These low-proof aperitifs are a weeknight game changer
Haus aperitifs are delicious, and they've already sold out twice.
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Just because I purposefully ignored Dry January (oops!) doesn't mean I don't love a low-proof or non-alcoholic drink every now and then. My tipple of choice is usually wine, so when I heard about Haus—the trendy, modern aperitif maker using chardonnay grapes as the base for each of its products—my interest was officially piqued.
What is Haus?
Founded in 2019 by husband-and-wife duo Helena and Woody Hambrecht (who happens to be a third-generation winemaker), Haus is a Sonoma County, California-based beverage company disrupting the alcohol industry with its low-proof, all-natural approach to drinking.
This direct-to-consumer alcohol brand primarily sells its wares through e-commerce, including options for one-time purchases as well as a monthly subscription called the "Haus Membership."
Helena and Woody started making Haus on their family farm as a way to reclaim a small corner of the alcohol industry dominated by conventional agriculture and hangover-inducing libations. Haus is different in that it's inspired by the European tradition of mixing aperitifs like Campari and Aperol with soda or tonic for a casual low-ABV cocktail.
Haus isn't about drinking to get drunk; Haus is designed to be a social ritual. As the website says, Haus is "Less 'go up on a Tuesday' and more 'tell jokes and hatch brilliant business schemes on a Thursday.'"
What is an aperitif?
Technically speaking, an aperitif is a type of lower ABV liquor (typically below 25%) served before a meal to stimulate appetite. This make sense when you consider its roots: the French apéritif derives from the Latin verb aperire, meaning "to open."
Unlike classic aperitifs, Haus' products are all 18% ABV, making them an even lower proof alternative to the traditional options.
Haus aperitifs are also less sweet and less bitter than traditional aperitifs because their flavors are derived from fresh fruit (starting with the chardonnay grape base), herbs, and other botanicals. And as someone whose lips pucker at the thought of sipping straight Aperol, I was very eager to try this less bitter beverage.
What's in a Haus sampler kit and how does it work?
The Haus Sampler Kit is customizable in that you can select any combination of four 200-ml. bottles to complete your $40 set. Or, you can go with Haus' picks for the kit: Citrus Flower, Lemon Lavender, Rose Rosé, and Spiced Cherry. I opted for a DIY approach because I was curious to try Bitter Clove, so I swapped out the Spice Cherry.
The goal of the mini bottles in the sampler kit is to try multiple flavors before committing to a full-sized (750 ml.) bottle of any given flavor (available to purchase in quantities of one, two, or six bottles).
Each sampler kit is shipped via FedEx to almost all 50 states. As of now, Haus ships everywhere except Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Rhode Island, North Dakota, South Dakota, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Utah. Because it's alcohol, someone 21 or older will need to sign for your order.
In alignment with its commitment to sustainability, Haus' packaging is 100% curbside recyclable (yay!). It's sturdy enough to protect the glass bottles, yet also minimal in order to reduce excess waste. The kit comes with an informative guide to enjoying Haus, including tasting notes, cocktail suggestions, and an abbreviated intro to aperitifs.
I tried the Haus sampler kit and here's what happened
The Haus guide recommends enjoying this aperitif on the rocks or with a splash of prosecco, so I paired it with Usual Wines Brut. The resulting cocktail was sweet, not overly floral, and definitely big on red fruit like strawberry and raspberry.
The bubbles were key here because otherwise the Rose Rosé would've been a bit too sweet for my taste. If you want an even lower proof option, try mixing it with sparkling water instead of sparkling wine.
Taste meter: 5 out of 5 stars
My expectations for this one were sky high because I'm a huge fan of all things lavender flavored. The Haus guide suggests pairing this with lemonade, which would probably be really lovely and refreshing and honestly the perfect spring beverage.
Instead, I mixed the Lemon Lavender aperitif with Bully Boy Estate Gin, tonic, and a twist of lemon peel, hoping for mixology magic. The resulting drink fell flat—not enough citrus or bubbles.
Taste meter: 3 out of 5 stars
Haus recommends enjoying this one with a splash of soda or in a wine spritz, and since this was the third low-proof cocktail I tried, I opted for soda. The floral notes are super delicate and the flavor is very citrus peel forward.
Since this aperitif is also on the sweet side, I feel like it could use a sour boost with some fresh-squeezed citrus juice in addition to the bubbles.
Taste meter: 4 out of 5 stars
The guide recommends drinking this amaro-inspired aperitif on the rocks with a twist of orange peel. I figured a clementine peel would achieve a similar goal, plus it's all I had on hand, and the resulting beverage reminded me of the holiday season.
Taste meter: 4 out of 5 stars
Should you buy Haus aperitifs?
If, like me, you are approaching 30 and can't be bothered with the hangovers of your younger years, Haus could be a great option for you. Similarly, if you're interested in adding a few low-proof options to your home bar, the Sampler Kit in particular could be a fun way to find the right flavors for you.
Haus aperitifs definitely have more of a wine vibe than a traditional aperitif, so if you don't like wine you probably won't like Haus. I really enjoyed tasting my way through the Sampler Kit and will definitely be making more low-ABV cocktails using these products in the near future.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.