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Beverage recommendation for menu, with a "problem"

The Menu:

Venison Stroganof with Straw Potatoes
Rosolos salad (beets, et.al.)
Bitter greens (arugula, etc.) dressed with oil/vinegar

Rye bread, butter

Dessert: Rhubarb kissel

Problem: Wine is out of the question, due to allergies. We would like something lighter and more refreshing than the obvious choice of beer. Finnish simaa is not within reach in the timeline, nor do I want to test-run Russian kvass.

I was thinking of concocting something along the lines of the British Shandy, but with the midwestern college twist of the "Strip-and-go-Naked". So, I'm thinking a light punch-like drink of lemonade (fresh-squeezed), a splash of Finlandia or Stoli, and...and...and...some kind of beer, as in a Shandy, all over ice. With the heavy Slavic food, I was thinking a stout, but am so very open to suggestion. Does this sound disgusting, or good? I like it, but need input.

Water will be the beverage on the table, but our guests like an alchoholic sip as well. Chilled, lemon-infused Stoli shots will follow with some (low-brow) caviar (as a later-on snack), so there will be some continuity.

Any beverage suggestions for this set of foods and needs?

(Maybe this is better on the Spirits or Beer board, but those boards don't seem to get as much traffic.)

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    1. Is it grapes that are the provoker of allergies? If so, there are other drinks worth having. What about fermented cider or perry (that's cider made from pears), which are often bottled like wine and very food friendly?

      1. I really like a what gets called a shanty up here in Canada (I'm guessing this is what you say is called a Shandy in Brittain). It is a mix of beer and gingerale. It is better if you can get good British or Carribean-style gingerale (i.e. the hot, truly gingery stuff). However, I do not think you would want to do this with a stout! You want a lager or light to medium ale. A hoppy medium ale is best. As for doing it with vodka and lemonade instead of gingerale, I don't know what to think. I think if you want to do vodka and lemonade, then just serve that!

        Or just drink the vodka the whole time, or some aquavit.

        1. I'll throw out a mixed drink, though it might be on the sweet side for your guests. Since it's fall and I think the boldness will go well with the beef, how about a Maple Leaf?

          3 oz of Knob Creek or Woodford Reserve Bourbon (stay away from the cheaper bourbons on this one as the flavor is really added by the smooth and sweetness of the bourbon)
          1 oz of Maple Syrup
          .5-1 oz of Lemon Juice.

          Mix in a cocktail shaker and serve over ice with a lemon garnish.

          1. Have you considered Mead? It may seem a bit novel but if you go with a medium mead or perhaps one of the flavoured ones, they might prove an interesting contrast to the meal.

            1. so since wine is a no go, Brandy Old Fashioned, Wisconsin style with 7 up and orange slice garnish is out, too?

              1 Reply
              1. re: MaspethMaven

                Might need to be a non-grape brandy if grapes are the allergen...

              2. Not sure why beer and kvass won't do, but on the non-alcoholic side, how about kompot. You may want to look up a real recipe. This is off the top of my head:

                Fresh fruit (apples, berries, maybe a few grapes or some peach) cut into 1/4" cubes. Simmer in water with a good amount of sugar such that there's maybe two tablespoons of fruit per 8 oz. serving. When the sugar's dissolved and the fruit has softened some and given some color to the liquid, you're probably good to go. It should be sweet but not syrupy.

                The vodka and caviar course sounds more like a starter to me, but no harm done.

                1. Digging through my Russian cookbooks, you could go as simple as tea with rum (sweetened to taste) or perhaps sbiten -- hot spiced honey with vodka and gingerroot.

                  David Cook

                  1. Thanks for the great ideas - I had hostess syndrome and the attendant stress! No longer!

                    To answer questions, kvass or mead (or sima) won't do as I have no time to make those beverages(and yes, I've made two of the three, all, if you consider sima as mead). Just "beer" won't do because two of the attendees are old frat buddies - beer makes them feel 18. Oops, I mean 21.(Sigh) Plus, they could (might?) be drinking beer on the terrace all night. And yes, grapes are the allergen for one of our guests.

                    Karl S.: pear cider is now on my list of table drinks for the evening - you're right, wonderfully food friendly and I think my guests will like it. Thanks for the reminder.

                    Atahualpa: I love the ginger idea - we have some good sources for "real" ginger ale around here. Another nice bottle for the table. Oh, and I have scrapped the stout idea - I was trying to suck up to the Hub, who sees stout as "a sandwich in every glass." Thanks for jarring me back to reality - honestly - I hate drinking stout. Didn't know there was a Canadian Shanty bev - thanks for the tip.

                    Hatless: The kompot idea is a marvelous idea as a desert course offering - I will make it along with my kissel. This sounds a lot like my grandmother's romtopf, sans the alcohol. And yes, vodka and caviar sounds like a starter, but I plan on serving this at about 3 a.m., as we have not seen our guests for a l-o-n-g time, and it's more-or-less an entre to breakfast. :) Breakfast is gravlox, soft-boiled eggs with toast, and oranges.

                    Zebcook: Sbiten? Tell more, please? Honey and vodka and ginger sound wonderful! Can you share your recipe? Can you also share the origin of the drink?

                    Arrrrr. 24 hours from now I will be cleaning up one table spread and laying the next. I thank you all for your suggestions; I think the weekend will be better for them.


                    2 Replies
                    1. re: cayjohan

                      I have recipes from 2 Russian cookbooks. I can't admit to having tried it (my wife is allergic to honey), but it sounds good. Here's the basics:

                      12 cloves
                      1 1/2 t. chopped ginger root
                      1/8 t. nutmeg
                      1 stick of cinnamon (about 1 inch)
                      1/2 lemon rind
                      1/2 c. vodka (I suspect this can be to taste!)
                      6 T. honey

                      Infuse the spices, ginger root and lemon in the vodka overnight, then strain through cheesecloth. Heat the honey with 5 1/2 c. water, stir until blended. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, let cool a little, add the vodka and serve in mugs.

                      The other recipe is similar, though it leaves out the vodka and ginger root and adds cardamon and mint. Everything is brought to a boil, left to cool, strained and then reheated with a dust of nutmeg (and I imagine vodka if you want!).

                      They both read as guidelines -- spice and sweeten to your own taste. Your dinner sounds fun!

                      1. re: zebcook

                        Thank you! This sounds wonderful for our Christmas table! I have some buckwheat honey just begging to be used in this.

                    2. First, Yum. Your menu sounds divine. How about something with cranberry or pomagranite? Both are so plentiful right now and would be cool additions whole in a drink.

                      You could welcome your friends with a concoctions Russians make with berry juice, vodka and a boatload of honey. Or you could do something like Cran, a bit of lime juice and club soda as a good No alc base and then add vodka. Ginger would be good in that too I think.

                      For Toasting: Na Zdrovia! Of course that may cause the frat boys to call for vodka shots... at least that is what would happen in our house... with or without the frat boys. I digress... Have fun. I am thinking Dr. Zhivago the night before to get you in the mood.

                      Incidentally, I think Russians drink vodka (as a rule) neat... meaning nothing but the vodka. Although I have seen them mix it with beer. Blech. Crazies...

                      1. Oh yeah, I wanted to comment on the strip and go naked drinking... with frat boys... but I cannot stop laughing. Have fun. I suspect the meal will be delayed. Stroganof keeps.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Wanda Fuca

                          Oh my - I guess I was referring to the beverage, not the outcome! Back in my college days, the Strip-and-Go-Naked" was the favored party drink. Lemonade, beer and vodka (bad brands of each) were combined in whatever sized bucket or barrel the hosts could support. The outcome was often bad, but in my later years I have found a "grown-up" version of this mix makes a great summer sippin' drink on the patio. Naked can be a state of mind!