By: Adam Bible & Joshua Bernstein - June 2022
Canned cocktails let you bring the bar wherever you are, no mixers or fancy glassware needed. Some cocktail companies even tap top-shelf bartenders to create mixed bevs that reach an exceptionally high bar.
“We have this pedigree and quality that the brand stands behind,” says Aaron Polsky, founder of LiveWire, a line of bartender-developed canned cocktails.
Many canned cocktails offer traditional takes on the vodka soda, margarita, old-fashioned, and other common mixed drinks. Bartender-driven cocktails attempt to deliver the quality and creativity you’d expect while bending elbows at a bar.
In 2020, Tom Macy and Julie Reiner, owners of Brooklyn cocktail standout Clover Club, founded Social Hour Cocktails. They modeled its lineup after a bar’s drinks menu, using high-quality spirits from New York Distilling Company and Faccia Brutto to build drinks such as a gingery whiskey mule, strawberry-rhubarb spritz and a vodka fizz brightened with yuzu and peach. “We’re providing the same cocktail you’d get made from scratch in a portable format,” says Macy.
Bartending giant Jeffrey Morgenthaler, formerly of Clyde Common in Portland, OR, collaborated with Ninkasi Brewing on a line of to-go spirits including Bourbon Renewal, a bubbly riff on his classic drink featuring lemon and black currant liqueur. “I’m able to put delicious drinks in more people’s hands,” Morgenthaler says.
Ah, everybody wins!
Below, we’ve put together our favorite canned cocktails from these revered brands and bartenders, as well as some more bevs perfect for toting to BBQs, park hangs, weekends at the lake, and beach jaunts. These will satisfy any discerning cocktail connoisseur. Just note, unlike the relatively tame alcohol by volume (ABV) of most hard seltzers—which hover around 5 percent ABV, or close to the standard amount in beer—these are truly cocktails in a can, meaning they have actual liquor in them (e.g. vodka, tequila, whiskey, rum) and ABV can sky rocket up past 12 percent in some mixes.
Exercise caution when imbibing; really lean in to slow summer sipping!
1. Drifter Craft Cocktails Nordic-Style Gin & Tonic
Drifter partners with bartenders to develop cocktails driven by global ingredients. Steva Casey of Birmingham, AL, bar Continental Drift created this blend of navy-strength gin, caraway-infused aquavit, allspice, and Chinese pear juice. It clocks in at 7% ABV.
2. Ninkasi Brewing Company Agave Paloma
The Oregon brewery recently debuted a trio of canned cocktails developed by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, author of Drinking Distilled. We like his grapefruit-and-jalapeño paloma, with agave spirits. At 9% ABV, this bevvie shines with tacos and beach lounging.
3. Social Hour Cocktails Pacific Spritz
Bartenders from Brooklyn’s Clover Club developed this effervescent drink (8% ABV), perfect for picnics or happy hour. Aperitivo liqueur lends a balancing bitterness to this easy sipper starring sparkling rosé, passionfruit, and grapefruit.
4. Cutwater Tequila Lime Margarita
This tart, refreshing quaff can rival the handmade margaritas you make at home. It’s sweetened with pure cane sugar, but clocks in at 360 calories and 12.5 percent ABV, so you might want to mellow with some seltzer water.
5. Bombay Sapphire Gin & Tonic
Is there anything more refreshing than a G&T after a long day at the beach? This canned version of the British classic cocktail doesn’t disappoint. It has that bitter quinine kick of tonic coupled with zingy lemon and fresh botanicals. A light version is also offered that has the same ABV, 5.9 percent, but only 90 calories.
6. 10 Barrel Brewing Co. Bloody Mary
You can’t have a Sunday brunch without the savory, spicy, salty kick of a proper bloody Mary. Made from a secret family recipe passed down from a brewer’s grandmother, the 12-ingredient morning cocktail includes Tabasco, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper. At 10 percent ABV, pair with a hot plate of fried chicken and waffles.
7. Reed’s Zero Sugar Classic Mule
After languishing in cocktail obscurity for a few decades, the always-refreshing Moscow mule has recently made a strong comeback on most cocktail menus. It could be the shiny copper mugs that sweat in the summer sun, but it’s most likely the perfect pairing of ginger and vodka. Reed’s, the legendary ginger beer purveyor, created this perfect homage to the classic, with spicy punch that doesn’t suffer from the dreaded artificial sweetener aftertaste.
8. Picnic Brunch Mimosa
Most boozy brunch folks are split between those who love a spicy bloody Mary and those who prefer the sweetness of a mimosa. Picnic Brunch’s version (they also make an excellent bloody) is a fizzy, citrusy delight that will please bubbly lovers. It has a helpful hangover-curbing 6.9 percent ABV and no added sugar.
9. Cocktail Squad Whiskey Sour
Whiskey lovers will dig this smoky, smooth, and sour cocktail inspired by the classic concoction. Clean, with just four ingredients, bourbon, lemon and orange juice, and gomme syrup, this boozy boy comes in at 10 percent ABV for a 12 oz can, which they smartly suggest serves two.
10. Monaco Vodka Sodas
Perfect for those who are a little more mindful of sugar and calories, these vodka sodas only have three ingredients, making them perfect for health-conscious imbibers. Choose between Tropical or Lemon Lime. Both contain two shots of vodka for a 9 percent ABV. They deliver a clean, refreshing taste—what every expertly made vodka soda should have.
11. Dashfire Martini
These tiny (3.4 oz) canned cocktails—available in six flavors, five showing up at 38 percent ABV—rival those made at the swankiest bars. We like the martini, which pairs lemon and lavender bitters with a splash of sherry to round out the vodka. The convenient size means you can have a quality cocktail anywhere you please.