In recent years, it seems almost every craft brewery and distillery of note has decided that bottling beer and distilled spirits isn’t enough for them. They’ve seen the popularity of cocktail culture and decided that a canned “cocktail” is a good idea. We put cocktail in quotes because an actual cocktail is fairly high in alcohol and typically made up of a base spirit with other ingredients added to attain a specific, appealing flavor profile. But with the rush to get canned cocktails to market and get in on the proverbial action of this trend (which seemed to start in 2016 with canned wine), many brands forgot the better characteristics of a good mixed drink — instead opting for overly sweet, low-alcohol beverages that resemble the gin & tonic and bourbon smash you know and love about as much as Boones Ferry resembles wine.
Amidst the flotsam and jetsam (and there’s a lot of garbage drinks in this sub-category), there are a few brands in the sea of blah that are actually pretty dang good. Here they are. Ignore all others or suffer the perils of a sugar crash and a crushing hangover.
Cocktail Squad Whiskey Sour
The Whiskey Sour is one of the most beloved of all classic cocktails and it’s pretty hard to mess up. This simple mixed drink consists of whiskey, lemon juice, gomme syrup (pretty much simple syrup with gum Arabic added to it), and, if you’re down for it, an egg white.
Tasting Notes: Boulder, Colorado’s Cocktail Squad doesn’t use fake bourbon flavoring or random, strange ingredients. Its Whiskey Sour is made with handmade bourbon, pressed lemon and orange juice, and, just like your favorite whiskey sour, gomme syrup. The result is a creamy, smooth, rich bourbon flavor up front with the sweet, tart finish you’ve grown to expect. All this at 10 percent ABV.
Hochstadter’s Slow and Low Rock & Rye
We’ve previously written about Hochstadter’s Slow and Low Rock & Rye in our article about flavored whiskeys. But we’re mentioning it again because, while it’s a flavored whiskey, it’s also a premade cocktail. It can be purchased in a 750ml bottle or in a handheld 100ml can that sits at a very potent 84 proof.
Simply crack these bad boys open and pour over ice. There is no better canned cocktail on the market. Not even close.
Tasting Notes: The Rock & Rye cocktail has been around since the 1800s. Hochstadter’s version uses rye whiskey, raw honey, dried oranges, Angostura bitters, and a hint of rock candy. The result is a spicy, sweet cocktail with hints of citrus and pepper. If it feels like a throwback to a bygone era, that’s because it truly is.
Cutwater Bloody Mary
View this post on Instagram
Bloody's in the morning??? Yes please! . . I don't know about anyone else but I definitely need a #cutwaterbloodymary this morning. #hairofthedog . . @cutwaterspirits is distilled in San Diego and this team really knows how to tap into their curiosity and creativity. Building on tradition, all the while opening their minds wide open to the unconventional. I don't care what anyone says I love their canned cocktails and the #spicybloodymary is to die for. Stay vodka my friends. SOK RATING-6 #shotofknowledge #cutwaterspirits #cutwatercocktails #cutwaterbloodymary #vodka #drinkvodka #cocktails #mixology #stayvodkamyfriends #cheers #drinkresponsibly
We always advocate booze for breakfast. What’s the point of going to brunch if you can’t enjoy bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Marys? We’re definitely not showing up for an all-you-can-eat eggs benedict (although that does sound good). Cutwater knows this. That’s why they crafted a 10 percent ABV Bloody Mary made with their Fugu Vodka and award-winning Bloody Mary mix (made with tomatoes, various spices, and a whole lot of pepper).
Tasting Notes: Making a proper Bloody Mary can be a bit of a pain if you don’t have a great pre-made mix. You can drink a Bloody Mary simply made with vodka, tomato juice, and hot sauce, but these days you don’t have to settle for a drink that seems more at home on a trans-Atlantic flight.
Cutwater’s Bloody Mary has enough vodka backbone to go with juicy tomato, spices, and a last-second punch to the gut of pepper. After a few, you’ll wish these were bottomless.
Southern Tier Gin & Tonic
Southern Tier has made quite a name for itself in the craft beer world over the past decade. Recently, the brewery decided to branch out into distilling. With that came canned cocktails and one of the brand’s best is its simple yet delicious gin & tonic. This award-winning canned cocktail sits at a not-quite-sessionable 8 percent ABV. It goes above and beyond the normal gin & tonic by adding elderflower, cucumber, and lime zest.
Tasting Notes: The gin & tonic is one of our go-to summer drinks. It’s easy to make (all you need is gin, lime, and tonic water) and aggressively refreshing on a hot day. Southern Tier’s version, while a take on the original, is no different in its refreshing nature. It’s crisp, easy to drink, and features subtle flavors of citrus and elderflower that don’t overpower the underlying gin profile. It’s the kind of canned cocktail you’ll reach for after an afternoon of lawn mowing.
Half Seas Paloma
Recently, we named the paloma your drink of summer ’19. So, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include one on our canned cocktails list. This canned paloma from Half Seas packs a wallop at 12.5 percent ABV and combines tequila with grapefruit soda, pure cane sugar, and lime.
Tasting Notes: As mentioned above, we love palomas. That also means we know the difference between a good and bad paloma the second we taste them. Half Seas nailed the flavor we expect from this summery mixed drink. It’s everything you want in a great Paloma with subtle tequila peeking through as well as effervescent and flavorful grapefruit soda and a hint of sweetness and tart citrus.