I’m a very good home bartender, but I don’t enjoy batching cocktails for a crowd or for on-the-go occasions. The guesswork, expense, sourcing and preparation are a major schlep. Luckily the ready-to-drink cocktail category—a segment that is reportedly expected to reach $1.63 billion by 2027—keeps improving. Some products can even impress a cocktail snob like me.
In February, I reported on the trend of craft distilleries branching out to produce quality RTDs made with their own products. There are even more of those to enjoy now, joining well made hard seltzers (yes, those exist) and other canned cocktail creations that stand out in the crowd.
With July 4th weekend coming up and months of sizzling weather still ahead, these convenient, ready-to-drink cocktails quench thirst as they evoke daydreams of summer escapes.
Luxardo Canned Cocktails
Luxardo is now in its 200th year as an Italian spirits company, and has now launched its first-ever canned cocktail line. The three debut cans consist of an Aperitivo Spritz, Bianco Spritz and Sour Cherry Gin and Tonic—very dolce vita! All are made with Luxardo’s own spirits, including its famous Maraschino liqueur, bitters and gin. I’m especially partial to the Sour Cherry GnT that’s simultaneously earthy, tart and refreshing. Each is 10% ABV sold at $20 per 4-pack.
This canned collection celebrates themes of travel and adventure while spotlighting spirits from small producers, paired with ingredients from around the globe. The drinks are based on classics from the jet set, and were created in collaboration with bartenders from different locales. Spicy Margarita uses Paladar Tequila Blanco (Jalisco, Mexico) and was developed by Nico de Soto of Mace in New York City and Danico, Paris. Passion Fruit Caipirinha uses Avuá Prata Cachaça (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), and was developed by Mariena Mercer Boarini of Wynn, Las Vegas. Moscow Mule uses Griffo Pot Distilled Vodka and was developed by Michael J. Neff of Cottonmouth Club, Houston. Each is 7% ABV with an SRP of $20 for a 4-pack.
Boyd & Blair Craft Cocktails Lavender Martini
Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries, makers of Boyd & Blair Vodkaand BLY Rum, have an excellent collection of bottled drinksusing those spirits with real fruit juices and teas. The flavors are all well balanced, authentic-tasting and refreshing. My standout favorite is the Lavender Martini, which sets off the potato vodka with tart lemon and a subtle florality from lavender syrup at 20% ABV. The drinks are sold in backyard party-sized liters for $30, or if within the state of PA, in pint-sized flasks for around $12.
The Bloomington, Indiana craft distillery has a top-notch line of RTDs using their own spirits. However, you gotta admire the adult playfulness of a boozy cream soda. It tastes as it should —like bourbon with melted vanilla ice cream. No high fructose corn syrups or synthetic flavorings are in any of their cans, including this one made with straight bourbon and Madagascar vanilla beans that’s just begging to be sipped with a good pastrami sandwich. Canned at 8.5% ABV and sold in 4-packs for $13.
Rekordling Peach-Basil Botanical Spritz
Hard cider from Vimmerby, Sweden meets the flavors of late summer. Say what you will about flavored ciders. The flavor combination works beautifully and tastes of real ripe peaches and fresh-picked basil. Canned at 4.5% ABV sold in 4-packs for $11.
The newest flavor in this collection of hard tea seltzers from the company founded by Jennie Ripps and Maria Littlefield starts with a brewed tea that’s made with jasmine buds, rose petals, green rooibos and hibiscus. Fresh blueberry, pomegranate and lemon juices give it some jammy punchiness, and it’s only 110 calories a pop with no caffeine or added sugars at 4.8% ABV. It’s sold as part of the Par-Tea Pack 2 along with Matcha with Pineapple and Chamomile and the White Tea with Raspberry & Watermelon for $11.
Dashifre’s take on the classic Cuban Cocktail uses their own grenadine—made from pomegranate juice and cane sugar—along with the traditional white rum, dry vermouth and orange curaçao. Watch out! The can is tiny, but mighty, at 38% ABV. 100 mL cans are sold around $6 each.
Amass Surfer Rosso
This hard seltzer made from fermented cane sugar infused with real hibiscus, ginger and turmeric gets its name from the vanguard late 1980s album by the Pixies. I like this one because it finishes dry and slightly spicy, with a balanced tanginess. “Hey Paul, hey Paul, hey Paul. Let's have a ball!” $21 per 4-pack.
Most contemporary ginger beers are alcohol free, but historically, ginger beer starts as real, brewed beer. Halyard Brewing in South Burlington, Vermont brings back this mid-18th century British tradition with spicy, sweet and punchy canned flavors that include The Breeze (hibiscus and lime), Nicole’s Extra (a traditional Carribean style), Mountain Aid (black currant) and Volcano Juice (ginger beer lemon shandy). Pop one open as the dark clouds roll in. ABV varies by style at 6% and under, $11 a 6-pack.
Vodka, grapefruit, a pinch of salt—it’s amazing how on certain occasions it seems like so much work to put those deliciously simple ingredients together. Lauren and John Maggio of Boulder, Colorado’s Cocktail Squad get that, and make these convenient two-serving cans for the, uh, dog days of summer. 10% ABV, around $6 per 2-serving can or around $22 a 4-pack.