Postcards from Venice with NIO Cocktails

A lot of attention has recently been focused on ready-to-drink products, whether that be cans of spirits and mixers or pre-mixed cocktails. We’ve reviewed a small selection via our Instagram, but the products we’re reviewing today deserved a closer look.

NIO Cocktails (Needs Ice Only) have recently released a special set of four drinks entitled “Postcards from Venice”. The selection was created by Patrick Pistolesi in collaboration with Select Aperitivo, a classic liqueur that has been distilled in Venice since 1920. The cocktails not only provide a sense of place, but a sense of time: each cocktail focuses on a different period in the city’s history, from its founding in 421AD to the present day.

NIO Cocktails provide their ready-to-drink cocktails in small, square pouches (slightly smaller than a CD case) that each hold 100ml. These are easy to ship – in fact they are designed to fit through most letterboxes – and are equally easy to enjoy once they arrive at your home: simply fill a glass with ice, shake the pouch, tear the corner, and pour out the contents. In addition, no preservatives, colourants, or flavourings are used, which, for a pre-mixed product, is impressive.

Nio produce an exciting range of drinks that can be sorted by spirit type (vodka, gin, tequila, rum whisky, and non-alcoholic) and the cocktails available do change regularly, which keeps things fresh. There also a number of interesting collection boxes such as a selection of cocktails paired with chocolate and a collaboration with Singleton 12 Year Old.

But back to Postcards from Venice….

421 Laguna (13.6% ABV)

Inspired by the year that Venice was founded by “mainlanders fleeing barbarians after the fall of the Roman Empire”, this is a cocktail in the Americano style: a marriage of Select Aperitivo and Cocchi Vermouth Americano.

It has a deep complexity of flavour with just a touch of woody clove. A very gentle sweetness is well-balanced by an earthy bitterness. This is a great way to start an evening and a great way to start this feature – it’s perfect as an aperitif. For a longer, but equally delightful, drink, you could add a splash of sparkling water.

1104 Arsenale (21.4% ABV)

1104AD is a year that saw the founding of Vienna’s arsenal, a mix of the shipyards and armouries that was key to the city’s naval prowess. The drink uses Select Aperitivo, Bonollo Italian Brandy, Cocchi Americano Bianco, and Chazalettes Vermouth di Torino Extra Dry.

This is a pleasant drink – warming, but still refreshing – with a slightly sweet cosiness from the brandy. With it’s richer, darker, and more complex toasted sugar notes, it is very much an evening cocktail and, unusually for an aperitif-style drink, it’d say it would make a perfect nightcap.

1725 Le Calli Di Casanova (11.1% ABV)

A reference to Venice’s (and perhaps the world’s) most famous adventurer and seductionist.
This drink is made using Select Aperitivo and Bols Creme de Cacao.

The creme de cacao adds a dash of decadence, but it is kept in balance by the acidity of the other ingredients. In some ways, it is reminiscent of a jammy Negroni; all in all, it has an elegant equilibrium of flavours. It’s something of a dessert cocktail, but reserved in its sweetness. Lovely!

2021 Cannaregio (12.5% ABV)

Bringing the collection right up to the present day, this final cocktail combines Select Aperitivo, Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, and Pommé Roner Liqueur.

Rich and appley, with a lively tartness and raspberry notes, too. This is exceptionally thirst-quenching, but – even so – you are tantalisingly drawn back for more after each sip. It is slightly Sour-like in style, but far more complex than any Sour I’ve ever had – superb.

In Conclusion

Overall, all of these cocktails were truly exceptional. The complexity and integration of the flavours were stunning, although this is what I’ve come to expect from NIO. It was great fun to share the selection with Mrs. B and there was enough in each pouch for us to enjoy a small glass each. I heartily recommend trying these and eagerly look forward to the next curated release from NIO Cocktails.

I paid £29 (including delivery) for the four cocktails and, as a treat, I thought it was well worth it. I make a lot of cocktails at home, but I couldn’t make these, and both serving and enjoying them was incredibly easy.

The “Postcards from Venice” cocktail selection box is available from NIO Cocktails for £29 (inc. delivery) for 4 x 100ml.

Fever-Tree Pre-mixed Gin and Tonics

Every year there seems to be a new “pocket of gin” that distillers and brands turn their attention to. This year, it’s time for the pre-mixed Gin & Tonic to grab the spotlight. 2019 has already seen releases from Sipsmith and Chilgrove (both very good) and now Fever-Tree have thrown their hat into the ring with three premixed (ready-to-drink) expressions.

Fever-Tree Premix

As the bottles’ labels describe them as “targeting picnic and party occasions”, I shall be chilling the bottles down and drinking directly from them, as you would if you were out-and-about.

All three products come in 275ml screw-cap glass bottles and have a strength of 6.3% ABV. They are currently selling for £2.75 each in Tesco (although at the time of printing they are part of their 4 for 3 deal). Here are my thoughts.

1) Premium Indian Gin & Tonic – with juniper-forward gin
This has a high level of fizz, which is always magnified by drinking from the bottle, and the juniper comes through well. This is followed by bright citrus and some lighter floral elements of rose. All-in-all, rather refreshing.

Ingredients: Carbonated Spring Water, Sugar, Gin, Citric Acid, Natural Flavourings including Quinine.
Energy per 100ml: 287kJ/69kcal

2) Elderflower – Fresh and Floral – with lightly floral gin
I actually prefer the more modest level of fizz of this one in comparison to the Indian Tonic. There are notes of sweet elderflower to start, with hints of rose and chamomile, too. This is less classic and, in a sense, less “ginny”, but then that’s to be expected when using a flavoured tonic. It is a really nice approximation of a gin and Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic – very good, indeed.

Ingredients: Carbonated Spring Water, Sugar, Gin, Elderflower, Citric Acid, Natural Flavourings including Quinine.
Energy per 100ml: 277kJ/66kcal

3) Refreshingly Light – with juniper-forward gin
Whilst noticeably lighter in flavour profile, this nonetheless has a decent amount of gin flavour, making it somewhat reminiscent of a mix of tonic water and soda water. Notably clean and crisp, this is, to my mind, the most refreshing of the bunch.

Ingredients: Carbonated Spring Water, Gin, Fructose, Citric Acid, Natural Flavourings including Quinine.
Energy per 100ml: 201kJ/48kcal (About a 30.0% reduction compared to the other two)

Overall I think the full range are of good quality and are helping to improve the overall reputation for pre-mixed gin and tonics. I found them a bit fizzy straight away but after a minute they are perfectly quaffable.Fever-Tree Premix