Wine coolers have come a long way since the 1980s. In those days, brands like Bartles & Jaymes and their cloyingly sweet “wines” reigned supreme. In the height of the John Hughes era, everyone drank these sugary drinks — which tasted more like soda than wine. They were cheaply made, low in alcohol, and high in sugar and extra additives. Not surprisingly, they usually led to a wicked hangover.
You might think that wine coolers went the way of slap bracelets, Garbage Pail Kids, Teddy Ruxpin, and Reebok Pumps, never to be seen again. But, since everyone loves the idea of what’s old becoming new again, the time is right for a comeback. Today, winemakers are attempting to remove the wine cooler stigma by using high-quality wines as bases and using the best additional ingredients possible. They are also making them with full strength alcohol to balance the profusion of flavors.
Does the world even want a new generation of wine coolers? For the most part, a sequel is never as good as the original. Just ask anyone who made it through Teen Wolf Too and Caddyshack 2. But sometimes the sequel is worth trying. This goes for The Godfather 2, The Empire Strikes Back, Terminator 2, and, thankfully, the new generation of wine coolers.
“Remember when beer was yellow and insipid?” says Kat McDonald, co-owner St. Mayhem Craft Wine Coolers. “Things change. And for those of us who grew up in the 80s, the mere fact that there is indeed a new generation of wine coolers is mind-blowing, given how awful the first generation was.”
McDonald’s goal and the goal of other wine cooler makers is to create something that is completely different than the sugary, additive-filled, make-your-pee neon beverages of yesteryear. So, are wine coolers cool again?
“Hell yes,” says McDonald. “Maybe they’re cool for the first time.”
Check some of our favorites below:
Ramona Ruby Grapefruit
This sparkling wine spritzer is made with organic Sicilian wine and organic, all-natural grapefruit flavors. It might be a wine cooler, but it’s definitely not a sugary mess.
Hoxie Lemon Ginger
Everyone seems to love rosé so it was only a matter of time before someone decided to use it to make a wine cooler. Hoxie’s Lemon Ginger has a base of rosé along with natural extracts of lemon and ginger. It’s also gluten free and vegan.
Bon Affair Vice Meets Virtue White Blend
This semi-sweet, subtly carbonated wine spritzer has a base of chardonnay. It has hints of crisp apple and pear and has no sugar added so it’s pretty much the wine equivalent of health food.
Flip Flop Wines Fizzy Sangria
This medium sweet fizzy sangria has a lot going on (in a good way). It’s full of fresh fruit flavors like orange, lime, grapefruit and is the perfect compliment to Mexican food or steak.
St. Mayhem’s Hückfest might be the perfect wine cooler for this time of year. The idea is the drink is a traditional Swedish Glogg with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, orange peel, and various other spices ideal for the last snowy days.
Union Wine Company Strawberry Cooler
Oregon’s Union Wine Company was one of the first to jump into the canned wine game. Everything it makes has been a success and this includes its newest offering: Strawberry Cooler. This summery wine cooler is a blend with the addition of strawberry, cranberry, and lime flavors.