MIKE BURLEY / MBURLEY@STARBULLETIN.COM
Sake with bubbles is one of the newest confections on the cocktail scene, above. At left, Darnell Jones has introduced Nuvo, a sparkling vodka made with a mix of the wine grapes chardonnay and pinot noir. Both drinks are lower in alcohol than typical mixed drinks, making them a lighter choice.
Two new low-proof but sophisticated drinks make their Hawaii debut
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It's a common dilemma for those who enjoy a cocktail with dinner at a restaurant, or after dancing in a nightclub, and still expect to drive afterward.
What can I order that tastes good and won't completely mess me up?
Make no mistake, your best bet is simply not to drink and drive. Other options include finding a designated driver or calling a cab when it's time to go home.
Watching your weight? So much for beer, with its empty calories and discomforting ability to leave you bloated -- as well as hung over.
And you can forget about that mixed drink, made with so much alcohol that getting behind the wheel could easily result in an unfortunate situation with Honolulu's finest. The same goes for shots, shochu and anything else that comes in a tiny cup.
Good thing the alcohol companies are always in pursuit of the next big thing, and local residents are becoming more savvy at recognizing national trends. This summer, two drinks make their Hawaii debuts with a sexy, sophisticated allure while also boasting lower alcoholic content than comparable products.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Mixing ultra-premium French vodka with sparkling chardonnay and pinot noir, Nuvo touts itself as "The World's First Sparkling Liqueur." Imported by New York-based The London Group, it has become the drink of choice for celebrities, including actresses Mena Suvari and Brooke Shields, Nick Lachey's gal pal Vanessa Minillo, and rappers Fabolous and Lil' Wayne.
In Honolulu, party promoter Darnell Jones introduced Nuvo to the club scene in February. His company, Hot Lava Entertainment, is known for its lavish Pro Bowl parties that are well-attended by high-profile VIPs and their friends.
"I always want to bring something new, something fresh," Jones said. "And I've noticed that people here tend to gravitate toward what the celebrities and professional athletes are up to."
Packaged in 375 ml and 750 ml bottles that almost appear better suited to expensive perfume, Nuvo's pink color is also guaranteed to attract attention when perched on a shelf behind your favorite bartender. Crack the cap, and a rush of bubbles accompanies the sweet scent of fruit nectar mixed into the liqueur.
"It's kind of like a Red Bull and vodka, but it's got a lighter, much more fruity taste," Jones said.
And with an alcoholic content of 15 percent by volume (30 proof), Nuvo is a lot less potent than other libations behind the bar. Sipping on an ice-filled glass of this stuff is a lot easier than drinking a Jack and Coke or Grey Goose and 7-Up.
According to Jones, efforts are being made to secure local distribution in supermarkets and liquor stores following Nuvo's North American launch at the end of July. Until that happens, he suggests patronizing venues like the Hanohano Room, LEVEL4 Nightclub and the W Honolulu and asking for Nuvo by name.
As nuvo takes advantage of its French connections to win over consumers, sake2me seeks to build a following among fans of Japanese rice wine.
"Junmai sake represents maybe the top 15 percent of all sake made in Japan," said sake2me CEO Jeff Smith. "It makes for a great base because it's so clean. ... It's like a blank canvas upon which to build a cocktail."
Utilizing a process called micro oxygenation, carbon dioxide is added to junmai sake to create a lightly sparkling beverage that isn't as intensely carbonated as a bottle of champagne or a can of soda. The sparkler comes in four flavors: Ginger-Mango, Yuzu Citrus, Asian Pear and Green Tea.
At just 7 percent alcohol by volume (14 proof), one or two 6-ounce bottles of sake2me would be just right for the female demographic, and the bottle's shape is similar to miniature champagne bottles already available at local bars.
"That was the original idea, a sake-based cocktail in a single-serving champagne bottle," Smith said. "(Most) of the time, people are drinking it in a champagne flute or straight from the bottle with a cocktail straw, since that's a little more elegant than tipping your head back and drinking it straight from the bottle."
Available in four-packs at a suggested retail price of $14.99, sake2me can be found on Oahu at ABC Stores in Waikiki, Don Quijote locations, Longs in Kailua and SWAM in Aiea. Visit Chiko's Tavern, Utage Restaurant or the Honolulu Country Club to buy it by the bottle.