The handwritten sign at the bodega beckons with the subtlety of a cougar at a frat party.
$8 CHAMPAGNE, PERFECT FOR THE HOLIDAYS.
Indeed, Verdi’s Sparkletinis (marketed as Italian spumante, labeled as a malt beverage “with natural flavors”) taste like a lot of things — none of them particularly nuanced.
Now, you might be saying to yourself: “No shit — it’s a cheap bottle of sparkling alcohol that won’t even commit to calling itself ‘wine.’ What’s next, bitching that Kentucky Gentleman lacks terroir?”
Know, though, that Fork in the Road’s recent taste test of several Sparkletinis (green apple and raspberry) doesn’t come from pretension and bad foodie habits. We’re not going to set up a spumante straw man and write lazy criticism — that’d be too easy. Besides, we’re masochistic enough to want to try this stuff ourselves.
So how does this bubbly bode?
Well … this question can probably best be answered by telling a little story.
Once upon a time, there existed a magical beverage called Four Loko. This drink, endearingly referred to as a “hate crime in a can,” could be bought all across the land, at bodegas near and far.
One day, some mean men in a tower (or maybe a state capitol somewhere) decided that the marvelous elixir — caffeinated, fruity malt liquor with lots and lots of high-fructose corn syrup — might be dangerous. Anyway, Four Loko’s wallop got weakened by legislative pressures, and has since been un-caffeinated and labeled to reflect its true alcohol content.
Stimulants or not, the boozy bev will always have a characteristic, carbonated perfume motif — the metallic sting of industrial alcohol, accented with fragrant flowers and fruits.
Verdi’s selections — “the sparkling Italian fun that keeps the party going” — re-create this air with eery accuracy. Each sip feels like liquid mouth deodorant — but a slightly classier version of drinkable body spray, coming from a screw-top bottle and all.
Neither variety seems that different — one is pink and one is green, ya está — and they contain enough sugar to grow a rock-candy crystal. Perplexingly, the drink has an acrid punch to it, so you feel like you’re swigging a melted Sour Patch Kid — albeit one who comes from an unhappy home.
So, yes: Sparkletinis will get the job done, whatever that job might be, even if they aren’t the most palatable drink out there. We would not suggest them for holiday parties — unless your family already expects you to smell like an anti-freeze drinker.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 8, 2011