Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Cheers for Rip It and Sip It Cocktails


I have to admit I'm skeptical of premixed cocktails, as I so enjoy making them myself. Searching for a recipe (or developing my own), getting more and more and more ingredients, preparing my own shrubs and booze-soaked cherries and saline solutions, using wonderful's all part of the drinking process that connects me with history and culture. And then I share them with people I love as a way to make it clear I do.

But if someone's going to let me try their product, I sure will. And NIO Cocktails won over me over. If you're in search novelty, taste, and ease, it's a product that's hard to beat. It doesn't hurt they provide accurate takes on the classics--from martinis to mai tais--and some intriguing new concoctions, like the Garden of the Zar (free of any Russian T as who wants to seem Russian right now?), featuring Ketel One vodka and elderflower liqueur from Bols. There are 20 cocktails currently to choose from.

NIO stands for Needs Ice Only, but to be fair, they also often suggest a twist, as they should to complete, say, a Boulevardier or Sidecar. (We Californians are so spoiled with our citrus trees abundant in every yard, of course.) But if you are shy easy access to an orange or lemon, all you need to do to "make" a NIO cocktail is to shake the attractive box that at least reminds late middle-aged me of an old school 5-and-a-1/4 inch floppy disc (or New Order's "Blue Monday" 12"), rip off its corner (note--you will spill a teensy bit of the first cocktail you do this with in your learning curve), pour into a rocks glass loaded with ice, and drink.

That does mean every NIO is on the rocks, but it also means you have no other accoutrements to wash but the glass when you're done. So it's not only simple on the making, it's simple on the clean-up. Double win.  And even if your sidecar is powered by Remy XO and Cointreau, that 100ml pour ends up clocking in at a mere 28.8% ABV. Given Cointreau by itself is 40% ABV, these end up lighter mixes, too. That's particularly good to keep you from molesting someone under the mistletoe and regretting it later.

NIO began in Italy--Milan, no less, so that's why it ranks well on style points--and has had its US debut this fall. They like pushing the box as a way to order, which makes sense, as you need a bunch of cocktails ready to go. In fact, I could see these most useful for a party where you don't want to wear out your shaker muscles or just would rather everyone gets a tipple quick without much muss or effort. Plus, conversation piece! That the drinks all begin with top shelf booze doesn't hurt, either. If you're wondering about the price, they come in at abut $10 a drink, which would be a bargain at a bar anymore. 

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