What’s the most complex flavor you’ve ever tasted?
That last one is the taste experience I really miss during Dry January. Especially in January, after a cold rainy workday when nothing sounds better than a welcoming red.
Why is red wine so complex? Why does it offer so much more to the pallet than say… grape juice?
Once we can crack the code, we can replace it.
Bacon’s complexity and rich, broad flavor is based in umami (glutamic acids / amino acids / protein). Umami means flavor-bomb which is why we all/ most of us, love meat. Good news: umami also comes from plant sources.
- graphic licensed online
Vanilla gains personality through curing but also 250+ flavor and aroma compounds picked up from the soil it grows in. So NOT from amino acids (protein) but from plant power (minerals, terpenes, and things we don’t even understand yet that live in the soil).
Wine traits come from soil and cellar: from land “terroir,” fermentation, science and storage. Also, the presence (or not) of sugar. Note to self: sweetness overpowers lighter flavors.
So, what might be a suitable substitute for the plant piquancy found in red wine? All that terroir zing?
How about a different plant, still fermented, but not alcoholic?
What about tea?
The best homage I’ve found to dry red wine during Dry January 2023 is an old favorite - Lapsang Souchong and Cherry. Besides being fun to say, this smoky, woodsy black tea combined with tarty-sweet cherries is really good. Satisfying. We introduced the drink last Dry January and have grown to appreciate it even more this year. Goddess bless tea. Recipe thanks to my friend Jan. Aloha Jan!
Tea can have crazy depth, just like fermented grapes, so don’t forget it or underestimate it. Just buy better stuff. Consider decaf tea for this recipe because most likely you will drink this beauty at night.
The Dry Jan
1 Tb dried Lapsang Souchong tea
1 ¼ cup cold water
Black cherry juice to taste -organic quality, no added sugar
Sweeter of choice - optional
Put tea in a teapot or mug with a lid. Pour over almost-boiling water and let steep 5 – 10 minutes. Strain. Save the tea leaves for another cup. To the liquid, add in some room-temp cherry juice to taste. Sweeten if you wish. Serve HOT.
So Dry January comes to an end. But the spirit stays alive all year. There’s been A LOT about Dry January in the New York Times this month, make sure to read it (some libraries carry an online subscription). I wonder what you think about the new studies, and I’ve got my own opinions, but for sure -know the guidelines that be:
1 drink a day for women
2 drinks a day for men
Consider health, age, weight, exercise, past use etc.
For 2023, pick a couple weekdays and be dry all year. For instance, Dry Monday. By pre-committing / agreeing to do this now, you gain agency to accomplish your goals.
Alcohol is powerful (so is sugar). Many of us don’t have to abstain completely, but we MUST be in charge of any and all-powerful substances we put in our body.
Moderation and awareness are key in 2023.
Have fun, not too much, mostly from plants.
Photos by LSIC unless noted