The Constant Push For Novelty Has Given Rise
to a Whole
New Breed of Beverage Alcohol
eems as if it’s becoming harder
each year to innovate in the
spirits category: absinthe, mez-
cal, moonshine, vodkas flavored
like children’s dessert fantasies. What’s a
brand extension-er to do? Apparently one
answer is to mash up two spirits (or a spirit
and a wine) and bottle them.
Over the past year, an increasing
number of labels—including the likes
of widely distributed Malibu Red (rum
and tequila), Kahlua Midnight (rum
and Kahlua) and Absolut Tune (vodka
and sparkling wine) have appeared on
bar and store shelves, introducing what
appears to be a new category of “hybrid”
liquids for adults.
One could argue that this category
(particularly blends of spirit and wine)
is simply an extrapolation of existing
vermouths, liqueurs and ready-to-drink
cocktails. Unlike liqueurs and ver-
mouths, however, these blended liba-
tions aren’t for preservation or to serve
as botanical suspensions, and the liquid
bases are intended to be roughly equal
in their perception (unlike, say, ver-
mouth where the primary component is
wine). Unlike RTD cocktails (though
many of the hybrids are designed to
stand alone), most of these newbies
have no mixers: no citrus, juice or extra
sugar components.
Merging Concepts
“The original thinking was to bring the
best of the Champagne world—glam-
our and sophistication—and the vodka
world—fun and energy— together,” says
Laurent Cutier, senior brand manager at
Pernod Ricard for Absolut Tune. The
14% ABV blend of vodka and Sauvignon
Blanc tastes like a tart sparkling wine
with a slightly astringent aftertaste. Cut-
ler called it a “breakthrough innovation”
when it launched in late 2012. “You have
a lot of fusion bottles on the market, but
most fall in the liqueur category, and
there’s a tendency to add sugar,” he says.
The current wave seems to be more
straightforward: Rum + Kahlua in the
case of Kahlua Midnight; vodka + Co-
gnac in the case of 20 Grand. Cognac
+ French Moscato = Courvoisier Gold.
While Vodkila and VodQuila are, obvi-
ously enough, vodka-tequila mash-ups,
Phillips Gin-Ka, a revived product from
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