Zwack Attack

Last night, I was the parent on duty. Action Girl mostly works second shift and thus, the evenings are my territory with the Widgets. When it was just the single Widget, Short Stack, it was really not very hard to pull off. Things went pretty smoothly on the whole and hell nights not withstanding, we got along pretty well and he got to sleep at a reasonable hour. Then came Lulu Belle.

Just about the time the evening routine had become highly predictable and easy to execute, we threw in the random variable of a new baby. Things immediately got way more interesting than any sensible person would ever want. With new babies, the real problem is that routines just don’t exist long enough for you to figure them out and exploit them. Just about the time you realize that the baby always likes this or laughs at that, everything changes. Yesterday’s panacea is today’s anathema. It keeps you on your toes. It also makes me relish that evening beer all the more.

After Lulu Belle is tucked in and happily reaming about an edible world and Short Stack is lying in bed pretending to be asleep, but actually whispering stories to him self, I switch off the lights, go to the fridge and grab a beer. The day is over, both kids are fed and I’m pooped. I feel that I’ve earned my cold one.

Last night, disaster struck. As soon as the kids were down and I quietly padded into the kitchen, I had a sinking feeling. I know what I’d find. Opening the door only cemented my horror as an empty beer drawer stared back. This was not what I was hoping for. As the lone adult in the house and with both kiddos asleep (or close enough to asleep), there was no way I could to run down to the store. I was trapped in my beerless home. Just to add insult to injury, my half full bottle of Black Strap rum had been left at another house after an evening of Dark & Stormies, so my other late night favorite was inaccessible as well. I looked around to check out my options.

Scotch? Gone.
Calvados? Finished.
Whiskey? Also empty.

You have GOT to be kidding me!?

With the exception of a few liquors that didn’t appeal to me at the moment (Gin, Sake, Tequila) there was nothing in the “booze” range to be had in the house. Even the wine cellar was looking pretty bare. That’s was okay for the moment though. I didn’t want wine. I wanted BEER!

A conversation with my wife later that evening netted me some sympathy but didn’t whet my whistle. I assured her that would somehow cope without my nighttime libation but as I hung up the phone, I started casting about for something to take its place. I settled on my favorite daytime drink as an alternative and poured my self a generous glass of milk. Though cold, smooth and normally enjoyed fully, the milk lacked a certain… everything. The kicker was when Action Girl returned home after her shift was done and guiltily admitted that after the boats were tied up, she had gone out to the near by pub with a coworker to cap off the night. AAAGH!

So, with the break of a new day and a trip to town scheduled, I knew what my first stop would be. Normally, I would have saved the beer run as the last item on the “to do” list before returning to the ferry terminal… but not today. It was snowing like a bugger and knowing I had a ton of shoveling in my future, I wasn’t willing to risk it. I love my local beer and booze shop, and not just because they’ve given me free beer in the past, though to be honest, it doesn’t hurt their standing in my book. I like them because they are friendly, exceedingly well stocked and very, very knowledgeable. These are not your average front counter drones. They all know their stuff and if you ask them for their opinion on… oh, I don’t know, Finnish vodkas or Belgian dopplebocks, they will have one. A very well informed one. They are worth listening to. They are also curious and keep bringing in more and more unusual alcoholic items from obscure corners of the world. You just never know what you’ll find there.

As I walked through the door with a smile and a wave to the guy behind the counter, I got as far as, “Hey, how ya’ do…” before it changed me pointing with an outstretched hand and to a shouting.


There, sitting on the counter, still next to the box they were being unloaded from, was the familiar green bottle with the warning-like gold Swiss style cross emblazoned on it. It’s a liqueur made in Budapest and the bottle itself is vaguely shaped like an old fashioned bomb such as one you’d fire from a bronze cannon at invading Napoleonic infantry. Perhaps they did.

“Yah, we just got these in. Are you familiar with it?”


I marveled at the bottle for a moment and thought back. I have only encountered Zwack on two occasions. The first time was at our friends Laura and Harrold’s house in western Germany. He’s a Colonel in the U.S. military and having a variety of men serving under him, he’s received various gifts to stock the bar over the years. While Action Girl and I were visiting them one time, we all decided to get some drinks going. I spotted the bottle of Zwack.

“So… What is it?” I asked.

Harrold looked at it appraisingly. “You know, I have no idea. I’ve had it for years and sort of never dared get into it.”

We got into it. The name begged for us to. I don’t remember the night too well.

The next time I spotted a bottle was years later in, of all places, a friend of a friend’s house outside of Boston. We were there for a surprise party and the bottle sat happily in the liquor cabinet all night and taunted me. We never did get into it and I wasn’t sure who our host was exactly and so, was unable to inquire in the most leading way possible. Oh, the missed Zwack!

So, a few moments after spotting this rare bird on the countertop of the booze store, I happily walked out with my very own bottle. As I sit here now, with the kiddos tucked in bed and ostensively sleeping, I’m just finishing off my first glass of Hungarian booze in many years. The taste? Well… I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that nostalgia has colored my memory of the taste. It’s a liqueur and so it’s rather syrupy and sweet. Not clean and bracing like good whiskey or vodka. Do I regret the purchase? No, not one bit. It’s a good drink after an evening moving snow around the driveway and warms you all the way down as you sip it. All in all, it’s a perfect winter libation.

Also, I’m betting that it will last us longer than a six pack of the local micro-brew’s beer. At least it had better. If we tried to polish it off in a few nights without our friends here to help us, we’d be speaking slurred Hungarian in no time.

6 Responses

  1. It is one of those herbal liqueurs like Jagermeister?

    If you ever come to Australia I’ve got a bottle of Vietnamese rocket fuel called Rượu Trắng (direct translation: clear white alcohol) that has been in the back of my cupboard for years that you can try……….. then we can move onto the Glen Livet!

    It’s not quite like Jaegermiester, but I’d say it’s in the same family. I’ve discovered that putting the tumbler in the freezer before pouring it does it wonders. I’m knocking it down at an alarming rate!

    I’m game for the Rượu Trắng! I figure, as long as it doesn’t make me blind or insane, it can’t be all bad. Plus, you can always use it to strip paint.

  2. It’s always nice to run across a blast from the past.

    Just as long as she doesn’t zwack you. 😉

  3. Nothing better than the alcohol you don’t remember too well the next day when you are the only responsible adult in the house! The children will have to carry you out of the house in case of an emergency. You’d never live this one down.

    Ever had absinthe?

    I would really love some absinthe! Since it was outlawed in the U.S. for a variety of hysterical and bogus reasons, I’ve never had the pleasure. I know you can get it now and whatnot, but since I have no baseline on what’s good and whats rotgut, I’ve just stayed away. I need guide. Interested?


  4. Oh no! Absinthe is evil! I tried some with mushrooms once and almost ended up at the hospital (I’m glad I did not go because I would have had to concoct a really interesting story to explain why I was green-looking and shaking all over.)
    Mushrooms stay. Absinthe goes. Sorry.

    Were these… “special” mushrooms? If so, I can imagine how this could have been an interesting experience, all around. I’d still like to try some some day. I just don’t know what makes for “good” absinthe and with out a guide, I don’t dare start.

  5. Ahh, the little evening rewards – I do that too occasionally, though with wine or wine liqueur. Or Martini.

    As for Absinthe, I have had a bottle of it for years now just to scare off the guests. I find it not to be the kind of thing one would drink for evening pleasure. But if you want to get really drunk very fast, or look really brave drinking the sinister-looking green thingy, than Absinthe is the way to go. Am not an expert or practicing fan but I love the ritual where you melt the sugar into it and then drink it up. If ye are ever in Prague, go to a bar and have it a go… the atmosphere counts too :))

    I love a nightcap and look forward to one just about every night. Hey, they say it’s even good for you. If I ever come over your way, I’d be happy to help you with that bottle! I’ve seen the little ritual you speak of with the sugar cube and the little flattened spoon full of holes. I’m intrigued with stuff like that and would love to give it a go. I enjoyed Prague, but alas, never thought of searching out absinth when I was there. Got some very nice Cuban cigars, though!


  6. You’ve piqued my curiosity.

    I can not believe Action Girl didn’t bring one home for you! If H arrived home after a mayday call like that from me, without something to fix the problem I’d be out the door on my way to the nearest package store before he got his coat off.

    The problem is that she’s a sea captain and she never want to be seen with alcohol on the boat, even if it’s closed. She’s very sensitive about that and I respect that. The horrible part was that by the time she got home, the store was closed!

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