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Comparing Coolers

Wine Coolers are the perfect Summer Thirst Quenchers STORY by Jeff stites I was not quite old enough to drink when the first wine coolers hit the market, but I can remember the commercials clearly. The two old dudes, supposed to be Mr. Bartles and Mr. Jaymes, thanking you for your support. It even became a bit of a catch phrase for a while, not quite “where’s the beef” but close.

The first wine coolers, such as Bartles and Jaymes, were actuallywine-based. They were a mass-produced version of thehomemade wine spritzer, wine with a little sprite or even justtonic water. But that proved to be a bit expensive and soon winecoolers were all malt beverages, basically beer without hops andwith all the cooler removed and much of artificial flavorings added. They were usually also colored in a variety of funkyhues, at least until Zima arrived. Zima led to Smirnoff Ice which led to Mike’s Hard Lemonadewhich has since turned into a vast collection of what the beerindustry calls FMBs, or Flavored Malt Beverages. Today we have everything from the Seagrams wine coolers of old to hardgreen tea to alcoholic root beer. And our old friend Zima is evenreturning on a seasonal basis. So, with the spring season upon us, I thought I’d take a dive into the FMB segment and see what has become of the wine cooler. Smirnoff Cranberry Lime Spiked Sparkling Seltzer 4.5 % abv 90 calories 1g carbs This product contains no sugar, a fact my co-taster (and wife)would have appreciated some warning about. It isn’t sweet at all, nor is it meant to be. This product, and many other “spiked seltzers” like it, aim to appeal to the same demographic that drinks flavored seltzer waters. Just who these people are andtheir ways are both a mystery to me. This wasn’t a bad drink by any means, just very bland. I’m fine with not sweet, actually prefer that, but this didn’t have anything in it’s flavor profile to take the place of sweet. It was a bit limey, but I didn’t taste any real cranberry. Not to fear, though. After adding a glug or two of rum, this turned into a delightful beverage! Blitz-Weinhard Brewing Co. Henry’s Grape Hard Soda 4.% abv 222 calories 35.1g carbs Henry’s Grape Hard Soda contains sugar. It contains quite a bit of sugar, but somehow it comes off as much tart as sweet. It isn’t even as sweet as regular, non-alcoholic grape soda, really. I was surprised that I kind of liked this stuff. Of course, I am a huge fan of grape soda, probably as much out of childhood nostalgia as anything, but still I love me a grape soda. Henry’s tastes pretty much just like grape soda. If that’s your thing, you’ll like it. If not, you probably won’t. Also, though we don’t have any in the house, this would probably be excellent with vanilla vodka. Smirnoff Ice Smash Original Lemon+Lime 8% abv 377.6 calories 43.2g carbs First off, let me say they play fast and loose with the nutritional information. The fine print tells you that this one 16 oz can contains 3.2 servings. So, if you want to enjoy one of these before it goes flat, you’ll need 2.2 of your friends to share it with. Or, you know, you could drink the entire can yourself. Which do you think is more likely? Also, I was forced to do math for the above calorie and carb numbers and I’m not happy about that. But how does it taste, you ask? Well, if you’ve ever hadSmirnoff Ice, it tastes much like that, but with the sort of high alcohol content aftertaste thing many malt liquors come with. It’s lemon limey and would be refreshing if it weren’t so sickly sweet. There is lots of carbonation and you’ll likely need a few Tums after enjoying one of these. Even if you only drink a third of the can. Mike’s Hard Black Cherry Lemonade 5% abv Rather than fudging the numbers on nutritional information with ridiculous serving sizes, Mike’s decided to simply not include any. It’s probably for the best. No one is drinking this stuff because they think it’s healthy, are they? Surprisingly, this stuff isn’t half bad. It’s not as sweet as I expected it to be and it has a strong cherry aroma and a decent bit of cherry taste. The carbonation isn’t overpowering, but it is pleasantly fizzy. I can see drinking this on the porch in the summer. It’s still too sweet for me to want more than one, but for those who want a malt beverage that isn’t beer, this would do nicely, I think.

Smirnoff Ice Smash Screwdriver 8% abv 377.6 calories 43.2g carbs This could be dangerous. It has the same 8% alcohol as the Lemon+Lime version of Smash but lacks the high abv aftertaste. I think that fact owes to the strong orange-peach flavor as this is one very fruity drink. But again, this is surprisingly less sweet than I anticipated. It is sweet, don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t as sticky tasting as I remember wine coolers being. It’s more, as I said, fruity. And it’s actually kind of delicious. The kind of delicious that when combined with a relaxed summer evening could get one in trouble real fast 8% alcohol. It’s probably best to think of these more like a mixed drink than a beer. Or not. Hey, it’s summer after all.

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