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

Friday, November 24, 2023

Howling Gourds Pumpkin Ale


Are pumpkin products still legit after Thanksgiving? I mean, pumpkin pie sure is, at least until Christmas, right? So pumpkin season rolls on in my humble opinion. Mid-September through Christmas seems appropriate.

On one hand we have hoppy IPA beer and on the other hand we have sweeter stuff like pumpkin cider. I'll do either/or depending on my mood, but something like pumpkin ale often falls between the cracks and fails to meet the needs of either my arrogant hipster wannabe persona or that of my inner giggly college girl. I mean, who actually craves a pumpkin ale?

I just grabbed one off the mix-a-six shelf at Trader Joe's some weeks ago and haven't had the opportunity or desire to drink it yet, so what better time than now while I'm stuffed to the gills with heavy Thanksgiving fare and the first of the Christmas season's fattening goodies? Here are my thoughts...

It pours an amber-ish color with an off-white head. It's sweeter than I thought it would be. Pumpkin spices are evident, though not overwhelming. It's almost more of a cider than an ale, but it's not as appley as drinks like The Gourd Tree Pumpkin Cider.

Despite the sweetness and pumpkin spice aura, the beer finishes surprisingly clean. Alcohol-wise, it doesn't taste as strong as most 7% ABV beers, but it'd be a rare occasion I'd go out of my way to find and procure an ale this "girly."

The price is nice at $1.34 for the individual can. Brewed by Josephsbrau. I guess I might throw another one in my mix-a-six next year if it's around again. Sonia sat this one out. I'm torn between 3 and 3.5 stars, so I'll do one of each.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Trader Joe's Spiced Cider


It's very rare I'm in the mood for a hot beverage. Even in the midst of a frigid midwestern winter, I'll generally reach for an ice cold energy drink over traditional coffee and I'll do refrigerated cider over the heated kind. I might have a mug of hot chocolate after shoveling snow or a walk in sub-freezing temperatures, but that's unusual for me.
 
At the same time, I think I'd be remiss in my duties as an unofficial Trader Joe's brand product blogger if I didn't at least try this beverage both hot and cold. We'll get to the results in a minute...

For review, TJ's once produced what was maybe my favorite cider drink of all time, now long since forgotten and discontinued. Why do you hate me, Trader Joe? And they offered what I consider one of the worst cider products of all time, too. Also discontinued. Hey, at least they're consistent. This particular iteration of cider has been around for at least the past few years, somehow eluding a post on this blog up until now.


So where does it land on the spectrum of fine festive fall beverages? For me personally, it's somewhere in the middle, probably closer to the top than to the bottom. It's aromatic from the moment you twist off the cap. There's a good bit of sediment in the depths of the bottle, so a fair amount of agitation is required before pouring.

Served cold, it's light and sweet enough to be refreshing, and the spices are quite noticeable but not overpowering. It's a bit tart, maybe even more than I was expecting. It's chuggable and/or sippable, and there's not too much aftertaste like some ciders we've seen in the past.


When heated, the spicy aromas only increase. The lemon juice seems to wake up, too, and add a bit more tang. There's an almost caramel-esque quality to the smell. It's fine by itself, but it begs for a dusting of cinnamon, cloves, and/or nutmeg to further enhance the experience. Even as a lover of cold drinks, I think this particular cider might shine a bit more brightly when served piping hot, with each flavor opening up just a tad more than in the iced version. Oddly, Sonia thinks the opposite, and she's way more into warm drinks than I am.

Sonia loves it. Four and a half stars from her. $3.99 for the bottle, found with the unrefrigerated juices. Three and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Spiced Cider.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, November 3, 2023

Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Pumpkin Oat Beverage


You all know me. I'm a trooper. I'll try just about anything once. There are pumpkin products I love and pumpkin products I dislike, and everything in between. But this right here is pretty gross. I imagine it's about as close as I'll ever get to drinking a pumpkin spice candle.

I mean, we don't even have pumpkin spice cow's milk. Sure, I've had some killer pumpkin pie milkshakes in my day. And there are pumpkin coffee beverages galore, some of which are okay and some of which are not. But there's not really just plain pumpkin milk. So...just maybe the world doesn't need a dairy-free version of pumpkin milk..?


We tried the pumpkin almond beverage a few years back, and it wasn't good. It might have passed as a coffee creamer, but even that was pushing it. This stuff is an even paler shade of unnatural orange—not unlike orange cream milk or an orange creamsicle milkshake. Oh how I wish to God it tasted like an orange creamsicle.

It tastes like the dirty dishwater used to clean out several bowls of plain oatmeal...mixed with potpourri and a dash of pureed squash. The aftertaste is appalling. I just barely managed to down a couple swigs of it for this review. Never again.

Sonia, predictably, isn't nearly as disgusted as I am, although even she says she can't really taste pumpkin spices exactly. She thinks it needs more cinnamon. Yes. Okay. I'll agree with that. It definitely doesn't taste like cinnamon, and the taste of cinnamon is much less vile than the taste of this beverage, ergo, it could use some cinnamon I guess.

Sonia will finish the carton using it as a coffee creamer or to make her own potpourri lattes. $2.99 for the candle. Three out of five stars from the beautiful wifey. One star from me for Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Pumpkin Oat Beverage.



Bottom line: 4 out of 10.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Josephsbrau Oktoberfest


I guess technically Oktoberfest season is over already, but since it's still the month of October, I'll squeeze this brief beverage review in here for the benefit of next year's readers at least. I'm no expert when it comes to Oktoberfest beers, so I'll just make this a quickie today. We've looked at numerous other Josephsbrau products on this blog, but I think this is the first one we've seen in a can.

This beer strikes me as being similar to other Oktoberfest selections I've tried, but perhaps thinner, lighter, and not quite as bold. The flavor is faintly leafy, nutty, and malty. I just drank it straight from the can, so I didn't really analyze the color, head, and clarity or anything like that.


I wouldn't have minded a tad more carbonation. It was a little fizzy but maybe not quite enough. By the end of the can it was noticeably more flat than it had been just a couple minutes prior.

At $1.34 for the can, the price is right and it's worth a purchase or two just to see if you'll like it or not. 
5.3% ABV. Sonia and I will throw out three and a half stars a piece for Josephsbrau Oktoberfest.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

The Gourd Tree Pumpkin Cider


Back around the time I was turning 21, I really didn't enjoy alcoholic beverages at all. I had tried sips of beer and wine here and there, mostly under the supervision of my parents because they knew I wouldn't really like them. So on the rare occasion I'd go to a bar with friends, I'd usually just get appetizers and a soda. That is, until a friend introduced me to hard cider.

Back in Pennsylvania, Vermont-based Woodchuck Cider was commonly available in bottles or on tap. It might be considered a little "girly," I know, but their amber cider was my gateway drug into the world of fine brewed beverages. Cider isn't really my go-to drink nowadays, since it's generally too sweet and contains too much sugar, but every once in a while, I'll see what's out there if I encounter a new brand or interesting flavor combo.

I'm not sure if this Gourd Tree brand cider is a Trader Joe's exclusive or not. I don't think I've ever seen it anywhere other than TJ's, but that isn't necessarily proof that it's a brand owned by Trader Joe's.

Anyway, there are only three ingredients in the can: fermented apple juice, pumpkin puree, and spices. It's great that they publish their ingredients, since most alcoholic beverages do not, as it is not required by law for some suspicious reason. And it's even greater that the list is so short and simple.

Taste-wise, it's very sweet. Definitely don't reach for this beverage unless you're craving something sugary. The good news is it's natural sugar. That said, the sweetness isn't overly syrupy or thick. It has a crisp, refreshing flavor that's bubbly, clean, and fun.

That "pumpkin puree" had me a little worried, but there's not much in the way of detectable squash matter in the drink. It's thin and smooth. The pumpkin spice blend plays second fiddle to the sweet, fermented apple flavor, but it's definitely there.

It's available in a six pack for $9.99 or you can buy individual cans for $1.67 each. Even if it is bordering on "too sweet," this product isn't overly processed or fake at all, and it tastes that way. We would buy again. Double fours on The Gourd Tree Pumpkin Cider from Sonia and me.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

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.

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