This week, my local CVS in Lincoln Heights actually decided to change their liquor display. Where they would normally display their line of tequila, gin, and liqueur products, they now have them on the whiskey shelf and vice versa. Not a big deal but it definitely caught me off by surprise when I arrived at the usual corner of the pharmacy store. Having said that, they decided to stock the “new” whiskey shelf with some brands that I’ve never seen before. At least, not the usual sort of low end brands that one would normally find at their neighborhood CVS store. For instance, Clan Macgregor and Speyburn never used to be sold at my local CVS store. It might have been at other CVS stores where the town is, relatively speaking, “more affluent” but this is certainly a first for me to see these two brands pop up at my local CVS. I also noticed that they started stocking up Jameson Caskmates (this one is also new) and Jameson Black Reserve on the open shelf, rather than behind the glass case. Indeed, even some of the Johnnie Walker red and blue labels and other mid-tier whiskeys have started to pop up on the open shelf, rather than behind the glass case like they used to be. Why the sudden change? I have no idea. Maybe it’s a special promotion. Or maybe they realized that putting the more expensive stuff behind the glass case actually reduced their overall alcohol sales than if they decided to put them on the open shelves. It’s quite possible that the area in and of itself is simply gentrifying (read: More White people are moving in and living in the area). Who knows? In any case, whatever the reason may be, I’m certainly glad that more alcohol brands are popping up at my local CVS for me to try out. I mean, Bevmo would never move into “the hood,” you know what I mean? It’s shocking to me that a CVS moved in since there was a Riteaid just a block down and several family pharmacy stores that have come and gone.
Now, when I first saw this bottle of Serpent’s Bite pop up on the shelf last week, I was tempted to buy this as opposed to the Paddy Devil’s Apple. Both were in the same price range, except Paddy was a dollar more expensive than this one. ($15.99 [Paddy] vs $14.99 [Serpent’s Bite]). There was, apparently, a regional merchandiser that stocks the liquor section of the store and he’s not an employee of CVS. It’s just like how Costco is set up. It’s like one big corporation with several smaller businesses all operating within the Costco brand name and warehouse while technically not an employee of Costco but you work as if you are and you get the same rights and privileges as Costco employees, which is, apparently, compared to the industry, far superior than other corporations. And the regional merchandiser and I had a good talk about the selection of liquors that he was stocking. He asked what I had already tried and I said, “All of Gran Legacy’s liquors minus their liqueurs, several of Smirnoff’s flavored vodkas, Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniel’s, Honey B Boots, Jethro T Boots [all the “Boots” whiskeys]” and my list extended on and on from there. He was surprised that I tried out all those brands. At which point, he decided to try and sell me something. He actually suggested that I try out one of their $60 whiskeys, at which point I said, “Nah, I’m trying to stick to a budget. But I’m sure that the $60 bottle of whiskey you recommended to me would be very good.” He was like “Ma nigga~” No, I kid, I kid. But we had a “hood” moment. It was one of those hood moments when we compared and contrasted what we had tried, what we liked, and what we didn’t like. Apparently, this nigga likes whiskey almost as much as I did except that he didn’t like flavored whiskeys, especially cinnamon flavored whiskeys.
Honestly, I’m not partial towards cinnamon flavored whiskeys either but I’ll try it, just for the novelty factor, you know what I mean? But onto Serpent’s Bite. It’s apparently, an Apple Cider flavored whiskey. And just to throw this out there right now, I love Apple Cider. Love it. Martinelli’s Apple Cider? MMMM~ Delicious! Anyone that knows on some level knows that I like sweet things, much to the chagrin of my teeth who absolutely hate me any time I stick something sweet in my mouth. But Apple Cider mixed with whiskey? This is not Apple Cider, just to be clear. I know the label says Apple Cider on it but this is not Apple Cider. There is no carbonation in this bottle of flavored whiskey. At all. It’s probably Apple Cider Liqueur mixed with some sort of base whiskey. Frankly, the label itself is pretty bare. It doesn’t even say that it’s an Apple Cider Liqueur. It’s quite plain, if anything. Just “Serpent’s Bite” in a big bold, white letters, then red text that says “Apple Cider” and just below that, “Flavored” is highlighted in a caramel color followed by a plain white text saying “Whisky.” And then to the right of that, it says 35% ALC/VOL with an underline and below that underline saying that it’s 70 proof. There’s an eye-capturing cartoon drawing of a rattle snack trying to bite on a big red apple behind all that text. It’s a really big cartoon snake. Looks scary and mean.
Upon your first crack open of this bottle, be prepared for a very strong whiff of alcohol to come shooting out of this bottle. You won’t even smell the Apple Cider. And after taking a sip of it (neat), I can say with a fair amount of certainty that it has a bite to it. It’s just not what you’d expect. That’s all. That “bite” is the strong, bitter flavor of the base whiskey used in this bottle of liquor. I don’t even know if you can even call it a whiskey because the back label specifically states “caramel color added” right there for all the world to see. So, it does make one wonder. But if I had to put it bluntly, that bite reminds me of a Smirnoff’s vodka. It has that same burning sensation on the way in and on its way down the gullet. It’s not very pleasant. It’s downright wrong for a flavored whiskey to have this kind of burn. It’s like, “Why?” Honey B Boots and Jethro T Boots at half of their costs don’t have this terrible burn on entry. Nor does Gran Legacy’s Vodka for that matter. And those are considered the bottom of the bottom shelf liquors, if we’re judging them strictly on price alone. (They’re literally the cheapest liquors sold at my local CVS). I was actually thinking that maybe the bite stems from the acidity of the apple cider but no. That was not the case at all. If anything, the strong flavor of alcohol practically overwhelmed almost all hints of apple cider liqueur in this bottle of liquor. You can just barely taste the after effects of what appears to be some of type apple flavor but that’s only as a passing and very ephemeral effect. It’s so brief that you might as well have not called it Apple Cider Flavored Whiskey. More appropriately, it should be Whiskey with Apple Flavors. Or Vodka with with Apple Flavors.
If you were to add a bit of club soda to it (I used 2 oz of whiskey to every 1 oz of club soda), the alcohol flavor actually subsided significantly and the apple flavor was heightened instead. There was a bit of a harshness of the whiskey brought on by the carbonated water but you can’t really tell all that much unless you were really looking for it.
Now, here’s the interesting thing. If you add ice, suddenly, the alcohol flavor almost totally disappears, the apple flavor gets brought to the fore, and for whatever reason, it actually tastes rather pleasant and balanced. There was an ever so slight taste of harshness from the whiskey but the ice perfectly covers that harshness on the whole. You’d have to be really, really paying attention to notice that harshness. The burn goes away on entry and when it goes down the gullet. The warm sensation doesn’t start until it reaches your intestines and even then, it’s not so bad. Where as if you had drunk this neat, you’ll feel the massive burn on entry, the burn going down the gullet and the continued burning all the way down to your intestines. This bottle of Serpent’s Bite really strikes me as a rather odd. I mean, Smirnoff’s vodka doesn’t do this. Drinking that neat burns on entry, burns going down the gullet and continues burning all throughout your intestines. Even when iced, it still burns. In that respect, Smirnoff vodka is pretty consistent. But this? Serpent’s Bite only burns if you drink it neat. Otherwise, if you drank it with club soda (or plain water), or over ice, it’s really quite pleasant on the whole minus some fairly minor unpleasantness in the flavor profile.
My advice? If you plan on trying out this bottle of liquor, buy ice or have some ice ready in your home. You’re gonna need it. And when you pour this over ice, be sure to “swish it around” in your cup and let it completely cool (and let some of the ice melt into the whiskey) before sipping on it. It’ll taste that much better. Or, what you can do is pour this over ice and mix equal parts whiskey with club soda. That works too. The flavor is actually rather pleasant with that combination: 2 oz of whiskey, 2 oz of club soda poured over a cup full of ice and let it swish around until cool. On the bright side, the texture in your mouth isn’t cough syrup thick. It’s a pretty typical liqueur sort of texture, which is fairly thin but not watery. Once it mixes with water from the ice and club soda, that texture practically disappears and get melded with the overall flavor profile, which is, again, on the whole, quite pleasant to taste and sip. At least I think so.
Even more good news? If you mix this with an energy drink, the energy drink will overwhelm any semblance of alcohol or whiskey or apple cider flavor that is supposed to be inherent in this liquor. It’ll just taste like your energy drink of choice, for the most part. You might taste a bit of harshness from the whiskey but it’s very brief. It’s like “Oh, what the eff was of that? Hmm, it’s gone. Alright, nevermind.” This is true with ice or without it. No need to add water or club soda.
At its regular price of $20, I can’t imagine anyone who would buy this for the sake of getting drunk. (Thankfully, I bought this at its sale price of $15). There are more cheaper alternatives like Gran Legacy’s Vodka with the energy drink (or juice, or soda) of your choice. There’s hardly any kind of Apple Cider flavor to this so I can’t imagine this bottle of liquor appealing to any of the Apple Cider fanatics, myself included. Frankly, if I wanted to feel the burn of alcohol, I’d save myself $5 and buy a bottle of Smirnoff vodka at $10 a pop. But I don’t particularly like the burn of alcohol so I’d just stick with Gran Legacy’s Vodka, which is actually $4 cheaper than Smirnoff and it’s a lot smoother as well, with ice, or without it. And it’s not sweet enough by itself to really count as a kind of dessert in and of itself so there’s no real sense of buying this and drinking this as an after meal dessert.
Like all of my previous reviews, I’d say that you should give it a shot, if only for its novelty factor. While I can’t really see this bottle of liquor fitting in anywhere to be perfectly honest as there are better tasting and cheaper alternatives, what sucked for me, may not actually suck for you. But I wouldn’t buy this at its retail price of $20. Buy this only when it goes on sale. It’s not worth $20. It should be priced at the same price as Smirnoff Vodka, if I had to say so bluntly. (As a last note, this bottle of liquor is apparently made in Canada. And here I’m thinking that all Canadian Whiskeys are supposed to be blended whiskeys and hence, are supposed to be pretty smooth and balanced. But alas, this is the exception to the rule.)