There was really no way to predict that NUVO and its imitators would be more than a passing fad in U.S. bars and clubs. Cristal, Hennessy, Dom: Those kind of made sense when they blew up in pop culture over the years. They're luxury brands with luxury prices. The whole aspirational thing. But pink bubbly liqueur with a $30 price tag? What's more, there are at least two more NUVO-like products hitting store shelves this season.
How did this bizarre trend come to be? NUVO, billed as "the world's first sparkling liqueur," was created by the same guy behind Hpnotiq, everyone's favorite fruity blue liqueur. It's a pink-hued combination of vodka, sparkling wine, and passion fruit nectar, and the bottle looks like it was designed to hold perfume. It launched in 2007 but took a few years to catch on. Following a gender-neutral rebranding (as "a lifestyle choice for trendy individuals"), it's now selling at the rate of several million bottles a year.
NUVO is popular partially because it doesn't require fancy recipes: You can drink it chilled in a champagne flute or mixed with other spirits on the rocks. It is especially popular in the world of bottle-service. The brand plays up the clubby angle by filling its website with pictures of hip-hop artists like T-Pain (who wears a gargantuan bejeweled NUVO necklace) and Latin stars Wisin & Yandel posing with the new yellow lemon sorbet bottle.
Seizing upon the popularity of such concoctions, this Labor Day weekend producer Timbaland launched his own sparkling liqueur, LeSUTRA (pictured), with a week-long series of events and performances in Miami. LeSUTRA will be available in four flavors (blueberry, strawberry, grape, and peach), and there is already a product placement-laden music video to match. The fizzy liqueurs come in shiny nail polish-like bottles, and retail for $30.
Prévu Sparkling Liqueur, which launched in California this summer, tries to cash in on eco-chic drinking with its certified-organic blend of vodka and cognac with flavors of black currant, raspberry, blackberry, and violet flower. It's grape-red in color and has a big purple ball as the cap—to stand out from other sparkling liqueurs on club shelves.
But with all of these bubbling fruit-and-liquor club combos coming to the market, you have to wonder when someone is just going to carbonate Hpnotiq, charge a little extra, and make an instant killing—they can call it NUVO Riche.*
*Or not. Apparently, NUVO has already claimed #NuvoRiche as their official Twitter hashtag. But it was really clever when we thought it was our idea.
—Camper English is an international cocktails and spirits writer and publisher of alcademics.com