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Booze in a Bag

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Now that summer is here in full effect, as evidenced by the near triple-digit temperatures affecting half the country this past week, people are hitting the beach and parks in droves. And what's better than a bottle of wine or a few summery cocktails on a fine summery day outdoors, or at least in a in a hot club with only icy cold beverages and impressively skimpy outfits to offer its patrons a chill. Unfortunately, glass bottles are often banned in these kinds of places to reduce the risk of injury to man and beast by glass shards from broken bottles, unintentional and otherwise. Luckily, as with other consumables with portability issues, the answer is to bag it up.

Putting beverages in pouches isn't a new idea by any means. Capri Sun has been sold in the U.S. for more than 30 years along with a host of ambiguously fruity liquids aimed at surviving in lockers and backpacks until lunchtime. The concept is the same for adult beverages – except in this case the pouches are mostly to endure drunken dropsies, overloaded coolers, and evade overzealous park police – all without spilling their precious cargo.

Today everything from margaritas to merlot is available in a convenient pouch, ready to go anywhere at the drop of a hat – it's truly a bagged booze revolution second only to the boxed wine bonanza seen in the early 2000s. And while boxed wine isn't lumped in with great mistakes in drinking history as often as it once was, a pouch full of liquor still sounds suspiciously like a punchline, or at least a hobo's breakfast. So do these Go-Gurts for the over-21 crowd have the flavor necessary to keep a beach bonfire going all night long, or are they destined to be the next Zima?

For the moment at least, here are a few portable potables that may provide an answer:

Pocket Shots – Claiming the dubious honor of creating the “shot in a pouch” category back in 2000 is Pocket Shots. Usually positioned at the checkout counter of the liquor store or toted around clubs by eye candy clad scantily enough to make buying one or more from them seem like a good idea, these are 50mL rip top pouches containing 80 proof liquor ranging from rum to tequila and vodka. They're billed as “perfect for active activities, outdoor adventures, and glass restricting venues,” though one might imagine that mixing shots of high proof liquor with biking, whitewater rafting, hiking, etc. could be considered a bad idea. The pouches are straight liquor, just as in a traditional shot, but the liquid is fairly harsh. The vodka is something of an exercise in endurance, burning more than triple distilled vodka normally would on the way down and the whiskey doesn't have the warm caramel and spice notes most whiskey drinkers would expect. The rum does provide a solid lug of sweetness and molasses, and let's be honest, if someone is looking for “shots on the go” they probably aren't terribly concerned about getting the highest quality hooch.

Malibu Cocktails in a Bag – At the other end of the spectrum are these 1.75L bags meant to serve up a party. Available as premixed cocktails in Mojito, Rum Punch and Caribbean Cosmo flavors, all made with Malibu rum of course, these sacks o' cocktails have a spigots for easy access and seem designed to be plopped down on a table or on top of a cooler for people to fill up plastic cups at their convenience. In concept, it's solid. The bag doesn't take up as much room as a typical bottle of premixed cocktails and there's little risk of breakage. And since outdoor events often have lighting issues at night, each flavor glows a glorious 80s day-glo color making for easy identification in the dark, but like Boy George, the flavors are a bit off. The sugar content is turned up past 11, drowning out the mint of the mojito and fruits supposedly present in the other flavors. Despite the hangover-worthy sweetness, they can be tasty in small doses, but there's an underlying artificial flavor that leaves a fairly unpleasant chemical tang after each swallow. However, Malibu tends to be one of the go-to liquors for sorority girls everywhere, so these liquor sacks may just hit the sweet spot for their target market.

Gasolina Urban Blends – Taking more cues from Capri-Sun than any other booze pouch on the market, Gasolina Urban Blends were originally popularized in Puerto Rico and are just now making inroads into the U.S. The 6.75oz pouches are all sorts of portable and handy, coming as they do complete with straw, and can even be frozen into slushy form. That's never a bad thing on a hot tropical night. And with six flavors, Gasolina Original, Sangriiia (because three “i's” makes it three times tastier), Tu Madras, Pink Martini, Mojito and Sea Breeze, one might imagine it'd be easy to stock a party for pretty much anyone's taste. Surprisingly enough, it's a safe assumption. There isn't a whole lot in the pouches other than some decent booze and fruit juices, so the flavors are surprisingly well-balanced. Sure they're sweet and aimed at hyped-up club goers, but the citrus and other flavors balance out what could've been a sugary sack of hangover. The Sea Breeze reigns over the other pouches, the grapefruit and cranberry juices providing a tart counterpoint to the clean vodka. The Mojito falls a bit flat, however, coming off more fruity than minty and failing to deliver on the promise of the classic cocktail.

ShotPak Cocktails – The logical evolution of Pocket Shots, ShotPaks are 50mL sacks of mixed drinks. Taking classic bachelorette party shooters Lemon Drops, Kamikazes and Purple Hooters and bagging them to go, ShotPaks are actually a solid idea. Packaged in a “stand up” pouch, they're perfectly suited to sit upright on a bar or table as part of a drinking game until the participants can't sip upright themselves. Where the pouches fall down is in the execution. While the spirits used are fairly high quality, the flavors come off as artificial and a little off-putting. The Lemon Drop is probably the best of the lot, but it's far more sugary than it should be, with few refreshing sour lemon notes and a mouth-coating texture. But in a busy and crowded bar, these are a heck of a lot faster, and less sloppy to dole out than typical mixed shooters, satisfying impatient partiers looking to get their pouch on.

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