Category Archives: Rated C

Review: Dutch’s Spirits Sugar Wash Moonshine and Peach Brandy

Built atop the underground distilling and bootlegging operation of the gangster Dutch Schultz (and on family land now owned by co-founder Alex Adams), Dutch’s Spirits is a new New York-based distillery that’s attacking the spirits industry with some unexpected products — no gin or whiskey here, be warned!

We tasted Dutch’s two inaugural spirits. Thoughts on each follow.

Dutch’s Spirits Sugar Wash Moonshine – This white spirit is a tribute to Schultz’s “own hooch,” a white spirit distilled from 100% Demerara sugar in copper pot stills. I wasn’t entirely sure how to classify this oddity, since it’s technically a rum (and a rhum agricole or cachaca at that) but isn’t branded as such. It is closest in style to a Puerto Rico-style white rum, with smoothed-over flavors of vanilla and a touch of chocolate to it. There’s none, however, of those gasoline flavors or raw alcohol notes you get with most cachaca and none of the burning heat of the typical corn-based moonshine. Moderate body with a lightly floral and herbal finish. The name may be a bit baffling, but the results are impressive if you’re a rum fan and are looking for something unique. A / $28

Dutch’s Spirits Peach Brandy – Americans are simply not drinking enough peach brandy. It’s a fact. I’m not sure that Dutch’s version of it is going to change that. While the nose offers lots of fresh fruit flavors — more apricot and apple than peach — the body is not nearly sweet enough to carry the day. Deeply bitter, the fruit notes are washed under the base alcohol’s astringency, though you can tell there are some deep and lush fruit flavors and brown sugar-sweetness just dying to get out. Much better as a cocktail flavoring agent (in small quantities) than on its own. C / $42

dutchsspirits.com

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: Mathilde Poire and Framboise Liqueurs

These 100 percent natural liqueurs from France are staples of many a cocktail bar. We recently tasted two of the company’s five available varieties.

Mathilde Poire Liqueur is a mild on the nose, and quite sweet on first sip. Pear isn’t particularly predominant except on the first rush of flavor. That sweetness grows and grows, leaving a thick, almost cloying finish on the palate — and very little pear character to speak of. This one’s tough to swallow (literally) in all but small quantities. 36 proof. C

Mathilde Framboise Liqueur is a raspberry spirit, deep crimson in color and mildly fragrant of vague berries. The taste: Pure raspberry jam, extremely sweet, loaded with Jolly Rancher-like raspberry flavor. Maybe some strawberry, too. It’s a much different (and less satisfying) beast than Chambord, the king of raspberry liqueur, which (compared side by side) is richer, earthier, and with a seriously pronounced nose. Chambord’s chocolate notes give it a lot more depth. In comparison, Mathilde is really a juicy, one-trick pony. 36 proof. B-

each $15 per 375ml bottle / mathildeliqueur.com

Tasting the Wines of DiamAndes de Uco

Argentina’s Bodega DiamAndes is a project born of the Pessac-Leognan based Chateau Malartic Lagraviere. The winery is now releasing three new affordable varietals, which we looked at alongside its even less expensive Perlita bottling.

2010 DiamAndes de Uco Viognier Mendoza – Smells legit with peach and apricot notes, but there’s an overwhelming, vegetal bitterness in the body. Better with food. C / $19

2010 DiamAndes de Uco Chardonnay Mendoza – More body, with a solid buttery character, and some exotic, tropical fruit character in the finish. Avoids woodiness and weediness, mercifully. B+ / $19

2010 DiamAndes de Uco Malbec Mendoza – Thin and a bit weedy, not at all hearty like great Malbecs should be. A little more balance — along with some interesting chocolate and cinnamon notes — comes along with time in the glass, but I am unconvinced it’s worth the wait. C+ / $19

2010 Perlita by DiamAndes Malbec-Syrah Mendoza - A considerable improvement over the Malbec, surprisingly, with bright, jammy flavors and plenty of strawberry fruit. Simple, but easygoing. A fun alternative to Zinfandel. B / $15

diamandes.com

Review: Michael Collins Blended Irish Whiskey and Single Malt 10 Year Old

Irish whiskey brand Michael Collins has been on a tear this year — taking advantage of the recent upsurge in popularity of Irish whiskey, no doubt — rebranding, repackaging its spirits (the old bottles were monstrosities), and replacing its old Single Malt whiskey with a new, age-statemented, Single Malt 10 Year Old whiskey.

We re-sampled the original Blend and tasted the new 10 Year Old, too. Both are 80 proof.

Michael Collins “Double Distilled” Blended Irish Whiskey – In theory this is the same whiskey as the prior Blend, but putting the two side by side, there really do appear to be some minor differences — and improvements — here. The color is more amber, less green, and the body seems somewhat more present and full, absent the somewhat vegetal notes (or hay, perhaps) of the version we reviewed in 2008. There’s more sweetness, and more malt, better balance on the whole. The most welcome change is that although the proof levels are the same, there’s less pungent alcohol overall, a problem that really marred the older version. I don’t know if the recipe has changed significantly, but all spirits do change and evolve over time due to the vagaries of production and the mysteries that come along with the aging process (and it’s something to keep in mind when you read older reviews of just about anything). In this case, evolution is a good thing. B+ / $30

Michael Collins Single Malt 10 Years Old Irish Whiskey – Darker in color, a bright orange almost, lots of alcohol on the nose. I sampled this at a recent whisky event and was immediately unimpressed. A formal tasting didn’t change that opinion much: This malt is just unfascinating, with an initial rush of booziness, and a big punch of wood soon after. (Perhaps the quest for an impressive age statement resulted in too much time in oak?) This moves into a kind of cloudy smokiness, with a whopper of a finish that reminds one of deeply charred wood, moss, and intense vegetation. Most of all, this is not in balance. The finish hot, bothersome, and not very inviting. The good news is that returning to the Blend for a sip afterward helps to even this whiskey out. C / $38

michaelcollinswhiskey.com

michael collins whiskey

Review: Wines of Bodegas Farina

Bodegas Farina is one of the oldest family wineries in Toro, a poorly-known wine region in Spain that’s northwest of Madrid, near Salamanca and the northeast corner of Portugal. (Ribera del Duero is the best-known nearby region, off to the east.)

The bodega makes seven wines, most coming in at relatively low (13-14 percent) alcohol levels due to the early harvesting of grapes. How well does this work out? Notes on three of the wines, all under the Dama de Toro label, follow.

2010 Bodegas Farina Dama de Toro Malvasia – Funky, with lots of off herbal notes. Opens up with continued sipping, but not a lot. Some lemon on the finish, but not enough to add a lot of charm. Made from 100-year-old Malvasia vines. C / $11

2005 Bodegas Farina Dama de Toro Crianza - A simple and unchallenging red, fairly thin body, with mild, muted fruit character: Strawberry, a touch of plum. Really easy-drinking, but can’t stand up to food. Aged eight months; Tinta de Toro with 6% Garnacha. B / $17

2006 Bodegas Farina Gran Dama de Toro – Easily the most complicated of this trinity, with distinct tobacco, cedar, and evergreen notes. Long finish, though it turns a bit toward bitter. Could use more fruit in the body, but overall quite interesting and nice with a complementary meal. Spends 15 months in oak. From 80+ year old vines. 94% Tempranillo with 6% Garnacha. B+ / $45

damadetoro.com

Review: Don Julio 70 Tequila Anejo Claro

Take an anejo tequila and filter out the color, and what do you have? Don Julio 70, a new — clear — tequila with the character of an anejo.

Don Julio claims that 70 is the world’s first anejo claro, and depending on how you look at it, that’s true: Maestro Dobel does the exact same thing, but it is a blend of reposado, anejo, and extra anejo tequilas, filtered back to white. Technically it would only be considered a reposado if bottled unfiltered. But really this is an old trick that the rum industry mastered long ago. That it is now coming to the tequila world is only a mild surprise.

And so back to Don Julio 70. Composed of 18-month-old anejo tequila, filtered back to silver, I tried it side by side with both Don Julio Blanco (tasting tough and a bit green) and Don Julio Anejo (rich, caramel, cocoa-finished, quite lovely). Don Julio 70 is, surprisingly, a whole different beast. I was expecting something close to the Anejo, but that’s not the case. The nose is distinctly redolent of bananas and light wood, a weird combination of flavors that are not harmonious in the nostrils. The palate is another thing altogether. Here a butterscotch sweetness takes hold, attempted to wrestle with the wood. It fails, and the wood overwhelms everything. It’s quite jarring compared to the smooth richness of the (unaltered) Anejo, yet none of the brash agave notes that the Blanco provides.

I tried it against Dobel just for kicks, and the spirits could not be more different. Dobel adhere’s closely to its agave roots, while punching things up with a bit of sweetness yet keeping it all in balance. DJ70 is like walking into a Pier One store, full of potpourri and more wicker baskets than you can count.

80 proof.

C / $70 / donjulio.com

Review: Haras Wines

Haras de Pirque, or just “Haras,” hails from Chile’s Maipo Valley, where it produces a series of very affordable wines, inspired by the winery’s love of horses.

Tasted twice. The first round of wines were clearly damaged by heat in shipping.

2010 Haras Sauvignon Blanc Maipo Valley – Tropical nose, with a touch of lemon character. Slight vegetal finish, but otherwise quite drinkable, particularly at this price. B / $10

2010 Haras Chardonnay Maipo Valley – Simple and inoffensive, with a mild body compared to most Chilean Chardonnays. A bit buttery, and a bit of lemon, but not a lot of nuance or, surprisingly, fruit character beyond that. B / $12

2009 Haras Carmenere Maipo Valley – A big licorice thing, funky on the nose with raisin and prune notes. Incredibly over-jammy, with some black pepper, but not really in balance. C- / $12

2008 Haras Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley –  Similar character, but with a slightly better balance than the Carmenere. Just too much fruit.C / $12

2007 Haras Character Cabernet Sauvignon-Carmenere Maipo Valley (pictured) – A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Carmenere, 10% Syrah, and 13% Cabernet Franc. Easily the best red in this crowd, but still intense with prune and cooked fruit character. Mildly better balance than either of the prior two wines, but still has room for improvement. C+ / $20

harasdepirque.com


Review: Bols Sweet Tea Liqueur

Don’t have any sweet tea vodka on hand (that’s odd, because there are nearly a dozen brands of the stuff on the market now)? Now you can easily fake your own, thanks to Bols Sweet Tea Liqueur.

Bols Sweet Tea Liqueur, as the name would imply, is the essence of tea boiled down into a viscous, 48-proof syrup. It’s authentic in color (caramel is added to brown it out), and the nose is pungent: Strong, like tea that’s been seeping for a full day, and sweetened to within an inch of its life. On the palate, overwhelming sweet, and oddly chalky, more like instant Lipton’s than freshly brewed tea. The tea flavor is there, but it comes across as artificial (Bols doesn’t say whether it’s natural or not), and the overwhelmingly sweet finish is cloying.

In a world of gorgeous sweet tea vodkas, this isn’t just depressing — it’s lazy.

C / $11 / bolscocktails.com

Book Review: Exploring Wine

Every wine drinker needs one (and only one) book like this: A magnificent, encyclopedia-sized tome that tells you everything you can possibly want to know about wine in a single book. Or tries to, anyway.

As such a subject is basically unmasterable, the goal with a mega-book like this is to be as comprehensive as possible while leaving out the obtuse junk that no one cares about.

My current bookshelf pick, Andre Domine’s Wine, does a good job of this, highlighting every region you could care to investigate, mapping them intricately, and highlighting the best producers in each.

Now comes Exploring Wine‘s third edition, from Steven Kolpan, Brian H. Smith, and Michael A. Weiss, in conjunction with the Culinary Institute of America. It’s a 791-page monster, and yet it feels slight. Various regions and wine styles get a mere paragraph or two in Exploring Wine. Even big areas, like the French Languedoc region, get less than two pages total, not much more than California’s Livermore Valley is granted. It’s strange and inconsistent, to say the least.

Exploring Wine doesn’t dwell much on specific wines or producers, aiming instead for more of a global look at the wine trade (even China and India get some ink), how the wine business works, and, for about a third of the book, discussing how wine pairs with food (not surprising considering the CIA’s involvement in the book). Interesting stuff if you’re trying to open a restaurant and train your teenage staff on how to sell wine, I guess, but it’s not right for a consumer. The front of the book is just too vague, and the back end is too industry-specific. Sorry, guys, I’m sticking with Wine for now.

C / $39 / [BUY IT HERE]

Review: Buffalo Trace 2011 Experimental Collection – 1989, 1991, and 1993 Rediscovered Vintages

Buffalo Trace is a monster distillery, with 150,000 barrels of whiskey in inventory at any given time. 1,500 of those are “experimental” — wild stabs at genius from whomever’s manning the still that day — and every now and again Buffalo Trace sifts through the ricks to see what’s out there. Sometimes they even sell it.

With this round, Buffalo found a few dozen barrels of ancient whiskey — 17 to 21 years old — with unknown provenance, hailing from its acquisition of the Old Charter brand. As Bourbon brand manager Kris Comstock notes, of the barrels, “one was empty, one tasted horrible, and the others tasted very nice.” They bottled the others as three (very) old Bourbons and, considering their age, are selling them for a song. We tried all three.

Buffalo Trace 2011 Experimental Collection 1989 Barrels, Rediscovered - 21 years old. Harsh and rough. Quite bitter on the palate, with notes of sawdust, pinecones, and shelled nuts. Mostly it’s proof that yes, there is such a thing as a whiskey that’s too old. Even water doesn’t help the 1989 much. This is a Bourbon that is tired and well past its prime. C

Buffalo Trace 2011 Experimental Collection 1991 Barrels, Rediscovered - 19 years old. Quite an improvement over the 1989, with bracing sweetness and huge notes of toffee, caramel, and lots of spice — orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, and more — in the finish. Shockingly balanced and a real revelation in comparison to the dead ’89. Gorgeous. I’d drink this any day. A

Buffalo Trace 2011 Experimental Collection 1993 Barrels, Rediscovered - 17 years and 7 months old. A hot burner, with a rye kick to it, but ultimately it reveals itself as a great, old Bourbon — full of caramel and finishing with oranges, cinnamon, and lots of warmth. A worthy little brother to the ’91, as well it should be. A-

$47 each per 375ml bottle / buffalotrace.com

Review: Firefly Skinny Tea Flavored Vodka

How do you cut the calorie level from a flavored vodka? Throttle down the alcohol level and cut out the sugar.

The first idea is probably not a bad thing. The second one is what kills the deal. Firefly Skinny Tea opts for artificial sweetener instead of sugar, and to say that mars the “sweet tea” effect is an understatement. It starts out all right, with a big brewed tea nose and character, but then the artifice comes on, coating the mouth and leaving a cloying finish. I couldn’t shake the aftertaste — literally for several minutes I was tasting this gummy, rubbery gunk that I just couldn’t get out of my mouth. The only solution: Another sip. That’s a vicious cycle you got right there.

With a mixer like lemonade this might be more palatable, but as it stands, it, like so many things in life, it’s a tradeoff that just isn’t worth it. What are you saving for your trouble: In a 1.5-ounce shot, a whopping 27 calories. Kick out a crouton instead and stick with the Firefly classic.

60 proof.

C / $18 / fireflyvodka.com

Review: Alex Elman Wines

Sometimes the wines we get aren’t our favorites. But we review them anyway, especially when the story behind them is so lovely.

This line of inexpensive whites and reds from Argentina are created by a young, blind winemaker (Alex Elman, of course) and are produced sustainably (and affordably). The inaugural releases arrive this month on U.S. shelves.

2010 Alex Elman Torrontes Mendoza – Nice, lemony nose, but the body is green, weedy, and unripe. C

2010 Alex Elman Chardonnay Mendoza – Overly buttery, which saps the fruit (evident in the nose) from the palate. Some melon and more lemon charms here, but nothing that will bowl you over. C+

2009 Alex Elman Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza – Thin and a little weedy, lots of meat and smoke character. Not great. D+

2009 Alex Elman Malbec Mendoza – My favorite of the bunch, which is fitting considering Malbec is essentially Argentina’s national grape. This one has real fruit character, plummy and slightly jammy. Easygoing finish and, at last, balanced. B+

$13 each / aewines.com

Review: Manso & Contreras Spanish Brandy de Jerez

Spanish brandy is not a product most drinkers have a familiarity with — nor does it resemble French brandy in any shape or form.

Hailing from Jerez, Spain, Manso & Contreras comes from a distillery that has been making brandy since the 1800s. While it’s a new brand — Manso is a native Cuban who lives now in San Diego — it’s an old recipe, distilled from the Airen grape and aged in former sherry barrels using the solera style where it spends a minimum of three years before bottling at 80 proof.

The results are striking and unusual: Manso & Contreras is a lot like a highly alcoholic Maderia, nutty and full of tea and coffee notes. That is mixed with a whole lot of intense sherry notes, pungent herbs, and funky old wine character. While this is more interesting than it might sound, the finish is the tough part: medicinal, bordering on brutal.

Spanish brandy is nothing if not unique, but I have to say it is not really my bag.

C / $69 / mansoandcontreras.com

Tasting Report: Discover 2009 Beaujolais – Blanc et Rouge

Beaujolais is home to more than just Beaujolais Nouveau, it’s also home to more upscale reds and whites, primarily made with the Gamay and Chardonnay grapes. These light, very affordable wines are often served chilled or even with ice — even the reds.

We sat down with the folks at Discover Beaujolais to taste through four 2009 releases of these non-Nouveau wines. Just remember: Don’t call it Burgundy! (“Bojo” is located just to the south of that famed wine region.)

2009 Chateau du Chatelard Beaujolais Blanc – Inviting melon nose, but very green and a little bitter on the palate. Finish is a little meaty. C / $15

2009 Jean-Paul Brun, Terres Dorees, Beaujolais Chardonnay – A much greater success with crisp acidity and lots of fresh fig, pear, and apple fruit. Creamy body coats the mouth as you go, but the acidity loosens it up. A winner. A- / $15

2009 Christophe Pacalet Beaujolais-Villages – Licorice is big on the nose, and the body screams cinnamon, allspice, and exotic Eastern spices. Huge and daunting, and no match whatsoever for the thin body. C+ / $12

2009 Chateau du Chatelard Moulin-a-Vent – Old-vine Gamay, a little rounder than the Pacalet but still full of spice. The body is bigger at least and can hold up to some of the punch here, but it’s still a big of a palate buster. Pruny finish. B- / $19


Review: Hannah Nicole Wines

Contra Costa County in the San Francisco Bay Area includes Oakland… as well as, apparently, a good number of vineyards. Hannah Nicole, in “the shadows of Mount Diablo,” is a relative newcomer to the business. We tasted four of the winery’s recent releases.

2009 Hannah Nicole Sauvignon Blanc Reserve Contra Costa County – 12.5% Viognier in this bizarre wine does little to improve it: Unusual for Sauvignon Blanc, it is barrel aged, which adds an unfortunate wood/vanilla/butter character to what is normally a crisp and lively wine. Here the wine is wholly out of balance and doesn’t work at all, not with food or alone. D / $22

2009 Hannah Nicole Viognier Contra Costa County – Very mild Viognier, an easygoing expression of the grape — actually 90% Viognier and 10% Sauvignon Blanc Musque. Mild perfume character plays nicely with the easygoing peach and apricot flavors in the wine. Simple, not bad. B+ / $18

2007 Hannah Nicole Merlot Reserve Contra Costa County – Unripe, dusty, and overly harsh on the palate. Has a Zin-like jamminess that is at odds with the silky smoothness that defines good Merlot. C / $29

2007 Hannah Nicole Meritage Contra Costa County – 49% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Malbec. A classic Bordeaux blend. More successful than the Merlot Reserve, but unremarkable. On the jammy side, but has enough character to it in the form of plum, cocoa, and herbal notes to make it of moderate interest. B- / $29

hnvwines.com

Review: PreToxx Hangover Remedy

PreToxx — now reformulated and repackaged since our 2009 review and featuring a capital T instead of a lowercase one — still has one great thing going for it: It’s a pill, so choking it down is easy.

Designed to be consumed before you drink, one PreToxx pill contains the following: Vitamins B1, B6, B12, and C, Prickly Pear Extract, Milk Thistle (these two are the new elements), and N-Acetyl L-Cysteine, a popular hangover remedy ingredient.

The directions indicate you should take two to four of these pills before you start drinking — and take one pill a day to “support a healthy liver.”

I tried PreToxx and found that generally I felt fine the next day, if a bit sluggish. The problem was more immediately after I took it. There’s no good way to explain it, but I felt weird while I was out. A little foggy in the head, with a funny taste in my mouth. I tried it twice with similar results each time.

Was this an allergy? A weird reaction to something in the supplement? Or something coincidental and unrelated? I’m not sure. Your mileage will certainly vary, but for me, the odd side effects outweighed any benefit received the following day.

C / $20 for 60 pills / [BUY IT HERE]

Review: Stolichnaya Stoli Wild Cherri Vodka

It’s an old story but I’ll tell it again: Cherry is the toughest flavor in the universe to pull off in a spirit.

People keep trying, though, and the latest out of the gate is Stoli, with a “Wild Cherri” vodka.

This naturally-flavored concoction (actually from Latvia, not Russia) starts off OK. It smells pretty good, like fresh, dark cherries. And on first sip, it even seems like it’s going to taste pleasant. Then you swallow and all hell breaks loose. Your instinct is to cough — because cherry is inextricably sewn up in the mind with cough syrup — but while that can be suppressed, the grimace cannot. The bite is moderately harsh, and the promise of sweet cherries fades away as a medicinal character overwhelms the fruit. That’s a combination of earthy, herbal Old World vodka and the sad reality of nearly all cherry-flavored spirits; the flavors just don’t come together in the right way, through no fault of their own.

Think of it as shrimp and chocolate. I love ‘em both, just not at the same time.

75 proof.

C / $26 / stoli.com

Review: 2008 and 2009 Monthaven Boxed Wines

Monthaven’s 2008 Chardonnay didn’t exactly impress us.

Today the company is back to try again with its 2009 release, plus two new reds from the 2008 vintage, all served up in convenient 3 liter boxes.

Yes, that’s 9 liters of wine. No, we did not drink it all. (Not possible.)

2009 Monthaven Chardonnay Central Coast is at least better than the 2008. Young and with minimal oaking, it’s pretty easy-drinking, and not overly imbued with any particular character. Apple notes are light and fruity, with a little hint of pineapple and some wood in the finish. Passable. B-

2008 Monthaven Merlot Central Coast is undistinguished in nearly any way. Watery and thin, it tastes unbelievably young and without any body or character beyond very simple cherry fruit. Harmless. C

2008 Monthaven Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast is the worst of the lot. Incredibly green, it is embarassingly young, racy with the paradox of both unripe berry and raw raspberry juice notes. Tastes extremely cheap. A hard sell, to say the least. D+

$20 per 3L box / octavinhomewinebar.com

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