Everyone loves vinegar, it is a savoury delight with almost three known uses. However, if you're like me, you will be baffled by the array of vinegars you can find in your local store's vinegar aisle. Further complicating matters, upmarket stores such as Oil & Vinegar sell speciality vinegars galore, when all a lot of us want is a cooling vinegary sip at the end of the day.
Continuing in this site's proud vein of public service, I have decided to review all the vinegars you may be confronted with in your daily life, so as to make at least one vital part of every day as trouble-free as possible.
Sarson's Malt Vinegar
The undisputed market leader for all your chip needs, Sarsons boast that 5.5 million litres of their vinegar is sloshed onto the nation's chips every year. How would it stand up to our three-point test, though?
THE CHIP TEST: Sarson's plays its trump card here. A fine chip vinegar, redolent with vinegar flavour and a vinegary nose. Our score: 10/10
THE SALAD DRESSING TEST: Malt vinegar is generally thought to be too full-bodied to make a good salad dressing, and this is no exception. Upon my Sarson's Vinaigrette making contact with my carefully prepared leafy salad, all the leaves melted down to a small pellet of cud. And then the bowl caught fire. 2/10
THE PINT OF VINEGAR TEST: Drinking a pint of Sarson's - long famous as part of the initiation ceremony for new cBeebies presenters - is an exciting experience, although not for the newcomer. The malty goodness warms the palate as the acetic acid works on your teeth. This superior flavour is particularly welcomed during the vomiting stage. 8/10
Our total for Sarson's: 20/30 a high watermark for its rivals.
NOTES: Sarson's also provide a light version of their vinegar, which fared a little worse on the chip test but a little better with the salad, plus being more forgiving for any freshman pint drinkers. Also in their range is a pickling-strength product. This absolutely marmalised the chips, atomised the salad and created a strong sense of malaise during the pint test.
Dufrais Wine Vinegar
A common sight on supermarket shelves, Dufrais lead the UK speciality vinegar market, shifting 1.5 million units per year. Most common are the white wine, red wine and cider varieties. So as to factor in all of their different qualities, we mixed them together in a big bucket.
CHIPS: A sophisticated and different twist, wicider vinegar on the chip provides a hearty fruit flavour and a growing sense of one's elevation up the class ladder. 5/10
SALAD: The speciality vinegar's trump card. A deliciously fragrant addition to a pile of old green bits. 10/10
PINT: The subtler flavour, compared to malt varieties, is initially welcomed by the careworn and bleeding palate, but the vomit from the wicider vinegar was particularly harsh and melted our toilet. 3/10
For all of the choice of malt or fruit vinegars, one must also remember that for every name brand there will be another dozen supermarkets'-own varieties (I included the leftover vinegar from a chip shop's jar of pickled eggs within this test). Again, the mixing bucket came out for this one.
CHIP: Brutal 1/10
SALAD: Ruinous 2/10
PINT: Oh god 0/10
OVERALL: 3/30 - best avoided
Del Cristo Balsamic Vinegar
The king of the vinegars, Balsamic has undergone a huge growth in popularity in the past decade, with every household in the UK now owning at least 400 bottles. The range, as is so often the case, is enormous. For this test, we forewent the bucket and instead settled on the top of the range Del Cristo, retailing at £96.57 for 100 ml.
CHIP: A delightful, sweet and richly bodied sensation. Delicious. 10/10
SALAD: Another area in which balsamic vinegar excels, Del Cristo made a salad so good an angel proposed to me. 10/10
PINT: Although balsamic vinegar is a little thicker and sweeter than standard vinegars, a pint of Del Cristo (£548.77) slipped down a treat. Not only was the vomit limited to some spirited belching, the palate was suitably tickled by the sensation to suggest an accompaniment of some Nice 'n' Spicy Nik Naks, which made me puke like a horse. 9/10
OVERALL: 29/30 - a real winner
CONCLUSION: if you are looking for a really nice vinegar which is both flavoursome and versatile, look no further than Del Cristo Balsamic Vinegar!
Warning: do not attempt to drink a pint of vinegar without adult supervision.