Our Mixed Case series serves up an eclectic mix of recent ‘adult beverage’ discoveries by the dozen.
Whether you’re perusing a bar menu while traveling or stirring up a cocktail at home, let our guide lead to new taste destinations.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Yep, we’re still working at home and keeping any trips to the world beyond our fence line to a bare minimum. But staying safe doesn’t have to mean boring.
Mix up your cocktail routine and try some new things! We present this baker’s dozen of our most recent ‘adult beverage’ taste discoveries…
Vavoom Vodka’s bottle alone classifies it as ‘adult.’ (My husband jokingly suggested that I steal Barbie clothes from a kid to cover it up.) If you’re looking to add a wow-factor to your home bar’s bottle display, this is a must-have. The bottle is handmade in Milan, Italy by Bruni Glass. The spirit inside the distinctive bottle is made in Clive, Iowa of 100 percent corn. It’s distilled five times plus run through a coconut-activated carbon filter. It’s smooth—you can stick your nose into a glass of Vavoom Vodka, take a deep breath, and won’t feel a burn. It opens with aromas of distilled corn, brûléed sugar, mint, and adhesive. Clean and smooth on the tongue, it offers notes of alcohol, pepper, and mint. It’s neutral, as vodka is meant to be, and thus well-suited for mixing into classic, seasonal, and creative cocktails. Retails for approx. $170. It’s not easy to find Vavoom at a local liquor store; order for home delivery via its website.
Gray Whale Gin is proud of its California origins: Locally-sourced ingredients are listed on the front label (including juniper, limes, sea kelp, almonds, and more). One sip justifies the home-state pride, as this spirit tastes as good as its pretty ocean-blue bottle looks. “Each bottle of Gray Whale Gin is seven-times distilled in Sonoma, California,” says a release. “Made from a gluten-free corn base, the spirit is the perfect blank canvas to let the carefully selected botanicals—wild foraged or sourced from sustainable organic farms—shine.” The soft nose suggests an herb garden and pine forest. Yummy flavors of candied citrus peels, Altoids mint, lime, lemongrass, baked apple, blistered cayenne, and bouquet garni wash the palate. Sip this gin on its own or mix it into a gin & tonic, bee’s knees, gin basil smash, or another cocktail that lets the spirit shine such as the brand-recommended Skinny Gray Whale (combine 2 oz. gin, 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice, 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice, and 1/2 oz. agave into cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously with ice, strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon peel). Retails for approx. $40.
We continue to be impressed by Cameron Hughes wines. This “direct to consumer” business model is an approach that’s appreciated more than ever in current times. Cameron Hughes sources wine; he’s not a producer. He doesn’t own vineyards or a winery but rather focuses on finding great wines and negotiating the best prices for them. We sampled four recent releases:
2016 Cameron Hughes Wine Lot 676 White Wine, Santa Barbara is a blend of 49% Roussanne, 27% Viognier, and 24% Marsanne. Pull the cork and aromas of tropical fruit and citrus leap out. The food-friendly wine offers notes of nectarine, citrus, crème brûlée, and citrus. Citrus lingers on the finish in this super summer wine. Retails for $14.
2018 Cameron Hughes Lot 725 Zinfandel, Russian River Valley pours a gorgeous deep purple into the glass. A Gold Medal winner in the 2020 Denver International Wine Competition, this food-friendly red offers notes of plums, jammy berries, anise, cinnamon, tobacco smoke, and black pepper. Pairs well with grilled meat. Retails for $17.
2016 Cameron Hughes Lot 625 Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville is smooth and supple with balanced tannins. Complex notes of dark cherries, blackberries, mocha, nutmeg, portabellas, and mint tickle the nose and taste buds. This wine is food friendly yet equally enjoyable on its own. Retails for $24.
2018 Cameron Hughes Lot 718 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley is balanced and luscious with notes of vanilla, baked apples, pears, lemon meringue, and buttered toast. You can taste the fruit in this Chardonnay (not just oak), which we always appreciate. Enjoy it with food or on its own, taking time to appreciate the long finish. Retails for $18.
Pulp Culture asserts that “adult beverages should be nutritious, refreshing, and fun,” and invites grownups to “enjoy the full spectrum of wild fermentation, just as mother nature intended.” These vegan-friendly alcoholic drinks are made of cold-pressed, non-GMO juice that is wild fermented (twice), then blended with teas, herbal infusions, and/or mushrooms, carbonated, and aged three months. Every varietal is lightly bubbly, sugar-free, loaded with probiotics, just 99 calories, and lands along the sour spectrum of flavor; most are yellow (“Relax” is pink). A refreshing and ready alternate to beer in your routine, these are enjoyable on their own and also pair perfectly with food, especially spicy Asian dishes. The flavor differences between expressions is subtle, “Relax” is the sweetest by a tad. With names like “Think,” “Restore,” “Hustle,” and “Relax,” these candy-colored cans can be easily mistaken for non-alcoholic drinks, so if have kids around be sure they know not to grab these. Retails for $15 per 4-pack of 12 oz. cans. Pulp Culture is offering free shipping across the U.S. with the promo code: STAYSAFE.
Located four miles from the Pacific Ocean in San Luis Obispo, California, Center of Effort “is dedicated to producing exceptional Estate wines and member experiences centered around its sustainable in practice (SIP) certified vineyard property, winery facility, and recently completed showplace hospitality center.” During the ongoing pandemic crisis and protests for social justice, Center of Effort is offering virtual wine tastings through its website as well as on-site private tastings by appointment as a way to help bring the community together.
2015 Center of Effort Chardonnay, Edna Valley fills the glass like liquid gold. It is made using grapes that were harvested at different stages of maturity to help achieve complexity. In addition to the oak and butter notes expected of Chardonnay, it swirls aromas and flavors of baking spices, baked apples, toasted almonds, baking spices, and aged bananas. Retails for approx. $35.
2015 Center of Effort Pinot Noir, Edna Valley pours smoky purple; swirl to drape the glass in long, quick-running legs. Whiffs of pepper, smoked tomatoes, and stewed dark berries fill the nose. With food-friendly acidity and balanced tannins, the wine has a sprightly mouthfeel and flavors of baked cherries, roasted peppers, blackberries, tangerine, plums, cocoa, and summer savory. Truly enjoyable. Retails for approx. $55.
Spiritless Kentucky 74 is a low-alcohol alternative to bourbon that’s made in Kentucky (it’s 0.5% or lower, the same ABV as kombucha). While pouring a couple shots of this over ice and taking a sip won’t trick you or your tongue into thinking this is bourbon—it’s more reminiscent of iced tea—it can make a reasonable replacement in a mixed drink, for those times you want to avoid alcohol yet appear to be holding a cocktail. Try a Spiritless Mint Julep (2 oz. Spiritless Kentucky 74, 1/2 oz. simple syrup, and 3 mint leaves; muddle syrup and mint, add Kentucky 74, fill with crushed ice and stir) or a New Fashioned (2 oz. Spiritless Kentucky 74, 1/2 oz. simple syrup, 3 dahes Angostura Bitters, and orange peel; combine liquids, add ice and stir to chill, garnish with orange peel). Retails for approx. $35.
Unless otherwise noted, all suggested retail prices are for a 750ml bottle.
Be a responsible grownup: Never drink and drive.
Product samples afford the research opportunity but do not sway opinion.