It feels like every week that there’s a new collab launching in the food and beverage space. Whether it be a local brewery or a global restaurant chain, establishments are seeking new ways to catch the attention of regular customers and new audiences by teaming up with like-minded brands. Some partnerships marry seamlessly and are wildly successful, while others seem so bizarre and unappetizing that they flop. And sometimes, brands hit that perfect balance between unexpected and awesome that makes the product go completely viral and hit the e-commerce jackpot.
We decided to rank some memorable food and beverage collaborations on a scale of “What on Earth Were They Thinking?” to “Please Make This a Permanent Product.” Here are the 10 weirdest booze and food collabs in history.
The Most Vomit-Inducing: Hidden Valley x Whiskey and Rosemary Ranch Nog
Eggnog is already a highly divisive holiday drink, so it’s a little baffling that Hidden Valley thought that adding a savory, herbaceous twist to the creamy drink would help win people over. But in 2021, the condiment company felt compelled to launch a holiday season collaboration with the mixology brand Whiskey and Rosemary: the RanchNog Kit. For $50, consumers could get their hands on RanchNog mix, two Hidden Valley glasses, a gold jigger, and a recipe card to help prepare the festive (and foul-sounding) cocktail.
The Most Useless: Graza x Aura Bora NA Olive Oil Martini
This glorified sparkling water is a sign that press-driven brand collaborations — as well as non-alcoholic canned cocktails — have officially gotten out of hand. The wackiness of the offering hits on multiple levels: Why is the Martini Sparkling? Isn’t a Martini made entirely up of booze? And are any of our digestive systems equipped for another olive oil-infused drink?
The Most Likely to Give You Heartburn: Arby’s Curly Fry Vodka
We can all agree that a good french fry is worth celebrating. But Arby’s took its appreciation of fried potatoes to new heights when it created two different french fry-flavored vodkas in collaboration with the Minneapolis-based Tattersall Distilling. The curly fry vodka is infused with cayenne, paprika, onion, and garlic, mimicking the spice blend that adorns the chain’s signature fries. While the idea of combining vodka with spicy fast food makes us want to pop a bottle of Tums, the spirit could potentially work in a savory cocktail like a spicy Bloody Mary — so the collab isn’t a total wash.
The Most Unexpected: Taco Bell’s Jalapeño Noir
If there’s one drink you’d think goes hand-in-hand with a late-night Doritos Locos Taco or Crunchwrap Supreme, a Margarita or Michelada likely comes to mind. That’s why it was so shocking that out of all the alcoholic drinks the fast-food chain could end up bottling, it decided to go all in on a Pinot Noir from Canada. From a wine nerd’s perspective, the most frustrating thing about this collab with Queenston Mile Vineyard is that the brand opted for a Pinot Noir rather than a Cabernet Franc, which is both popular in the Canadian wine growing regions and is known for its herbaceous flavors that often resemble green bell pepper or jalapeño. That said, the wine sold out in one day, so its novelty definitely had some appeal.
The Best Couch Snack: Barefoot Oreo Thins Wine
Enjoying a glass of red wine and some chocolate on the couch is an ideal way to unwind after a long day. Barefoot clearly understood the assignment with its partnership with Oreos, which launched in December of 2021. The collab’s package included two bottles of Barefoot’s red blend and a large package of Oreo Thins,to deliver all of your after-work indulgences in one convenient place for only $24.99. Though Oreos and Barefoot might not technically be the most elevated food and wine pairing — and seeing the Oreos logo on a wine bottle was definitely a little unsettling — this partnership at least makes for a cozy evening.
The Most Surprisingly Relevant: George Dickel Tabasco Barrel Finish Whiskey
Spice and alcohol have an interesting relationship. Sometimes they work together seamlessly, like in a spicy Jalapeño Margarita. Other times, alcohol accentuates the spice in a dish too much, leading to a heavy-handed tasting experience — you try pairing a 15.5 percent ABV Cabernet Sauvignon with a blazing hot Mapo Tofu. This whiskey collab, though, strikes the right balance between booze and heat by keeping the crossover subtle. It’s also a team-up that makes total sense: Tobasco’s signature hot sauce is aged for up to three years in whiskey barrels. So, in this case, the used Tabasco barrels are just returning the favor by adding a peppery kick to the whiskey.
The Most Nostalgic: Neshaminy Creek Brewery x Rita’s Italian Ice Beer
Few pleasures can rival the feeling of eating a cold Italian ice on the beach with a tiny wooden spoon in the scorching heat. That’s why Pennsylvania-based Neshaminy Creek Brewery was on to something when it imbued the feeling of childhood summer days into a boozy beverage with its line of Rita’s fruit beers, inspired by the brand’s iconic Italian ice flavors. The brand’s most recent release in the line is a blonde ale with mango, which calls icy tropical treats to mind.
The Most Practical: Cheez-It x House Wine Box
Boxed wine is having something of a renaissance right now, and we’re here for it. Not only is the packaging more environmentally friendly than heavy glass bottles, but the format is also more convenient for grabbing a quick glass of wine from the fridge with a snack each day. That’s why this House Wine boxed wine and Cheez-It combo pack is a winning pair. The pair’s convenient side-by-side packaging may make your after-work snack all the more rewarding.
The Most Likely to Last: Harpoon x Dunkin’ Beer
This is a match made in Bostonian heaven. It was only a matter of time before quintessential Boston craft brewery Harpoon teamed up with the Massachusetts coffee giant, and their partnership has been a resounding success. The pair have worked together to release several themed beers that play off many beer and coffee trends, including the Harpoon Dunkin’ Pumpkin, Harpoon Dunkin’ Boston Kreme, Harpoon Dunkin’ Jelly Donut — brewed with real Dunkin’ donuts and raspberry purée — and the Harpoon Dunkin’ Coffee Porter. When it comes to booze and food marriages, we see a long happy life for these two — even though Dunkin’ did just come out with its own line of spiked coffees and teas.
The Sleeper Hit: Grimm x Oishii Berry Beer
Local breweries are always announcing new collabs, and it can be a bit tiring to keep up with the constant releases. Some, though, are worth the hype: Brooklyn-based Grimm Artisanal Ales recently teamed up with gourmet produce company Oishii Berry — known for extra-juicy strawberries — to craft a tart and fruit-forward beer. The Ambient Fizz: Koyo Berry is a barrel-aged spontaneous sour ale made using Oishii’s newest strawberry varietal. When done right, fruited sours can be utterly delicious, especially when made with Oishii’s meticulously manicured Oishii strawberries.