Please Meet Joni
A Spectacular (nonalcoholic) Sparkling Verjus
I am someone who loves wine. To most of you this will not come as any sort of surprise. I like to drink it when I cook, when I think, when I eat, when I sleep. I would drink it in the rain, I would drink it on a train; I would drink it with a fox, I would drink it in a box. Yes, I could write a Dr. Seuss book about wine, similar to Green Eggs and Ham. In any case, I also understand that drinking lots and lots of wine is not something that is good for my longevity (allegedly).
So, I have experimented with some nonalcoholic cocktails and wines, some of which have been fine, some good even. But then I met Joni. Joni is not fine. Joni is not good. Joni is radically and emphatically delicious.
Joni was launched in January by Claire Matern, who grew up in Park Slope in the family business at the specialty cheese and gourmet shop Hiller & Moon, which her parents have run for two decades. While Claire was a recipe tester for most of her adult life, when COVID hit, she began working full time at the family store as it pivoted and became essential to their neighbors.
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While the shop carried cheeses, charcuterie, and prepared foods, it also sold olive oils and vinegars and something called Verjus: the tart unfermented juice made from green grapes—the unripened grapes wine markers cull from the vines about 6-8 weeks before harvest. Claire would advise her customers to use it like vinegar, to deglaze a pan or to use in salad dressings or sauces. She also recommended they take it home and mix cocktails with it, which is what Claire started to do in the evenings after work.
Then her mom was diagnosed with BPV—benign positional vertigo—a condition where drinking anything fermented would bring on a vertigo attack. So Claire began making nonalcoholic drinks with the Verjus she brought home from the store. Her mom loved the Verjus cocktails. Like really loved them. Soon Claire realized she should probably make these in a can, if only to free up some of her time to do other things than make multiple drinks for her mom.
Enter Joni: a gorgeous, fresh, light and bright canned non-alcoholic Verjus cocktail developed over the past year to fill the nonalcoholic beverage space with something truly spectacular.
Joni Blanc is bright and crisp, fresh and savory, with notes of tarragon, basil, and celery; Joni Rouge has warmer notes, steeped with allspice and cardamom. “I developed them to be really different profiles, so if you want to drink more seasonally, you can reach for the rouge on a chillier fall evenings, and for the blanc on hot summer days,” said Matern. I personally think both are great any time of year, or day for that matter, though I did enjoy them while cooking dinner the other night.
I love that they are light and bright—not heavy, and they don’t have that viscosity or aftertaste you get with some nonalcoholic beverages. Joni actually drinks like a wine, with a complexity in flavors that is not happening elsewhere. Joni is very lightly carbonated, with soft tiny bubbles, which makes each can feel like a little celebration.
The name Joni is a riff on Joan of Arc, explained Matern. “Verjus originated in the middle ages in France, and we are drinking that same verjus today, but in this radically different way,” said Matern. “Joni is a tribute to Joan of Arc, who was a radical badass chick from medieval France. It is very much a testament to free-spirited, powerful, amazing women.” Get some for your fine self or that radical badass in your life!
Order Joni online or at a local retailer. In Brooklyn Joni is at Minus Moonshine, Eddie’s Grocer and Willoughby General, and in Manhattan, find it at Pine and Polk on Spring Street.
Joni retails for $6 a can, and a 4-pack is $27.