This summer, the trend for convenient, low-calorie, and low-alcohol drinks continues to blaze new trails in what the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation calls the ready-to-drink category. According to the NSLC, net sales in this portion of the liquor market have grown by more than 130 per cent in the past three years alone, and it seems like everyone’s getting in on the action.
Many of this summer’s hottest drinks are in the RTD category from distillers like Coldstream Clear and Blue Lobster, while others come from Nova Scotia wineries, cideries, and even restaurants. They all have three things in common — they’re canned, they’re local, and they’re fantastic.
Crack one of these interesting beverages open before summer ends.
Coldstream Clear - Lemonade
Leading the way for local producers is Coldstream Clear, a distiller out of Stewiacke, Nova Scotia. Coldstream made their first ready-to-drink product in 2017 with a bottled lime vodka soda but quickly shifted to cans, as so many other producers have done.
Using their own spirits, they produce vodka, gin, and rum-based sodas, and their lemonade mixer pack — pink, original, and sour cherry — is the top local seller in Nova Scotia. Their original lemonade, which is uniquely non-carbonated, is a delicious classic you can count on to beat the heat.
Blue Lobster - Rocket
Another top-selling local brand is Blue Lobster, produced by Nova Scotia Spirit Co, in Stellarton. Quirky, fun, and original, Blue Lobster was one of the first Nova Scotian producers in the game and they now have three of the top-ten drinks in this category all crafted with their own vodka — Lemon-Lime, Dragon Fruit Guava, and Rocket. Rocket, an ode to the tri-coloured rocket-shaped popsicle we all know and love, is a sweet quaffer that screams summer.
Benjamin Bridge - Piquette Zero
Benjamin Bridge is a pioneer in canned drinks. In 2019 they canned their quintessentially Nova Scotian wine, Nova 7, followed a little later by their Pet Nat. Piquette Classic followed last year - the first winery in Canada to can wine in this style.
This year they released Pink Piquette, and just last month the trendy Piquette Zero, which aims to provide those who want none of the alcohol but all of the sensory experience with a local option. It too is the first of that style to be canned in Canada, in keeping with winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauries’s thirst to be ahead of the curve.
Good Robot Brewing Company - Moon Mist Seltzer
Good Robot Brewing Company out of Halifax is appealing to Nova Scotia nostalgia with their hard seltzer — Moon Mist — a take on the classic, colourful Nova Scotia ice cream flavour of bubblegum, grape, and banana.
Yes, it’s an odd mix, but for devotees of this home-grown local flavour, it’s childhood neatly packaged in an adult beverage. It was so popular last year it sold out, and this year it’s in the top 20 local ready-to-drink products.
Lake City Cider - Rhubarb Soda
Lake City Cider in Dartmouth, known for its cider and wine hybrids, has jumped into the market with its creative line of hard sodas that use apples as the base along with locally sourced fruits, veggies, and herbs.
Flavours include Strawberry Lemon Balm and the very refreshing Cucumber and Mint, but it’s the Rhubarb Soda, with its balanced blend of sweet and sour, that most tantalizes the taste buds and stands out from the pack.
Morris East - Sprizzi
Not to be outdone, local restaurateurs are capitalizing on the canned drinks trend. Jennie Dobbs of Morris East fame is about to go to market with her line of spritzers called Sprizzi, which she’s producing in collaboration with her partner Simon Rafuse, the winemaker at Blomidon Estate Winery. These too are lighter in alcohol, include local apples, peaches, and raspberries, and are, naturally, a perfect match for pizza.
Dear Friend Bar - Inflatable Pool
This tiny bar in Dartmouth, led by local mixologists Jeffrey Van Horne and Matthew Boyle, pushed the government earlier this year to add in-house mixed drinks to the list of ready-to-drink beverages that can be sold with takeout and delivery food orders.
As a result, they were able to can three of their cocktails — Sage Advice, Inflatable Pool, and Channel Surfer — and in the first week alone they sold out in mere hours. Inflatable Pool is definitely the most distinctive thanks to its spicy blend of tequila, red pepper, lime, and watermelon. It’s not for the faint of heart, but for those who like a kick, it’s spot on. They’ve since added their Dear Friend Seltzer and are now taking orders for all four — but get them while you can.
For now, it’s only a temporary regulatory change. Fingers crossed the government takes Dear Friend’s “sage advice” and the change becomes permanent.