Lucid Absinthe, at 62 percent alcohol, can be harsh, but if taken in the proper way is a tasty delight. Take a single shot of the absinthe poured into a chalice, put a sugar cube on top of a perforated spoon above the chalice and drip water over it until the sugar cube dissolves into the drink. The result is a milky-colored, sweet, licorice-flavored cocktail. You might not see any green fairies as absinthe lore would have you believe, but it is absolutely a nice change of pace from standard beers and liquors. The only drawback to Lucid is its cost, $67 a bottle, but split amongst friends, it is definitely worth it.
I hope that I have inspired the Williams community to expand its alcohol horizons. Remember, as P-Diddy says, celebrate life responsibly.