Each month, beginning like a year ago when they started officially declining as a business, Applebee’s has released $1-$2 drink specials to remind everyone why they should keep coming to this failing chain.
The drinks change with the months – sometimes it’s Long Island Iced Teas, sometimes it’s Bahama Mamas, sometimes it’s glasses of Blue Moon. One time it was $1 margaritas, or “dollaritas” according to someone clever on the internet.
This month? Rainbow Punch.
According to the Applebee’s website, Rainbow Punch is “authentic punch made with Absolut vodka and the combination of green apple, ginger, and lemon flavors.” Once blended and poured, the cocktail is then garnished with a slice of Airheads Xtremes Rainbow Berry candy and served in a small beer stein.
Obviously…I had to try it.
I invited the only other person I knew I could convince to meet me at Applebee’s for such an experience (who was also supposed to write a blog about this drink but did not) and prepared for an unforgettable evening.
Upon arriving at my nearest neighborhood Applebee’s Bar and Grill (I discovered that there’s one only ten minutes from my house, uh oh!), I ordered my beverage and then watched closely as my bartender Taneika got to work.
Instead of the meticulous, ingredient-after-ingredient process that most bartenders utilize – search for each individual component, measure it out, muddle some stuff, slap a mint leaf between your hands, form an ice cube into a sphere, shake it all up, and on and on and on until you’ve almost forgotten what you ordered – Applebee’s Rainbow Punch simply calls for a splash of vodka and a pour of their specially created cocktail mixer.
Which, if that’s not efficiency, I don’t know what is.
Once Taneika added a healthy portion of the main ingredient (ice), she poured in the most important ingredient (vodka) – just a splash since this drink is only $2 so don’t get too generous, is what I’m imagining was said during the Applebee’s Rainbow Punch training session – then filled the rest of whatever remaining space the excessive amount of ice allowed with the mass-produced punch concoction.
I found the Rainbow Punch to be tart and refreshing, with a juicy yet intricate flavor profile that brought with it an opulent mouthfeel. The green apple hit my taste buds instantly, but was quickly softened and complemented by the subtle lemon zest peeking through. And I found that, if I concentrated really hard, I could almost taste the hint of ginger that the cocktail description alluded to.
The Airheads Xtremes Rainbow Berry candy, I soon discovered, is not merely there for aesthetic purposes. Just as red wine is strongly accentuated by a piece of rich dark chocolate, the Rainbow Punch is best consumed when paired with its adjoining garnish. The sour sweetness of the candy masterfully softens the punch’s austere complexities while bringing out the pertinent flavors of modified corn starch and green dye #12.
Although this drink may seem like it is best enjoyed on a hot summer day atop a lounge chair next to the pool, Applebee’s has released it in March to celebrate Irish heritage alongside the rest of the world honoring Saint Patrick.
The green hue of the cocktail commemorates Ireland’s national flag, a discernible nod to the native people of Ireland. Meanwhile, the Airheads Xtremes Rainbow Berry candy symbolizes a prodigious rainbow filling the Irish sky, arced atop the drink to insinuate that the cocktail below is, in fact, your very own pot o’ gold.