The Slap Chop. Avocado slicers. The Garlic Shaker (seriously, you guys pledged $52,000 for this). These are all things that exist. I can’t explain this any more than Violent J can explain magnets, and yet it is a thing that is true. That there are now tiny plastic cups designed to turn your Keurig brewer into a single-serve speakeasy is also a thing that is true. I know because I bought some. And then I had some thoughts.
These so-called “Booze Brews” come in two flavors, Appletini and Hot Buttered Rum, with 12 single-serve cups to a box for around $5. Pop one into your single-serve brewer, run a 6-oz. brew cycle, and add an ounce and a half of either vodka or dark rum, depending on which flavor you’ve chosen. Stir, scald, enjoy. Just kidding about that scald thing. At least not for the “Appletini” version, right? Wrong. They actually want you to drink a hot Appletini. Out of a coffee mug. Because a “cocktail” you could easily sneak into a conference room is not at all a sign of the first steps toward crippling alcoholism. “Hey Doug, this is your sixth trip to the coffee machine since you got here. You doing OK?” “Mind your own business, Karen. YOU DON’T KNOW ME.”
Anyway. Hot Appletini. It smells like the Jolly Ranchers that melted into the cup holder of your parents’ car when you were in fourth grade, and they didn’t so much “clean them out” as “allow nature to run its course.” For all its Jolly Rancher-ness, though, it’s not very green. At least not in a mug.
You’d expect that clear, sharp, fake apple quality would come through in the flavor, but it really doesn’t. Mostly, it tastes blankly sweet, in a decidedly saccharine way. It’s also incredibly flat. No pucker. No tart. No ‘tini.
Just because I was feeling weird drinking a cocktail out of a mug, I poured the rest of it into a coupe once it had cooled down a bit. Low and behold, the stuff is in fact green. Neon green. Like if you juiced a highlighter. Oddly, it’s actually more palatable when cooler. Hot, it was entirely dominated by thin, sharp sweetness, with the only hint of its apple intentions being an indeterminate artificiality. Cool, that artificiality probability wave collapses into a medicinal apple thing that, though not entirely pleasant, at least adds a bit of dimension to the blank, flat sweetness that defines the hot stuff.
That flatness is hard to get across. It's like Edwin Abbott turned his powers to mixology. Likewise, a real martini (even a real "Appletini") wouldn't be able to recognize this thing as anything more meaningful than a dot or (if we’re being generous) a line. Dots and lines do not satisfying cocktails make. I prefer my drinking in three dimensions.
As for the Hot Buttered Rum, I can totally believe it’s not butter. At least it’s a drink designed to be consumed hot? The mix smells like the dum dums my kids get from their doctor, or those weird fractured-glass-looking yellow disc candies cheap jerks and scary spinsters hand out at Halloween. It has a weirdly medicinal quality, and a sickly sweetness, “like when I got sick from Buttery Nipples,” offered my wife.
There's a nuanced layering of disgust, though. That's something, isn’t it? The most artificial butterscotch ever, then a weird bitterness, old peaches on the finish, and a mentholated cooling. The Appletini was inoffensively bad. This one, though. Man. The texture is a problem, too. It seems like it's going to be viscous. Something about how it hits the tongue, that ersatz butter quality. Then, it turns watery and thin. There's a bit of cognitive dissonance at play, and not in a good way.
I tried a nip of the rum neat (this bottle's new to me), and I can actually pick up the tobacco, burnt sugar and dried fruit flavors of the rum in the finished drink, but they're all twisted, perverted, and fractured, like Satan's boozy kaleidoscope, like Bob Arctor's waking nightmare.
I think it’s pretty clear that I didn’t expect to like these, and my expectations were very much met. Ultimately though, my objection doesn’t really rest on whether or not the things taste any good, but rather on a more basic concern of rationale. I can see literally no reason for this to exist. I don’t like sour mix, but I can see why it exists, saving you the extra steps of juicing citrus and making syrup. I can see why Apple Pucker is a thing, even though I don’t like Appletinis. This, though? Why? Why does anyone need to use a coffee maker to simulate combining vodka and Apple Pucker? It’s not a time saving process. I doubt it’s cheaper than a bottle of neon green apple flavored whateverthatstuffis, on a per drink basis.
I assume the company did some market research prior to developing this product, though, so clearly someone wants it. Who are you people? Why have you encouraged this? Can you come pick up the rest of these stupid things? I’m not going to drink them, so it’s either that or convince my kids that I bought them some “apple cider” and “caramel drink” pods for their mom’s coffee machine. Then again, I love my kids. Come get your stupid pods. I’ll be drinking a boulevardier to get the gross out of my mouth. It took less time to make than a Hot Appletini*.
*Hot Appletini sounds like a contemporary Frank Zappa song title.