Southside Fizz by Aloette, Ontario, Canada (Alcohol 5.5% Residual Sugar 45 g/l) LCBO $2.95 (355ml can)

Never imagining I’d be recommending a canned cocktail on these pages, I’m just as surprised as you to find myself singing the praises of such a product, and yet here we are.

I’m not usually one for RTDs (Ready-To-Drinks), so last week my wife was worried I was going off on a bit of a bender when she began to spot empty cans of various cocktails amongst the beer cans and wine bottles in our recycling.

I had to explain to her that it was all in the name of research, as how was I possibly supposed to review Aloette’s new Southside Fizz without checking out the rest of the RTD market? I need to be able to compare and contrast when it comes to such matters, right?

I’ll be honest here and tell you that I’m not really a cocktail guy. I’ve judged a few cocktail competitions in my time, usually as the token “wine guy” on the panel, but as for making my own cocktails, I go as far as making myself a gin and tonic (with lemon, of course) over the summer months. Some may accuse me of sheer laziness, but when it comes to drinks, I’m happier to admire the craft of others in the glass than do anything approaching DIY. I’ve dabbled in that with both wine and beer, and the results were decidedly subpar, so I’ve decided to leave that to the experts.

Firstly, I’ll state that I found the vast majority of this category simply undrinkable. These were new waters for me, so I went in with an open mind, but quickly found almost every RTD I tried to be insipid or cloyingly sweet. Remember, I’ve got a bitter old wine journo’s palate, so these things are simply not designed with my drinking pleasure in mind. I was quite astonished at just how sweet so many of them are, though. None of the sweeter examples state the sugar levels, and I can understand why. Good Lord. Some would surely be enough to tip many into hyperglycemia.

Aloette’s Fizz is quite different though. And to be fair, hailing from the gastronomic braintrust of the Alo Food Group, I’d expect nothing less than excellence, albeit in a canned, consumer-friendly package.

Marketing materials tell me that it’s “a refreshing, full-flavoured cocktail that awakens the senses like a fresh spring breeze.” Okay, fair enough. So how does it actually taste?

It’s a longer, fizzy take on the Southside, a gin-based mojito cocktail that allegedly came about by combining Al Capone’s gang’s rougher gin with citrus and sugar to make it more palatable. Aloette’s version takes London Dry Gin and combines it with lime juice, muddled mint, cucumber juice, and sugar. This is stretched out with some soda water, giving it a gentle effervescence that is anything but aggressive. 

Many RTDs involve a whole slew of suspect flavouring agents, but this stuff contains only natural flavours, which I feel gives it an incredibly appealing aura of freshness and vibrancy—quite a feat for any canned product, in my opinion. Mint can easily dominate; it’s certainly present, but reasonably restrained. The cucumber really stands out for me, and I’m fascinated as to exactly how that punchy, crunchy aromatic/flavour is captured here.

So is it sweet?

Well, 45 g/l of sugar is usually well outside of my comfort zone, but well-chilled (I don’t do over-ice; dilution, you understand?), one doesn’t really pick up on the sweetness in a negative way, as it sits so bloody well in the whole mix, that citric twist allowing the lime component to bob merrily along the surface of the flavour profile.

I was so taken with Aloette’s Southside Fizz that I arranged an interview with Chef Patrick Kriss and Alo Food Group operations director John Bunner so we could talk about this most enjoyable of beverages. I’ll be publishing that on Good Food Revolution next week.

Although I’m sure some of my more cocktail-savvy peers will sniff at the idea of such a pre-mixed libation, I’m all for it. I’m about to crack one open and sit on the back deck, watching the blossoms burst. Perfection on a warm May Friday afternoon.

(Four and a half out of a possible five apples)