Category Archives: Mixers

Review: Cheribundi Cherry Juice Mixers

cheribundi 300x199 Review: Cheribundi Cherry Juice MixersForget acai and yumberries. Cheribundi is doubling down on good old fashioned cherries as a juice and a cocktail mixer. We sampled a flotilla of cherry juice-based concoctions. Thoughts follow.

Cheribundi Cherry Juice – 100% juice (mostly cherry, with a bit of apple juice added for sweetness), so you better prepare your palate for the tart rush of authentic, smashed cherries. (The company says there are 50 cherries in an 8 oz. mini-bottle. Sour-sweet, authentic, and a big rush of fruit. Use sparingly as a mixer. 130 calories. A- / $12 for four 8 oz. bottles

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Review: Just Chill Natural Stress Relief Beverages (2013 Flavors)

just chill 300x214 Review: Just Chill Natural Stress Relief Beverages (2013 Flavors)As “relaxation drinks” go, Just Chill is one of the better products on the market. Since its 2011 introduction, the product has been a success, and now the company is rolling out two new flavors plus a slightly revamped can design.

Each 12 oz. can is now 70 calories instead of 50, as the cans are larger, 12 oz. instead of 8.4 oz. Ingredients are the same, there’s just more of them: L-theanine (243mg per 12 oz. can), vitamins B and C, magnesium, zinc, Siberian ginseng, ginkgo biloba, and lemongrass. Sweetening is via fruit juice and stevia, and carbonation is gentle. My comments about the relaxation effect of the drink remain about the same.

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Review: Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer

crabbies ginger beer 248x300 Review: Crabbies Original Alcoholic Ginger BeerThe whole “ginger ale/ginger beer” thing is extremely misleading. As any partaker of the occasional can of Canada Dry can tell you, there’s no “ale” in there — it’s really just ginger-flavored 7-Up.

Ginger beer and ginger ale aren’t the same thing (The difference between the two is simple: Ginger ale was actually invented as a soft drink. Ginger beer is actually fermented and brewed.) But in reality, even high-end artisan ginger beer products like Fever-Tree don’t have alcohol in them.

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Review: Pomagria Pomegranate Sangria

pomagria 88x300 Review: Pomagria Pomegranate SangriaPomegranate remains the hottest superfruit out there, mainly because, unlike a lot of these fruity-come-latelies,  pomegranate tastes good.

Not a bad idea then to add a little super-juice to your sangria, no?

Well, Pomagria — not the best name, to be honest — doesn’t quite work, landing in a no man’s land between fruit juice and the classic wine cocktail. On the nose you’d be hard-pressed to say this was sangria at all. It smells just like the kids’ breakfast juice. Over time, some vague alcohol vapors bubble up.

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Review: Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water

Fever-Tree has a richly deserved reputation as the producer of some of the finest artisanal mixers in the business. Its Indian Tonic Water, Ginger Beer, and Ginger Ale are all top notch.

Now Fever-Tree is expanding its tonic water portfolio with a new spin: Mediterranean Tonic Water, which is made “using the most authentic strain of quinine and the finest lemon oils from Sicily as well as thyme, geranium, rosemary and mandarin [from the Mediterranean], we have created a delicious new taste experience.” I compared the new product (blue label) to the original “Premium Indian Tonic Water” (gold label).  (Fever-Tree also sells a light Indian Tonic Water and a Bitter Lemon (aka Lemon Tonic) product.)

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Review: Kahlua Iced Coffee Grab & Go Cocktails

You can pour your Kahlua into coffee, or you can get it in one-stop format, thanks to Kahlua’s new “grab & go” canned cocktails. (I’m not sure where you’re supposed to be “going” with one of these in hand, but that’s another story.)

Each of these pre-mixed cocktails are fairly self-explanatory, and each includes 100% Arabica coffee from Veracruz, Mexico. Each can contains 200ml (6.8 oz.) of cocktail and a mere 5% alcohol. (150 calories each, if you’re curious.) Here’s how the three varieties come across. All three have the appearance of dark coffee, complete with a small layer of crema on top when poured into a glass.

Kahlua Iced Espresso – Mild coffee with mild Kahlua notes, but a reasonable expression of both the constituent components. Somewhat nutty, with burnt caramel notes on the finish. Drinkable, even the whole can. B+

Kahlua Iced Mocha – Sweet, with more chocolate than coffee character, but neither is exceptionally strong. Not bad, but the thick aftertaste starts to coat the tongue after a while. B

Kahlua Iced Coffee with Cinnamon Spice – Like a Starbucks concoction, which is a bit much for my tastes. Very strong cinnamon and sugar on the nose, and plenty more where that came from as you sip. Like the mocha in the cloying department, times three. C+

$2.50 per 200ml can / kahlua.com

kahlua cans Review: Kahlua Iced Coffee Grab & Go Cocktails

 

Review: Bai and Bai5 Antioxidant Infusions Beverages

The world of health-focused juice blends is an ever-expanding one, and quality is all over the map. One of the better ones out there is Bai, and we tasted a sampling of juices including both Bai (traditionally sweetened with organic cane juice) and Bai5 (sweetened with low-cal erythritol) products.

All Bai products are spiked with organic coffeefruit and white tea extract, which is one way to get the purported antioxidant goodness of both of these drinks into your diet… without having to brew up coffee or tea, and with minimal caffeine (each serving has about as much as a cup of green tea).

Thoughts on three of the infusions (there are about a dozen in total) follow.

Bai Antioxidant Infusions Jamaica Blue Berry – Good, authentic blueberry flavor, and just the right amount of sweetness and a little touch of cinnamon character on the finish. Somewhere between flavored water and juice, which suits me just fine. 10% juice. About 160 calories per 18 oz. bottle. A-

Bai5 Antioxidant Infusions Panama Peach – Very peachy, pretty authentic. Not much aftertaste, and the sweetness level is right. Good consistency, not too watery. Peach isn’t my favorite fruit but I could totally see drinking this on an occasional basis. 4% juice. About 11 calories per 18 oz. bottle. B+

Bai5 Antioxidant Infusions Sumatra Dragonfruit - Stronger in flavor, and a bit musty. The flavor is somewhere in the region of a mix of raspberry, cherry, and mango. which gives this darker, more intense beverage more of a fruit punch character. Not bad, but not as nuanced as the others. 4% juice. About 11 calories per 18 oz. bottle. B

about $24 per 12-pack [BUY IT HERE] / drinkbai.com

bai 5 Review: Bai and Bai5 Antioxidant Infusions Beverages

Review: Vino Innovations Vino Freeze Mix

Do you like wine? Do you like Kool-Aid? Do you like Slurpees? If you said yes to all three, you’re in for a real treat (ahem): Vino Freeze Mix, which gives you the triple threat of ultra-sugary powder plus the buzz of cheap wine in a slushy frozen package.

It sounds like a joke but I assume you this is a real thing. In fact, I tried it. With my mouth.

Let’s start with what it is. Vino Freeze Mix comes a company called Old World Gourmet, so you might imagine all the Ukranian babushkas carefully harvesting the sugar, citric acid, purple carrot powder (for color), and natural flavors from the fields, then packaging it 12 ounces at a time in metallic bags and festively colored boxes to be sold in gourmet stores across the land. (A full bag of Vino Freeze Mix (10 servings) has 260 grams of sugar.)

To make your Vino Freeze — I chose the Blueberry Pomegranate flavor, but a half dozen varieties are available — you dump the bag into a pitcher, add a full bottle of “your favorite* red wine,” and another 750ml bottle of water. Stir, then freeze for 3 to 4 hours, and your wine slushy is ready.

Some problems I encountered: First, a pitcher does not promote freezing well, so you are advised to follow the “or” advice on the package and use a plastic bag to contain the concoction. In fact, my pitcher popped open in the freezer and rained Blueberry Pomegranate sleet across my fridge, which was awesome. My fault, though. Also, after 4 hours, my Vino Freeze was still mostly water. It took at least 7 hours to get anywhere near slushy status.

And once it was done, my, what a heretical beverage this was. Ungodly sweet, with a cough syrup kicker, the only thing going for this “drink” was that it was cold and the weather outside was warm. Clearly this is marketed for the daytime-drinking cougar crowd, but lord knows those tireless ladies deserve better than this.

D- / $10 per package / owgshoponline.com

* I highly recommend not using your favorite wine.

vino freeze mix Review: Vino Innovations Vino Freeze Mix

Sangria Special: New Offerings from Senor Sangria and Eppa Reviewed

Summer is in full swing, and that means sangria season is here. We’ve looked at Senor Sangria’s original red sangria in the past, now the company’s back with a white sangria. Also on tap: Red sangria from Eppa with a health-conscious spin. Here’s how these offerings from Senor Sangria (made in Washingtonville, New York) and Eppa (made in Hopland, California) stack up.

Senor Sangria Classic White – A blend of fruit juices with white wine, this is heavy on orange and lemon, and in fact it could almost pass for a flat mimosa. A bit of tropical fruit — pineapple and mango, perhaps guava — adds a little more excitement. Very mild and party friendly. 8.5% alcohol. A- / $8   senorsangria.com

Senor Sangria Classic Red - Deep red, with a big wine character to it. Fruit comes along second, deep berry-inflected notes along with some apple, orange, and maybe even some lime and grapefruit in there. Spices seem evident as well, giving this sangria the feel of a chilled, mulled wine — emphasis on the wine. I’m a touch less enamored with it now than I was when I first sampled it three years ago (as it comes across now as a little on the boozy side), but it’s still a very good sangria provided you want something a little more substantial, less sweet, in your glass. 8% alcohol. B+ / $8

Eppa SupraFruta Sangria – Organic wine blended with organic “superior fruit,” this is a milder red sangria than Senor Sangria’s red, and it’s evident the company started with a fruitier wine as its base and more of a focus on strong fruit flavors. The company says that pomegranate, blueberry, blood orange, and acai juices are used in the mix, along with various citrus juices. The pomegranate is quite prominent, with blueberry close behind. The ultimate effect is a significantly different drink, something closer to a juice blend you’d have at breakfast than with your jerk chicken. Not significantly better or worse, just different. 8% alcohol. B+ / $12   eppasangria.com


Review: The Perfect Puree New Flavors – Chipotle Sour, Thyme & Citrus, Thai Basil & Black Pepper

The Perfect Puree is back with more high-end blended mixers, this time fruit bases blended with spices to create a combination of sweet and savory components in one cocktail. Want to recreate higher-end mixological tricks without a lot of effort? Check out one of these ready-made mixers.

Chipotle Sour – a hodgepodge of lime, orange, lemon, apple, pear, pineapple, and tangerine juice, plus chipotle flavors – very peppery on the nose and spicy as hell on the tongue, cut very light by lemon/lime/orange juice character; very much in the vein of a pre-mixed sangrita, you could use this as an avant garde Bloody Mary base. B+

Thai Basil & Black Pepper – a base of pineapple, lime, lemon, and orange, with (obviously) Thai basil and pepper atop – pineapple and basil are the most evident notes, and they work well together here, almost like a sweet and sour sauce or a very mild curry; the pepper is understated and mellow; probably my favorite of this batch. A-

Thyme & Citrus – looks like the same ingredients (lime, orange, lemon, etc.) plus thyme flavors in lieu of chipotle – very herbal on the nose, though it’s hard to pick out what herb it is exactly until you taste it; there the thyme comes through loud and clear, with lots of citrus behind it; tastes like something you’d get at a newfangled bar — I had good luck mixing it with passion fruit vodka. B+

each $25 per quart (32 oz.) / perfectpuree.com

perfect puree new flavors Review: The Perfect Puree New Flavors   Chipotle Sour, Thyme & Citrus, Thai Basil & Black Pepper

Review: Mionetto ‘IL’ SPR!Z

I’ve written about the Aperol Spritz — often just the Spritz — before. It’s a refreshing and tasty cocktail that’s incredibly easy to make. Along with the Bellini, it’s pretty much the official cocktail of Venice, and many Italian restaurants here and abroad have adopted the Spritz in their own menus.

In Italy, you can buy premade, bottled Spritzes galore in markets. Now they’re coming to the U.S. The first is from Mionetto, a major Prosecco brand, which is launching the complex-monikered ‘IL’ SPR!Z in the U.S. We got a chance to sample it.

‘IL’ is not exactly a traditional Aperol-based Spritz but rather “premium frizzante sparkling wine, natural colors and aromas, and flavors of fresh orange and select herbs.” The effect is quite authentic, orange-heavy on the nose, lightly bitter on the finish, with touches green olive and dried herbs. It may not be quite as good as a Spritz made with genuine Aperol, but it’s definitely palatable, refreshing, and reminiscent of hot days by the Grand Canal.

Note that this is bottled with a crown-cap closure and, once opened, partial bottles can’t readily be saved. 8% alcohol by volume. Available in 750ml, 375ml, and (soon) 187ml versions.

B+ / $14 per 750ml bottle / mionettousa.com

mionetto il spriz Review: Mionetto IL SPR!Z

Review: Rhum Clement Premiere Canne and Sirop de Canne

Today we take a fresh look at Rhum Clement, a Martinique-based producer of rhum agricole, which is rum made not from molasses (the norm) but of free-run sugar cane juice.  This year Clement celebrates its 125th anniversary, and it’s redesigning its packaging and adding a new product, Sirop de Canne (a bottled sugar syrup). We consider them both below.

Rhum Clement Premiere Canne - I last encountered this rum in 2008, and I find my feelings about it haven’t much changed. It’s very much like a better cachaca, fueled by gasoline character but tempered with loads of lemon, orange peel, and cut grass character. The sweetness is surprisingly mild for rum, a side effect of using sugar cane to distill the rum instead of molasses. Most rum drinkers will get knocked off the swing with this one, but enthusiasts will find real charm here. 80 proof. B+ / $35

Rhum Clement Sirop de Canne – A nonalcoholic sugar syrup the color of honey, and about the consistency of it, too. A lovely syrup, with the distinct flavor of gingerbread. Nutmeg and cloves on the back — and strong on the nose, too. Ingredients include “pure sugarcane, water, and natural aromas,” however that last bit works. Certainly not for straight consumption, but the holiday character here could really spice up a cocktail or punch. I’m into it. A- / $12

rhumclement.net

Review: VnC Pre-Mixed Cocktails

Pre-mixed cocktails continue to grow in popularity. VnC, which is based in New Zealand, takes it to the ultimate conclusion: The cocktails not only have the alcohol already in them (in addition to natural juices), they’re packaged both in party size bottlings and in single serve versions, which we reviewed.

Each 200ml cocktail comes in at 14% alcohol and includes a built-in cup so you look more sophisticated than drinking out of the bottle. Woo hoo! We tasted four of the six available varieties. All are 150 calories or less per serving. Thoughts follow.

VnC Pomegranate Cosmo – Vodka, triple sec, natural flavors, pomegranate, cranberry, and lime juices. Distinctly vodka-inflected, which lends this Cosmo a bit of a cough syrup character and makes it taste boozier than it really is. A decent amount of fruit helps salvage the mix, and you can actually taste the lime juice, a nice touch. (For what it’s worth, the lady thought this was far and away her favorite.) B

VnC Margarita – Tequila, triple sec, “natural margarita flavors,” lemon, and lime juices. Tastes authentic, and unlike the Cosmo it’s very easygoing on the booziness. Sweet, with a bit of tequila kick to it, a light and credible version of a classic margie. B+

VnC Vodka Mojito – Vodka with “natural mojito flavor” and lime juice. Why would you not use rum in a mojito? White rum is one of the cheapest spirits available. Not, perhaps, cheaper than vodka, I guess. Smells better than it tastes, full of minty promise on the nose… but chalky and a bit artificial on the tongue. Leaves a lingering aftertaste. C+

VnC Pacific Breeze – Vodka with “natural MaiTai flavor,” coconut, pineapple, and lime juices. This would be far better blended with ice than a simple liquid, but as it stands it’s got that tropical flavor that you really only want when you’re sitting on the beach. Again, this would be a much better drink with rum in it, but it’s credible enough for poolside consumption in a pinch. B

each $4 per 200ml bottle / vnccocktails.com

vnc cocktails Review: VnC Pre Mixed Cocktails

Review: Refine Zero Calorie Mixers

Refine says it aims to “refine” the skinny cocktail with these zero-calorie mixers. Flavored with stevia, they’re available in 32 oz. bottles in three flavors.

Refine Margarita Mix – Bright yellow, looks supernatural. Tastes very tart, with lots of intense lemon/lime soda character, but with a chalkiness that recalls Crystal Light granules (thanks, I’m sure, to all the citric acid in the mix). Could be worse. B-

Refine Mojito Mix – Unthrilling, this mostly clear mixer doesn’t really recall fresh lime or mint, just a vague sweetness that could be mistaken for a flat 7-Up. Could be better. C-

Refine Cosmopolitan Mix – The bright pink color is misleading, but this mixer has surprisingly more lime character than the mojito does. After that, a touch of strawberry or raspberry, more Jolly Rancher than fresh fruit. Not unpalatable, but the chemical aftertaste is rough on this one. C

each $9 per 32 oz. bottle / refinemixers.com

refine mixers Review: Refine Zero Calorie Mixers

Review: Liber & Co. Spiced Tonic Syrup

Austin-based Liber & Company trucks in a pretty narrow world: Artisinal, spiced tonic syrup.

Liber & Co. sent us samples of their new product and it’s certainly nothing like your bottle of Schweppes. A ruddy orange, and indeed a tonic syrup, not a tonic “water.” Made with crushed herbs, spices, and cinchona bark, it is filtered down to 25 microns, “the lower threshold that the human tongue can detect,” per the company, to remove particulates. Agave nectar is used for sweetening.

The results are impressive if overwhelming. Tasted alone the syrup is a gut-puncher, full of orange peel and clove character, sweet at first, then fading to bitter in the way you might expect tonic to taste. There’s a vague quinine aftertaste that reminds you what it is you’re drinking.

Naturally this is not meant to be drank solo, and I tried it in the Save the Countess cocktail recipe (below), with great results. Here the tonic syrup works well with its fellow spirits, creating a fun and balanced — if quite flavorful — cocktail. (Do not omit the grapefruit juice and shake it long and hard if you make one. A little melted ice is essential to get this down to the right booze level.)

Overall, this is a fun mixer that will make you think wildly differently about  what G&T night can be.

Currently available in Austin, Dallas, and Washington, D.C.

A- / $10 for 8 oz. bottle / liberandcompany.com

Save the Countess
3/4 oz. Spiced Tonic Syrup
1 1/4 oz. gin
1 1/4 oz. Lillet Blanc
splash grapefruit juice
2 dashes Peychaud bitters

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.

liber and company spiced tonic syrup Review: Liber & Co. Spiced Tonic Syrup

Cool Item of the Day: The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler’s Set

The line between a good cocktail and a great one can often be drawn with a sprinkling of bitters, staples of any serious watering hole and surely a part of any high-end home bar, too.

Traveling, however, poses a particular challenge. It’s one thing to throw a bottle of rye in the car for the trip to Tahoe. It’s another to deal with all the little things — garnishes, mixers, bitters — as well.

The Bitter Truth is at least making one of those easier with this fun “Traveler’s Set” of five miniature (20ml) bottles packed into a tin travel kit. You get Celery, Orange, Creole, Old Time Aromatic, and Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters in the mix. Not sure the Celery Bitters are essential, but the other four (sub Creole for Peychaud’s and either the Aromatic or the Jerry Thomas bitters for Angostura) cover the bitters bases of 90% of the cocktail recipes out there.

Fun stuff.

$18 / the-bitter-truth.com

bitter truth travelers set Cool Item of the Day: The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Travelers Set

Review: Twist Essence Water

Is bottled water less heinous if it’s flavored? Twist is lightly sweetened with agave nectar and stevia, and flavored with natural extracts, yet still claims just 0 calories. We tasted two varieties.

Twist Pomegranate Blueberry is vague in its berry allegiance, almost strawberry-like in the way it comes across. Blueberries are a bit in the distance. It’s sweeter than you’d think, but neither cloying nor gummy, the way agave-infused stuff can be. B

Twist West Indies Lime sounds awfully exotic, but the flavor is more reminiscent of Rose’s Lime Juice, a bit saccharine and lightly bitter and herbal on the finish. The lime aroma is nice, but the flavor here doesn’t come across as fully authentic, the way a margarita mix can often be. Harmless enough. C+

about $1.25 per 19 oz. bottle / drinktwist.com

 

Review: Hoosier Momma Bloody Mary Makers

As you prepare for New Year’s Eve festivities, forget not the aftermath: Tomorrow morning may hurt, and the solution may very well be found in a nice Bloody Mary.

The curiously named Hoosier Momma Bloody Mary Maker (B+), from the great state of Indiana, of course, is the latest ready-to-go Bloody to cross through our doors. It doesn’t take long to see this isn’t V8 and Worcestershire: Moderately chunky, with pulp bits, and laden with little flecks of spices. Despite the flecks, the standard version isn’t all that spicy. In fact, it has more sweetness than other Bloody mixes, a bit citrus on the finish, and very lightly spicy with a touch of horseradish.

Hoosier Momma Spicy Bloody Mary Maker (B-) kicks things up with a Tabasco-like rush. Sadly, I think this works against the mixer, coming across with raw heat and dulling the fun of this mix. The sweetness is still quite strong, but after the sugar and spice, I don’t get much more than simple tomato juice flavor.

My only other issue with this mixer is with the packaging. These mixes come not in bottles but in jars — like fat mayonnaise jars. It’s certainly unique packaging, but it does make it hard to pour the stuff inside, particularly if you’re working with a single serving or narrow glass. I get that it helps showcase Hoosier Mama’s chunkiness, but a) it’s not really that thick, and b) a wider-mouth bottle would have been more practical.

each $8 per 32 oz. jar / hoosiermomma.com

hoosier momma bloody mary mixer Review: Hoosier Momma Bloody Mary Makers

Excuse Me, Do You Have Pussy in a Can?

Discovered this oddball energy drink at the train station in Munich. Turns out you can get away with a lot more here (of course) than you can in the U.S. I bought a can and frankly it’s not that bad. Flavored (strongly) with lychee, the exotic fruit drowns out the (all natural) active ingredients, including guarana, caffeine, ginseng, gingko, and some other stuff I can’t really read because it’s in German. Further analysis and commentary is left as an exercise for the reader. Additional reading: pussydrinks.ch

pussy Excuse Me, Do You Have Pussy in a Can?

Review: Powell & Mahoney Bloody Mary and Bellini Mixes

Complex cocktails in ready-made form won’t ever lose their popularity, and bottled Bloody Mary and Margarita mixes will probably forever be at the top of that heap.

Powell & Mahoney makes more than 10 such mixes, including a Bloody, Margarita, Mojito, and even a Hot Toddy. We sampled two of them — the Bloody Mary and the Peach Bellini. Thoughts follow.

Powell & Mahoney Bloody Mary Mix – This mix makes a very straightforward and fresh-tasting Bloody, vodka or no. Thick but not too much so, it offers lots of fresh tomato flavor, clear Worcestershire kick, and very very mild spices. The heat-seeker will want to kick this up with a healthy dose of hot sauce or Tabasco, but if you’re looking for pure tomato character with a smattering of basic spices, this mix is arguably better than doing it yourself. A-

Powell & Mahoney Peach Bellini Mix - Just add Prosecco and you’ve got this Venice-originated classic. Essentially just water, sugar,and peach puree, this makes for a fresh and really fruity cocktail (don’t skimp on the Prosecco, by the way). The nose of the mixer, sans wine, is more apricot than peach, but when mixed 2 (Prosecco) to 1 (mixer), the peachiness comes alive. It’s not at all thick, so don’t expect any puree chunks in your glass, for better or for worse. A-

about $6 each (750ml) / powellandmahoney.com