Review: Barefoot Refresh Spritzers – Moscato and Rose

Proudly trumpeting on the containers that they are “wine-based” — code for “not made out of malt liquor” — budget wine brand Barefoot aims for the ready-to-drink crowd with its new line of Refresh premixed spritzers. The ingredients (which are actually included on the canisters) mainly include wine, sparkling water, and sugar, which is really all you want in a drink like this.

Five varieties are available, four of which are also available in cans. We tried two: Moscato and Rose.

Each is a mere 6.5% abv.

Barefoot Refresh Moscato Spritzer – Quite a bit less sweet than you’d expect, this tangy and fruity concoction tastes more like grapefruit soda than anything wine-related. In fact, the hints of peach and brisk orange would likely pair nicely with tequila as part of a Paloma-esque cocktail. That said, it drinks plenty well — again, soda-like — on its own. B

Barefoot Refresh Rose Spritzer – There’s less to grab onto with this experience. The spritzer has a floral character to it, with mild strawberry overtones. The finish is more medicinal than than Moscato — with a “cheap wine” overtone that lingers a bit too long. Might work OK in a punch, though. C+

each $7 per four-pack of 8.4-oz. cans / barefootwine.com

Review: Half-Seas Sparkling Paloma and Daiquiri

Ready for a new style of ready-to-drink beverage? Half-Seas Sparkling Cocktails are a new offering from the makers of Scrappy’s Bitters, made with real spirits (no malt or other fermented alcohol).

Three “true” ready-to-drink canned cocktails are coming out of the gate, and all are sparkling, with 30psi carbonation (Half-Seas says this is “champagne level”). First up are recreations of the Bramble, Daiquiri, and Paloma.

We received early samples of two of these (the paloma and the daiquiri), and gave them the Drinkhacker taste test. Thoughts follow.

Each is canned at 12% abv.

Half-Seas Sparkling Paloma – Made with Half-Seas own grapefruit soda. This paloma is fragrant with herbs and grapefruit at first, but quite tequila-forward as it develops on the palate. It could benefit from a bit more sweetness, as the heavily earthy aftertaste tends to weigh down the experience. B-

Half-Seas Sparkling Daiquiri – A simple rendition of a daiquiri, lightly sweet with fresh lime and gentle rum notes. The fizz gives this a bit of a different spin, letting the lime percolate up a bit like a gin and tonic. The lime and bitterness on the finish also connotes a quinine component, even though it may not really be present. Perfectly pleasant, if short of elevated. B+

each $16 to $20 per four-pack of 200ml cans / half-seas.com

Review: Modelo Chelada Tamarindo Picante

Modelo’s latest release is a spin on its long-running canned Chelada, a new flavor that adds tamarind and chipotle peppers to the classic chelada recipe of beer, tomato juice, salt, and lime.

I tried the new product, rimmed with Halo de Santo spicy/citrusy salt blend that Modelo conveniently sent along.

All of the extra flavors in the Chelada have a really light touch here. The primary character is Mexican lager, crisp and lightly malty, with some brightly citrusy flavors driven by the lime. The tamarind is more noticeable than the tomato even (despite the ruddy brown-orange color), and the Chelada isn’t particularly picante unless you sip it with a chunk of rimming seasoning. I highly recommend this approach, as the spice really elevates the beverage into something festive. Straight from the can, it’s fine, but too boring to get excited about.

3.3% abv.

B+ / $3 per 24 oz can / modelousa.com

Review: Nightshade Margarita Classic Lime

Nightshade — officially “Nightshade Experience” is a new brand of ready-to-drink margaritas which are made from premium ingredients. The Classic Lime, reviewed here, includes blue agave silver tequila (not necessarily 100% blue agave tequila, mind you), triple sec, and lime — which is lumped in with “a unique mixture of natural flavors.”

The margarita — sampled on the rocks and otherwise unadulterated — is brisk and tastes authentic, the lime lacking any chemical overtones and the sweetness just about right, far from the sugar bombs that so many premixed margaritas taste like. There’s an herbal overtone — not entirely agave-like, but closer to thyme or rosemary — to all of this, which is perhaps responsible for a slightly bitter, lingering aftertaste.

While the bottle doesn’t exactly scream “premium,” note that Nightshade does command a premium price in this category — one that likely approaches the cost of making a premium margarita from scratch. Sure, there’s a surcharge for convenience, but still.

As for the quality of the four affiliated concoctions, including the “Choclarita,” well, you’re on your own.

30 proof.

B+ / $20 / nightshadetequila.com

Review: Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Seltzers

Alcoholic water isn’t a new thing, but Smirnoff’s entry into the market is bound to give “hard seltzer” a bigger presence on the shelf. Available in three “invigorating” flavors (with no artificial flavors added), the seltzers pack just 90 calories and 4.5% abv in each 12 oz. can. We tried all three. Thoughts follow.

Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Seltzer Orange Mango – Surprisingly fragrant, with both orange and mango notes distinct, particularly on first cracking open the can. On the palate, it’s rather mild and slightly sweet, but the significant, creamy fizziness give it a clean and fresh finish. Rather harmless. B

Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Seltzer Cranberry Lime – A low-cal cosmo as a fizzy drink? Here the berry notes come across on the strong side, and the sweetness is a little overbearing at times compared to the more subtle Orange Mango. Fans of sweeter sodas may find this more appealing than me. C+

Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Seltzer Watermelon – Watermelon is always a tricky flavor, and here it comes across largely as expected, a bit like Jolly Rancher candies melted down and mixed with fizzy water. The least nuanced of the group. C-

each $9 per six-pack of 12 oz cans / smirnoff.com

Review: LIQS Ready To Drink Whiskey Fireshot

A late addition to the (reformulated) LIQS ready-to-serve shot lineup is this, a creamy “whiskey fireshot” made up of whiskey, cinnamon, and vanilla.

The name is a bit misleading, because while this creamy concoction may have a fiery cinnamon kick up front, it’s quite cooling thanks to Irish cream consistency and heavily vanilla-chocolate finish. That said, there’s a real simplicity to this concoction, which could easily be duplicated by mixing together a dash of Fireball with some Baileys — no fresh ingredients required — which is sort of against the purpose of having this is a ready-to-drink item.

That said, on its own merits, a cinnamon-dusted Irish cream isn’t a bad thing.

45 proof.

B+ / $18 for six 1.5-oz. shots / liqsshot.com

Review: Koloa Hawaiian Rums, Coffee Liqueur, and Ready-to-Drink Cocktails – Complete Lineup

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The tiny Hawaiian island of Kauai is home to Koloa Rum, a small operation with a surprisingly robust line of rums, a coffee liqueur, and ready-to-drink cocktails. All five rums are made from the mash of raw cane sugar, double distilled in a copper pot still, and cut with filtered water from Mount Waialeale. That said, there’s no aging or other information on how the white, gold, and dark rums differ from one another.

Here’s a look at the entire Koloa lineup of (5) rums, (1) liqueur, and (3) premixed cocktail products. Whew!

Koloa Kauai White Hawaiian Rum – Lots of vanilla, chocolate, and coconut notes give this the character of a flavored rum, with unexpected coffee notes emerging in time. Moderate sweetness gives way on the palate to notes of hazelnut and a lingering coffee note on the back end. Very easy to sip on — but not at all what I was expecting from a white rum. 80 proof. B / $27

Koloa Kauai Gold Hawaiian Rum – There’s more fruit on this one, but more astringency, too, particularly on the sharper nose. All told this rum has a more classic (and youthful) construction, with some dusky coconut husk notes and a somewhat raw, ethanol-heavy character, but on the whole it’s a passable mixer. 80 proof. B- / $27

Koloa Kauai Dark Hawaiian Rum – Heavy on notes of molasses and coffee, with chocolate overtones. Like any good dark rum, it’s built with lumbering sweetness in mind, rich and chewy and appropriately dessert-like. That said, it’s relatively light on its feet, but short on complexity. 80 proof. B / $27

Koloa Kauai Spice Hawaiian Rum – Yes, it’s “spice,” not “spiced.” Said to be a response to other “oversweetened spiced rums,” but Koloa’s rendition feels amply sweet to me, studded with cinnamon, cloves, honey, cola, and tons of vanilla. It comes together a lot like a Vanilla Coke, or perhaps a Vanilla Diet Coke, with lightly artificial overtones on an otherwise rousing, somewhat fiery finish. Surprisingly, it’s overproof, not under, making it a solid mixer, for sure. 88 proof. B+ / $27

Koloa Kauai Coconut Hawaiian Rum – Heavy coconut, as expected, here backed with a touch of banana (particularly on the finish), and vanilla milkshake notes. Unctuous and rolling on the palate, it’s got ample (but not overblown) sweetness, hints of pineapple, and — as you’d expect (and desire) — plenty of coconut. As good as any other coconut rum out there. 80 proof. A- / $27

Koloa Hawaiian Kauai Coffee Liqueur – This is a collaboration with Kauai Coffee Company, and it’s a robust and lightly-sweetened but otherwise quite pure expression of coffee in classically alcoholic form. The finish finds a surprise in some slightly peppery notes, with nutty and dark chocolate overtones. The whole affair comes together quite beautifully and with sophistication. 68 proof. A- / $27

Koloa Hawaiian Mai Tai Cocktail – Gatorade-green in color, this offers a pungent, overwhelming almond character on the nose, then segues to a vague tropical character with lemon/lime overtones. Somewhat bitter on the finish, the citrus notes veer toward notes of bitter lime zest. 34 proof. C+ / $15 (1 liter)

Koloa Hawaiian Rum Punch – Grapefruit and pineapple are heavy here, with a squeeze of lemon and a touch of vanilla. It’s a credible punch, but quite light on its feet, with a light nuttiness that lingers on the finish. Perfectly sippable, though it’s quite low in alcohol, making it feel a bit frivolous. 20 proof. B / $15 (1 liter)

Koloa Hawaiian Pineapple Passion Rum Cocktail – Another simple punch, this one punching up the fruit component with a stronger pineapple and passion fruit character, giving it a slightly floral edge. What you think of when you imagine a drink with an umbrella in it, it’s a slurp-’em-down beverage that will offend no one, though I think the standard Rum Punch is a bit better balanced. 20 proof. B / $15 (1 liter)

koloarum.com

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