Review: Optimist Botanicals Non-Alcoholic Spirit – Artfully Blended and Elegant
Optimist Botanicals is a line of non-alcoholic spirits out of Los Angeles.
And the company's three expressions - Bright, Fresh and Smokey - are all inspired by different parts of LA.
Optimist, as a company, is all about inspiring optimism and encouraging its customers to get together and connect without booze. And it gives 2% of sales to help the underserved LA youth gain access to mental wellbeing services.
We're all for a young company pitching in to fight the mental health crisis in the US, so cheers to that!
Now, on to the drinks...
Bright is inspired by Venice Beach. Ocean, sunshine, cool people. It's a vibe.
Each Optimist expression is loaded with different, interesting ingredients.
Bright has lemon, jasmine, green mandarin, fennel, cinnamon leaf and a few others.
And what's most impressive about Bright (and all of Optimist's drinks, for that matter) is how elegantly these notes come across.
The nose on Bright is very floral and intense. You get clove, cinnamon, citrus and jasmine. And this isn't like a wine tasting where your friend is asking if you catch the asphalt and fresh-cut garden hose. You can actually smell make each of these notes out.
It's the same on the palate.
We first tried Bright (and the other two expressions) neat, then we mixed it with a splash of Fever Tree Premium Indian Tonic.
When you sip Bright, you'll get strong citrus and jasmine flavors (jasmine, by the way, is an interesting and tasty flavor to incorporate into a non-alcoholic spirit). You also pick up green citrus and mint. A minty/cinnamony flavor hangs with you after each sip.
For us, the tonic overpowered Bright a bit. You still get some faint flavor, but the drink loses its elegance and complexity.
Optimist Botanicals Fresh is inspired by Topanga Canyon.
While Bright is all citrus and sunshine, Fresh is all about bold, green herbal flavors.
Some of the ingredients are juniper, cilantro, lime peel, basil and fennel.
The nose on Fresh immediately reminded me of Mexican food - you get strong cilantro notes and other bright, green herbs.
Likewise, on the palate... cilantro is the dominant note. We also picked out the basil and the fennel. The drink is also somewhat cooling on the tongue.
When mixed with tonic, it's the same story. The cilantro comes through to give the tonic an herbal zing.
We saved Optimist Botanicals Smokey for last.
This expression is inspired by the High Desert. And its flavor is by far the boldest.
The smoke comes from Lapsang Souchong - a Chinese black tea that is smoke-dried over a pinewood fire.
Smokey has a big nose. As you might guess, it's smokey. But you also get some strong orange.
The taste is similarly smokey (not overly so). You get the orange and you get a familiar, clove/spice as Fresh and Bright. It's just a bit more pronounced here. You also get a bit of menthol from the cornmint (which is also in Bright).
Smokey was by far our favorite to mix with tonic water. The orange, spice and smoke really stand up to the tonic and make for an interesting drink.
Overall, we were impressed by Optimist.
The flavors are very elegant, complex and interesting. You're really able to pick apart the various ingredients in a way we haven't seen in other non-alcoholic spirits. So, Optimist is worth trying for this reason alone.
We did find the drinks a bit thin. There's not much to the mouthfeel.
But, all in all, a nice and interesting addition to the growing world of non-alcoholic spirits.
Bottles are 500 ml and cost $35 a piece (or you can buy all three for $95). We picked up a few which you can find in our Bottle Shop.
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