Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Arbor Mist Frozen Wine Cocktails

Drinking the Bottom Shelf

Will Gordon drinks his way through the bottom shelf of the liquor store...so you don’t have to.


Last week I nearly brought the Internet to a halt with the fascinating news that this stranger is leaning toward a beach-based honeymoon. I trust you're all still riveted to the spot where I left you, and while I must encourage you to loosen the rivets for just long enough to brush your teeth and change your underpants, I think it's almost time to divulge another barely relevant personal detail. You brush, I'll wait. See you next paragraph.

Wait, let's talk about YOU for a change. I won't ask about your underpants because I'm not sure how this new Serious Eats advertising model works yet, so I'm going to tread lightly and away from your privates for the time being, but I think it's entirely appropriate to discuss your toothpaste choices. Do you use the baking soda kind? I think you should. The grittiness means it's working. Or do you use the expensive hippie fennel and bee pollen kind? If so, please do not breathe on me or ask for a loan to cover your extravagant dental hygiene habit. Crest and Colgate, peppermint and cinnamon. Let's not overthink toothpaste, gang.

All right, now that we've got you freshened and chastened it's time to return our focus to the minutiae of my daily life with the announcement that for a several day stretch in mid-October this minute life will be lived in Puerto Rico. We've selected this particular island for the very good reasons that the library has a lot of Puerto Rico travel books and our nice and tasteful friend Alice is Puerto Rican. We actually have two nice and tasteful friends named Alice, but the other one is from upstate New York, and while I'm sure there are lovely beaches on the banks of the mighty Onandaigua (assuming there is an Onandaigua River, which it seems like there must be), we were looking for a place with more sun and cockfighting, so Puerto Rico it will be.

I checked out a couple of the aforementioned travel guides and put a learn-Spanish thing on my phone, so I'm pretty much all set for this adventure, but I still need to improve on my entry-level beach-going skills, so we went back to Revere Beach for the second consecutive Sunday. I was hoping to work on my fried-seafood-eating game, but Bottom Shelf research director Emily said I was already so advanced in that department that it might make more sense to practice sitting peacefully and quietly in the sand for several hours.

That seemed reasonable and I think I made some good progress; in fact, beach sensei Emily says I've already mastered the arts of sunburning and commenting on strangers' bathing suits. She's made no promises, but I'm optimistic that if I keep up the good work she will soon approve my request to begin honing my drinking-on-the-beach abilities.

I stuck with water for the second straight training session, but I did allow myself some drinking daydreams, which tended to wander from cold beer to frozen fruity things and back. Everybody likes cold beer and my body is not afraid to admit liking a thoughtfully prepared alcoholic slushie. I don't go in for the sugar-water and basement-tequila mess spit out by your malevolent neighborhood Island Oasis machine, but I can think of few things more pleasant than a real margarita spun around in a blender.

I'm not sure how I'm going to self-serve a proper frozen margarita in the great sandy outdoors, but Arbor Mist has figured out how one might smuggle slushed wine drinks onto a public beach. It's a start, maybe.

Whoever handles blogger bribing for Arbor Mist recently sent samples of what they're calling frozen wine cocktails. The 10-ounce foil pouches come in Blackberry Merlot, White Pear Pinot Grigio, and Strawberry White Zinfandel, each 6 percent ABV and between 280 and 310 calories.

The pouches are sold in a liquid state with directions to freeze for five hours and then "gently massage and squeeze to pour." My samples froze solid in a few hours and needed to be left on the counter for 15 or so minutes before they were pliable enough for fruitful massaging and squeezing, but once I managed to get them into a glass they did indeed bear a structural resemblance to a standard-issue frozen cocktail, which is a pretty neat trick. The problem is that they also bore a flavor resemblance to a standard-issue frozen drink, which is to say far too sweet and syrupy.

To Arbor Mist's credit, wine is the first ingredient listed on all three labels. If they'd started with the HFCS, natural flavors, maltodextrin, guar gum, dextrose, and so on, and then squirted a little fermented grape juice in at the last second, the end product would have even less wine character than the small bit it has now. The Blackberry Merlot and, to a lesser extent, White Pear Pinot Grigio did betray some narrow undercurrent of wine beneath the hard-candy fruit flavors you'd expect. The Strawberry White Zinfandel was predictably messy, as it matched the sweetest fake-fruit with the trashiest fake wine, but the other two could be a reasonable option if you place a high enough value on having a frozen drink without benefit of a bartender or a blender.

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