Cognac blended with moscato? Pink wine mixed with port? And how about a mashup of sparkling white wine and vodka? Hard liquor is showing a softer side as producers shake things up with new blends that put wine and spirits in the same bottle.
"Companies are going out of the box," observes Ted Carmon, spirits buyer for the BevMo! liquor chain.
There's no official category name so far - Spirited wines? Laid-back liquors? - but Carmon traces liquor's "anything goes" movement to Pinnacle Whipped, the wildly popular whipped-cream flavoured vodka that came out a couple of years ago. "That really rewrote the rules on what kind of flavours could be used."
Bill Newlands, president of Beam Inc., which bought Pinnacle Vodka earlier this year, sees the intensely flavoured Whipped as playing into a trend of consumers "whether it's an alcohol beverage or anything else, looking for more flavour reward." They're looking for two things, he says: "flavour and flavour intensity."
That quest influenced Beam's latest product, Courvoisier Gold, which blends French cognac with moscato wine from the South of France.
Research indicated customers, particularly women, wanted a cognac with less alcohol but more flavour, and Gold answers on both counts coming in at 36 proof, or 18 per cent alcohol by volume, well below the 40 per cent (80 proof) of traditional cognac. Suggested retail for a 750-millilitre bottle is $24.99.
Gold follows last year's introduction of Courvoisier Rose, which blends cognac with French red wine grapes. Both blends can be drunk on the rocks or mixed into cocktails.
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