Did you know that Applebee’s will only serve you one boozy drink at a time? That’s a rule I wasn’t aware of when I wandered in at 1:50 on a Tuesday afternoon, still dressed in my gym clothes.
“Sorry,” the server said. “We’ll have to bring out the first one and give you the second later.”
But I was on a mission. This fast-casual chain has been advertising the heck out of its new $6 Sleigh Bell Sips, The Berry Merry Colada and the Tipsy Reindeer. And though I don’t generally drink alcohol on weekdays (anymore), this was the only time I could squeeze in a taste test. Besides, ordering a pair of massive holiday cocktails while wearing sweatpants isn’t the weirdest thing I’ve done for work.
It’s also not like there’s an ideal time, place, or dress code for Applebee’s. And the company’s own marketing had hailed these drinks as “A deal so good, even Santa wanted in on it.” So, I summoned up images of rosy cheeks and red noses as I sat in the empty bar area, placed my order, and tried not to take my server’s extended moment of silence too personally.
Let me state this as diplomatically as possible: The Berry Merry Colada is not good. From the moment this glass full of “nosebleed in a snowbank” color was set before me, I suspected I was in for a bad time, and the first sip confirmed it.
Applebee’s describes this drink as “A winter wonderland in a glass… Captain Morgan with layers of melon liqueur and strawberry, topped with a Santa gummy.” But for me, the overwhelming flavors were that of coconut sunscreen and lip balm.
The melon lurked like a frozen booger at the edge of your nose, but the berry was more or less lost. There was also a strange tingling sensation that managed to coat my entire palate as I continued my analysis. As I waited on my Bourbon Street Chicken and Shrimp and watched the Santa gummy drown, the numbing feeling spread to my soul.
Still, it’s a lot of drink for $6, and one should never “punch down,” as they say. But after only a half dozen sips, I was all too glad to set the Berry Merry Colada down on the table.
Lunch arrived, and I asked for the second drink without finishing the first. This second Sleigh Bell Sip, the Tipsy Reindeer, is hailed as “A refreshing holiday punch featuring Smirnoff Vodka, Ocean Spray Cranberry, passion fruit and premium lemon sour.”
And you know what? It’s actually pretty damn good. Like, if you find yourself at Applebee’s with the family for the holidays, this is what you should put in front of a stuffy relative to get them to loosen up. The bright fruit flavors are just sweet enough to keep from being saccharine. In fact, the whole drink displays a solid balance: The tartness of the cranberry, the sour of the citrus, and the zing of the passion fruit make this a truly pleasurable experience. The color wasn’t bad, either. And since the Smirnoff flavor is so far in the background, someone could put away three of these before realizing they might be in trouble.
How was the chicken? Well, it was definitely a dish that’s served at Applebee’s. But even if my food experience was decidedly mediocre, the service was good, and the latter half of this Sleigh ride turned out to be a pretty enjoyable experience.
If you find yourself craving Double Crunch Wings or a Whiskey Bacon Burger sometime in the next couple weeks, order a Tipsy Reindeer on the side. It’s hard to screw up vodka and fruit juice, true, but Applebee’s managed to inject a little something extra with this affordable (and massive) holiday drink.