The following small and independent brands provided all the necessary boozy hydration and hedonism during lockdown, when pubs and cocktail bars were out of reach. If you are still hesitant to step out, these brands would be perfect to drink responsibly in the comfort of your own home.
Hard Seltzer or alcoholic sparkling water was the newest discovery for us during lockdown. We were quite taken by these refreshing cans of hard seltzer/alcoholic sparkling water from Ride. Handcrafted in small batches in the North Pennines, these fizzy drinks are made with delicious natural fruit flavours and no artificial sweeteners. They are perfect for picnics, BBQS and summer festivals. They came in four flavours – Black Cherry; Blood Orange; Mango and Passionfruit; and Persian Lime (my personal favourite).
Bodega Bay are another alcoholic sparkling water brand we tried. Each can contains natural fruit flavours, has only 72 cals per can, is 4% alcohol (the same as beer), is gluten-free, vegan and has no added sugar. Having discovered hard seltzers fairly recently, I am quite the fan now. Normally, I would start with a light beer (but they make me bloated) and a cocktail is too heavy a commitment to begin with, so these effervescent delights are perfect to gently ease your way into an afternoon of casual drinks with mates. The two flavours we tried are Apple | Ginger & Acai Berry and Elderflower | Lemon & Mint. Both were deliciously light, with flavours that were refreshing on the palate.
Like many of you, we also missed the simple pleasure of drinking an expertly made cocktail. Whilst we tried, sometimes making it yourself just didn’t quite hit the spot. Enter the many bars and small businesses around London who, feeling the heavy pressure of trying to pivot their business in a way that goes in total opposition to the norm, launched a delivery service for pre-batched cocktails.
Bottle Bar and Shop, based in Catford, launched a delivery service for their pre-batched cocktails. This small business creates handmade bottled cocktails: infused, mixed, created, prepared and bottled up all in-house in and delivered to your door. They are free of additives and are simply delicious boozy concoctions. They have quite the range; the website showcases 18 different cocktails, ranging from a Negroni to a Rum Old Fashioned and a Bloody Mary to a Long Island Iced Tea. For those who don’t like cocktails, they also have a well curated list of wine, sparkling and craft beer.
We put two of their cocktails to the test: the Passionfruit Daiquiri and the Lychee Martini. Each one came in an easily-drinkable 200 ml bottle (they also do 500 ml bottles) and serving them couldn’t be simpler than pouring out a decent measure over ice, stirring to chill and garnishing (I’m sure sticking them in the fridge or freezer isn’t a bad idea either, particularly for the hotter summer days ahead). Both cocktails were flavourful and nicely balanced and felt like exactly the thing to drink on a recent hot Sunday afternoon. They deliver nationwide so if you don’t feel safe just yet to venture into cocktail bars, Bottle Bar Shop can still come to your rescue.
Did you know that meat masters Mac and Wild also do pre-batched cocktails? Kris tried the Islay Manhattan (featuring Bruichladdich Scottish Barley whisky, Port Charlotte Scottish barley, oloroso sherry, sweet vermouth, orange peel, ginger and barrel-aged bitters) and the Black Watch Espresso Martini (featuring Talisker 10, Amaro, Cold Brew & Janszoon Blend Artisan Roast). The bottles came sealed with wax, which was a really nice touch. As for the cocktails themselves, you got a nice peatiness from the Scotch, balanced against the sherry and the vermouth, resulting in a drink with body and a richness best enjoyed beside a roaring fire with a Chesterfield armchair wrapped around you. The orange peel and ginger also give it something of a festive feel which was need to uplift the moods. The Espresso Martini proved to be an exceptional example, with the Talisker providing a nice twist to the classic. This was the perfect option for when you fancy a cocktail at home but aren’t up to making a cocktail at home and you want to try a classic with a Scottish twist.
Sipful are natural cocktails and organic wines in a can. Flavours we got to sample were the Orange Mimosa; Blood Orange Mimosa; Peach Bellini and Organic Bubbles! All their cocktails-in-a-can are made with real fruit, natural flavours and colours and are mixed using their carefully selected Spanish white wine. They use organic wine in their bubbles to help reduce the environmental and ecological impact. Canned drinks are also better for recycling purposes. So if you needed an excuse to drink more bubbles, whilst doing our beloved Mother Earth some good, these are your go-to! These canned drinks made for a refreshing addition to socially distanced gatherings with mates, BBQs, picnics, brunch and Friday night post work Zoom sessions.
A bottle of Pure Mead from the lovely folks at Loxwood Meadworks was just what we needed in the midst of this lockdown. With the temperature soaring, this honey wine was an excellent alternative to white wine or rosé, served chilled or over ice. Its natural perfume and sweetness went very well with savoury food such as cheese and pate. (If you would like to order some for yourself, use my code YELLOW10 to enjoy 10% off your first order).
Aloha 65 is a beautiful and naturally crafted fresh pineapple, ginger and chilli-infused spirit drink. Made from fresh ingredients, it is vegan friendly with no added refined sugar or colourants. The spirit tastes great, served on its own over ice (has a nice kick to it) or you can use the accompanying recipe booklet to recreate your own classic cocktails with an Alohan twist. The cocktails we made were The Alohan (ginger ale, lime, lemon and mint) and The A&T (Alohan version of the classic G&T). These drinks are perfect examples of refreshing, tropical inspired concoctions to help you cool down on hot days! They also do a jar of DETONATORS – chilli-infused pineapple chunks which work great on pizzas, burgers and is a must for any BBQs. Another great product is their SUN ON A BEACH HOT SAUCE (made of pineapple, ginger, Scotch bonnet chilli and a blend of herbs and spices) to elevate the heat in your everyday cooking .
Inspired by the architecture of their Distillery and the great luxury hotels of Italy, Starlino is a newly launched brand of Vermouth. They have three versions : Starlino Rosso, Starlino Rosé and Starlino Arancione. We sampled the Starlino Rosso Vermouth, which is a traditional red Vermouth di Torino, aged in Kentucky Bourbon Barrels for a rich, warm, spicy aroma and flavour. It was slightly sweeter than other brands which works better for me. It made for a lovely Negroni for me and a Manhattan for Kris.
True to its name, Skinny Lager is all the goodness of refreshing lager minus the calories. With only 89 Calories and 4% ABV, these gluten-free and vegan beers taste absolutely like the real stuff. Great one for hot summer days when a couple is not enough but you are not left with a raging hangover the next day!
N.B. The above PR samples were gifted to me with no obligation to post or write a blog about it.