Review: Jon Taffer’s New Line of Drinks Makes for a Healthy Surprise
We test out low-cal drink mixers and canned cocktails from the “Bar Rescue” host
“You can drink these with peace of mind.”
That’s an oddly sanguine admission from Jon Taffer, the longtime hospitality veteran and creator/host of the Paramount Network’s hit series Bar Rescue. Often billed as the “Gordon Ramsay of the bar and nightclub business,” Taffer seems pretty relaxed — he didn’t yell at us, as more than one person asked — when we sat down with him in New York a few weeks back to discuss his new line of drink mixers and sparkling cocktails, all dubbed Taffer’s Mixologist.
Created in collaboration with Brian Van Flandern (a spirits pro who’s designed cocktail programs for Thomas Keller and Geoffrey Zakarian) and the healthy lifestyle brand Launched.LA, Taffer’s is pretty close to being a healthy booze option without treading into the low/no-ABV territory. The calorie count on both the new products is minimal (100 calories for the canned cocktails and far less for the mixes), there’s no added sugar and no preservatives.
While the mixers are pretty straight-forward (margarita, mojito, pina colada, etc.), the seltzers play around with flavors you wouldn’t find in, say, White Claw: Cucumber-jalapeno is a standout, and both pineapple-coconut and strawberry-basil are soft and nuanced.
“I’ve done 180 episodes of Bar Rescue and I have to come up with new recipes every week,” Taffer explains. “I came up with a few that were killer, and I wanted to take ‘em the marketplace.”
Don’t read too much into the “mixologist” part of the brand name, however. “I’m not a big mixologist kind of guy,” Taffer says. “I find [the label] kind of snooty. I always think if you need to take four times as long to make a drink, I have to charge four times the price. Obviously, I can’t do that.”
So everything here is about health, taste and convenience, with the mixers having a particularly nice price point of $6 — particularly low, considering the 32 oz bottles arrive in glass.
What we liked:
- Ease of use. Every mixer has the same 2.5 oz of Taffer’s to 1.5 oz of liquor ratio. Everything is shaken with ice and strained. That’s it.
- Everything’s 100 calories or under, if you add a proportionate amount of booze to the mixers. Credit the use of natural sweeteners like monk fruit and stevia leaf extract.
- The margarita (mix) and cucumber-jalapeno (ready-to-drink) were standout flavors, but none of the multiple drinks we tried tasted artificial or syrupy.
What we didn’t:
- If you’re a brown spirits kind of guy or like mixers based around, say, something ginger-based, you’re out of luck. “I’m a sweet drink kind of guy,” Taffer admits, but does add that he’s releasing his own four-grain bourbon (not under the Taffer’s Mixologist brand) next spring.
- We’d still recommend making most of these cocktails the old-fashioned way with a bit of elbow grease, a good drinks recipe, fresh ingredients and a smart spirits selection. For parties, however, these mixers are extremely convenient.
So, what do the troubled bars he eviscerates in Bar Rescue think of this? “I don’t recommend they use pre-mixers at their places … but some of them are, and the feedback’s been great,” says Taffer (who also shared a few stories about the worst bars he’s visited, some involving rats, dead raccoons in the appliances and wall fungus “the size of your frickin’ head”). “Everyone’s been very supportive. And I’m actually close with most of them. The show’s intense, but when it ends, that hug is real.”