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Scott Elmquist

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Pop-top Spirits

A taste test of Belle Isle Moonshine’s newly released canned cocktails.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 30, 2019 at 10:37 AM

When someone asks you to rank Belle Isle Moonshine’s newly released canned cocktails, there’s only one appropriate response: Sign me up.

Something about drinking a canned cocktail over its more commonly known name of spiked seltzer makes me feel like a pioneer surpassing the era of White Claws and Trulys.

At least, as much as a person who has no expertise in the science behind these seltzers and just wants to feel buzzed and refreshed could be a pioneer in anything.

The canned cocktail endeavor from Belle Isle Moonshine, the Manchester-based distillery known for its handcrafted spirits, came at the right time. This was the summer of spiked seltzer memes, people captioning photos with “ain’t no laws when you’re drinking claws” and various police departments tweeting that the statement would not hold up in court.

And let’s not forget the nationwide White Claw shortage that took social media by storm in early September or the released line of Natural Light hard seltzers. It makes sense why there’s such a craze: It’s gluten-free, affordable and a lower-calorie alternative to beer.

Checking off these boxes along with it being local and marketed as “premium, ready-to-drink” gives Belle Isle Moonshine an oomph factor along with its use of all-natural juices and organic alcohol.

Taste put aside, the slim, easy-to-hold pop-top cans are stunningly beautiful. The semi-matte finish and sleek neutral colors complement each other well, so much so that whoever’s behind the detailed design deserves a raise. I’d purchase a four-pack just to have the cans as an accessory to my outfit.

But I digress. Here’s the ranking of canned cocktails from my least favorite to the one I’d swipe my credit card for any day of the week.

3. Shine & Soda

Out of the three canned cocktails introduced Oct. 1, Shine & Soda is the lowest calorie option, with zero carbs, zero sugars and 90 calories per can. I wanted to like it, I really did. Its tag line on the website is all about replacing “your vodka soda with something better” and I’m always looking to one-up my go-to basic order at the bar.

This is not exactly something better.

It’s difficult to get past the smell that’s reminiscent of a hospital bed. It overwhelmed the experience so much that I started craving jello and a breakfast tray to eat it on. It doesn’t provide the burn of malt liquor, but it also doesn’t give much else.

I’d opt for this one if my tongue is already numb and I’m wanting to let the buzz linger. If just hanging out, I’d find it difficult to finish an entire can — unless I chased the Shine & Soda with the Blood Orange. That was an experimental decision that had me audibly saying “ahh.”

For those who lean more toward a muted vodka taste without the citrus of the lime, it’d be a flawless alternative to a mixed drink. Or if you’re a fan of White Claw’s pure seltzer.

2. Blood Orange & Soda

Upon pressing my nose to the aluminum pop-top, I’m immediately obsessed with the smell of fresh oranges.

The actual drinking experience though? Not particularly enjoyable. At least, not upon the initial sip. I was expecting the tart sweetness I associate with a blood orange, but instead was reminded of the bitterness of lemons left in fruit-infused water for too long. It’s bold for sure, with an aftertaste that lingers, but after leisurely drinking it, I’d recommend it more for anyone who craves a slight bitterness in a cocktail.

In theory, I love the blood-orange-and-soda combo. Bring on the antioxidants and vitamin C! But sadly for me, it tasted like the beginning of a hangover.

You win some, you lose most.

1. Ruby Red & Soda

Oh yes. If the Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit that’s infused into this cocktail wasn’t already award-winning, I’d start a riot. It’s effortlessly mixed with soda, providing an all-encompassing sensory experience that sends me back to summer night heart-to-heart conversations on a riverside dock.

It’s everything I want in a canned cocktail. I love it so much that I’d shotgun it, completely unprompted, at a pregame and ignore the bubbly fizz scraping my throat. It’s easily the sweeter of the three, and at times provides a taste similar to Sprite with its hint of lime.

My only qualm would be that it does feel more like a flavored soda than a cocktail, and as a result, my heart was racing in the same way it would if I was iced with a Smirnoff Ice.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say these introductory canned cocktails give White Claws and Trulys a little competition. Not everyone likes every flavor — I’m looking at you, Bon & Viv’s cranberry spiked seltzer. So with a rumored launch of new flavors, particularly the honey habanero, I’ll be the first one in line seeing how Belle Isle Moonshine continues to change the seltzer game, one recyclable can at a time.

For information on where to find a Belle Isle Moonshine canned cocktail near you, visit belleislecraftspirits.com.

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