Review: Savile Rumtini

“Rumtini” would say, to me at least, that one is facing a martini made with rum. But the Savile Premium Rumtini is a ready-to-drink tiki cocktail, a blend of rum and citrus, not martini-like in the slightest.

Intended to be served over ice, straight from the bottle, Savile is a cloudy yellow in color, something akin to a wheat beer in appearance. Its nose is lightly rummy, with sharp citrus notes — orange, grapefruit, and passion fruit — muscling out any booziness. The palate is quite approachable, with tons of pineapple and fresh tangerine up front, but that citrus quickly fades to reveal a less balanced middle — some rum-driven vanilla, a pinch of spice, and a more straightforward ethanol note that lingers on the finish.

All told, the combination of flavors works fairly well, and this feels a lot like the basis for a solid punch, though it never comes across quite as balanced as I would like. That’s admittedly a tough feat to pull off with a premixed, unfrigerated cocktail that revolves around citrus, but the Savile Rumtini manages to get things close enough, at least for BBQ work.

14% abv.

B / $23 (1 liter) /

Review: ‘Merican Mule

The Moscow Mule does not exactly have a reputation as a difficult cocktail to make: Vodka, ginger beer, a squeeze of lime. Sourcing the copper cup is typically the hardest part of this drink to master, in fact.

Never ye mind, though: Some entrepreneurial types out of Long Beach, California decided to can this sucker, and rebrand it for America… well, ‘Merica, at least.

‘Merican Mule bills itself as a “true to recipe” rendition of the Moscow Mule: vodka, ginger, and lime in a can. No malt liquor base, this is as legit a cocktail as you’re going to find in 12 ounces of aluminum. Of course, at 7% alcohol, it’s pretty light going, less boozy than a true Moscow Mule, which would come in around 11% alcohol based on some sweet mathematics I just performed. That difference aside, it comes across a lot like the real deal.

The cocktail is lightly effervescent, a cloudy off-white in color, with a barely-detectable nose of lemon-lime juice; without sipping you could assume it was any modern ginger beer in the glass. On the palate, the constituent pieces are all accounted for: The lime and ginger are both bracing, the vodka making a biting show on the back end. If there’s any problem with the drink, it’s the actual booze: The vodka has a feeling of cheapness to it, a muddy medicinality that just doesn’t pair well with the rest of the drink, leaving you with a bit of a funky aftertaste that hangs around longer than expected. Bummer, but it’s nonetheless a cocktail that would work fine in an emergency, even without doctoring it with extra lime or a garnish.

Maybe if it was in a copper can instead of an aluminum one, eh?

7% abv.

B+ / $15 per four-pack of 12 oz cans /

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 /

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 /

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 /

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 /

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 /