Category Archives: Mixers

Review: Zenify: The Live Stress Free Drink

How stress-free to you get if you drink Zenify? So stress-free that you stop using capitalization. I swear — outside of the nutrition facts box, there’s not a capital letter to be found on this can of relaxation beverage. It’ll knock the shift right out of you!

Zenify is designed to “get you focused” by countering the effects of caffeine with “increased Alpha Waves,” and increasing the amount of seratonin and dopamine in the body. Zenify says it can even treat everything from anxiety to ADHD via its GABA component. Other ingredients include L-Theanine, Glycine, and vitamins C, Niacin, B6, B12, Folic Acid, Pantothenic Acid, and Magnesium. It comes in a lightly yellow, lightly carbonated format, contained in a 12 oz. can.

As beverages go, this Stevia-sweetened (and 50-calorie) product doesn’t taste bad. It’s promoted (naturally) as a vodka mixer, but solo it is quite drinkable. Lemon/lime is the base, with some pineapple notes thrown in. Very easy to drink, with really light flavoring and a moderate, not cloying body.

Am I feeling relaxed? As always, I hate to make any snap judgments on issues like this, but my Alpha Waves aren’t complaining.

A- / $55 for 24 12-oz. cans / zenifyed.com

zenify Review: Zenify: The Live Stress Free Drink

Four Loko Rises Again as “Poco Loko”

You can’t get rid of Four Loko that easily, folks…

CHICAGO, Sept. 7, 2011 – Responding to popular demand, Phusion Projects, LLC recently announced the introduction of Poco Loko, a new version of the company’s Four Loko product with unique flavors and in a smaller can size with lower alcohol by volume.

Poco Loko is available in 16-ounce cans at 8 percent alcohol by volume, and comes in four unique flavors: Green Apple, Black Cherry, Mango and Lemonade; most of which are not available in 23.5 ounce cans.  The product, which will be available in four packs and in single cans, is being introduced in order to meet consumer demand for additional products and flavors, and to continue diversifying the Phusion Projects line of products.

“We’ve always been a company that listens to what our consumers want,” said Chris Hunter, one of the co-founders of Phusion Projects. “Poco Loko is a great product to bring to market, and we’re excited to re-introduce fan favorite Green Apple, originally from the Four Loko XXX Limited Edition line.”

As with all Phusion Projects products, Poco Loko is a flavored malt beverage that does not contain caffeine, guarana or taurine.

poco loko Four Loko Rises Again as Poco Loko

Review: Baileys Mudslide

Few cocktails in the panopticon of chain restaurant beverages imbue the spirit — the very heart — of panty peeler so thoroughly as the Mudslide. A chocolate, creamy, boozy frozen concoction, this is dessert — and usually drunkenness — in a glass.

Now Baileys brings the Mudslide to ready-made status, or as near as is humanly possible. Just take this 1.75-liter jug of “vodka, chocolate, coffee, and cream liqueurs,” pour into a blender with an equal amount of ice, and pulverize until it’s smooth. You can make it as thick or as thin as you’d like. The more ice you add, the more you cut down the (admittedly weak) 25 proof alcohol level.

When complete (I didn’t even try to taste this unblended and sans ice), it’s a credible beach beverage, but hardly a knockout. The booziness comes off as much harsher than the alcohol level would indicate — more rum-like than vodka-like — and the sweetness is cloying. Chocolate and coffee are almost afterthoughts to the raw sugar notes, and the mass — which separates after about 10 minutes into a creamy tan-and-foam cocktail — is tasty enough in a sorority sister way, but it just doesn’t come together as a composed whole.

Frankly, I think you’d get better results from putting regular Baileys, a squirt of chocolate syrup, and some ice into a blender, and you wouldn’t spend much more, either.

C+ / $16 per 1.75-liter bottle / the-baileys-lounge.baileys.com

Baileys Mudslide Review: Baileys Mudslide

Review: Just Chill Natural Stress Relief Beverage

Will “one sip” of this “relaxation beverage” give you “instant enlightenment?” Perhaps not, but it certainly won’t hurt.

The ingredients of Just Chill should be largely familiar to readers who’ve explored this nascent category: The ubiquitous L-theanine (150mg per 8.4 oz. can), vitamins B and C, magnesium, zinc, Siberian ginseng, ginkgo biloba, and (perhaps the only unusual additive) lemongrass. It’s all delivered in a “tropical chill” flavored can of carbonated water, “crystalline fructose,” natural flavors, fruit juices, and stevia.

The taste is very mild and innocuous: vaguely pineapple and mango character atop a lightly carbonated base. It goes down just fine, a stark contrast to some of the less savory entrants into this category, and it lacks that viscous character that seems to be so common in fructose-flavored beverages.

As always, it’s hard to speak to the promised psychoactive effects — relaxation without drowsiness, in this case — of Just Chill on a limited sampling, but it certainly hasn’t hurt my mood any, and I’m hardly feeling tired. As always, your mileage will likely vary.

50 calories.

B+ / $2 per 8.4 oz. can / drinkjustchill.com [BUY IT HERE]

just chill Review: Just Chill Natural Stress Relief Beverage

Review: Small Hand Foods Gum Syrups

The thing about gomme (awesome word) is that when you’re perusing cocktail recipe books, everything seems to call for it. But when you actually get some gomme, you can’t find a thing to make with the stuff.

I’ve had Small Hand Foods’ line of gommes, or gum syrups, sitting on the counter of Drinkhacker HQ for months, with nothing to do with them. Finally I made, you know, an effort, and cooked up a variety of cocktails with the stuff so I could review them before they, you know, expired. (Recipes follow, courtesy of Small Hand Foods.)

Gum syrup is a lot like it sounds: Syrup that is thickened considerably by the addition of gum arabic. Unlike regular sugar syrup, gum syrup adds viscosity to a drink, and on its own it is noticeably more mouth-filling. The catch: Who has gum arabic handy when you need it?

Small Hand Foods comes to the rescue with pre-bottled gommes: an unflavored version, and the more intriguing pineapple gum syrup and raspberry gum syrup. The company also makes orgeat (almond syrup) and grenadine, neither in “gum” versions (and neither reviewed here).

As for the three gum syrups, all are impressive and work well in the cocktails that call for them. I tried them alone and in recipes. They’re wholly as intended: Thick, viscous, and quite flavorful. The flavors are all more aged than I’d expected: The standard gum syrup has a rich, caramel character to it, and that translates through to your drink, like it or not. Huge, authentic pineapple and raspberry notes are found in the flavored versions, though clearly neither is quite as tasty as fresh fruit macerated in syrup would be. They also bear the same aged sugar character as the standard gum syrup, which is unusual, but adds an interesting spin to a cocktail.

All told these are excellent cocktail ingredients. Shortcuts, to be sure, but when a recipe calls for gomme, who else are ya gonna call?

Refrigerate after opening.

all varieties: A- / $12 per 250ml bottle / smallhandfoods.com

Hotel Nacionale Speciale
Adapted from the Hotel Nacionale, Havana, Cuba

1½ oz rum (white or aged)
¾ oz fresh lime juice
¾ oz Pineapple Gum Syrup
½ oz apricot brandy

Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a lime twist.

Clover Club
Adapted from Harry Craddock, The Savoy Cocktail Book, 1930

1½ oz gin
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz Raspberry Gum Syrup
½ oz dry vermouth
½ oz egg white

Add all ingredients to mixing tin and shake vigorously without adding ice. Then add ice and shake again. Double-strain into a chilled coupe glass.

small hand foods gommes Review: Small Hand Foods Gum Syrups

Review: Demitri’s Bloody Mary Seasonings

You know at a glance that Demitri’s is not your everyday Bloody Mary mix. The color and thickness of A1 steak sauce, Demitri’s is not a “just add vodka” mix. You need tomato juice (and lots of it): A mere 2 ounces of the mix will flavor a full quart of tomato juice or V8. The vials these mixes come in are reminiscent of a bottle of soy sauce, and they also come in convenient pouches, perfect for flavoring a pitcher of Bloodies at a time without having to refrigerate the leftover mix.

We tried all four of Demitri’s Bloody seasonings as well as its two “RimShot” rimming powders.

Demitri’s Bloody Mary Classic Recipe – Really rich, a recipe that lets the tomato juice shine. The heat is mild and the flavor is meaty, savory, and classic — a perfect balance of everything you want in a Bloody Mary. Looks good and tastes even better. A

Demitri’s Bloody Mary Chilies and Peppers - The Classic Recipe kicked up a notch, as Emeril might say. Here you still get a good slug of tomato and rich, Worsterchire-like savoriness, then the heat comes on, lingering as you enjoy it. Definitely one for those who like moderate heat — but not an overwhelming amount of spice — in their Bloody. A-

Demitri’s Bloody Mary Chipotle-Habanero - Lots of heat here, and while it fires up the mouth and stomach, it really burns the lips. Habanero will trump the mild chipotle every time, so if you’re looking for heat, you needn’t look further than this blend. It’s right on the edge of how hot I can handle my breakfast — though perhaps I used too much in my sample cocktail — but fireheads will love this one. B+

Demitri’s Bloody Mary Extra Horseradish - The name says it all. This is perhaps the sweetest of the bunch, and the extra horseradish in the recipe doesn’t add much to the experience. There are notably no “chunks” of anything in the mix, and perhaps having the horseradish pulverized into a virtual liquid keeps it from making much of a showing. Stick with the Classic and add your own horseradish if you’re a junkie. B+

Demitri’s Bloody Mary RimShot! – Rimming a drink is always a matter of personal taste for the drinker, but with Bloody Marys they make a lot of sense. After all this is a drink that is often garnished to within an inch of its life, so why not go all the way and spill over the edge of the glass with more stuff? This rimmer is something you can pretty easily do on your own. While Demitri’s claims (of course) a secret recipe, it comes across mainly as coarse salt, celery salt, and ground pepper. The celery component is really clear hear, and then the pepper takes over. Good balance in the blend; I’d buy it just to get it all premixed and in the handy rimming tin. A-

Demitri’s Bloody Mary Bacon RimShot! - Bacon and salt are two of my favorite things, and sure enough they work perfectly with a Bloody. Taste’s authentic and makes you instantly crave a bacon cheeseburger. The effect is much different than the standard RimShot, and, for my money, it’s a more exciting, surprising, and complementary addition to the drink. Bacon always makes for a conversation piece, too. A

mixes: $11 to $13 per 16 oz. bottle; RimShots: $8 per 4 oz. tin / demitris.com

Demitris bloody mary mix Review: Demitris Bloody Mary Seasonings

Review: HealthGuard Be Happy Mood Booster

Most “relaxation drinks” require consuming 8 to 16 ounces of sugar water to deliver their dosage. Be Happy comes in a much more manageable shot format — a good thing considering many of these concoctions are not the best tasting beverages in the world.

Be Happy, designed by a doctor, is careful to note it does not contain melatonin, that it provides “a sense of calmness without causing drowsiness.” Ingredients to reach that include Chocamine, L-Theanine, and GABA, all delivered in a naturally-sweetened, chocolate-cherry-flavored recipe.

The flavor is at first sharp and off-putting — a bit like a cheap candy that’s melted into a cup of lukewarm water — but one adapts to it quickly enough. The chalky, lasting, and bittersweet aftertaste it what takes some getting used to: Be Happy is, indeed, best consumed fairly quickly and chased with water.

As for the psychoactive results, an hour later I’m feeling plenty calm, a little on the sleepy side, but mostly unaffected. Certainly no worse for wear — though perhaps a nap is in order.

40 calories.

B / $12 for four 2-oz. bottles / behappyjuice.com

be happy Review: HealthGuard Be Happy Mood Booster

Review: Jarritos Mexican Cola

jarritos mexican cola Review: Jarritos Mexican ColaHipsters who want a soft drink know how to order their fix at any taqueria: By asking for a Mexican Coke instead of a can of domestic crap. Why? Because in Mexico the Coca-Cola is made with real sugar. Here, of course, it’s made with corn syrup.

Is that worth the extra buck? You be the judge, but personally I just prefer drinking from a bottle than from an aluminum can.

Now there’s another alternative: Jarritos Mexican Cola. Jarritos already has 11 flavors on the market, but none of them are the classic cola recipe… and none of them have caffeine. Jarritos Mexican Cola is the first that does, and we got to give an early bottle a whirl.

The taste is different — closer to Pepsi than Coke — with lots of cinnamon, and a bit of chocolate character to it, both perhaps a nod to Jarritos’ Mexican origins. At first I didn’t really care for it — it was a bit close to root beer for my tastes — but as I sipped my way through the bottle I warmed up to it. Bonus: at 12.5 ounces, it’s that much bigger than a 12-oz. Coke.

Nice as an alternative to other sodas but, you know, there’s a reason they call Coke — especially the Mexican variety — “The Real Thing.”

B+ / about $2  per 12.5 oz. bottle / jarritos.com

Recipe: Drinkhacker’s Sangrita

My secret sangrita recipe on Food Republic. Dig in!

Review: Jose Cuervo Low-Cal Margarita/No-Cal Margarita Mixes

Pre-bottled margarita mix is certainly one of the biggest scams perpetrated on the American public since the Flowbee. Really, people, how hard is squeezing out some lime juice and adding a little sweetener, if you’re so inclined?

And yet the just-add-tequila margarita mix remains and, judging by the vast amount of shelf space these mixes command, it remains a top seller.

Now Cuervo is taking things to an extreme: Ripping the calories out of margarita mix with a no-calorie mix and, if you’re too lazy to dump in your own tequila, by offering a sub-100-calorie pre-mixed “Light Margarita” as well.

It’s not our usual bailiwick, but we took a stab at tasting them both.

Jose Cuervo “Zero Calorie” Margarita Mix isn’t terribly surprising: It’s simply a blend of artificial sweetener and some kind of lime essence (sans calories). The flavor is a bit like a diet Sprite that’s gone flat, which could be worse, and if you’re on an extreme diet, well, you probably shouldn’t be drinking margaritas but, if you can’t stop yourself, then I guess this will do in a pinch. Adding tequila (even 100% agave good stuff) actually doesn’t help things at all: It gives the mix a bitter edge and brings out its artificial character. Bottom line: If you want to save calories, skip the mix altogether and just add lime juice the way you’re supposed to. C- / $7 per 1.75-liter bottle

Jose Cuervo Authentic Light Margarita (pictured) – I’m not sure how Cuervo can put the words “authentic” and “light” right next to each other, considering this product certainly has no actual lime juice and is flavored with the same artificial sweetener as the “zero calorie” mix above. This one works better, probably because there is so little alcohol in it. (Cuervo claims it is composed of Cuervo Gold, triple sec, and “a twist of lime.”) And yet somehow this ends up at just 9.95% alcohol. It’s not awful, with real tequila bite, better and more authentic-tasting citrus character, and only a mildly cloying finish. If you need something for a tailgate party in a plastic bottle and there’s a diabetic in the crowd, well, I suppose it will do.* C+ / $15 per 1.75-liter bottle

cuervo.com

Cuervo Authentic Light Margarita Review: Jose Cuervo Low Cal Margarita/No Cal Margarita Mixes

 

* Drinkhacker does not offer medical advice and has no idea if this stuff is diabetic-friendly.

 

Review: iX MiXers

One way to prevent a hangover is to try any number of hangover prevention products before you go out. (I’ve reviewed dozens of them on this blog.)

Another idea: Drop your poison into a hangover-stopping mixer directly, bypassing the need for a preliminary (and often nasty-tasting) pre-cure.

That’s the idea with iX MiXers, a pair of 250ml cans of soda-like mixers: Naturally flavored, lightly sweetened (well, 20 grams of sugar worth), and lightly carbonated… and, presumably, filled with anti-hangover vitamins, minerals, and those ever-important electrolytes.

It’s not entirely clear what those additives comprise: There is no list of post-modern herbs and long-chain chemicals in the ingredients list, but  a can will give you 20% of a daily dose each of Vitamins A, B6, B12, Zinc, Niacin, and Pantothenic Acid, plus 60% of your daily Chromium needs. Everything else in the ingredients is either a preservative, sweetener, flavor, or a coloring agent. Oh, and water. I can’t comment on iX’s hangover prevention claims — I don’t think it’s possible to drink enough cocktails made with iX to even become drunk, much less hung over — but a day after trying them out I can say I feel fine.

iX is available in two flavors:

iX Citrus looks lemony from the yellow can, but the flavor is more Orange Crush. It’s fizzier than the “lightly carbonated” label would make you believe, and sweeter, too. On its own or in a mix, it’s fine, but the resulting 7 and 7, say, turns out more like a 7 and Sunkist. If you’re a fan of orange sodas, this will fit right in, but I find it too reminiscent of my youth for enjoyment in a cocktail. B

iX Berrie — spelled thusly — is a pretty clear play for Red Bull, a big berry character, almost candy-like. A little more easy-drinking than the Citrus version, but after a full can the strawberry/raspberry/Jolly Rancher mix gets a little cloying. It’s a bit more refreshing than the Citrus version, though it makes me wonder why iX didn’t go with some vitaminized classics: Cola and lemon-lime? Hmmm, business idea! B+

about $1 per 250ml can / ixmixer.com

iX MiXer Review: iX MiXers

Review: Jack Daniel’s Whiskey & Cola / Ginger & Cola

Lately a backlash has been brewing (no pun intended) against pre-mixed, ready-to-drink cocktails, cocktails which actually have nothing to do with the products advertised on the label — whether it’s vodka, rum, whiskey, or something else — and are in fact simply flavored malt liquor pawned off to an unsuspecting audience.

Now some savvy drinkmakers are taking an alternate — if astonishingly obvious — alternate tack: Putting the actual ingredients promised on the label into the bottle. Shocking, huh?

Jack Daniel’s (which has had its own line of semi-nasty flavored malt beverages, Country Cocktails) is the latest to join the fray, adding its iconic Tennessee whiskey to cola, ginger ale, or diet cola, to give you these new, eponymous ready-to-drink spirits.

The recipes should not come as a shock: JD, plus one of the aforementioned ingredient flavorings (ah, plus carbonated water and caramel color), and that’s it. The flavors are authentic and legitimate: Whiskey & Cola (A-) tastes like just like you added Jack to a can of Coke. Whiskey & Ginger (B+) is also completely real, if a little less successful because the ginger ale used is a little on the sweet side, and lacks much in the way of bite. (We didn’t taste the Diet Cola version, which is also available.)

The only problem many will see with this approach is the strength of the finished product: At just 5 percent alcohol, no serious Jack & Anything drinker would ever water his beverage down this much. There are a variety of laws in place determining how strong these beverages can be, of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re really drinking something on par with a beer, not a cocktail (which would probably be more in the range of 10 to 30 percent alcohol, depending on how you mix it).

But maybe that’s a good thing. Sold in aluminum bottles and perfect for the tailgate or the BBQ, these aren’t products for cocktail hour, they’re made for sitting in front of the TV or out on the porch while the sun goes down. For what these products are trying to accomplish (which, to be honest, is not a lot), they succeed admirably.

That said, it’s another question altogether as to how tough it is to make one of these drinks on your own: Is it really that complicated to take the world’s number one selling whiskey and the world’s number one selling soda and pour them into a glass together? Ponder your own self-disgust as you sip away…

$9 for four 12-oz. aluminum bottles / jackdaniels.com

jack daniels whiskey and cola ginger family Review: Jack Daniels Whiskey & Cola / Ginger & Cola

Review: Samovar Tea Blood Orange Pu-erh and Nocturnal Bliss

We don’t just get wine and whiskey here at Drinkhacker. Sometimes we get (and drink) tea.

Here are two new varieties from the pros at Samovar, both in closeable bags (not a fan).

Samovar Tea Blood Orange Pu-erh – Pu-erh is named for a shopping area in Yunnan Province, China and it encompasses a variety of tea types, both raw and cooked. This Pu-erh is quite citrus in tone. The tea flavor is mild and pleasant with woodsy overtones, and the orange (and grapefruit) oil leaves a moderately lingering finish. Refreshing and summery, and not at all pungent. B+ / $18 (100g box)

Samovar Tea Nocturnal Bliss (pictured) – An herbal blend featuring all-organic ingredients including rooibos, lemon myrtle, lavender, cornflower, and stevia. Very pretty! Lemon is big here, overpowering the floral notes of the tea, which come off more in line with a Ricola cough drop. For an herbal tea, it’s awfully earthy. Needs sweetness to balance it out. B- / $18 (100g box)

samovarlife.com

samovar tea nocturnal bliss Review: Samovar Tea Blood Orange Pu erh and Nocturnal Bliss

Ice Is Nice

How do you get good ice at home?

My quest took me from my freezer to New England and back again.

Some say the world will end in fire. Some say it will end in ice. I hope it’s the latter. Finding a good ice cube to chill your cocktail is hell enough as it is.

Wired has the rest of my adventure in all its glory

Review: Dream Dust Sleep Aid

dream dust Review: Dream Dust Sleep AidFollowing on the heels of a variety of “relaxation shots” comes Dream Dust, which is not dust but rather a liquid in the familiar plastic “shot” bottle, designed to help get you to sleep. (Motto: “Better Sleep, Better Health, Better Life.”)

The composition is very similar to Mini Chill, including Vitamin B6, Magnesium Zinc, GABA, L-Theanine, 5-HTP, and — probably most importantly — Melatonin. The flavor: Light berry, a little watery, with a chalky finish. The effect: Not bad. I fell asleep about 40 minutes after drinking a 2 oz. bottle of Dream Dust and stayed out all night, with pleasant and vivid dreams. Waking at 6 a.m. I found myself groggy but fairly refreshed and overall ready to face the day, with no feelings of sluggishness as the afternoon wore on.

Dream Dust is about on par with Mini Chill for both palatability and effectiveness. It’s certainly worth a shot (get it?) if you find yourself having trouble nodding off.

B+ / $2 per 2 oz. bottle / dreamdust.com

Review: 12 Noon to Midnight Sparkling Beverage

Never mind the name — which is proof perhaps that everything is taken by now — what exactly is a “culinary beverage,” as 12 Noon to Midnight claims to be.

I’ve yet to figure out the nuance of the term, but here’s what I can tell you: 12 Noon to Midnight is a non-alcoholic, sparkling drink, available in both white and red/pink varieties. It’s clearly intended as a wine substitute, but it is not positioned as a non-alcoholic wine. In fact, it is made out of tea (white, green, and black) and flavored with herbs and citrus “essence” — though the rouge version has actual pomegranate and red grape juice in it.

That all adds up, I suppose, to a “culinary” beverage.

The flavors are difficult to describe, and 12 Noon to Midnight is not lying when it says it is “unlike anything you have ever tasted.” Sparkling, cold, citrus-infused spiced tea? Sure.

12 Noon to Midnight Original is the “blanc” flavor, a light yellow drink with more fizz in it than you might think. The immediate kick is very tea-heavy. Black tea, mostly, and it’s prominent on the nose, too. You get spice — cinnamon and ginger — only on the finish, along with the citrus portion of the drink. Orange/tangerine, with maybe a touch of lemon. All of this comes together less deliciously than one would hope, but it’s not bad — and it’s indeed different. Lightly bitter, with a sweetish finish, it occupies more the realm of flavored sparkling waters than it does anything else. B

12 Noon to Midnight Rouge has a stronger flavor, and is a bit like the Original version in reverse. Here the sweetness is up front, a clear pomegranate juice kick, which then fades into an earthy, black tea character. You also get the tea on the nose, more so than with the Original. Rouge is a bit more straightforward but it still features a complex flavor that is at odds with the way it looks in the glass. Ultimately I like it just about the same: Pleasant and a little refreshing, but perhaps in need of more sweetness. B

60 calories per 8 oz. serving.

$10 per 750ml bottle / twelvebeverage.com

Review: Spike Your Juice Homemade Booze Kit

I’ve seen some weird stuff in my day, but Spike Your Juice is pretty much the strangest of them all.

Put simply, Spike Your Juice is a system for turning ordinary fruit juice into good old-fashioned hooch. Inside the colorful box you’ll find a few little mystery packets. You pour the packets into an off-the-shelf 64-ounce bottle of fruit juice (no artificial sweeteners, no refrigerated juice — essentially that means cranberry or grape juice — and let ‘er rip. You stop up the bottle with an included airlock, and wait 48 hours. Presto, you’ve got booze.

OK, the mystery should be easy to solve. What’s in the little packet is yeast (plus a little extra sugar), and that yeast goes to work on all the sugar in the juice in relatively short order. It takes only a few hours for the juice to start bubbling and blurping a gray/purple scum into the airlock, and it’s clear Spike Your Juice is hard at work. The juice is said to reach a maximum of 14% alcohol, putting it on par with wine. That’s right folks, you’re making homemade pruno, sans the dirty socks and the trash bag.

What does the end result of Spike Your Juice taste like? It’s surprisingly fizzy on the tongue, and it has a clear alcohol bite. But it’s sweet — at least after the first two days (the company says it will become drier the longer you let it sit). At first, not unpleasant — like a really cheap red wine that’s been bottled by someone with dirty hands — and then the aftertaste gets you. Musty and funky, it’s got a kick that, as my aunt used to say, will bite you back.

I can still taste it.

Rating this one just does not make sense, as I can only see it being attempted out of morbid curiosity, a dare, or both. Supposedly hugely popular in Europe.

$10 for six packets (enough for 3 gallons of hooch) plus airlock / spikeyourjuice.com

spike your juice Review: Spike Your Juice Homemade Booze Kit

Review: Tranquila Relaxation Shots

Tranquila isn’t the first “relaxation” shot on the market, but it is, to my knowledge, the first one without the word “chill” in the name.

The format is familiar: Little plastic vial holding 2 fluid ounces of super-sweet liquid.

Tranquila is available in two varieties, with quite different formulations (but both with zero calories, sweetened with sucralose). We tasted both.

Tranquila Original includes Vitamins B3, B6, B12, Folate, GABA, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, L-Theanine, Rhodiola Rosea Flower Extract, Rhaponticum Carthamoides Extract, and — get ready for this one — Eleutherococcus Senticoccus Root Extract. I have no idea what most of that stuff is, but the idea is to improve overall mood, boost immune system response, and combat stress. The flavor is very tart lemon-lime, quite sweet, and not all that bad. A bit like a flat Mountain Dew with five sugar cubes mixed in. Hard to tell if I felt “calmer” or more immune to anything after consuming the concoction, but it certainly didn’t hurt. C

Tranquila PM has a much different makeup: Vitamin B6, Zinc, Magnesium, Phenibut, L-Theanine, and — the kicker — Melatonin. As you might have guessed by the name and the lattermost ingredient, the idea is not just to improve overall mood, boost immune system response, and combat stress, but to put you to sleep too. The taste is better, less sweet than the Original but still quite tart and lemon-lime in essence. Unlike the Original, Tranquila PM’s effects were powerful and rather immediate. I was crashing  to sleep in about 15 minutes. In fact, I had a hell of a time getting up the next morning: It’s unclear how much melatonin is in each vial, but I was dragging for a couple of hours after waking. Maybe that’s a good thing. Your mileage (and opinion about that) may vary. B

$3 per vial / tranquila.com

Review: Jarritos Mexican Sodas

If you spend as much time in taquerias as I do, you know Jarritos, the colorful sodas that come only in bottles, courtesy of our friends south of the border. Jarritos, like most Mexican sodas, are sweetened with natural sugar. They’re generally lightly carbonated, and they contain no caffeine. Flavors are predominantly a mix of natural and artificial.

The collection is a bit of a hodgepodge, design wise: Some bottles are clear and feature old-school labels. Some have a more modern, cartoony design. Even the bottle size varies: Most Jarritos come in 12.5 oz. bottles, but not all. In general, expect to get about 160 to 200 calories per bottle of the stuff.

We tried all 11 flavors in the current Jarritos lineup (that’s about 500 grams of sugar, folks) and weigh in with our opinion on each one.

Jarritos. Mexico. Culture. Get to know us.

Pineapple (Pina) – Sounds a bit nasty, but it’s surprisingly good. The pineapple flavor — and especially the color — are hardly authentic, but they both work. It’s neon yellow in color, but on the muted side in the flavor department. Citrusy, with a vaguely tropical bent. More like dried pineapple, or pineapple-flavored candy. Not bad. B+

Mandarin (Mandarina) – Orange soda, through and through, but not as sweet as your traditional Orange Crush, etc. A bit more carbonated than most of the Jarritos line. I’m not a huge orange soda fan, but this isn’t bad at all for the category. B

Lima-Limon – As you can guess by the name, this is a lemon-lime flavor. Heavier on the lime than the lemon, but a little too sweet compared to, say, 7-Up. Gets cloying over time. B

Guava (Guayaba) - Rather startling at first (the pink color may not help here), but it grows on you. Ultimately it presents itself a bit like cotton candy, quite sweet but with a certain something (guava, I suppose) that makes it a bit out of the ordinary. The uniqueness is refreshing. A-

Strawberry (Freya) - Cloying, but the strawberry does come across in the finish at least. More for kids than grown-ups. C+

Fruit Punch (Tutifruti) - Much like the strawberry, extremely sweet, but with a more clearly cherry character. Imagine fizzy maraschino cherry juice. C

Lime (Limon) – Sweeter than than the lemon-lime, and actually less limey. More candy-like, with flavors that are pleasant, but not really authentic in any way. B

Mango – Yeah, it’s mango, but again the flavors are heightened with more of a dried mango character than fresh. Overwhelmingly sweet to the point where the fruit is almost drowned away. Fortunately, the flavor that is there is good, with no artificial aftertaste. B+

Jamaica – OK, now we’re getting into some weird flavors. Jamaica is similar to the somewhat uncommon agua fresca of the same name, flavored with hibiscus flowers. Deep red, the tone is more akin to heavily sweetened tea than flowers, although some floral notes seep in, although it’s not overdone. Still, I expect this is a bit of an acquired taste. B-

Tamarind (Tamarindo) – The plus: This one’s flavored 100% naturally. The minus: With tamarinds. Sure this is another based-on-an-agua fresca concoction, and it’s always a delicious chutney, but I was nonetheless wary at first of tamarind-flavored soda. Turns out I had no need to be. This is actually one of the better installments in the Jarritos universe. The sweetness is kept in check, the tamarind flavor is mild and piquant — and authentic. It totally grows on you, faster than you’d think. I suddenly want another. A-

Toronja (Grapefruit) – For some reason, this bottle is 13.5 oz. instead of the usual 12.5 oz. Naturally flavored, too.Very mild, but on the sweet side. It’s a nice little twist on lemon-lime drinks, offering fresh citrus character with just a touch of grapefruit sourness. I wish it was a bit fizzier, though. A-

about $2 a bottle / jarritos.com

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Review: Sence Rose Nectar

I’ll admit: This stuff has been sitting on my kitchen counter for nearly nine months. Why? Because I’m a little scared of drinking flowers: 48 rose petals go into each 250ml bottle of Sence Rose Nectar, so Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too.

But finally I’m doing it.

Wasn’t so scary, really. Sence is exactly what it claims to be: A sweetened, rose-scented concoction that can be used as a mixer or consumed as is, preferably through a pink straw. The recipe is claimed to be hundreds of years old. Could be.

One whiff and you’ll know this is a flower-based juice. The aroma is “old lady perfume” all the way, baby powder and rose petals nonstop. Of course, petals alone would not be drinkable, so Sence wisely adds copious amounts of sugar — 30 grams of it — to give the nectar some sweetness. The flavor is considerably less flowery, and it has more of a flat juice character to it, with minimal aftertaste except for some lingering rose petals in the nostrils.

Whether you like this stuff is going to be strictly a matter of taste. I’ve had some not-bad cocktails made with it (try gin), but my advice is to use it sparingly.

120 calories per bottle. Refrigerate after opening. Note: A version with only 20 grams of sugar (and 2/3 the calories) also exists.

C+ / $4 per 250ml bottle / sencenectar.com

sence liqueur Review: Sence Rose Nectar