If there’s one thing I’ve come to realize more and more over the last few years while tasting a bunch of emerging RTD (ready-to-drink) cocktail brands, it’s that you need to essentially separate “cocktails” and “mixed drinks” into two mental categories for this segment. of the alcohol market.
RTD “cocktails” are typically higher strength offerings available in smaller formats, such as the 100ml cans from a company like Post Meridiem. They often replicate classic cocktails such as the old fashioned or Manhattan, and are a slightly more complex undertaking, involving a variety of spirits, liqueurs, bitters, juices, etc. RTD market in terms of consumer price.
RTD’s “mixed drinks” are a little more humble and easy for anyone to understand. Here I am talking about simple drinks, “stills plus mixers”, like canned gin and tonic, or rum and coke, or ginger whiskey, etc. familiar packaging, such as a 12-ounce can of soda, and tend to be cheaper. I think these types of RTD drinks might even be the most promising in the segment, as they seem like they should be easier to make well, and because the consumer likely has lower expectations for a canned gin and tonic than for a canned martini or Manhattan.
The flip side, however, is that the canned “distillate plus mixer” category is still essentially the premium side of the “canned mixed drink” spectrum, because the genuinely cheaper offerings available on the market are all Seltzers disguised as spirits. Whether or not they’re the kind of brand that goes out of their way to suggest they contain spirits when in fact they don’t — a rampant practice that undermined the idea of ranch water before it even had a chance to become popular — these cheap examples of fizzy cocktails are able to reduce the price of more authentic brands. This leaves the makers of these more genuine mixed drinks in a tricky position, competing with companies that make cheap, fake drinks.
For that reason, I tend to like a company like SouthNorte, a San Diego brewery of Mexican-inspired beers and maker of canned tequila-based cocktails. They created a no-fuss, no-fuss line of canned mixed drinks with tequila, packaged in 12oz cans. It is an idea with a lot of merit, although when proving them the execution is not so consistent.
That said, let’s try some tequila mixed drinks.
SouthNorte’s Paloma is perhaps the most conventional of the three offerings, all canned with a slightly higher alcohol content of 7%, straight into IPA territory. It’s also the best of the three in my opinion, thanks to a classic interplay between grapefruit and tequila. It’s unclear exactly what form the grapefruit takes here – the company simply notes that it’s a combination of “refreshing red grapefruit and lemon soda.” Notably, the descriptions on the SouthNorte website occasionally seem to be at odds with what is written on the can, which simply states tequila, grapefruit and “fresh lime” rather than the lime soda.
The highlight of this drink is the moderate earthy/herbaceous tequila that shines, complementing pops of grapefruit juice and grapefruit candy. It has a savory, savory taste on the palate, and looks like it could maybe be a little more acidic or bright, but overall it’s pretty solid. This one is also particularly laid-back as it thins a bit on ice, nor is it overly sweet. The company suggests garnish with salt, but to my taste it already seems quite saline. I appreciate that the tequila, in particular, is stronger in this Paloma, while taking a back seat to the other drinks.
The “mule” really can be exchanged for any base spirit at this point, can’t it? I feel like I’ve seen a basic mule variation of every conceivable type on a restaurant menu at this point, so why not tequila too? Notably, the can again diverges from the description on the SouthNorte website – the latter says the drink contains “tequila, lemon ginger beer, mint and a hint of jalapeño”, while the can itself does not mention mint. or the jalapeño. Curious.
On the nose, this one initially feels a little strange, with the expected citrusy ginger and lemon, but also something artificial or solvent. Fortunately, this character doesn’t show up much on the palate, which features slightly medicinal ginger beer and candied lemon, with moderate sweetness. There’s a hint of spice, though it seems easier to attribute to ginger than any jalapeño presence, and just a little more resinous and herbal qualities that suggest tequila. I wouldn’t mind, however, if the spirit were a little more assertive.
The SouthNorte Matador is a highball that combines “smooth tequila with natural pineapple, lime and soda” with what I can only hope they mean real pineapple juice. Regardless, it sounds like something with the potential to be a good hot weather/summer in particular.
In execution, however, it goes a little off the rails. The nose definitely smells like pineapple, but it also veers off in other unexpected directions from fruit and candy, evoking watermelon and especially bubblegum. The palate is also quite sweet and very fruity, but at the same time confusing, with Lifesavers pineapple and cotton candy. These notes are aggressive enough to effectively erase any tequila characters that are here – it seems the target audience should be people who don’t want to taste the spirit. Unfortunately, it’s not me.
And so, it’s kind of a mixed bag with these canned mixed drinks, though I appreciate their commitment to using genuine spirits rather than further diluting the segment with yet another cocktail-style seltzer brand. If you’re looking for a simple and easy Paloma in particular, it’s a decent option.
Jim Vorel is a writer on the Paste team and a resident beer and beverage geek. You may follow him on twitter for more food and drink writing.
Source : www.pastemagazine.com