Enjoying a cold beer on a shaded patio is among summer’s most promising activities. But while the months of July and August offer countless opportunities to imbibe, they also bring forth a different opportunity for liquor purveyors. With rising temperatures and plenty of vacation time, day drinking becomes de rigueur in the summer. Beyond merely leading to hangovers and Advil refills, this ultimately encourages the liquor industry into a frenzied competition over their latest boozy commodities.
Of course drinking trends are not exclusive to the summer, but who can forget frosé, brosé and rosé? Or the hoppy, high alcohol IPAs that punctuated the summers of the mid 2010s? The season is, undeniably, where many of our most popular (and annoying) drinking fads come to fruition. And this year has been no exception. Less than a month into the season, and we have already been inundated with a deluge of new hot weather beverages.
From pinot freezio to blue wine, here are the season’s best and worst boozy offerings:
PINOT FREEZIO AND FRIESLING
Last year was the summer of rosé and frosé, the now infamous pink slushie drink made from frozen pink wine. The beverages became symbolic of a certain leisurely lifestyle, spawning the phrases “rosé all day” and “frosé all day” (both of which can still be found emblazoned on t-shirts and wine glasses at sororities nation-wide). This year, Pinot Grigio and Riesling are suffering a similar fate with the introduction of their own wine slushie counterparts. Like frosé before it, pinot freezio and friesling are festooned with sugar and ice, masking any of the wine’s redeeming qualities with an indecipherable syrupy flavour. Those interested in friesling are far better off enjoying a well-chilled glass of white wine.
LOW ALCOHOL AND NO-ALCOHOL DRINKS
Unlike martinis or old fashioneds — which can contain up to 2.5 ounces of distilled spirits per drink — low-alcohol cocktails deploy lower proof liquor as their base. Often, this includes sherry, vermouth or St. Germain liqueur, which is topped up with soda, bitters or fresh fruit juice. The end result boasts the complexity of a traditional cocktail without the high-octane power, allowing drinkers to indulge in multiple rounds without getting too buzzed.
Even better, however, is the fact that many of the country’s best bars are going one step further, creating equally enticing non-alcoholic drinks. At Toronto’s Pretty Ugly, Bar Raval and Rosalinda, bartenders recognize that no one should be forced to order a watery mocktail, whose name alone indicates that it is a lesser version of a regular drink. Instead, non-alcoholic beverages are called “Placebos” and prepared with as much care and attention as alcoholic options. Many include Seedlip, the world’s first zero-calories non-alcoholic spirit made from natural botanicals, plus house-made infusions, to give the drinks a robust and flavourful edge.
Earlier this summer, blue wine made its Ontario debut when Wine Rack, Ontario’s provincial wine retailer, introduced Naked Grape Blue. The beverage was marketed with the slogan “blue is new.” But while technically true, the “newness” of blue wine likely has to do with the fact that blue grapes don’t exist, making it impossible to vinify blue wine without using artificial colouring agents.
The wine itself tastes like a half-eaten blue freezie left to melt in the sun. But beyond the unpleasant palate, its mere presence on liquor store shelves is somewhat insulting to the Canadian wine community. Instead of introducing consumers to new grape varietals – perhaps an equally light and uncomplicated Riesling or pinot gris – the province’s wine retailer has chosen to promote an illegitimate wine variety. Given the additives required, it would be more accurate to call Naked Grape Blue a wine cooler, although it’s probably best avoided under any name.
No, it isn’t made with oranges, but orange wines do boast a unique apricot hue. Technically a skin-contact white, orange wine is made from white grapes that are treated like red grapes during vinification.
Winemaking begins with pressed juice that is left to soak with its skins and seeds for anywhere from a few hours to a year. The prolonged skin and seed contact gives the wine tannins – otherwise known as those grippy, textural elements you feel on your cheeks and tongue – and an oxidized, orange hue.
It’s become nearly impossible to visit a trendy wine bar without encountering at least a few orange wines. But while the drink may be new to most North Americans, the category is among the oldest-known styles of wine, with a history of Georgian winemakers making skin-contact whites for over 5,000 years. Just because a wine is orange doesn’t mean it’s automatically going to be good, but the centuries-old winemaking technique often yields appealing results.
Recycling plants can’t process plastic straws because of their minuscule size, meaning the majority of straws end up in landfills where they never biodegrade. It’s easy to see why bars and restaurants might want to eliminate these superfluous drink accessories. What’s more difficult to comprehend, however, are the lacking substitutes that many are offering in their place.
At environmentally-conscious watering holes, plastic straws have been replaced with those made from paper. Unfortunately, paper straws have a tendency to breakdown and become soggy within minutes of use, imbuing beverages with an unpleasant bitter note and mealy texture. An equally popular alternative has been to serve drinks with no straw at all. This presents a problem for blended beverages or drinks served in tall glasses, where alcohol is encouraged to pool at the bottom of the glass like a melting, boozy swamp.
Obviously there are far worse problems to have. Worrying about being served an appropriate straw should serve as the ultimate indicator that your life is pretty good. But the rush to eliminate plastic straws has been undeniably hasty. Instead of hurrying to offer yet another lacking drink accessory, further resources should be spent developing compostable single-use straws, which do not ruin drinks or the environment.
EVERYDAY SPARKLING WINE
With most entry-level champagnes beginning at $70 per bottle, few can afford to consider champagne an affordable, everyday drink. But while luxury champagne producers continue to cater to a higher income demographic (Moet Chandon sells its Moet Ice – intended to be enjoyed over ice as a casual beverage – for $82 a bottle), countless other sparkling wine producers are introducing mouthwatering bubbles with price points that have endured a reality check.
In the Veneto region of Italy, FIOL Prosecco creates an extra-dry Prosecco with refreshing mineral and floral notes. Each bottle boasts soft, velvety bubbles characteristic of fine champagne and retails for only $16. Meanwhile, wine producers in France and Luxembourg are also gaining attention for their cremant – a variety of sparkling wine made in the same labour-intensive style as champagne. And yet, unlike limited and expensive Champagne real estate, there are eight permitted cremant appellations throughout France and Luxemburg. This allows many bottles to retail for as little as $20.
Finally, a suitable alternative for those stricken with champagne taste and beer budgets has arrived.