Tag Archives: Beverages

Toledo Does Cocktails!

It’s not all about tapas in Toledo. This weekend, and this weekend only, several bars are running a cocktail special. We went to check it out last night.

We kicked off with a piña colada, because the advertised special wasn’t available for some reason. Maybe it was better this way. The “Carol Kick” promised to be a florid concoction laced with some energy drink. It would probably have kept me awake till Tuesday.

Piña Colada

Chunks of tinned pineapples on sticks are kind of “exotic”, I suppose…

Purple Turtle

The “Purple Turtle”. A bit like imbibing liquified gummy bears!

Bar man

Precision at work 🙂

Strawberry Limon Dry

…and I give you the “Strawberry Limon Dry”. Not bad, though I didn’t quite manage to finish it.

OK… it’s midday Sunday and I’ve only just rolled out of bed. In an hour and a bit, I’m meant to be doing tapas… watch this space 😉




Feather Storm In Toledo

The best weekend afternoons start like this:

Maria: Do you want to have lunch tomorrow?

Me: What kinda lunch?

Maria: Whatever happens to come with the drinks.

It’s very hard to argue with that. So for lunch we went.  It lasted from 2pm till 10pm. Interspersed by a street theatre performance on Town Hall Square.


Lucía’s luminous drink

Pimientos de Padrón

Pimientos de padrón. These are small green peppers, deep-fried, salted, totally addictive.

Toledo Cathedral Lit Up

Toledo Cathedral lit up, and a sea of people waiting for the performance to start.

Giant Screen

The performance included several eardrum-busting explosions, which sent clouds of dust and feathers up into the air. This is the back of a giant screen the performers used to project images onto.

Feather Storm

Maria in the midst of the feather storm. Either that, or we’re having a bloody good pillow fight…

Free Beer!

Well, not quite… but it got your attention, didn’t it? 😉

Toledo has a brewery that makes Domus, aka “La Cerveza De Toledo”, whose proud history goes all the way back to … erm… 2007. (Sorry, this is my Bavarian heritage scoffing here…). BUT, I have to admit, the stuff ain’t half bad.

On Friday, Carmen alerted me to the fact that they were running a two-week promotion: two bottles of the brew and one ‘special’ tapa, featuring Domus as an ingredient, for a fiver, with 27 local restaurants/bars participating.

So, today we went off to investigate.


These mussels in creamy sauce were divine…

chicken wings

Chicken wings with caramelised onions. Lovely 🙂

We scoffed more than just those, but the pics didn’t turn out so well. One of us – either my camera or I – was struggling to focus…

We may have to do this again next week.

Thyme Liqueur? Seriously…?!

Some things just don’t sound like a good idea. Until you try them. And such was the case with said thyme liqueur. A total winner!

But who’d come up with such a thing? Answer: The eccentric people of Toledo. In particular, a guy called Ricardo Sánchez Butragueño, who is attempting to commercialise this odd-sounding concoction following an old family recipe.

There’s a back story, of course. For hundreds of years, Toledo has been celebrating Corpus Christi (which fell on Thursday, 19th June this year) for all it’s worth. I mean, they seriously go to town on this one. I must confess, I’m not a particular fan of watching church furniture being lugged round the streets for hours on end by people in stuffy costumes.

The only thing I like about this gaudy spectacle is that they sprinkle the streets with thyme and rosemary. It smells nice. And all I can think about for the entire Corpus Christi week is Welsh roast lamb with butter-drenched new potatoes.

So, when Maria told me that someone had managed to “bottle the Corpus” and that the product launch was going to happen on one of her clients’ venues on Tuesday, we just had to go.

Three botles

Photogenic bottles!

Even the local press turned up for this momentous occasion

Even the local press turned up for this momentous occasion. Note the thyme sprigs strewn all over the floor. Nice idea, but they kept getting caught in my dress, making their way up towards my knickers. A bit scratchy…

Bottle with the back story in the background

Bottle with the back story in the background


Maria and I faffing with our cameras

Maria and I faffing with our cameras

This taking selfies thing is definitely NOT my forte...

This taking selfies thing is definitely NOT my forte… and I wasn’t even drunk at this point!

They let you have as much as you wanted... a fatal concept!

They let us have as much of the concoction as we wanted… a fatal concept!

Some people even turned up in bottle-matching outfits ;-)

Some people even turned up in bottle-matching outfits 😉

View of Toledo

View of Toledo from the venue

So, thumbs up to thyme liquor! Where have you been all my life?! The kind organisers gave freebie bottles to take home 🙂

[The event was held at Cigarral Del Angel Custodio, one of Toledo’s most splendid historical country houses. It has amazing garden and terrific views of Toledo, some of which I captured a few weeks back, when the roses were in bloom. Click here if you’d like to see those pics.]

Who Drinks The Most Wine?

Wine is in the top five on the interminable list of things that I should know about but don’t.
Working class Germans are just not wine drinkers, and so when I grew up, I learned that there were three kinds of wine: Sour (all German wines fall into this category, my parents would not have touched those with a barge pole), drinkable (only sweet wines would fall into this category, and they would most likely be of Italian origin), and fizzy (consumed only once a year on New Year’s Eve, and it had to be as sweet as lemonade. Champagne would have been relegated to the “sour” category).

I had a little more exposure to wine after I’d moved to the UK in the 90s. OK, it’s not exactly a country of wine connoisseurs either, but the supermarkets, even back then, offered a fairly wide range of wines from all over the world, including German ones. The concept that some German wines could be considered “good”, was a total revelation to me and took some getting used to.

Admittedly, I didn’t learn that much more about wine during my two decades in the UK, but I internalised one golden rule: when bringing a bottle with you to a social gathering (of people you were fond of), you should not spend any less than £6 on a red or £4 on a white, otherwise it was likely to taste nasty.

Now I’m in Spain, and they certainly seem to know their wine. The emphasis being on the word their, because they don’t seem to be familiar with anything else but their homegrown vino. I’d go as far as to venture that the average Spaniard is not even aware that countries like Chile and Australia also make the stuff, and that some of it ain’t half bad.

I do drink more wine now than I did before, it’s pretty much standard issue when having a meal out, but I’d struggle to I exceed 6 glasses a month. Totally pathetic, I know…

Tinto De Verano - A Spanish summer favourite. It's kind of like Sangria, but with less alcohol and far more refreshing

Tinto De Verano – A Spanish summer favourite. It’s kind of like Sangria, but with less alcohol and far more refreshing. I love it!

Now let’s look at the figures*. Owing to sheer population size, China is the world’s largest market for wines. Of the 28.6 billion litres guzzled globally in 2012, China downed 4.2 billion litres, the USA 3 billion litres, Italy and France 2.5 billion litres each, and, to my utmost surprise, Germany pops up in fifth place with 2.1 billion litres.

But what’s most interesting, I’m guessing, is per capita consumption levels. Instead of giving you the per head consumption for every man, woman and child as usual, I’ve selected per capita intake from legal drinking age onwards.

So, Portugal leads, with 51.5 litres per head in 2012, followed by Italy (47.6l), Switzerland (really???) (42.6l), France (38.7l), Austria (37.7l), Argentina (35.3l), Belgium (33l), Greece (31.7l), Netherlands (30.7l) and Germany is in tenth place with 29.9 litres.

There are always a few surprises, and Spain ranking 13th with just 25.8 litres was definitely one of them. I mean, that’s barely a thimbleful ahead of Ireland and the UK, with 25.1 and 23.3 litres, respectively.

The US managed a paltry 13.4 litres, and Chile 16.6 litres, which isn’t very much, considering both are major producers. Canada did marginally better with 18.3 litres, but at least they don’t pride themselves in growing the stuff, as far as I’m aware.

OK, that’s enough stats. I don’t want to be responsible for sending anyone’s head spinning without even having indulged in a lovely glass (or six) of red.

So, what’s it for you? Red or white? Or beer…?

[* For data source, click here]

Which Nation Drinks The Most Beer?

I’m a bit of a late starter when it comes to some of life’s pleasures. Take coffee – I didn’t come to appreciate that until I moved from an unmentionable UK backwater pit to London, aged 29, to start university (yes, a late starter on all fronts!).

So, beer is the latest thing I’m cultivating a liking for. I’ve previously been ambivalent about the golden brew, it’s not something I’d habitually order as a stand-alone drink or with a meal. My move to Spain has changed this, because here they serve you a “caña”, which is a small, very manageable, 250ml glass of beer.

In Germany, the default order is a “Mass”, which is a full litre, or a “Halbe”, i.e. half a litre. They will bring you a smaller glass if you ask very nicely and don’t mind a patronising frown to go with it. In the UK, the standard serving size is a pint, which is a smidgen over half a litre.

And although I’ve been known to devour an entire packet of biscuits in one sitting, as well as a 400g Toblerone bar without ill effects, I don’t seen to have been endowed with a plumbing system extensive enough to accommodate a ‘normal’ sized serving of beer.

Well, thank you Spain for returning me to the bedrock of my Bavarian heritage. Maybe I can work up to the required capacity from here.

Munich brewery sign, pic taken in Munich town centre

Ornate sign on an old brewery house in the centre of Munich

So, who drinks the most beer?

I do have an answer to this question, and no, it’s not the Germans, but the citizens of the Czech Republic by virtue of each of them guzzling 144.1 litres in 2012 (the global per capita average being 27.8 litres), and THEN come the Germans with 106.5 litres, which is a fair bit less.

Ireland is close behind Germany in third place downing 104.7 litres, followed by Austria, Estonia and Poland, all with around 100 litres per annum per head.

And while beer consumption is still rising on a global level, it is actually diminishing in the countries where consumption is currently highest, including the five leading markets I’ve just listed. (Poland’s is still on the way up.)

In the UK, too, beer intake is plummeting. In 2007, per capita consumption stood at 90.4 litres, while by 2012, this had dwindled to 71.8 litres. The US, over the same five-year period, registered a decline from 81.8 to 75.9 litres.

A few countries surprised me with their low consumption rates. No, not Iran or Algeria, you’d expect those to be way below 10 litres per head (and it is), but France mustering a mere 29.2 litres and Italy 27? What’s going on there….? Wine is to blame, I guess… but that’s another post 🙂

A shop in Munich town centre selling beer mugs. The English word for those, I suppose, is “beer steins”, which sounds German (“stein” means stone), but I’ve never heard a German person use this term. To us, it’s a Bierkrug. “Krug” means jug.

[For data source, click here]

A ‘Pilgrimage’ To Andechs Abbey

Another family excursion to a pretty place, believe it or not…! This time, mum, bro and I went to Andechs Abbey, about half an hour’s drive away.

Andechs Abbey, up on a hill is a place of catholic pilgrimage. Here’s a model:Andechs

But don’t be fooled… 99.9% of people do not trudge up that hill for an apparition of the Virgin Mary, they come for this:

Andechser Bier

Andechs brewery is very famous 🙂
(This, btw, is a shandy, in case you’re wondering about the strange colour)

Andechs is the place where Bavarian under-twos are initiated in the sacred rite of beer drinking:

Bavarian drinkers

Dark beer is quite strong stuff…

Being a lightweight, I opted for a ginormous steamed bun (Dampfnudel) with custard and a coffee

Being a lightweight, I opted for a ginormous steamed bun (Dampfnudel) with custard and a coffee

Andechs Abbey church steeple

Andechs Abbey church steeple

Bavarian churches tend to be really ornate inside, and this is especially true for those belonging to wealthy abbeys like Andechs. I took a few inside shots, which didn’t turn out too badly.

The ceiling of the entrance hall is very pretty

The ceiling of the entrance hall is very pretty

The ceiling of the actual church is rather more…bombastic…!

The altar

The altar

Enough gold for you...?

Enough gold for you…?

Andechs Abbey Church

Andechs Abbey Church

And some nice candles to finish off

And some nice candles to finish off

Who Consumes The Most Sports Drinks?

Have you ever wondered about who actually needs sports drinks? Answer: [Almost] Nobody. Hydration, electrolytes, isoschmonics –  it’s yet another example of 1st-rate marketing hoopla.

Sure, if you’re running a marathon, or playing at Wimbledon this week and the sun happens to be glimpsing out in between alternating episodes of drizzle and hailstorms, these concoctions may have the edge over water. But that’s not what and who this sickly sweet swill is aimed at. If  manufacturers set out to make drinks solely for committed athletes, they’d be out of business faster than you could swing a hockey stick.

Sports drinks are targeted at adolescent boys (and adolescent men). I mean, who in their right mind would drink something that’s blue? It’s all about feeding guys’ fantasies that they aren’t fallible, feeble, fragile little mortals, but… uhm… ‘performance machines’. And these, as everybody knows, aren’t fuelled by frothy strawberry milkshakes topped with chocolate sprinkles, but something more akin to petrol.

Every manchild knows that drinking this...

Every manchild knows that drinking this…

...will turn you into this!

…will turn him into that!

Now the statsy bit. In 2012, nearly 12 million litres of sports drinks were sold globally. To add some context & comparison: cola sales amounted to ten times as much, orange carbonates to just under double, while energy drinks sales came to about half of those of sports drinks.

It's blue, of course

It’s blue, of course

The leading global sports drinks brand (by annual retail value sales,  2012) is Gatorade (by PepsiCo), followed by Powerade and Aquarius (both Coca-Cola-owned brands). In fourth place is Pocari Sweat owned by Japanese company Otsuka Holdings. Only in Asia could you sell a brand with a name like that…

That explains it all...

That explains everything….

In per capita consumption terms, the US leads the league table, guzzling 17.6 litres a head in 2012, followed by Denmark with 13.8 litres, Japan (10.7 litres), Malaysia (8.2 litres), Spain (6 litres) and Peru (5.4 litres) Peru?! The mind boggles.

Among the countries with a surprisingly abstemious consumption are Germany (2.1 litres), Italy (2.4 litres), Switzerland (1.1 litres) and  Mexico at 2.6 litres. The reason Mexico’s low sports drinks intake seems baffling at first glance is that the country has the second-highest global consumption levels of soft drinks in the world (after the US). I have no doubt that this paradox is squarely down to price – sports drinks tend to be premium positioned, meaning that they sell at a much higher price point than standard pop, and so the average Mexican consumer won’t be able to afford to buy this stuff in any great quantity.

Oh, and Austrians downed a paltry 0.4 litres of sports drinks per capita in 2012. That must be due to the fact that this little Alpine nation, aka. home of Red Bull, is totally hooked on Energy drinks, and in that category they lead the global consumption charts. There are only so many chemical cocktails a human body can imbibe without short-circuiting…

For an article on global soft drinks consumption and preferences, click here.

For an article on energy drinks, click here.

[For data source, click here]

Which Countries Consume The Most Soft Drinks?

This week, I’m taking a look at global soft drinks consumption. Soft drinks comprises a large range of non-alcoholic drinks, including bottled water, carbonates, concentrates (powdered or liquid drinks you add water to), juice, ready-to-drink tea and coffee (those bottled ones that are usually consumed chilled), as well as sports and energy drinks.

Mexico and the US lead in sugary carbonates
Let’s start with the category, which probably first springs to mind when we hear the term “soft drinks”: fizzy pop. The human race downed 220 billion litres of the sticky stuff in 2012.

The most avid consumers, no surprises there, are Americans. They imbibed 165 litres per capita in 2012, followed by neighbouring Mexico with 146 litres. Argentina is third in line. The emerging markets of China and India mustered a paltry 9 litres and 3 litres, respectively, but they are sure to catch up eventually.

Cola drinks accounted for 57% of carbonated soft drinks (by volume) in 2012. And when it comes to cola, Mexico is even ahead of the US! Mexicans consumed 108 litres per head in 2012, compared to Americans’ 82 litres. India and Indonesia have among the lowest consumption rates at barely over 1 litre.


Germany’s leading bottled water brand

Germans like their water sparkling, Americans don’t.
Bottled water is the most-consumed soft drink on Earth. In 2012, we guzzled almost 242 billion litres of it. The top five leading countries for per capita bottled water consumption are Mexico, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Germany.

Germany leads in carbonated bottled water at 109 litres per head in 2012. Still water amounted to just 13 litres, so Germans clearly like their sparkles. In the US, it’s pretty much the other way around – Americans consumed 90 litres of still water per head and less than three litres of the carbonated stuff. Perrier needs to work a bit harder, it seems…

Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland and Saudi Arabia drink the most fruit juice per capita, with 60 litres, 48 litres, 47 litres, 42 and 40 litres, respectively in 2012.
In sports drinks, the US leads with 18 litres per head, followed by Denmark (14 litres), Japan (11 litres), Malaysia (8 litres), Spain (6 litres) and, …wait for it… Peru! with 5 litres. Must be all that jogging up and down those Andes…

If you’re interested in energy drinks consumption, click here.

To read more about global sports drinks consumption, click here.

For a post on alcoholic drinks consumption, click here.

[For data source, click here]

Who Consumes The Most Energy Drinks? And Are They Dangerous…?

Energy drinks are not only the fastest growing soft drinks category, but also the most picked on. Every month there seems to be another news item about some hapless kid popping its clogs after guzzling fifteen cans of Manic Mongrel or whatever the manufacturers chose to christen their sugary brew of chemicals.

Just this month, EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority) published a report stating that “12% of adult Europeans consume energy drinks at ‘chronic’ levels”.

Do people really drink that much of this stuff?

Consumption highest on Red Bull’s home turf
According to the commercial database I use for my work, global consumption of energy drinks shot up from 842 million litres in 1998 to…wait for it… 5.6 billion litres in 2012. Whoah.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Austria, home of Red Bull, led the global per capita consumption charts with 7.6 litres in 2012, followed by Ireland and the UK (both 6.3 litres), Switzerland (6 litres), the US (5.4 litres) and Australia (5.3 litres).

This may not sound like an awful lot, when compared to cola carbonates, of which Americans consume, on average, 82 litres per head in one year, Brits 52 litres and Canadians 63 litres.

Boys just want to be cool
It has to be taken into consideration, though, that cola drinks are widely consumed by both sexes and virtually all age groups. Energy drinks, on the other hand, have one core target group: young males.

Officially, the target demographic for these beverages is often delineated as ‘males aged between 18 and 29’, but in reality, my guess is that the age group over which they exert their maximum appeal is more like 13-35.

Marketers, who know how this segment of the human species works, have gone to great lengths to make these concoctions synonymous with ‘cool’ sports, like snowboarding and speedboat racing. Red Bull, in particular, takes the utmost care to sponsor only the ‘right’ kinds of events in line with its image. Extreme skydiving (remember Felix Baumgartner’s 39 kilometre supersonic freefall jump last October??) reflects its daredevil adrenaline fuelled values, but it won’t put its name to anything slightly ‘base’ and messy like boxing.

Incidentally, Red Bull, which is the world’s leading energy drinks brand, has never produced a single drink. It’s a purebred marketing company established by a guy called Dietrich Mateschitz for the sole purpose of lining his pockets by hyping a beverage that is made by someone else. (Mateschitz is worth a handsome US$7.1 billion, according to Forbes).

A warning label will help …NOT.
As to whether energy drinks are harmful or not is a a question easily answered by employing common sense. Without even having to go into the purported properties of other ‘magic’ ingredients commonly featured in energy drinks (for example taurine, an amino acid), caffeine, like alcohol and nicotine, is a poison. If you have too much of it, you can, uhm, poison yourself. Fancy that!

This concoction, said to be as strong as 3 Red Bulls, was pulled from retail shelves in the US in 2007

This concoction, said to be as strong as 3 Red Bulls, was pulled from retail shelves in the US in 2007

Unlike alcohol and nicotine, it’s hard to push for age restrictions on caffeinated beverages, for the obvious reason that coffee, tea, cola and chocolate all contain caffeine or compounds similar to caffeine, and that these are widely consumed by virtually all age groups.

A can of an energy drink isn’t any more lethal than a cup or two of coffee. What makes energy drinks potentially dangerous is their image, which is liable to inspire competitive hare-brainedness in boys along the lines “I can drink more of this vile stuff than you”.

The other danger spot is that energy drinks are often used as mixers for alcoholic drinks. According to the aforementioned EFSA report, 48% of 10-14 year-olds consume them that way. Energy drinks counteract the tiredness that usually comes with drinking alcohol, and so people may end up drinking more than they otherwise would.

Some want to see warning labels on energy drinks, but come on! Warning labels only make them more attractive to their target group. Personally, I think that the only way to curb consumption is to make it mandatory to sell them in pink cans. Preferably embellished with pictures of kittens. With sparkly bows on.

A growing army of pink cans is meant to rope in a generally disinclined female demographic. Maybe it's the lack of kittens...

A growing army of pink cans is meant to rope in a generally disinclined female demographic. Maybe it’s the lack of kittens…

[For data source, click here]