Editor's note: You may know John M. Edwards from his fast food reviews here at Serious Eats. We figured that if he's willing to try a Denny's Fried Cheese Melt, he's pretty much up for anything involving chain restaurants...even tasting his way through their signature cocktails. Introducing his new column, Cheap Buzz! Take it away, John. —The Mgmt.
Happy Gilmore forever immortalized Red Lobster. "Shooter! I'll be at the Red Lobster! God Bless!" I've always loved it: the cheesy biscuits, the enormous portions, the tanks of "pick-your-own" lobsters. (My friend Will once pointed out which lobster he wanted, then plunged his hand into the tank and pulled it out himself—much to the waiter's shock and dismay.)
We weren't planning to have that much fun on this Red Lobster visit, but we did want to check out the state of the sippables (along with a few snacks to line our stomachs.)
Stepping into the Red Lobster in New York's Times Square was like stepping into another world: one minute, scaffolding, sirens, hordes of people, and a nighttime electric glow; the next minute, the calm, aquatic feel of any of the other Red Lobster branches across the country. After a 45-minute wait (hey, this place is jumping on a Friday night!), we sat down and ordered cocktails and a few snacks.
The first cocktail I tried was the Sunset Passion Colada, a frozen pina colada with Malibu rum and strawberry syrup. The first sip surprised me, because I thought I had been served the wrong drink—I couldn't detect even the faintest hint of alcohol. In fact, I thought I had been served a milkshake by accident. The drink was thick and frothy, tasting of cream and coconut: picture yourself on a hot sandy beach, drinking a bottle of suntan lotion. Drinkability: Only approach this cocktail to prevent sunburn on your lips.
The backbone of the Triple Berry Sangria is Sutter Home Merlot with blueberry, strawberry, and blackberry juice—like all of the drinks we had, it was terribly sweet. In a dark room, you could probably tell that this sangria had wine in it, but it would be more from the smell than the taste. There were hints of orange, lime, and strawberry, but the blueberry stood out the most. Drinkability: Stick with a juice box.
The drink that interested me the most was the Lobsterita. (Don't worry: unlike many of this chain's offerings, there were no crustaceans harmed in the making of this drink.) It's just a strawberry, raspberry, or lime-flavored frozen margarita made with Sauza Gold. We ordered the raspberry version, and I found it tart and sweet, frothy with a lot of frozen-raspberry flavor. Was there booze in there? Who knows. The 18-year-old sorority girl in me liked its fruity freshness, but I'd need to spend days on the elliptical to work off the sugar. Drinkability: Tolerable.
Very low on my list were the Berry Mango Daiquiri—"a frozen combination of Bacardi rum and tropical mangoes topped with sweet, blended strawberries"—and the Red Passion Colada. The Red Passion Colada was just like its "Drive-thru Malt Shoppe" cousin, except less frothy and creamy; again, it was more like a coconut fruit shake than a cocktail. The Berry Mango Daiquiri would be a delicious (if sweet) fruit smoothie, tasting of mango and strawberry—except that it's supposed to be a cocktail. Drinkability: only as a dessert.
My favorite drink was the Bahama Mama: "a frozen blend of tropical fruit flavors mixed with Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum and topped with a splash of Myers's dark rum." Like most of the other drinks, it was a smoothie with alcohol, but at least I could taste the rum. It wasn't biting or harsh, and the drink ended up being cool in my mouth, but warmer in the stomach. The sweet thickness of the smoothie complemented the rum quite well—sure, it's a sugary cocktail, but one that tasted like a cocktail. Drinkability: Better than tolerable.
If you want something to go with your drinks, I'd recommend the Lobster Pizza—a grilled flatbread pizza with cheese and lobster. The Bacon-Wrapped Scallops can be good, but ours were almost undercooked, and the bacon was very inconsistent: burnt in some places, totally pliant in others. I do not recommend the Coconut Shrimp, easily half breading and unnervingly sweet, like they wrapped each butterflied shrimp in a macaroon and threw it in the fryer.
The Hangover Report
When we stood up from the table, we all felt a little sick. Nobody was drunk, but we all were a little green, like we'd eaten one too many pieces of candy on Halloween night. Watch out for some of these cocktails—they'll do more damage to your blood sugar than to your liver!