While recently in Zürich, Switzerland, my boyfriend and I spent a lot of time in our hotel room watching Al Jazeera. We have neither cable nor even a proper television connection at home, so when we holiday we tend to enjoy the slovenliness of eating in bed while watching the telly. (Don’t even ask about how this looks when we are in places with lots of deep-fried availability.) We enjoyed Al Jazeera’s alternate take on America’s election circus. They always find the craziest rednecks to interview, and the extremity of their views makes Romney appear to be the snake he actually is. We even got to watch the third-party candidate debate, in which the third-party candidates spent a lot of time talking about legalizing weed, even when the questions were about the deficit.
This activity, combined with the foreign efficiency of Switzerland, had us thinking politics. And since, in Zürich, the only thing to do in the evening is go to the bars — seriously: everything else closes at six — we were also drinking more than we usually do. Most of the time it was him with one of the local beers, like Turbinenbräu, me with a cool glass of Sauvignon Blanc from nearby France. But at one event we attended, a simple list provoked our imagination. It was simple: a list of the liquors they had available, and the mixers you could use. And there, sitting right on top of the mixer list, was Schweppes Bitter Lemon.
We would go to great lengths to acquire Schweppes Bitter Lemon in the U.S., except we don’t have to because we live in Ridgewood, where it is easily available at both Max Euro Grocery on Forest Ave and Parrot Coffee on Myrtle as long as the import containers have come in recently. It’s $3.29 per skinny 1.5 liter, and it is nothing like American sodas. While containing the same amount of sugar, it definitely possesses a very bitter lemon flavor. The sharpness underneath the sweetness really rings my bell, especially as an infrequent soda drinker. The bitterness reminds me of my other favorite soda, which is quinine-based tonic, which really should have made it obvious that mixing it with booze would be a good idea. But it wasn’t obvious until it was all laid out in front of me.
Learning that this soda was available to mix with the liquor of our choice at this random Swiss bar, we then had to make the next decision. What would be the booze? Since we knew the provenance of the soda to be Eastern European, vodka was the obvious choice. However, vodka is not a liquor we like to drink, because it always leads to…extreme drunkenness. “What about the rum, Havana Club Añejo?” asked my boyfriend. “Seems like a good idea.” It was delicious, with a wonderful balance between the caramel notes of the dark rum and the bitter lemon singing together in harmony.
And so we christened the drink the Mitt Rumney, in honor of the most bitter person we could think of, and we’ve continued to drink it at home. Recently Goran, the owner of Max Euro, saw my striped plastic bag from the liquor store as I stopped by to procure the Schweppes. “What you drink with?” he asked. I pulled out the bottle of Brugal (will do in a pinch; available at Queens Wine & Liquors) and grinned. “Oh no. You drink this with wodka,” he admonished with a smirk.
“This is my American twist!” I replied, and forked over my cash. He smiled. No matter what happens in this next election, the best thing about America will always be the swish-swish of cultural combination.
Max Euro Grocery
68-55 Forest Avenue [map]
Parrot Coffee and Grocery
Queens Wine & Liquors
5903 71st Avenue [map]
Ari tweets @arispool.