Canned Cocktails Seem Here to Stay

Ready-to-drink vodkas, gin and tonics, and Bloody Marys are increasingly popping up at liquor stores and supermarkets.

 

The appeal of a cocktail in a can is partly what it eliminates (mixology equipment, a bartender, and buying liquor and mixers in full-size bottles) and partly what it enables (portability without fear of, say, shattering a glass poolside). After a shaky start with overly sweet drinks, the category the industry calls RTD (ready-to-drink) cocktails came of age in 2015 as a side project of Ballast Point Brewing in San Diego. Now it’s catching on and, with supermarkets selling a lot of RTDs, is expected to keep growing.

“We make things we like to drink,” says Nicole Woods, marketing manager for Cutwater Spirits, which was spun off from Ballast Point. Cutwater sells about a dozen types, from a mild Bloody Mary to a gin & tonic with notes of cucumber and grapefruit to a cold-brewed coffee fueled with vodka and cream liqueur. Southern Tier Distilling, near Buffalo, ramps up the flavor of its Vodka Madras with cardamom and chamomile.

In New Jersey, canned cocktails are available at some stores and at chains such as Total Wine, Buy-Rite and Joe Canal’s at about $16 for a pack of four 12-ounce cans. The 12-ounce can is technically considered two servings. They aren’t comparable to drinking straight shots. Most are in the range of 10 percent alcohol by volume—roughly midway between beer and wine. They can be drunk straight from a cooled can or poured over ice and dressed up with a garnish. Nathan Arnone, brand manager for Southern Tier, says, “There’s great aroma, so drinking out of a glass adds to the experience.”

Creating a truly palatable canned cocktail “takes a lot of trial and error,” says Jim Romdall, Western regional manager for Novo Fogo Cachaça, which puts out a sparkling caipirinha in a can. “I lost count on how many formulations we tested before coming up with our favorite. It comes down to trying as many combinations as possible, which,” he adds with a laugh, “no one was really sad about.”

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