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Showing posts with label beverages. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beverages. Show all posts

Friday, September 15, 2023

Trader Joe's Panama Rum


It's been a hot minute since we finished this bottle of Trader Joe's Panama Rum, so I did a brief internet search to refresh my memory on its taste, etc. I remember liking it quite a bit. Like, I might have even said this is the best straight rum I've ever tasted. Granted, I've never shelled out for top-shelf rum in my life. I've only ever tried your basic Captain Morgan or Bacardi or whatever, and I very rarely drank them straight. Rum is great with cola or in a piña colada or a daiquiri, etc.

But apparently there are rum snobs out there. Like...just from a brief Google search and my first few impressions, these rum snobs make wine connoisseurs look like low class hacks. I never knew rum had such an intense fan base of highfalutin aficionados. Holy cow. So if you want a take from a random dude who has no idea what he's talking about, read on.

This stuff looked and smelled like caramel and brown sugar. You could taste the bourbon essence in the background. It was smooth—far more drinkable than any straight rum I've ever had. It wasn't syrupy or sticky, but clean and faintly spicy. I enjoyed it vastly more than I thought I would. I pictured myself mixing this spirit with all manner of fruit juices to make it palatable, but in the end, I drank nearly all of it straight over the course of a month or two, savoring each glass one at a time, with a bit of help from Sonia, who did indeed mix hers with various citrus juices.

I would absolutely buy it again. $14.99 for 750 mL. I can't compare it to anything rare or expensive or exotic, but next to all of those run-of-the-mill common brands, I'll take this one any day of the week. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Four and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Panama Rum.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Trader Joe's Organic Sparkling Lemon + Strawberry Apple Cider Vinegar Beverage


This is the third installment of our Trader Joe's canned organic sparkling apple cider vinegar beverage series. Most of you remember the recently-reviewed Elderberry + Pomegranate version. And some may even remember our review of the Ginger + Lemon flavor from 2021.

I was surprised how much I liked the taste of ginger and lemon and was quite impressed at how efficiently they masked the intense sourness of apple cider vinegar. I was slightly less impressed with the elderberry iteration of the drink since it wanted to be sweeter and failed to be so. I'm even more disappointed with this flavor since strawberry is sweeter still even than elderberries or pomegranates and clashes with the tart pungency of vinegar more desperately than its deep purple predecessor.

It's like someone took a delicious, refreshing summer-themed beverage and poured salad dressing into it as a prank. I'd almost say this product is less sweet than that strawberry vinaigrette we looked at last week. It utterly frustrates my taste buds.

Sonia has given four and a half stars to each of this beverage's forerunners, and she'll have to go a half star lower this time because, like me, she's not quite as fond of this flavor. This is definitely my least favorite flavor, so I'll throw out my lowest score yet for these ACV beverages.

Once again, about two bucks for the can. Plenty of health benefits from drinking ACV in any form. Organic. Kosher. Bubbly. But still, I can't go higher than two and a half stars. The beautiful wifey will bestow this beverage with four stars.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Trader Joe's 100% Red Tart Cherry Juice


About nine and a half years ago, we looked at Trader Joe's other mainstay cherry juice in a glass bottle, Trader Joe's 100% Cherry Juice. One of the first comments was a suggestion to try this not-from-concentrate, more tart version. Well, Tess, I don't know if you still read our blog or not, but thanks for the recommendation. It only took us a decade to find the product at Trader Joe's and actually make a purchase.

Maybe my forty-something-year-old self craves less sugar than my thirty-something-year-old self, but I'm actually surprised how much I like this. It's not as mouth-puckeringly sour as I might have guessed. At the same time, it isn't particularly sweet at all.


It just tastes like actual cherries—not like cherry candy, sour or otherwise—not like a sugar-laden cherry juice blend. It just tastes like actual slightly tart, slightly sweet cherries, and it's surprisingly drinkable.

Sediment collects at the bottle of the bottle fairly quickly, so some agitation is in order prior to pouring. The juice flaunts a deep pink sort of color, not unlike a ruby red grapefruit juice in terms of cloudiness and redness, but perhaps a shade or two darker. Sonia thinks the flavor is very similar to cranberry juice. I agree. I'd say if you split the difference between 100% cranberry juice and that other not-so-tart cherry juice, it's a fair approximation of the flavor you get from this beverage, at least in terms of tartness level.


Apparently cherry juice is full of antioxidants and is fairly good for you. Another bonus. We'd both buy again.

$4.99 for the bottle. Four out of five stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's 100% Red Tart Cherry Juice.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Trader Joe's Lime Margarita


When it's this freaking hot, refreshment is always on the forefront of my mind. I know, I know. Alcoholic beverages aren't exactly the best for hydration over the long run, but man, they sure hit the spot over the short term.

A sweet, fruity cocktail with ice is in order after a late afternoon walk in full sunshine and 100°+ heat. I think I sweat a gallon in the last fifteen minutes. Trader Joe's Lime Margarita to the rescue.

I'm definitely more fond of this beverage than the recently-reviewed Vodka Mule. On paper, I like vodka about as much as tequila, and both beverages have lime, so those factors should cancel out. I'm a fan of ginger-flavored beverages, too, so my money would have been on the mule to be the big winner.

I'm not sure what it is. I think the lime flavor comes through more in this margarita, and I'd say it's a tad sweeter, too. The fizz levels are comparable, of course, and the packaging is nearly identical—we've got yellow and green here instead of two shades of blue.

I couldn't tell you if there's triple sec and simple syrup in there because, again, there are no ingredients or nutrition info listed on alcoholic drinks. I mean, they tell you it's 10% ABV or 20 proof, but that's not really "nutrition" per se, is it? Sounds like it's about half of my recommended daily allowance of Vitamin Booze.

There's definitely a touch of mellow tequila flavor, and then a good bit of sweet and a good bit of lime. The colder it is, the better it tastes. Quite refreshing.

$10.99 for four cans at our Joe's. Looks like these are done for the season. I'd look for them again late spring or early summer 2024. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Trader Joe's Organic Sparkling Elderberry + Pomegranate Apple Cider Vinegar Beverage


A few thoughts about my expectations in regards to Trader Joe's Elderberry + Pomegranate Sparkling Apple Cider Vinegar Beverage: We've seen surprisingly tolerable apple cider vinegar beverages on this blog in the past, and we've seen plenty of pomegranate stuff we liked from Trader Joe's. So this beverage just has to be kinda decent, right?

Enter: the elderberry. I've never had an elderberry to the best of my knowledge. I really don't even know anything about elderberries, other than that line from Monty Python: "Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!"

That's not very promising if simply smelling of elderberries is a French insult. If they smell that bad, they can't taste very good. I mean, I wouldn't want to smell of elderberries...so maybe I should avoid this beverage altogether, no?

Shoot, I'll be brave. I'll just wait for a day when I'm not going into public—which, to be honest, is most days for me—and I'll bite the bullet and smell of elderberries if I must. I'll share with Sonia and we can smell of elderberries together.

First impressions? Wow, I was expecting it to pour a mostly-clear, slightly lavender type color, but it pours dark purple—almost like a shade you'd associate with blackberry or raspberry juice.

It doesn't mask the intense sourness of the ACV quite as well as lemon and ginger did. There's something decidedly berry-esque and also something vaguely pomegranate-y. It wants to be sweet, but the berry flavor can't overpower that mouth-puckering vinegar taste.

ACV still has a lot of health benefits, so I can't completely snub this product even though I think it tastes a little weird. It's still way more palatable than straight Bragg's or whatever.

I'm actually shocked at how much Sonia likes this product. She says it's her favorite ACV drink from Trader Joe's or anywhere else. I expected her to like it more than I did, but I wasn't expecting her to love it as much as she does.

$1.99 for the can. I'll stick to ginger lemon if I have to have ACV. Might try strawberry next. Three out of five stars from me. The beautiful wifey gives Trader Joe's Elderberry + Pomegranate Sparkling Apple Cider Vinegar Beverage four and a half stars out of five.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, August 4, 2023

Trader Joe's Vodka Mule


It occurred to me that in addition to some political motives, there may be some copyright issues with using the term "Moscow Mule" on the packaging of this vodka, lime, and ginger-based mixed drink. A quick search on the interzones will reveal that at least at one point, the term was indeed a trademark of some entity called "Perfect Beverage."

Although, now it would seem numerous other beverage companies do, in fact, use the term "Moscow Mule" on their pre-mixed, often canned, vodka-ginger-lime offerings, while others go the safer route, using the term "Vodka Mule." Whatever their motives were in regards to the name, Trader Joe's has opted for fun flamingo pool floaty graphics while avoiding mules, Russians, and copper mug imagery altogether. Such a lighthearted theme—worlds apart from the WW3 nuclear destruction cover art I'd have suggested were I the packaging designer.

That's probably why I'm not a packaging designer.

Sonia and I have made a couple of our own Moscow Mules over the years, usually employing the gingerrific zip of Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Brew along with vodka and fresh-squeezed limes. We liked them enough that we even bought a couple of copper mugs. I still don't get why you have to have a copper mug to drink one of these. Some say it's about temperature, others say the metal oxidizes and releases pleasant fragrances, yet still more say it's simply about presentation.


Well, friends, copper mug or not, Trader Joe's Vodka Mules are definitely not the best Moscow Mules I've ever had. They are 10% alcohol by volume, and they're only mildly sweet and limey. There's really not even enough ginger flavor, although Sonia disagrees. There's such relatively little taste, you'd think: well all the rest must be vodka...but vodka's generally in the ballpark of 40% ABV. So at most maybe a quarter of the beverage is vodka, right?

The beverage pours perfectly clear and fizzy like your typical lemon-lime soda or what have you. At least they got the carbonation level right. No complaints there.

Plus it's convenient to have them all mixed beforehand and simply pop the top and drink. But I've definitely made much better mules myself, and I'm far from a pro mixologist. Meh. We can always doctor them up ourselves: add more lime, more ginger, more sweetness.

About $11 for four 12 oz cans. I wouldn't buy again. Two out of five stars from me. Three and a half out of five stars from the beautiful wifey for Trader Joe's Vodka Mule.



Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Trader Joe's Organic Sencha Tea


So I shall start off this post by mentioning that the mug featured in this review was once owned by English model Dolly Martin, wife of Dick Martin, of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. No lie. My mother-in-law was a long time housekeeper for Dick and Dolly, and Sonia grew up spending many hours in their house. During a move, Dolly asked my MIL if she wanted some random coffee mugs, and among them was this "Be British" mug that Sonia eventually wound up with.

Fun fact: I once attended an Arcade Fire concert wearing a casual suit jacket previously owned by my father-in-law which was also previously owned by Dick Martin.


Also, I neglected to mention Sonia's thoughts on the sencha tea in the video companion to this written review, so I'll elaborate upon the beautiful wifey's sentiments here. She loves pretty much any green tea, and she likes this one because "it's very earthy but not bitter." She often drinks it plain with no sweeteners. Four stars from her.

I guess many versions of sencha are loose leaf and come in a large bag, but Trader Joe's Organic Sencha Tea comes in the form of individually-wrapped tea bags, as do most of Trader Joe's teas, which helps keep each serving fresh and moisture-free.


$2.99 for 20 tea bags. Organic. Kosher. I'm not sure if it's a product of Japan, but there's a picture of Japan on the back of the box. Three stars from me for Trader Joe's Organic Sencha Tea. Is this stuff still available? I couldn't tell you. Sonia hopes so.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.


Friday, June 23, 2023

Trader Joe's Tequila Blanco

I generally prefer tequila reposado or "gold" to the blanco or "silver" version. I guess the main difference is reposado is aged in a barrel and blanco is not, so reposado tends to be a little smoother and blanco just a little more agave-forward.

Not sure why I grabbed Trader Joe's Tequila Blanco on our last TJ's haul. I guess I'd remembered that we reviewed one type of Trader Joe's Tequila Reposado a long time ago on this blog. I couldn't tell you if that one's still available or discontinued, or even if TJ's offers any other types of tequila currently, but I figured why not add a blanco to our long list of product reviews?

Well...I can think of one reason: it's not that good. I mean, I've had other tequila blancos and this one is the harshest one I can recall. It's probably one of the worst tequilas I've ever had. It's like a vague planty notion swimming in a sea of rubbing alcohol. There was also an unpleasant aftertaste both Sonia and I noted that's hard to describe.

It's passable if you dilute it with mixers, juices, and ice, but neither of us would purchase this version again. It's nothing like that Distinqt tequila or the more recently reviewed Espada Pequeña Mezcal. $19.99 for 750 mL. 40% ABV. Product of Jalisco, Mexico. Two and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Tequila Blanco.

Bottom line: 5 out of 10.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Trader Joe's Ginger Lemon Probiotic Sparkling Beverage


Not all that long ago, we looked at Trader Joe's Tangerine Probiotic Sparkling Beverage. This here's its counterpart, with ginger and lemon flavor. In that last review, I likened the probiotics within the beverage to microscopic Sea-Monkeys that colonize your intestines, so I'll spare you from an absurd intro to the beverage review this time. We've got that same probiotic action here, same carbonation level, similar attractive packaging, but a different flavor combo. Let's see if this one's as good as the last...

Provided you like ginger and lemon, yes, I think you'll like Trader Joe's Ginger Lemon Probiotic Sparkling Beverage. It's crisp and refreshing. There's a nice balance of pungent ginger and tart lemon. It's not too spicy, not too sour, and just moderately sweet. I have no problem downing a whole can in a single sitting.

I'm just slightly more fond of the tangerine flavor than this one, but I'd happily drink either one on a hot summer day. Sonia likes both flavors as well, but also favors the tangerine version. Once again, we're looking at $1.99 for a 12 ounce can. Not a bad alternative to soda.

Are these discontinued already? Seasonal?

Four stars from me on Trader Joe's Ginger Lemon Probiotic Sparkling Beverage. Three and a half from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Simpler Wines Mango


Fruity wine coolers have always struck me as an unsophisticated alternative to craft beer or actual wine. I in no way advocate underage drinking or taking advantage of inebriated young ladies, but wine coolers just kinda seemed like a cheap way for a guy to get his high school girlfriend drunk enough to get to second or third base after the homecoming dance, and very little more than that. Know what I mean?

So I grabbed this product thinking something along the lines of "This stuff must be awful. Might make an entertaining review making fun of it."

But even just reading the spiel about it on traderjoes.com and refamiliarizing myself with this very blog's review of Simpler Wines Rosé makes me think my initial assumptions were pretty far off base. It's not a low-brow wine cooler. It's "mango-infused Italian vino frizzante." Shoot. Sounds downright fancy when you put it like that.

I mean, mango wine seems like a bit of a gamble in any context, but if anybody can pull it off it's Trader Joe's and whatever Italian wine exporters they're working with. That's right. This wine is actually from Italy.


I poured my Mango Simpler Wine into a stemless white wine glass—obviously an unnecessary step, since these beverages are optimized for drinking straight out of the can. But I thought it would be nice for folks to see the color and maybe even some bubbles just for reference.

So...it's fizzy. In general, I love carbonated beverages. From water to wine, sodas and soft drinks, I'm just a bubbly kinda guy. Great effervescence level here.

Flavor-wise, it's fruity and lightly syrupy. Definitely sweet enough to be a dessert wine in my book. Tastes like mango enough. There's a bit of a harsh alcohol taste at the finish that's a little odd, and there's a whisper of an aftertaste that I'm not a huge fan of...but all in all, it's not bad. Sonia likes it more than I do. She's a girl. This drink is a bit girly. No judgement if you're a dude that likes it...or a chick that doesn't like it. Just sayin'.

$4.99 for the four pack, though I understand that varies from state to state. 8% ABV. Three stars from me for Simpler Wines Mango. Sonia will go with four and a half.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Trader Joe's Tangerine Probiotic Sparkling Beverage

A long time ago, I had a colony of Sea-Monkeys that lived for at least 5 years, spanning from my tweens until well into my high school years. It got to the point where they could survive on the algae naturally growing in their little aquarium. Generation after generation spawned and lived out their uneventful lives right there on our kitchen counter. Once a month or so, my dad or I would check on them. "Yep, they're still alive," we'd announce, despite their water getting murkier and murkier with each passing season.

Sonia was recently lamenting the fact that she had been deprived of Sea-Monkeys as a child, so we got some of the novelty pets off Amazon and hatched them about a month ago. We had to laugh at the ridiculous art work on the packaging that anthropomorphizes the brine shrimp and depicts them as a typical human family but with tails and weird spikes on their heads.

In a similar fashion, my overactive imagination can't help but picture probiotics as little people-like creatures swimming around in my guts every time I partake of yogurts, dietary supplements, or in this case, a beverage with "live cultures" or "probiotic" microorganisms.


I figure they have parties and play games with each other down in my belly. It's a bit disturbing when I think about it too much, but everything I've read insists that they're good for me. So...bottoms up!

Trader Joe's Tangerine Probiotic Sparkling Beverage not only provides a hundred billion little Sea-Monkey-esque people to swim around inside your tummy and promote gut health, but it doesn't taste half bad, either. It's a very refreshing, light, fruity flavor. It's sweet, but not too sweet; tart, but not too tart.

The carbonation level is perfect. It's actually surprisingly bubbly. I feel like it's a tad more fizzy than most of Trader Joe's sparkling juice beverages. Maybe it's just the probiotic critters splashing around having a good time. I dunno.

$1.99 for the 12 oz can. I would absolutely buy this again for the refreshing taste and carbonation alone, and any health benefits that might come with it are just a bonus in my book. There's a ginger version, too. I'm going to have to try it now. Four stars from Sonia. Four and a half stars from me on Trader Joe's Tangerine Probiotic Sparkling Beverage.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, April 28, 2023

House of Suntory Roku Gin


Like many fine foods and beverages, gin is an acquired taste. The first time I tried it, I winced and said, "It tastes like drinking a forest." Then eventually I tried Tanqueray with tonic water and decided it wasn't that bad. Now I'm at a point where I can very much appreciate good gin and would generally choose it over whisky, vodka, or tequila hands down.

Sonia's more of a bourbon girl. She hasn't cultivated any love for gin as of the time of this writing, so I'll be scoring this one solo. In short, this Japanese gin is probably the best I've ever tried. It tastes the way I wanted Hendrick's to taste: exotic. It's complex and floral, peppery and smooth at the same time.


There are six botanical ingredients unique to Japan used in the crafting of House of Suntory Roku Gin: sakura flower, sansho pepper, yuzu peel, sakura leaf, sencha tea, and gyokuro tea. I'm only vaguely familiar with two of those ingredients: I've tried Japanese candy featuring the citrus fruit yuzu and its peel before. And I've tried sencha tea, a type of loose leaf green tea similar to matcha. When all six ingredients combine, they yield the most unique flavor of gin I've ever had the pleasure of sampling.

The bottle was $24.99 at Trader Joe's, but you'll find this gin at other mainstream grocery stores like Hy-Vee, as well. It's not Trader Joe's brand, but I think House of Suntory Roku Gin belongs in this blog's Pantheon.

Bottom line: 9.5 out of 10.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Trader Joe's Hot Cocoa Heart Melts


I won't rant about how I feel about heart-shaped food items in this post. I did that once on this blog and I'm kinda over it now. We press the little heart button on Instagram and sometimes Farcebook. We listen to iHeart Radio. We play the game of Hearts with playing cards. We make hearts with our hands like Damar Hamlin. Seems like everybody has a cardiologist these days. One of my favorite song lyrics goes, "Destroy the mind, destroy the body, but you cannot destroy the heart." As a green comet passes close to our planet this week, we are reminded that the heart chakra is green.

But Valentine's hearts are always packaged in red and pink. For tradition's sake, that's just fine with me. Even if the product itself is brown and white, a red and pink bag is appropriate for this time of year. It's a resealable bag—or at least, it was supposed to be. The ziplock strip on ours only went across three quarters of the mouth of the bag. Fortunately, we have chip clips to keep it closed.


The most uncommon quality of Trader Joe's Hot Cocoa Heart Melts is their ability to serve as hot cocoa bombs when dropped into a mug of steamy milk or to simply serve as stand-alone chocolate candies. In the latter case, they taste like sweet milk chocolate, super salty caramel, and soft mini marshmallows. I guess they kind of taste like that in the former case, too, but combined with hot milk, the flavors seem balanced a little more and the extra-salty caramel tastes less like a mistake and more like a gourmet twist on everyday hot chocolate.

I like 'em okay. Sonia does, too. For us, these fall just below the Peppermint Hot Chocolate and Trader Joe's Abuelita—but they're head and shoulders above the Hot Cocoa Ornaments or the Double Chocolate Stirring Spoon. The fact that they're also decent as a regular chocolate caramel candy is a plus.


$3.99 for about 15 hearts. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Hot Cocoa Heart Melts.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Trader Joe's Small Batch Vodka

Just a quickie for today: Small Batch Vodka. Made with corn from the heart of Wisconsin and limestone-filtered water, this vodka is distilled ten times. Says so right on the bottle.

I remember hearing what might be an urban legend: if you take cheap vodka and run it through a Brita or Pūr type water filter—one that uses carbon or charcoal to cleanse water—you can make more expensive-tasting vodka.

Of course, you ruin your water filters. And they're not cheap. So the money you save by buying cheap vodka is moot point if you're going through expensive Brita filters left and right. I digress.

The point is that Trader Joe's, or rather their buddies at Monroe Brewing Company, have gone ahead and saved you the time and money of purifying your cheap vodka 10 times because they did it themselves.

I've had a few shots of really cheap vodka in my day, and I gotta say, this liquor is much better than the bottom of the barrel stuff. It certainly does have a "clean" taste to it. You'd hope so since it's been distilled 10 times.

The price? A buck for each round of distillation. $9.99 for a fifth. 44% ABV. Pretty darn good vodka for the price if you ask this guy. Sonia agrees, though she's not into vodka as much. Four stars a piece on Trader Joe's Small Batch Vodka.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Trader Joe's Sparkling Apple Cider

I've always been a fan of Martinelli's sparkling cider. That stuff just feels like a special occasion. Everything from the elegant bottle and packaging to the carbonation to the taste of the apple cider is absolutely top-notch. Plus, it's not a lot of money. I think I paid in the ballpark of three or four bucks for the last bottle I purchased. Before age 21 and when celebrating with my non-alcoholic friends, Martinelli's was always the gold standard and my personal go-to for dry New Year's type events.

So how does Trader Joe's Sparkling Apple Cider compare? Well, the price is right at $2.99. The presentation isn't quite as opulent as its name brand counterpart, but it's not an unattractive bottle, either.

Martinelli's certifies that all its cider is made from 100% USA-grown apples while Trader Joe's does not make such a claim. It's surprising how many of TJ's products are sourced abroad, but I guess that's just part of Mr. Joe's international mystique and allure. In both cases, the product is 100% juice with nothing added except vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and carbonation.

The taste? It's appley sweet with just a whisper of sour. The carbonation level is comparable to Martinelli's and other sparkling juices and ciders we've seen from Trader Joe's. It's an excellent replacement for champagne for the big ball drop or to pair alongside salty and savory appetizers.

If Martinelli's received a perfect score from Sonia and me, this Trader Joe's Sparkling Apple Cider would get just a shade less than that. I can't quite put my finger on why I like Martinelli's a bit more. We'll go with four stars from the beautiful wifey and three and a half from me. There's nothing wrong with this beverage, but in the end, I'd prefer a sparkling white grape juice from Trader Joe's instead.

This will probably be our last post for 2022, so happy New Year, friends! Buckle up for 2023. It's gonna be a wild ride.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Ratified & Repealed California Red Wine

There was a big handmade sign reading "Trader Joe's Exclusive!" right next to this Ratified & Repealed wine. Why they can't just slap that TJ's brand logo on the label and make it their own officially, I don't have the foggiest clue. I'm sure there's legal and logistical stuff I don't understand. I think we've averaged one non-Trader Joe's brand product review per year or so anyway. And since this is definitely a Trader Joe's exclusive, it's fair game.

At this point, I think I can safely declare cabernet sauvignon my favorite type of red wine. After cab, I generally gravitate toward "red blends." I mean, as far as I know, red blends are just random types of red grapes all thrown together, so it could be 80% cab in there, or it could be 0% cab. 

Apparently, cabernet and red blends are the two best-selling types of red wines on the market today, so my tastes are somewhat in line with the average American consumer, for whatever that's worth.
This Ratified & Repealed California Red Wine? There might be some cabernet sauvignon in there, but it's oh so much better than your average cab. It's moderately fruity and sweet, lightly acidic, and very smooth. There are subtle hints of earthiness and a nice clean finish with little to no aftertaste.

I'm not even a steak guy, but there's something about this stuff that makes me want to have it with a well-done slab of steak and maybe some roasted veggies on the side. It's such a flavorful wine it needs to be paired with something bold.

Sonia was at least as big a fan as I was, and she's usually a white wine type of gal. $9.99 for the bottle. Would definitely buy again. Four and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. Four stars from me for Ratified & Repealed California Red Wine.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.


Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Trader Joe's Sparkling Cranberry Flavored Juice Blend

I think Trader Joe's rolls out this beverage around Thanksgiving time each year, but it feels Christmassy enough to me. I mean, there are snowflakes on the label for goodness' sake. Even if you missed your chance to pick up a bottle this season, Trader Joe's Sparkling Cranberry Juice Blend is one of those products that's been around year after year for quite a while.

At this point, I want to start linking to all the other cranberry flavored beverages we've reviewed on this blog. Why? I don't even know. It's at least partly because I don't have a lot to say about this particular drink. And it might be partly to show off just how thoroughly we have combed through Trader Joe's line of (mostly) delicious fruit-flavored beverages.

But I'll let you use the "Search This Blog" feature if you're feeling like surfing the wave of crantastic holiday bevvies into the new year, and I'll cut to the chase and give you our thoughts.

Sonia thought that, if anything, the drink was too sweet. I was thinking I wouldn't have minded it a little sweeter. There's a strong tartness that doesn't exactly represent the flavor of cranberry here. No wonder. There's lemon juice in the mix. 

The sweetness Sonia detected was undoubtedly due to the white grape juice; the number one ingredient. Actual cranberry juice falls in between grape and lemon on the list.

I can't imagine why they wouldn't use cranberry as the number one juice in the mix and then add in bits of white grape as needed for sweetness. That said, it's still vaguely cranberry-esque, refreshing, and perfectly carbonated. It is tart, tangy, and sweet—just how sweet apparently depends on who you ask. It feels "special" and festive enough, if only because we don't buy this type of drink on the regular.

I'd have it with our Christmas Day feast and be happy enough. Would I buy it again? Maybe. $2.49 for the 750 mL bottle. Double three and a half star scores here for Trader Joe's Sparkling Cranberry Flavored Juice Blend.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Trader Joe's Peppermint Hot Chocolate


This was an enthusiastic recommendation from the Trader Joe's clerk. After seeing my bottle of peppermint liqueur, he asked, "Have you tried the peppermint hot chocolate!? It's my favorite this time of year!" Before I could answer, he jumped away from the register and started walking towards the tea and coffee aisle and bid me follow. So I did.

He inserted himself in between the product shelves and some older ladies who looked at him rather indignantly for interrupting their beverage hunt. Having obtained a tin of this peppermint hot chocolate mix, he held it aloft and shouted, "This! Right here! You have to try it!"

Neither Sonia nor I are "must have everything peppermint" people, but I felt like this guy might burst into tears if I said I wasn't interested, and well, you know, trying new-to-us Trader Joe's stuff is kind of a thing we do, so I told him to throw it in with my groceries.


I know this product has been around for years, and you know what? It's pretty darn good. I don't know if I can muster quite the level of enthusiasm that TJ's clerk did, but I definitely see where he's coming from, especially if you're a big fan of peppermint.

The dominant flavor here is peppermint, even more than chocolate I'd say, but somehow it's balanced and tempered. There's no peppermint overload, despite it being peppermint-forward. The chocolate aspects are basically what you'd expect. It's a "bittersweet chocolate" they used. It's a tad richer than your basic sweet milk chocolate and it helps keep the mintiness in check.

We made ours with cow's milk and added whipped cream, so it was nice and creamy and dessert-like. I really can't get into hot chocolate made with water. I suppose if you're in it for the peppermint rather than the chocolate, hot water would do in a pinch.

$4.99 for eight servings, according to the info on the package. I would have guessed closer to 12 servings, but I suppose that depends on how much powder you use and the size of your mug, etc, etc. Four and a half times two from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Peppermint Hot Chocolate.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Trader Joe's Cocoa Cream Liqueur


I suppose if you added vodka to a glass of chocolate milk until you had something with roughly 15% alcohol content, it wouldn't be a far cry from what we have here. This beverage is much smoother than that might sound, however, and possibly even a bit more tasty.

Trader Joe's Cocoa Cream Liqueur isn't quite as chocolatey as I might have guessed. But that's okay by me, because it's significantly more creamy than I might have guessed, too. There's a nice balance of flavors. It's not cloyingly sweet like candy, nor is it harsh or astringent in any way.

It even feels like chocolate milk as it slides easily down your throat. It's medium-thick, with about as much body as other products in Trader Joe's holiday cream liqueur line. It's got a very similar texture to the drink we looked at last week: Trader Joe's Peppermint Joe-Joe's Cream Liqueur.


It'd be great with java as a sort of mocha Irish coffee drink. Or you could mix it with hot chocolate, chocolate milk, eggnog, or even another cream liqueur. I'd whip up some chocolate peppermint cocktails if we still had any of the peppermint liqueur on hand.

It was $7.99 just a year or two ago, but it went up to $8.99 in 2022. Even Trader Joe's is susceptible to inflation. All in all, it's another big thumbs up from Sonia and me. Four stars from Sonia. Four and a half from me for Trader Joe's Cocoa Cream Liqueur.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Trader Joe's Peppermint Joe-Joe's Cream Liqueur

The way the title of this product is written on the label, you might think it should be called Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's Pepper Mint Cream Liqueur. First off, we all know "peppermint" is one word. Furthermore, there's no such thing as a Joe-Joe's Pepper Mint. There are, however, Trader Joe's Peppermint Joe-Joe's, and several spinoff varieties thereof. Also, I don't like saying the name "Joe" three times in such succinct succession.

It is therefore more appropriate to call this beverage Trader Joe's Peppermint Joe-Joe's Cream Liqueur. No nutrition information is given anywhere on the bottle because nobody would ever be curious about the ingredients of an alcoholic beverage—never in a million years. High fructose corn syrup? Arsenic? Rat poison? Meh. It's all good. I trust that Trader Joe's and their mysterious third party suppliers have my best interest at heart...

But all sarcasm aside, this is a tasty beverage. There's very little harsh vodka flavor despite the only hint about the libation's composition being a note reading "made with vodka" on the festive, tastefully-designed packaging.

This product sat for a few days before we consumed it. There were a few whispers of sediment at the bottom of the bottle. To my surprise, the sediment wasn't white or pink, but a dark chocolate brown. I think that's the "Joe-Joe's" part of the equation. Like, they put in something chocolatey to approximate the cookie part of the above-mentioned Peppermint Joe-Joe's.


It's mostly a sweet vanilla and peppermint flavor, but there's also something faintly chocolatey. It's quite delicious and surprisingly smooth and velvety. I've heard rumors on the interzones that people make Peppermint White Russians with this stuff. Yikes. That sounds dangerously delicious. Don't let Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski know about that recipe.

If we had Kahlua on hand, I'd give you the lowdown. So far, I've just had this stuff on the rocks, and IT. IS. YUMMY. You could easily add more cream if it's too much alcohol for you.

Conversely, you could add more vodka if it's not stiff enough for you. Not that I recommend that. Just sayin'.

We've had pretty good luck with these holiday liqueurs throughout the years. See Trader Joe's Egg Nog and Ginger Bread varieties. Eggnog? Gingerbread? Maybe it is "Pepper Mint" after all.

I digress. $8.99 for the 750 ml bottle. 14.75% ABV. A mere three and a half stars from Sonia, who wants there to be a little more of that chocolatey flavor. Perfect five from me for Trader Joe's Peppermint Joe-Joe's Cream Liqueur.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

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