For the sake of full transparency, I feel compelled to offer the fact that I have not consumed a pre-mixed bottled beverage since my 19th birthday. Someone had the bright idea that we should all have our own 2-litre bottle of kiwi cooler (which we pronounced “kewwwwwllerrr” for some reason) to celebrate my coming of age. After passing out halfway through my own birthday party, I awoke to discover that, like the fuzzy navel before it, kiwi cooler was dead to me.
Which was probably a good thing, and which I did not lament. It was 1987 and we worshipped the Absolut bottle like the good little clubkids that we were.
As the years passed, I watched the “party zone” section of the LCBO grow in size. The colours got brighter, the flavour combinations more unique, and I noted the advent of bottled mixed drinks such as rum and cola with a nod to a good idea but no interest in actually buying or drinking such a thing.
But coolers and bottled premixed drinks do well for a reason, and it’s not just because youngsters know they’re the fastest, easiest way to a buzz. Like beer, bottled cocktails travel easily. They go to parties, BBQs or the cottage with little fuss. They don’t require a cocktail shaker, mix, simple syrup or a garnish. No one expects them in a fancy glass. You just, as the LCBO promotion states, “Twist and Serve”.
So in the interest of trying something new, I headed to my nearest LCBO and picked out a selection of products from the Twist and Serve promotion. By coincidence, they’re all vodka-based, but I was restricted to what my local store had in stock, and by the items that were available either loose or in open-topped 4-paks, so I could buy one of each kind. Because despite trying to be open-minded about this experiment, I really couldn’t foresee wanting 4 of any of these, nor could I expect to pawn them off on my beer geek or wine-drinking friends.
The beer geek husband agreed to test the coolers with me, and made attempts to critique the beverages as he would beer. Mostly he made “Euch!” noises and funny faces.
Seagram Orange Cream Swirl Vodka Cooler – Despite the “natural and artificial flavours” we kind of liked this one, as it bore a striking resemblance to Stewart’s Orange Cream Soda with a creamsicle smell and just the slightest hint of alcohol at the end. Like orange soda, it was too sweet to really pair with anything, other than maybe French fries or birthday cake. But ultimately, while we’d likely never buy it, we didn’t hate it.
Pomtini Vodka and Pomegranate Cooler with Green Tea – This was our favourite of the four, probably because it had real fruit juice and green tea extract in the ingredients. It tasted like pomegranate and was refreshing and crisp although still a bit too sweet. Our only concern was that people might buy these thinking that the health benefits of pomegranate juice and green tea would balance out the vodka, which is not the case.
Mike’s Hard Pomegranate Lemonade – I didn’t mean to grab two pomegranate-based drinks, but I’m glad I did. What a difference! While pomegranate juice concentrate did show up near the top of the ingredients list, this tasted really fake and chemically to us. Greg compared it to alcoholic Kool-Aid with a powdery smell and a chemically aftertaste. I was taken back to a childhood of drinking sickly sweet bright pink Tahiti Treat soda. Big thumbs down for Mike’s, which is not surprising as I don’t really like any of their other products either.
Woody’s Ice Blueberry – The first thing we notice is that there is nothing mentioned in the ingredients that even fleetingly resembles blueberries. The colour isn’t even real, hitting the spectrum at something between Windex and anti-freeze and surprise – it tastes about the same. It did however taste blue – like a blue freezie, but most definitely NOT a blueberry. We each only managed a quick mouthful of this one and then both ran to brush our teeth to get rid of the chemical taste.
The verdict – the Pomtini, with the most natural ingredients, won out, although that doesn’t necessarily mean we’d rush out and buy more.
Based on the various products we tried, I can understand why these drinks have earned the nickname “alco-pop”, and it’s apparent that they’re marketed to a younger demographic with less refined palates. However, being premixed and easily portable, they’ll always be a hit at parties and gatherings where people want a variety of different cocktails but don’t want to be bothered mixing drinks to order.