Today I was reading a recipe that calls for sherry vinegar, and I thought, “oh, cool, I don’t own that yet! Love to own another vinegar!” (This is not sarcasm, I love it. Love it.) Then I had the idea, “what if I taste test all of the vinegars I do own right now?” And because we’re in the middle of a pandemic where I have just endless hours to fill any way I can, I’m doing it. Here it goes! Eight vinegars reviewed and ranked!
Before I started I did a very cursory google search on how you’re supposed to taste vinegars, and really only found one website, where a guy said to pour everything into a glass (which I refuse to do because it seems wasteful, and I don’t like doing dishes), and also suggested tasting them with a cotton swab, which seems ridiculous and gross. So I did not do that! I smelled each vinegar before tasting it, and then poured a small amount into a metal spoon. In-between vinegars I ate orange segments as a palette cleanser, because that’s what we had around, and drank water. I think in an ideal world I would taste vinegar off pieces of iceberg lettuce, which basically just taste like water, but you can chew them, which feels like a more representative experience of what it’s like to eat a food with vinegar than just sipping it from a spoon. But I wasn’t going to walk to the store and buy iceberg lettuce in the middle of a pandemic, not for something as silly as this.
I ranked as I tasted, and recorded my observations along the way, and then went back to write a fuller impression of each vinegar. I included both the type of vinegar and the brand, because this it’s not a super standardized ingredient. Obviously, these are just my opinions, but also I’m right and I’ll fight you.
This is ranked from One (worst) to Eight (best), which I think is unintuitive. I originally had it the other way around, but I couldn’t make the formatting do what I wanted, so we’re just going with this. Also — this is just a ranking of how these vinegars taste ON THEIR OWN, eaten off a spoon, which is NOT a thing I would recommend anyone trying. This is not a ranking based off the potential good things you could make from any of these, I feel like that would be a very different list.
Heinz Distilled White Vinegar — not as bad as I thought it would be! Kind of hurts my throat, but in a satisfying way. I did not expect this to be an enjoyable tasting experience, and it was not. I started with this one, because it seemed the least pleasant, and after this one I was very worried that this whole thing was a terrible mistake, but thankfully things got better quick.
Dell’ Alpe Red Wine Vinegar — Beautiful color, but drinking this was bad! Made my mouth buzz. I thought this would be one of the more palatable plain vinegars, because I tend to think of it as slightly sweet, but it wasn’t? Honestly disappointing.
Market Pantry White Wine Vinegar — tangy! Some real zip! But only the slightest bit of flavor. Very light, but more pleasant than the plain vinegar. This is the one that tasted the least like anything, it all came down to mouth feel, which was pretty neutral, but still vinegar. Made the least impression, either positively or negatively.
Field Day Organic Apple Cider Vinegar — Lovely! A touch of sweetness. I want to wash my whole house with this. Apple cider vinegar is such a clean flavor, it’s very invigorating. I have only dabbled in vinegar drinks/switchel, and apple cider is definitely the closest to that. I can definitely imagine drinking this diluted with some honey and lemon too.
Original London Pub Malt Vinegar — surprisingly mild! Last year I tried to replicated the wonderful burnt broccoli salad from The Superiority Burger Cookbook, and it calls for malt vinegar for the eggplant puree at the base. I couldn’t find malt vinegar anywhere, and I don’t remember what I finally wound up using as a substitute, but it turned out fine. I still wanted to get my hands on a bottle of malt vinegar — at one point I planned on waiting until summer, and then stealing one off a table outside Britt’s Pub (where they serve it out to put on fries). But then this summer was real weird, and Britts kinda caught fire, and I totally forgot about my vinegar heist. I finally found it at Lunds right before christmas, and this was my first time opening the bottle. I don’t really know what malt tastes like, but this is pleasant. I’m looking forward to cooking with this.
Kikkoman Seasoned Rice Vinegar — I like this! It’s got seasoning! I love sushi rice, which is basically rice with this + sugar, so it makes sense that I like this on its own. I didn’t know what this was seasoned with, but apparently it’s just sugar and salt??? It almost feels unfair to compare this to other vinegars, but I use it like a vinegar, and I need the experience of eating a spoonful of this to mean something, so it stays in the rankings.
Gold Plum Chinkiang Vinegar — so complex! Lovely dark color, good body, so much flavor. I use this as dipping sauce for dumplings, either straight up or mixed with some soy sauce, so I knew what I was getting into, and it didn’t disappoint. I only learned about chinkiang vinegar in September, but it’s already a kitchen staple.
Colavita Balsamic Vinegar of Moderna — Delicious. I love balsamic vinegar, it’s really one of the best ingredients. This is a nice mid level balsamic, very bold, but lacking the body of a truly top tier vinegar. Drinking this is almost a nice time. This is a fine balsamic for cooking with, but unfortunately I’ve been ruined for it by a truly special kind of vinegar.
UNTASTED TODAY: Napa Valley Cherry Wood Aged Balsamic Grand Reserve Vinegar — this is the best vinegar I have ever tasted, and sadly I only have the barest traces in the bottom of a bottle left in my cupboard. Anything else it’d be time to wash the bottle and stick it in the recycling, but I must save every last drop of this — someday I’ll swish a bit of water around in it, and make one last delicious balsamic food. This stuff is so sweet, and so thick, it’s divine. I use this stuff plain as salad dressing all the time. They say you can eat this over ice cream like hot fudge, and I was always skeptical of that claim, but then I was at a dinner party where the dessert was root beer floats, and I don’t like root beer, but we had this on the salad, so I decided to give it a try, and honestly? It was really good. This is the best vinegar I’ve ever had, and the best thing in my kitchen whenever I have a bottle. Do yourself a favor and pick some up.
SPECIAL OFFER: If you send me $20 with a note about what kind of vinegar you want me to review, I will write 500 words about it just for you. my paypal is email@example.com, my venmo @BessMPLS. This is a serious offer.
PICTURE OF THE CAT
I made him pose with all of the vinegars! He was not impressed!
WHAT I WATCHED YESTERDAY
I watched Alien Resurrection, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. This is such a wild movie because it’s a Joss Wheadon script, and it feels like a Joss Wheadon script, with the zippy comebacks and the questionable sexual politics masquerading under pop feminism, but it’s directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who is a weird French dude, and totally doing his own thing too. The only Jeunet film I’ve seen is Amalie, which is WILDLY different than this, and also from Jenuet’s earlier films, which are supposed to be good, and I’m excited to check out after this. It’s such a gross looking movie, and I mean that as a compliment. It’s so slimy. The divide between the script and the visual storytelling/general tone is pretty stark, and stops the movie from ever fully gelling, but what’s there is still really interesting. I totally get why this was a huge disappointment when it came out, but it’s cool.
SONG OF THE DAY
I’m really obsessed with this cover right now. “Thirteen” is one of my favorite Big Star songs, and this is such a beautiful version.