Distilled: Crafthouse Cocktails can’t touch the real thing

From the June 26, 2014 edition

There’s nothing better than a well-made cocktail, so I was intrigued by the recent release of Crafthouse Cocktails, pre-made concoctions billed as “ready-to-serve premium bottled cocktails” from award-winning mixologist Charles Joly. The press release and website both state Crafthouse Cocktails are created using only 100-percent natural (and gluten-free) ingredients to create its Moscow Mule, Paloma and Southside libations.

All of this made me think, “Hey, this could actually be good.” Unfortunately, the Southside I sampled wasn’t good — at all. Made using “small batch gin, natural mint, pure lime juice and real cane sugar,” the Southside has all the makings of an acceptable cocktail. Yet the sum didn’t add up to the parts.

The Southside was dominated by sweetness and citrus, tasting more like a saccharine mouthwash than a stiff drink. The slight gin flavor was negligible at best, a cheap, watered-down version at worst. It’s best described as fancy street wine, which is an oxymoron I’d like to avoid.

While I haven’t tried the Moscow Mule or the Paloma, I don’t plan to because I’m afraid the same issues present in the Southside would be in those, too. I’m fairly certain the problem lies with the “pure lime juice and real cane sugar.” There’s way too much of each in the Southside, and that presents a couple of serious problems.

Here’s why: “pure lime juice.” The “pure” is replacing the word “fresh,” because fresh lime juice couldn’t last on a shelf for more than a week or two. The bottle’s expiration date is May 2015. Something doesn’t add up here.

Really? Sugar? Why not use simple syrup instead? It would cut the sweetness down immensely. And it would stick to the actual recipe!

Finally, at $20 for a 750-mililiter bottle — 15-percent ABV for the Southside, 10 and 12 percent for the Moscow Mule and Paloma, respectfully — this is a rip off. You could easily make the same amount of these cocktails for far less. And they’d taste better. And be stiffer.

Just make your own cocktails.

Eric Kleinberg Photography