Bottle #26: Boggs Cranberry Liqueur

Bottle #26 is Boggs Cranberry Liqueur. This liqueur was introduced 1976 just in time for the holiday season, and positioned itself as an all-American spirit and “the beginning of an American tradition.” It seems to have been pretty popular in its day.

“Its day” looks to have been from 1976 up until 1997 or so, after which it disappeared from newspaper advertising. Which makes sense, because that’s about when its producer, Heublein, Inc, disappeared as well.

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Heublein is much like the Seagram’s company that I talked about a couple of episodes ago, in that it was once a very large, successful, and well-known liquor company, and is now mostly a distant memory. Especially distant, because unlike Seagrams, they didn’t name things after themselves, so there’s no “Heublein Gin” still on shelves. But in the 1960s and 70s, they dominated several key segments of the liquor industry. This included tequila – I was able to date the bottle of Jose Cuervo gold we tasted a few episodes ago because it still had their name on it as the importer. Even more importantly, they pretty much singlehandedly created the market for vodka in the US with their acquisition of the Smirnoff brand in 1939, and their hugely successful marketing campaigns that followed.

Heublein began life as a restaurant in Hartford, CT in 1862, and kind of stumbled into the liquor business when they accidentally invented the bottled cocktail. The story goes that in 1875 they received a large order for pre-mixed Martinis and Manhattans for the Connecticut Governor’s Foot Guard annual picnic, but the event was rained out. When the product was still tasty several days later, they started selling pre-mixed cocktails from the restaurant, and that took off so much they had to build a distillery to keep up with demand.

In a weird tangent, in 1906 they acquired the rights to import and market a British product, A1 Steak Sauce, in the US. This turned out to be a stroke of luck, as the steak sauce business kept them going through 13 years of US Prohibition.

After Prohibition they jumped right back in to bottled cocktails as well as spirits and liqueurs, and with the Smirnoff brand paying the bills they did what most wildly successful companies do, which was go on a spending spree and buy up other companies. This included wine distributor United Vintners (throwback to bottle #8, Italian Swiss Colony wine) and Kentucky Fried Chicken!

But all good things must come to an end, and in 1982 they themselves were purchased, passed around a bit, and eventually sold off to a company called Grand Metropolitan in 1987. By 1996, the name Heublein had been entirely phased out. Along with, it seems, production of Boggs Cranberry liqueur.

In 1976 newspaper articles Boggs was described as a “40-proof cranberry-red concentration of the savory tart indigenous American berry, using no artificial colorings or flavorings.” But by the time of my tiny bottle, it was down to just 25 proof, or 12.5% ABV. Bottles manufactured in the US usually have a 2-digit date embossed in the glass on the bottom, and mine says “89” so I’m going to declare this a 1989 bottle.

And as of 2022, Boggs is back! The name was purchased by Inclusive One World, a Native American owned liquor distributor based in Florida. No word on if they got the old recipes with the name, but they have brought back the original higher proof version, so hopefully I’ll get a chance to taste them side by side.

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Bottle #26: Boggs Cranberry Liqueur

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Bottle #26 is Boggs Cranberry Liqueur. This liqueur was introduced 1976 just in time for the holiday season, and positioned itself as an all-American spirit and “the beginning of an American tradition.” It seems to have been pretty popular in its day.

“Its day” looks to have been from 1976 up until 1997 or so, after which it disappeared from newspaper advertising. Which makes sense, because that’s about when its producer, Heublein, Inc, disappeared as well.

Heublein is much like the Seagram’s company that I talked about a couple of episodes ago, in that it was once a very large, successful, and well-known liquor company, and is now mostly a distant memory. Especially distant, because unlike Seagrams, they didn’t name things after themselves, so there’s no “Heublein Gin” still on shelves. But in the 1960s and 70s, they dominated several key segments of the liquor industry. This included tequila – I was able to date the bottle of Jose Cuervo gold we tasted a few episodes ago because it still had their name on it as the importer. Even more importantly, they pretty much singlehandedly created the market for vodka in the US with their acquisition of the Smirnoff brand in 1939, and their hugely successful marketing campaigns that followed.

Heublein began life as a restaurant in Hartford, CT in 1862, and kind of stumbled into the liquor business when they accidentally invented the bottled cocktail. The story goes that in 1875 they received a large order for pre-mixed Martinis and Manhattans for the Connecticut Governor’s Foot Guard annual picnic, but the event was rained out. When the product was still tasty several days later, they started selling pre-mixed cocktails from the restaurant, and that took off so much they had to build a distillery to keep up with demand.

In a weird tangent, in 1906 they acquired the rights to import and market a British product, A1 Steak Sauce, in the US. This turned out to be a stroke of luck, as the steak sauce business kept them going through 13 years of US Prohibition.

After Prohibition they jumped right back in to bottled cocktails as well as spirits and liqueurs, and with the Smirnoff brand paying the bills they did what most wildly successful companies do, which was go on a spending spree and buy up other companies. This included wine distributor United Vintners (throwback to bottle #8, Italian Swiss Colony wine) and Kentucky Fried Chicken!

But all good things must come to an end, and in 1982 they themselves were purchased, passed around a bit, and eventually sold off to a company called Grand Metropolitan in 1987. By 1996, the name Heublein had been entirely phased out. Along with, it seems, production of Boggs Cranberry liqueur.

In 1976 newspaper articles Boggs was described as a “40-proof cranberry-red concentration of the savory tart indigenous American berry, using no artificial colorings or flavorings.” But by the time of my tiny bottle, it was down to just 25 proof, or 12.5% ABV. Bottles manufactured in the US usually have a 2-digit date embossed in the glass on the bottom, and mine says “89” so I’m going to declare this a 1989 bottle.

And as of 2022, Boggs is back! The name was purchased by Inclusive One World, a Native American owned liquor distributor based in Florida. No word on if they got the old recipes with the name, but they have brought back the original higher proof version, so hopefully I’ll get a chance to taste them side by side.

4 Comments

  1. I just discovered TODAY (11/04/2023) that “Boggs is Back”!!!!

    Like you, I can’t wait to try it, and I HOPE it’s as good.

    One thing that concerns me, is that when *I’ve* made a substitute for Boggs, all it had was cranberries, water, sugar, and vodka. I read *somewhere* today, that the new version *also* includes “flavoring”. If that’s true, I’m disappointed, because the stuff *I* made required no “flavoring”! But who knows. “Death-by-chemicals” aside, perahps it TASTES every bit just as good! 😀

    Reply
  2. My Boggs was delivered yesterday. I was so excited. I remember it from the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Ruby red coloring, the tart cranberry flavor, the beautiful fat little bottle with its big fat wooden cap. Wow, what a disappointment. This stuff last night was orange-red and cloyingly sweet. Not pleasant at all 😞 .

    Reply
    • Oh, that’s a bummer! Based on what I know about it, you probably remember it from when it was at its best. Mine is from around 1989, when they’d knocked the proof back, so it probably wouldn’t live up to your remembrance either! Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
      • I’m going to make my own!

        Reply

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