Review: Seagram’s Juicy Watermelon Vodka

As summer wanes here in the Northeast, and local watermelon is long gone, a watermelon vodka represents a little bit of summer year round.  One sip of watermelon vodka and you are transported to sun, surf, and summer in a single sip.

Introduced earlier this year, Seagram’s watermelon vodka certainly fits the bill as a vessel for transporting you from the chilly winter to warm thoughts of summer. Upon opening the bottle, the watermelon aroma is not overpowering but is just right. A neat shot of the Seagram’s starts sweet and is quite fiery, but a bit bitter in the finish, which diminishes the watermelon flavor slightly. A nice fruity aftertaste emerges once the burn fades away.

The real joy of this vodka is as a mixer.  Add this vodka to lemonade or iced tea and you have a refreshing summer cocktail. It can also be added to a nice fruity beer like a summer shandy to make an excellent beer cocktail.  Basil pairs nicely with watermelon, so a little basil muddled in the bottom of the glass with lemonade makes a great cocktail that can’t be beaten on a hot summer day (see recipe below). All in all, this vodka is an excellent addition to anyone’s liquor cabinet whether it’s winter or summer.

70 proof.

A- / $11 / seagramsvodka.com

And a recipe…

Pesto Punch
5 oz lemonade
2 oz watermelon vodka
2 basil leaves

Muddle the basil into the bottom of the glass.  Fill glass with ice.  Shake the lemonade and the vodka together and pour over ice and enjoy.

Review: Lavazza Coffees – Santa Marta, Kilimanjaro, and Intenso

With coffee cocktails all the rage now, having a good cup of java as the base for a great drink is more important than ever. Lavazza’s two single origin coffees and its Intenso dark roast all bring something different to the table, and each will make a great base for a different style of coffee cocktail.

Lavazza Santa Marta – A single origin Colombian coffee from the oldest coffee growing region in the country, Santa Marta has a subtle smoky flavor, evocative of slightly burned sugar or burned toast. This coffee has a very nice acidity and balance and a smooth mouthfeel with nuts and caramel in the finish with very little bitterness. This coffee would be a great mate for bourbon, bonded whiskey, or Scotch, because it has the body and the sweetness to create a great balance between the spirit and the coffee. B+

Lavazza Kilimanjaro – Another single origin coffee, this time from high in the mountains of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. The coffee has a balanced fruit undertone, with notes of cherry and blackberry. There is a slight sweetness to the coffee which compliments the acidity of the berry flavor. This coffee is extremely smooth and flavorful, and because of the inherent fruitiness, this coffee will work very well with rum-based coffee cocktails. B+

Lavazza Intenso  The darkest roast of the three, Intenso is a traditional Italian dark roast coffee. With unmistakable notes of dark chocolate, this well-crafted coffee has a wonderful mouthfeel. Underneath the chocolate is just a hint of oak, making for a complex yet thoroughly enjoyable cup of coffee. A great use of this coffee would be a brunch cocktail made with limoncello instead of a Bloody Mary or Mimosa… such as the one below. A

each $10 per 12 oz bag / lavazza.com

How about one of those new coffee cocktails, then?

The Coffeecello
6 oz cup of Intenso
1 oz Limoncello
1 sugar cube (optional)
Ice as needed

While the coffee is still hot, dissolve a single sugar cube in the coffee if desired.  Once the coffee is room temperature, put coffee and limoncello in a cocktail shaker, mix and pour over ice. Garnish the glass with a zest of lemon or a sugared rim.

Review: Blue Moon White IPA and Mango Wheat

Blue Moon is nearly ubiquitous in American bars — and it’s about to get even more of a presence via these two new expressions, arriving just in time for summer.

Blue Moon White IPA – Summer beers often prove a challenge to breweries. The humidity and high heat in much of the country preclude people from drinking heavy, high alcohol beers and instead they look for beers that are refreshing, light and ones that can be enjoyed in multiple at a picnic or the beach. This beer deserves a permanent place in your cooler.

Even though it is brewed year round, this White IPA from Blue Moon Brewing certainly fits the bill as a great summer beer. Pale gold in color, the initial nose is citrus and spice, with little of the bitter aroma sometimes associated with an IPA. The first taste is citrus, and as it continues there is a very nice taste of honeydew, present because of the use of Huell Melon hops. The beer finishes with a hint of very pleasant bitterness, and then lingers with a slight taste of honeydew with no bitterness remaining. This IPA is approachable, friendly, and very enjoyable.

This is an excellent beer that really stretches the definition of what the style can be. A style combination of American IPA and Belgian Wit, this beer is free of much of the bitterness often associated with IPAs, and will appeal to drinkers who usually don’t reach for an IPA. Its perfect balance and crisp, citrus flavor make this beer an excellent accompaniment to nearly any cuisine, but is particularly well suited for the food of China and Japan. 5.9% abv. A / $9

Blue Moon Mango Wheat – A seasonal release from Blue Moon, this summer-centric mango wheat beer can easily find a place in your cooler if you’re headed out for a day at the beach. At a very low 19 IBUs, this beer drinks like a soda despite its 5.4% abv. The pale amber color evokes the fruit the beer is made with, even though the beer is slightly cloudy, as it’s still a wheater. The scent of mango is is present even from a distance. At first nosing it deeply, mango is all you sense and this continues through the first taste. There is very little carbonation, and the beer is very sweet with very little bitterness. Because of the low carbonation, the beer feels a little heavy on the tongue and is slightly cloying. The beer finishes with mango and honey; the sweetness lingering without the balance of any bitterness. The lack of balance in this beer is a little surprising, as many other fruit beers seem to balance the sweetness a little more evenly. Despite its faults, this beer could go very well with anything spicy you might be enjoying.

It’s also very sweet and would function as an excellent mixer for shandies and other summer beer focused cocktails. Mango Wheat would also make a great marinade base for fish or poultry, as the sweetness combined with the wheat should develop into a beautiful flavor when grilled. Just be sure to add citrus for balance. 5.4% abv. B- / $NA

bluemoonbrewingcompany.com

Review: B4 Hangover Preventer

What better time is there to get a sample of B4 than right before Super Bowl weekend?

Billing itself as “what to drink before you drink,” B4 is a vitamin and supplement fueled hangover preventer. B4’s light orange color, mild carbonation, and metallic orange nose signal a citrus base with overtones of fortified vitamin water. The carbonation is nice on the palate, but B4 has a slightly bitter, metallic taste that finishes with the essence of cough syrup and crushed multivitamins, leaving a significant unpleasant aftertaste.

The makers of B4 say that the drink supplies enough electrolytes, amino acids, vitamins, plant extracts, antioxidants, and minerals to protect against alcohol’s effect on your system. If you are out for an all-night binge (and can physically tolerate the high B vitamin levels), B4 could be possibly be very helpful the following morning. I personally did not see any physical benefit, but I think this is designed for a heavier drinker than myself. The best use for B4 might to add the cause to the cure and use B4 as a fortified mixer for sweeter drinks that can balance the flavor out. Also note that it is essentially a vitamin bomb, featuring very high doses of B complexes and other vitamins and supplements well above recommended levels. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you have to be aware of the ingredients just like any other supplement or vitamin you would use, and plan accordingly.

C+ / $4.50 per 8.4 oz. can / drinkb4.com

Review: Fruli Strawberry Beer

As Valentine’s Day approaches, strawberry beer is an unlikely addition to any well-planned romantic dinner. Fruli, brewed in Melle, Belgum at the 300 year old Huyge brewery, is a lovely witbier with strawberries added.  Fruli lends itself beautifully to what the Valentine’s meal is supposed to be: a prelude to the rest of the evening.

The initial nose is strawberry (thank God) with a hint of clove and orange. The first taste is pure summer strawberry, which lingers very nicely, with no bitterness at all. As the strawberry taste dissipates, orange pops up and remains just for another moment as a slightly spicy finish takes its place without being overbearing or coy. On the finish, my first thought was that this would pair amazingly well with any type or style of chocolate; another plus for Valentine’s Day. Fruli’s flavor profile also lends itself nicely to beer cocktails and could easily be used to make any other morning-after cocktail that has lambic or witbier as a base.

All told, this is a very drinkable, approachable fruit beer that drinks like a session beer. Light and moderate drinkers can enjoy several of these over the course of a Valentine’s Day dinner and still be set for the rest of the evening’s activities.

4% abv.

A / $13 per 4-pack / friuli.be

How about a cocktail recipe using Fruli?

The Morning After for 2
12 oz Fruli
8 oz orange juice
2 oz Godiva liqueur
2 chocolate covered strawberries

Mix Godiva and orange juice together in shaker. Pour into 12 oz tall glass. Split beer between two glasses. Top with Godiva mixture. Garnish with chocolate covered strawberry or chocolate shavings on rim.

Review: Breckenridge Brewery Vanilla Porter

A year round member of its Mainline series, Breckenridge Brewery boasts of using fresh vanilla bean in the brewing process of Vanilla Porter. This is certainly evident in the beer, with a strong vanilla nose the minute you open the bottle. The first taste delivers a strong root beer and vanilla essence, followed by a quick cascade of chocolate, coffee, caramel, and roasted almonds. This beer finishes nicely and lingers pleasantly with notes of cocoa and coffee. The mouthfeel is slightly thinner than other porters, but that doesn’t stand in the way of the beer being a very enjoyable one.

5.6% abv.

B+ / $10 per six pack / breckbrew.com

Review: Stateside Urbancraft Vodka

Philadelphia-based Federal Distilling’s inaugural Stateside Urbancraft Vodka does not disappoint.

Beginning with the fun flip-top bottle and ending with the seamless  finish, this is a very enjoyable vodka. Distilled seven times and aerated with “medical grade oxygen,” Stateside has a very pleasant, gin-like juniper and citrus nose upon first approach. The vodka drinks cleanly and is well-balanced. On the palate there are hints of grapefruit and spring rain, and a very subtle sweetness reminiscent of the corn used to distill it. The vodka’s finish is very well-structured, leaving only the citrus notes to play with a little residual sweetness.

Overall, it’s a well balanced vodka that is very enjoyable neat or as the base for an exemplary martini.

80 proof.

A / $30 / statesidevodka.com

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