Mike’s Lite Hard Lemonade, Original and Cranberry

I saved Mike’s Lite Hard Lemonade for a warm summer day when I needed some mild afternoon refreshment. In photographing the bottles before drinking (a charming ritual to which I have become accustomed chez Foodette), I pondered how Mike’s brought the calorie count down from 220 in the original version to a mere 109 in the Lite. These two factors appear to be mainly in play: Truvia, and reduced alcohol volume. They are evident in the taste and effect, respectively.

If you’ve ever tried reduced calorie versions of your favorite beverages featuring stevia sweeteners, you’ll have a sense of that slightly different, not-quite-like-sugar taste and mouthfeel which are noticeable in Mike’s Lite drinks. The regular lemonade was a little truer to the taste of the original than the cranberry, where that weird Jello-like Truvia taste was on display.

Also important to note, the alcohol volume in the Lite lemonades is 3.2%, down from 5% in the original Mike’s Hard Lemonade. It doesn’t even rank in the “alcopop” range (4-7% alcohol content) of beverages, an ignoble variety that includes Smirnoff Ice, most bottom shelf Chardonnays, and Juicy Juice. Seriously, who is the intended customer for this beverage? Yes, I’m a calorie-conscious pretty lady, but I am not willing to trade off this much in the buzz department! I was literally not feeling it.

If I wished to ingest 100+ calories and not feel the effects of alcohol, I would have had a San Pellegrino Limonata without vodka. The original Mike’s is a summery, refreshing alternative to beer, but unfortunately, the Lite versions have shed calories in a way that defeats the purpose of the brand.

Bulldog Gin and Q Tonic

This is your quixotic Keepitcoming Love. Tonight I made a classic G&T with Bulldog Gin and Q Tonic, with the aim of discovering whether premium products would distinctly enhance my gin and tonic experience. Upon my first sip, I noticed that both Bulldog and Q Tonic make a quietly elegant statement about their quality. In terms of style, this was an excellent pairing. It’s not so much about what they do, so much as which aspects of more commercial gins and tonics that they’ve studiously avoided. I went into this experiment ready to pooh-pooh these products for being marginally better than my old stand-bys, Beefeater and Polar Diet Tonic Water, but I have to admit that the difference is palpable and I am very impressed.
I mixed 3 ½ ounces of Bulldog with about 7 ounces of Q Tonic in one of my new Collins glasses, along with crushed ice and lime wedges. I drank it from a lovely glass straw (courtesy of Glass Dharma). You may be thinking at this point that the proportions of my drink sound rather generous. Perhaps. But I only did it because Bulldog is so smooth. Making this drink, I felt as if Smoov B himself had whispered in my ear, “Babygirl, I know you’re a lady who appreciates a stiff G&T, so I personally flew to London to bring you a brazen breed of perfectly balanced boutique gin, and I combined it with an organic, lightly agave-sweetened tonic water kissed with handpicked Peruvian quinine, because I need you to be my lady tonight …babygirl.” (Smoov B co-opts packaging copy to seduce the ladies, that’s right).But seriously, I really liked Q Tonic. It’s naturally sweetened, with only 38 calories in a serving, and it has a perfect sweet-bitter ratio. I also appreciated its small bubbles and gentle petillance. Commercial diet tonic water seemed saccharine and overwrought in comparison. The only drawback is that one eight ounce bottle costs approximately $2.75. I may purchase this for special occasions, but due to cost alone, I do not think I’ll be adding it to my repertoire.
Next, I wanted to see if Bulldog could hold its own outside the forgiving confines of the G&T. I made a martini-style cocktail to enhance its herbal flavors without masking them. I muddled 2 ½ ounces of gin with some crushed ice and chopped fresh basil leaves and a teaspoon of wildflower honey, then strained it into a glass. Still very smooth and mixable, went down easy even in this format. Could I distinguish the vaunted “natural poppy” or “dragon eye”? In a word, no. But Bulldog was still well above average, and I loved the visually sleek, yet weighty, black glass bottle design, reminiscent of vintage Guerlains.

At the end of the day, is the advantage of drinking cocktails (versus wine, single-malt whiskey, etc.) the convenience and savings in cost that comes with doing it economically, or is perfecting the pursuit of the best cocktails an end in itself? If you agree with the latter point of view, I would highly recommend both Bulldog Gin and Q Tonic.

Vitamin Water Zero Glow

Vitamin Water’s new release, Glow, got my attention with its vibrant, spot-on circa 1985 Barbie-pink hue. Since I can reference this color from my childhood, I think I must be VW’s target audience. Or is there a deeper message than flirty femininity in play here? The typically smarmy packaging copy pulled me in by acknowledging the open secret that “grocery stores double as singles’ “meet” markets.” The Glow bottle goes on to inform me that if I sport this bottle in the supermarket, I should expect a gender-neutral “cart” to be “cruising [my] way” for a “sample.” The striking teal label/pink drink combo will be sure catch the eyes of potential dates, and I’ll be able to communicate my hanky code faves without wearing those stupid circa ’97 pride rally-style bandanas.Now that we’ve got that covered*, let’s address the flavor of this beverage. Perhaps it’s better not to open the bottle if it helps you score the intended piece of ass: its chalky texture and sweet, simplistic, bubble-gum flavor are strongly reminiscent of Kool-Aid. If you poured a little out and added a few ounces of Dubra, you’d capture the exact flavor of a Chris Hansen bust. Uhhh, not that I did that or anything. My advice for CBT aficionados: for best results, just carry it, and leave the actual drinking of this crap to girls who want to feel like Disney princesses.
Why don’t you have a seat over there?

*JK, male subs — Keepitcoming stays busy enough with Foodette.

New Feature: Keepitcoming’s Cocktails

Greetings, Foodette readers! Jess has handed over the reigns to me, Keepitcoming, for a special feature about one of my favorite pursuits: creating new cocktails!

This post will detail how I transformed Bella Lula Citronnade, a delightful lemon juice beverage we sampled at the Fancy Food Show, into a new creation I call “Lula’s Lanai.”Bella Lula reminds me a little of San Pellegrino Limonata, since they both have a perfect balance of sweetness and piquant lemon flavor. However, Bella Lula, while not carbonated, has one special feature that takes it to the next level: it has a distinct note of fresh mint leaves. The mint flavor comes across very naturally, even when mixed with vodka and a little tonic water for fizz. If my recipe sounds basic, it is because I discovered that Bella Lula needs very little adornment. It mixes well, but does best when its simple and elegant composition is allowed to shine. Bella Lula makes a similar beverage with orange juice, which is also outstanding and equally good in this recipe.Lemonade and fresh mint just scream relaxing summer fun, and what could enhance that lounging experience more than vodka? This for the lanai in your mind’s eye.

Lula’s Lanai

4 oz. Bella Lula
1 1/2 oz. vodka (I like Smirnoff — neither too good nor too bad to mix)
diet tonic water to taste

Pour the vodka and juice over ice in a tall glass. Blend and top off with a small amount of tonic, just for effervescence. Garnish with a thin lime slice if desired.