KANSAS CITY — Interest in artisanal spirits, craft beers and regional wines has consumers craving the flavors of adult beverages in all types of products, including food, served at all times of day. Alcoholic beverage-inspired flavor systems make it possible to enjoy a merlot-flavored smoothie with malted muffin in the morning, a whiskey spice-infused cola with the lunchtime rum-rubbed bacon burger and a mojito-inspired sparkling water with tequila-infused salsa-topped nachos at dinner.
Cocktail-inspired flavors in beverage formulations allow consumers to carefully indulge while they refresh and rehydrate all day long, said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation, Innova Market Insight, Arnhem, The Netherlands. She provides the example of Calpis Welch’s Cocktail Sparkling Chardonnay and Orange Juice, a non-alcoholic beverage recently introduced to the Japanese marketplace.
“Spirit flavors can add complexity to traditional soda flavors,” said Sheila Harte, senior manager, beverage development, Bell Flavors & Fragrances, Northbrook, Ill. “A bourbon whiskey flavor works well with root beer, while adding cognac flavor to an orange soda gives the product sophistication.”
Adding alcoholic beverage flavors to everyday drinks is not new, but the depth and layers of flavors going into the non-libations is becoming more complex. The trend is riding the coattails of the mixology movement, which melds culinology with bartending.
For example, Symrise Inc., Teterboro, N.J., developed a line of grilled fruit flavors that deliver the same tastes of freshly grilled fruits often used by mixologists when shaking a fanciful cocktail. One such example is The Smokey Tamarindo developed by Junior Merino, a mixologist based in Riverdale, N.Y. Known as “the liquid chef,” Mr. Merino shakes juice from grilled pineapples with tequila, tamarind juice and agave nectar and serves the cocktail over ice in a pasilla chili- and cinnamon-rimmed glass. Using grilled pineapple flavor along with some heat, citrus and sweet agave juice in ordinary pineapple juice, it’s possible to simulate Mr. Merino’s specialty, sans the alcohol.
Tequila flavor takes on a different spin when it’s used in margaritas. In non-alcoholic versions, the tequila flavor may be mimicked by combining floral and citrus notes in a salty limeade that includes a slight back-of-the-throat burn. The latter may be achieved using a flavor-sensation system designed to provide the familiar alcohol burn and tingle that somewhat dries the mouth. Such ingredients stimulate mouthfeel enhancers without the alcohol, adding authenticity to the consumption experience.
Mimicking the range of rums and whiskeys may be challenging, as sensory attributes vary by grade and brand, with certain varieties associated with different cocktails. For example, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey has a mix of caramel, honey, vanilla and wood notes that goes well with apple to make a cider-style beverage. If an Old Fashioned mocktail is on the menu, you would choose a more smoky, nutty and sweet bourbon whiskey flavor.
Rum may contain hints of caramel, molasses, oak and vanilla. When creating a mock pina colada, the sweeter and creamier rum flavors are most important to add to coconut and pineapple juices.
Maggie Harvey, new product development manager, Mizkan America Inc., Mount Prospect, Ill., said, “Pina colada is a popular flavor in dozens of products, from energy drinks to weight-loss beverages.”
On the other hand, with an alcohol-free daiquiri, browner rum notes work better with sweet lime. Both formulations should avoid the spice associated with Captain Morgan rum, which better complements berry juices, tea and even coffee.
“Rum and bourbon have always paired well with coffee beverages because they complement the nutty flavors of roasted coffee beans while enhancing coffee’s caramel notes,” said Dave Sackett, executive director of sales and marketing at Mizkan. But now these flavors are getting some extra kick with the addition of spices or tropical and exotic flavors.
“For teas, we are seeing more wine flavors in development,” Mr. Sackett added. Sangria is quite popular, as it provides layers of fruit flavors.
Novato, Calif.-based The Republic of Tea now offers what it calls The Sonoma Teas collection, a new concept in an herbal tea blend. The appreciation of Sonoma County’s renowned vineyards previously had been limited only to wine enthusiasts, according to the company. With the introduction of the new tea collection, everyone now may enjoy a refreshing beverage that showcases the best qualities and flavors from fine wine.
Free of caffeine, alcohol and calories, while also containing grape skin antioxidants, Sonoma Teas are a better-for-you alternative. The collection showcases three varietals for iced tea, including Sonoma Chardonnay, Sonoma Rosé and Sonoma Cabernet. Similar to wine, each variety imparts unique and identifying characteristics.
Non-alcoholic malted beverages are gaining traction among consumers who crave a cold beer but want to make a more positive beverage choice. That desirable beer flavor also is making its way into other beverages such as ready-to-drink coffee.
Cuvée Coffee, Spicewood, Texas, developed Black and Blue nitrogen-infused beer-flavored coffee in on-the-go single-serve cans. Black and Blue coffee is treated with nitrogen and carbon dioxide under high pressure, which gives the traditional cold-brew coffee a creative beer-inspired twist as the unique treatment provides a rich and creamy body, with a thick head similar to a stout. As to the flavor, the tiny bubbles in the coffee provide bittersweet chocolate notes, making the taste less acidic than large-batch cold brews.
A year ago, Seattle-based Starbucks tested a Dark Barrel Latte. The iced beverage was espresso blended with a chocolaty stout (roasted malt flavor) flavored sauce and topped with whipped cream and a dark caramel drizzle.
The beer industry has expanded to include many more industries, including all types of non-alcoholic beverages, said Ms. Harte. In response, the company recently introduced a line of beer flavors, each with a unique flavor profile.
“Our IPA flavor has a strong herbal note accented with a medium malty note, while our stout flavor is mildly hoppy and has silky, velvety notes of cocoa with a bold roasted flavor,” Ms. Harte said. “We have a Hefeweizen (wheat beer) flavor with unique notes of banana, cloves and apple and distinctive hints of sweet and spicy.”
The sensory notes invite some unexpected applications, such as juices and smoothies. The same is true for Bell’s hard cider flavor, which has a sweet-tart profile that finishes fresh and crisp.