Review: Sliz Cups

This is the first and likely the last review of a plastic cup to appear on Drinkhacker, for reasons that should already be obvious.

The idea behind the vessel is, in the company’s words: “Sliz cups are a new drinking product designed to eliminate the cringe between taking the shot and reaching for the chaser.”

In practice, the Sliz cup is a plastic martini glass with a straw attached via the stem. Here is how it is meant to be used: Booze goes in first, and a chaser goes in second. When you drink the concoction, you get all the booze first, via the straw, then the chaser immediately follows. The idea is that you get no delay between the two, making it easier to suck down that shot — as long as you don’t stop in the middle of your sip.

This is, as promised, an “easy” way to do shots, but it suffers from a couple of obvious flaws: The most obvious one is that there is simply no dignity in drinking this way. If you are over the age of 21 and are not in a sorority, there’s really no excuse for using a Sliz. It is, in essence, a beer bong for hard alcohol. Not exactly “discriminating,” no. (Plus I have no idea how you wash the thing.)

That said, it does seem to work as advertised: If you can’t handle the two-second delay between, say, downing a tequila shot and sucking on a lime, well, this is one way to put them together in one incredibly goofy package. Or, I guess you could just have a margarita.

$20 for three glasses /

Review: Wine Wipes

Red wine stains teeth, there’s no way around it.

Wine Wipes are not a new idea, but they are a new implementation of that idea: Using many of the same ingredients in tooth-whitening formulas, Wine Wipes are little, circular, fabric pads infused with stain-scrubbing ingredients designed to get rid of those purple stains on your choppers.

The advantage of course is immediacy: A tiny pack of Wine Wipes in your pocket, purse, or glove compartment means the stain has less time to set, contrasted with the hours you may have to wait before you can get to a toothbrush. The tiny packet of 20 wipes even includes a built-in mirror so you can check your work.

Wine Wipes contain a whole bunch of active ingredients, including baking soda, salt, hydrogen peroxide, calcium, glycerin, and orange blossom. In use, you’ll taste the salt and the soda, though Wine Wipes are not unpleasant and can come across as quite refreshing — if a bit awkward should you attempt to use one in public.

And the results? Well, my teeth are prone to staining — whitening toothpastes don’t help — and Wine Wipes didn’t do much for me, either. I tried using one within minutes of sipping a number of wines at a tasting and noticed only the slightest improvement in tooth stainage. Your mileage may vary, of course, and I expect if whitening toothpastes work for you, Wine Wipes will too.

Great stocking stuffer for the wine drinker in the family.

$9 for a pack of 20 / [BUY THEM HERE]

On Glassware

Reader Jeffrey Glas writes: I have been following your blog for a couple of years now and have a quick question for you. What kind of glasses do you use for sampling various spirits and wines?

Good question, and I’m happy to share.

For spirits, I almost always use one of three glasses: The Glencairn Scotch Whisky Glass, the Riedel Sommeliers Series Single Malt Whisky Glass (pictured), or Bulleit Bourbon’s oblong tumblers. Most brown spirits go in one of the former glasses. White spirits often in the latter. No real reason for the separation, just habit really.

Of the two whisky glasses, I prefer the Riedel. The Glencairn is more popular in the industry and at events, but I find it concentrates the alcohol vapors too strongly, trapping them in the glass — and making it hard to smell anything but harsh alcohol when you take a sniff. The tulip mouth of the Riedel lets some of the alcohol escape, and while it also lets some of the nose of the actual spirit out, I find this is a small price to pay for the advantage of aerating the spirit, and ultimately it results in a clearer impression of what’s being tasted.

For wine, I try to use the traditionally appropriate glass (I have a wide selection of Riedel stemware from a variety of its product lines, quite a hodgepodge now), in as large a bowl as possible. For inexpensive wines (like boxed wines) I may use a standard, off-the-rack smaller wine glass or stemless wine glass for the sake of simplicity, but for more serious wines I try to go with the big stuff. Most of my glasses are from Riedel’s Vinum or Vitis series.

For beer, I use either a Spiegelau Beer Classics glass or the Samuel Adams Pint Glass, both of which I’ve reviewed.

It’s true that glassware does impact your experience, so it’s not foolish to be thoughtful about what you pour your $300 whiskey into. Hope that helps. Happy tasting, and remember: Glassware makes for a great Christmas gift — and you can carry it on an airplane, unlike a bottle of wine or whiskey.

AlcoHAWK Personal Breathalyzer Roundup

How drunk are you? No, really? How do you know?

If you’re a regular imbiber, it’s a good idea to test yourself once in awhile to make sure you’re OK to drive. 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC) is the maximum legal level in most states, but knowing if you’re over that threshold can be difficult (particularly as you get closer and closer to it).

Portable blood alcohol testers can be helpful, but many require patience and luck to get them to work properly. Here’s a look at two very different models from AlcoHAWK, one of the leaders in personal breath analyzers.

AlcoHAWK Slim Ultra fits in a pocket and is about the size of a cell phone. The unit works well… when it works. Making that happen requires blowing into the unit for five seconds, turning it on, then waiting for it to count down from 100 to zero, a process that can take several minutes. Then, more often than not, the unit signals that it has an error. You have to repeat the entire process from scratch, then hope for the best. Sometimes you need one reboot, sometimes four. We never got it to work right on the first try, but when we did finally get it going, it offered results exactly in line with the more professional tester (accurate to three decimal places) that we had to compare with. B / $50 [BUY IT HERE] (pictured)

AlcoHAWK One Test is a single-use breath alcohol tester that has pretty limited value no matter what you’ve been up to that evening. It’s a slim tube the size of a cigarette that works only once. To use it, you puncture both ends, then blow into it like a straw. You then wait basically wait until the yellow crystals inside turn green. If the level of greenness crosses the line and red dot on the tube, you’re over 0.05% BAC — and presumably you shouldn’t drive. The accuracy is questionable, and I imagine if you are drunk enough to see a lot of green crystals in here, you know you shouldn’t be driving anywhere. But at least it’s portable. C / $20 for five [BUY IT HERE]

Review: Samuel Adams Pint Glass

There are nearly as many types of beer glasses out there as there are wine glasses. A few years back Samuel Adams created this custom glass — designed specifically for its Boston Lager — and unlike any other beer glass in my collection.

I’ll let the company explain: “The brewers worked with a team of world-renowned sensory experts to develop a glass that would enhance the tasting experience of Boston Lager, similar to the way different wine glasses are designed to enhance the flavor of wines.   The glass features the turbulator, which is a bead on the inside rim, this creates turbulence as you sip the beer, releasing the aroma.  It has a laser etched nucleation site at the bottom that creates bubbles to maintain flavor release. Bubbles come up from the bottom, similar to a champagne glass.”

I tried it out (with some Pliny the Elder) and agree that it really is a great glass. It has weight, unlike some delicate crystal glassware, which feels like it will break apart in your hand and which doesn’t keep your beer cold enough. The outward turned lip makes it easy to drink from. And — bonus — it fits easily in the dishwasher at the end of the night.

At $30 for four glasses (cheaper if you shop around), it’s also a great deal.

A / $30 for 4 /

Review: WineOff Stain Remover

When one drinks a lot of wine, one spills a lot of wine.

Result: Many an article of clothing, napkin, and tablecloth stained purple.

While wine stain removal products are legion, WineOff, which I put to the test recently, is exceptional at the job. Just spray the stain and it goes to work. There is no alcohol, bleach, or hydrogen peroxide here, but rather a mix of “friendly” bacteria and enzymes that eat away the stain. Bacteria just love to drink wine, it seems.

And it works really well. I tried WineOff on some ancient wine stains on tablecloths that had been through the wash dozens of times, and it was effective at lifting them off almost completely after a spray and a wash. A few stubborn stains remained behind (and it does not do anything at all for other types of stains)… but I can’t fault WineOff for having about a 90% effectiveness rate.

The company behind WineOff, Bio-Pro, also produces CoffeeOff and UrineOff, the usage of which I’ll leave to your imagination.

A- / price TK /

“Glass Tasting” with Maximilian Riedel

As an 11th generation descendant of the Riedel crystal empire, it’s safe to say that Maximilian has glass in his blood. Today, Riedel is synonymous with quality glassware, its empire unmatched by its competition in either size or stature.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a seminar hosted by Max, who had the goal of proving to his audience that quality glassware really does make a difference when it comes to the enjoyment of wine.

I’ve been a bit of a skeptic for years, figuring that if you had a decent glass you were probably going to get everything a wine could give you. Paper cup, no. Big glass? Anything will likely do for any wine.

Riedel sees it differently, and the Austrian company produces dozens of glasses for every type of wine you might want to drink. The idea is that the shape of the glass can affect its nose, and the shape of the bowl can impact where the wine lands on your palate when you drink it.

It all sounds a little silly, but Riedel is nothing if not convincing, and in a clearly well-rehearsed seminar (mainly directed at restaurant owners which Riedel would like to be customers), I was persuaded — at least to a degree.

We tasted a variety of wines, including 2007 Italian chardonnay, 1996 Spatlese Riesling, 2006 St. Estephe, and a vintage-unannounced Southern California Pinot Noir, all paired with the “right” glass from Riedel’s top-end Vitis line of stemware.

And then we tried the wines from stubby “joker” IKEA glasses — and even from a plastic cup.

The difference was striking. As Riedel suggested, the small glass muted the sweetness of the Riesling and killed the Chardonnay’s fruit on the nose and in the body. The plastic cup was even worse. With its flared-out rim, there was no aroma at all in these wines. The wines we were drinking, so present in the crystal stemware, could have been anything in the plastic cup. I’ve noticed this firsthand before in budget wine events (like those at retail stores). There’s almost no point to drinking wine this way; it just doesn’t taste any good.

I was less convinced by Riedel’s Vitis vs. Vitis challenge. Any differences in the taste and nose of, say, the Pinot Noir when served in the “proper” glass vs. the near-identical Chardonnay glass were elusive to a fault. I’d argue any minute residue of an earlier wine in one glass or another probably had a greater effect on the taste of the wine than an even measurable difference in the shape of the glass’s bowl.

The decanting experiment was also illustrative but not earth shattering. Riedel poured two wines for us into the same glasses, then “revealed” in the end that they were actually the same wine, one decanted and one not. Hardly a shock; the decanted wine was indeed fuller and less green, but they were obviously the same wine from the start. Nothing against decanting — I’m certainly a fan, when I have the time and patience — but it was not the slam-bang finale to an instructive experience that one might have hoped for.

So color me a convert to Riedel and, more importantly, high-quality glassware. Get rid of those freebies you get when you visit a winery and invest in something worth drinking for. And here’s another hint from the pros: You don’t have to hand-wash crystal either… even Riedel puts it in the dishwasher.

  • reidel glass tasting
  • reidel glass tasting (1)

Review: Spiegelau Classics Tall Pilsner Glass

Spiegelau enhances is line of beer glassware with a fourth progeny: A tall pilsner intended for, you guessed it, light pilsner beers.

This 12-ounce container is surprisingly thin — almost champagne-flute-like in design, with an indentation near the base and a slowly widening upper section. The look is quite striking, and it’s definitely a conversation piece. Ultimately I prefer a tulip glass or even Spiegelau’s wider lager glass for everyday beer styles, since the pilsner hits you square in the bridge of the nose as you drink from it, but for enhancing the appearance of a bottle of ale, well, the Tall Pilsner knows no equal.

A- / $10 each /

Review: Vacu Vin Rapid Ice Beer Chiller

I’m an avowed fan of the Vacu Vin Rapid Ice Wine Chiller, which can take a bottle of white wine from cellar temp to ready-to-drink in under ten minutes, and as a result I had high hopes for Vacu Vin’s Rapid Ice Beer Chiller.

The theory is simple: A cylinder of re-freezable ice packs envelops your bottle, chilling it quickly. The beer bottle version not only shrinks the pack down to 12-oz. size, it also puts a delightful bit of frothy beer art on the exterior to get you in the mood.

Too bad it doesn’t really work all that well. With the reduced surface area and (likely) higher starting temperature of your beer, it takes at least half an hour to get your beer down to a drinkable temperature, and even then it’s dicey. By the time the Vacu Vin got warm to the touch, my beer still wasn’t as cold as I’d have liked it.

Overall this is a fine gadget if you want to keep an already cold beer chilly, but it’s not ideal for quickly cooling down something that’s starting warm.

C / $14 for two / [BUY IT HERE]