Mixed Case: Summer Time, Party Time

Twelve Tasty Sips

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

Summer has officially arrived. ‘Tis the season to fire up the grill, invite friends and neighbors over, and enjoy sunny weather while it lasts. Whatever the occasion and menu, these summery sips will add some festivity to any grownup gathering. If neighborhood kids’ playful screams detract from the typical solace of your backyard, find consolation in knowing that school will start again in a few weeks’ time. Cheers!


Master of Mixes has added four new flavors to its lineup of 45 cocktail mixers:

Big Bucket Mango Margarita makes it easy to quench a crowd’s thirst. Created with real mango and lime juice (and other ingredients: read the product label for details), simply add tequila, rum or vodka to the Big Bucket and your guests can fill their glasses from the built-in spigot. The mix is sweet yet balanced, not overly sugary, with deep mango flavor. Have plenty of ice available because this beverage is yummiest and most refreshing when served cold. If you want to get creative with the mix, recipes on the back offer ideas such as adding coconut milk and freezing the mix plus other temptations. Retails for approx. $7; yields 16 servings.

Blood Orange Margarita, our personal favorite among the four newbies, combines Italian blood orange juice and Mexican key lime juice for a tangy-sweet red-orange alternative to the standard lime green margarita. Add tequila and ice for a refreshing margarita; or use bourbon, rum, vodka or gin for an equally refreshing alternative. This tasty mix also works well with lemon-lime soda, ginger ale or sparkling water for a non-alcoholic mocktail. This is a really flexible mix: Whatever you add, you can play with the proportions to achieve the balance of flavors that you prefer. Retails for approx. $4.

Cocktail Essentials Blue Curaçao is a non-alcoholic alternative to the real deal liqueur that’s manufactured on the Caribbean island of Curaçao and it manages to achieve what we thought would be impossible: It tastes authentic. Personally, I’d opt for the alcoholic version when making a cocktail that calls for Blue Curaçao as an  ingredient since I’m a purist and I have some readily available, but this alternative is not merely simple syrup dyed blue: it’s loaded with that essential orange taste. So if you want to save some money on cocktail ingredients or if you’ve got a non-imbiber at your party who doesn’t want to feel left out, this is a great option. For a quick and easy mocktail simply add a splash of this to some lemon-lime soda or lemonade, garnish with a slice of orange and a little umbrella and voila!—the look is far fancier than the effort required to make the drink. Retails for approx. $4.

Michelada Gourmet Mixer was created in partnership with three-time James Beard Award nominee Chef Anthony Lamas. If you love a Bloody Mary and a beer here’s one way to combine the two. Made with tomato juice, lemon and lime juice, black peppers and spices, this mix has a viscous mouthfeel and savory umami flavors. The beer you choose to add will determine subtle nuances…so there’s your excuse to experiment with different options. Retails for approx. $4.

Canned Wine

A Nielsen report shows that the canned wine category grew more than 122.5 percent in sales from 2015 to 2016, to more than $14.5 million last year. It’s time to admit: Wine in cans is now a thing. Canned wine especially makes sense for summertime: Pack some into your cooler or backpack and you don’t have to worry about breaking glass on a hiking trail, on your boat, or even at a backyard party. Canned wine is also convenient to tuck into a suitcase for something to sip in a hotel room.

Backpack Wine Cheeky Rosé, my personal favorite among the Backpack duo of canned wine varietals, is crisp and refreshing while leaning to dry. Notes of dragonfruit, raspberry, cranberry and green melon quench thirst and complement a wide range of snack foods from almonds to shrimp cocktail, fresh veggies to chicken salad. Retails for approx. $20 per 4-pack.

Backpack Wine Snappy White pours notes of delicious apple, lemonade, green tea and lemongrass. This crisp wine is dry with a sweet-tart edge. Retails for approx. $20 per 4-pack.

The Great Oregon Wine Company Pinot Noir can, my personal favorite among this company’s trio of canned wine varietals, is light yet balanced with notes of tart berries and nutmeg with a hint of roasted Portobellos. This red wine pairs nicely with a cheese plate and would also play well with fresh fruit, chicken salad or pizza. Retails for approx. $13 for a 4-pack.

The Great Oregon Wine Company Pinot Gris can has bright notes of green apple, honeydew melon, lime zest, and un-ripened peaches. Best cold, it pairs with cheese and would also be enjoyable on its own with a fresh breeze. Retails for approx. $13 for a 4-pack.

The Great Oregon Wine Company Rosé can offers sweet notes of wild berries, lemon peel and raspberry. This wine has a bit of residual sugar. Retails for approx. $13 for a 4-pack.


Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur impresses with freshly fire-roasted ancho and poblano pepper flavors that build intensity on the finish. Too many spicy spirits can’t escape a chemical/manufactured taste that whacks the tongue too hard—not this! This is spicy stuff, yet balanced and pleasant with sincere natural flavors. No wonder it was named the No. 2 top trending brand by Drinks International, as well as seizing 8th place in the top selling category. Ancho Reyes is based on a 1927 recipe featuring hand-sliced, sun-dried ripe chiles macerated in natural sugar cane spirits. According to press materials, Ancho Reyes is currently the only naturally spiced, handmade spirit available. Ripe for cocktail innovations—though you can also find recipes here—this bronze-hued liquor has faint sweet notes of roasted tropical fruits. Retails for approx. $35.

Ole Smoky Tennessee Whiskey is available only at The Barrelhouse in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and it alone may be reason enough to make the trip. This full-bodied straight whiskey is filtered through sugar maple charcoal and aged for four years in white oak barrels and we think it’s the brand’s most impressive whiskey achievement to date. Press materials say it’s “crafted from a century old recipe” and “hand-picked from barrels based on taste and color ensuring that the highest quality whiskey is produced.” One sip and you’ll be saying cheers to that! Sold only at The Barrelhouse in Gatlinburg, Tenn., for $44.95.

Sugarlands Shine Hazelnut Rum will taste like it came straight from heaven to anyone who adores hazelnut flavor in anything from coffee to candy. This smooth 80-proof sipper has forward hazelnut flavor balanced with the sweet notes of rum you’d expect like vanilla, brown sugar and honey with a few faint hints of nutmeg and toast. This was our first introduction to this distiller, which is also located in Gatlinburg, Tenn., and it made a positive impression. Retails for approx. $25.













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.

HopeP_144Hope S. Philbrick is founder and editor-in-chief of Getaways for Grownups. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications nationwide. She’s written about wines and spirits for more than 10 years. When not writing, she can usually be found on the road or savoring something tasty.

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