I've thought about this a lot, and the thing I miss most from my pre-pandemic life is going out for a drink with friends, family, and coworkers. Yes, bars are back open and doing their best, but, understandably, it's not the same. As someone with anxiety, it feels impossible to relax with a cocktail while surrounded by fellow mask-less patrons.
So, I've taken to being my own bartender, making and enjoying drinks at home. And one of my favorite ingredients to experiment with has been Haus' apéritifs.
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Popular in Europe for centuries, apéritifs are pre-dinner drinks made with herbs, fruits, and botanicals. Since they are meant to stimulate the appetite (not leave you sloshed) before the meal, the beverages have a lighter alcohol content that's perfect for sipping on the rocks or with a splash of seltzer.
Haus' wine-based apéritifs were dreamt up by Californian winemakers and grape growers Helena Price Hambrecht and Woody Hambrecht.
"We started Haus to solve a problem for ourselves and an entire generation: We wanted a better way to drink," Helena said. "Woody and I, and pretty much everyone else we knew, were drinking differently than generations before us. We weren't drinking to get drunk, we were drinking to catch up with friends, network, and do business. And yet most of the alcohol options out there weren't working for us."
Like all apéritifs, Haus' low-ABV means that the drink is a lot less likely to leave you with a hangover. And while that resonates with a growing national trend, it's not the main reason I love it. What makes Haus so special are its incredible flavors.
Haus is intentionally less sweet and bitter than traditional apéritifs, deriving its flavors from local, fresh ingredients like lemon, elderflower, and clove. In addition to skipping artificial additives, Haus contains a fraction of the sugar used in other brands. The result is a refreshing beverage that's a treat for the senses.
"We use Michelin-caliber ingredients from farmers we know and trust, not artificial flavors manufactured in labs," Woody explained. "We create our product naturally, without any preservatives or fining agents. And we also made the decision to sell online versus a distributor—a first in our category—and make a premium alcohol product accessible to anyone in the country."
The Hambrechts launched Haus as a direct-to-consumer company with Citrus Flower—a lemon and elderflower apéritif—back in 2019. Now, the brand offers an additional five flavors, including spicy Ginger Yuzu, aromatic Rose Rosé, and warming Bitter Clove, as well as limited-edition apéritifs exclusively available to subscription members. And true to Haus' dedication to transparency, the brand includes ingredient lists and nutritional information for every flavor on its site.
Over the past couple of months, I've tried a variety of Haus flavors: Citrus Flower is light and bright, Bitter Clove is earthy and spicy, Peach Passionfruit is sweet, juicy, and packs a little kick with each sip. While a glass of Aperol or Lillet alone feels syrupy and overpowering, Haus is easy and enjoyable to sip on the rocks.
Of course, you can mix Haus with other spirits for a stronger drink, and I often do. Which is actually another reason I can't stop raving about the brand. It's a shortcut to creative cocktails. Rather than measure and muddle and mix my drinks, kicking off happy hour with Haus simply involves opening a couple of bottles. Plus, there isn't a mess to clean up afterward.
Haus recently made it even easier to get to know its bottles with a customizable Sampler Kit. The set is priced at $40 and includes four apéritif flavors to mix and match based on your taste. Each 200-milliliter glass bottle makes about three drinks and is pretty enough to keep front and center on your bar cart. And while it launched just last month, the first batch already sold out.
Haus rushed to make more kits, and now you get a second chance to snag the set. Personally, I'm ordering a couple for my family and friends as holiday gifts. It's not the same as getting together in person, but I have a feeling it will lift their spirits. It certainly has lifted mine.
To buy: $40; drink.haus
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