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We all had our hot hard seltzer summer moment last year, and that was admittedly a great time to be a refreshing drink-in-a-can. While hard seltzer has cemented its place in our backyard coolers for now, we like to think of that trend as more a stepping stone to recognizing that you don’t have to sacrifice well-crafted flavors for portability.
The best canned cocktails, or ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails, have really stepped up their game in the past few years, offering surprisingly upscale spirits, and in some case replicating the taste of a freshly mixed drink to a T, all in an easy-to-carry package. There are more diverse offerings than ever, from margs and ranch waters, to even whiskey cocktails and gin-based bevvies. Whatever your libation, we guarantee that there’s a canned cocktail out there for you.
You may think that the very nature of canning a mixed drink means simplifying flavors, or holding on to the low ABV that hard seltzers are known for. But you might just be surprised that, similar to hand-made cocktails, most of these cans can have complex recipes that pack just as much punch as the real thing. We’re talking sometimes even up to twice the ABV of a craft beer or canned wine. It’s now even easier than ever to get local favorites, cocktail six-packs, and seasonal drinks delivered straight to your door.
No longer do you need to break out the bar cart or cosplay as Tom Cruise in Bartender for your buddies — in fact, you really don’t need to be an amateur mixologist at all to whip out these boozy creations for your next poolside drinking sesh, BBQ, or beach day. From old-school cocktails, to sessionable spritzes and sparklers, here are the best canned cocktails for you to take on-the-go.
1. Cutwater Spirits
You know that feeling when you’re standing at an open bar at an event and just feel giddy and a little overwhelmed by all the choices — that’s what Cutwater Spirits’ cocktails feel like. We simply can’t choose from their canned cocktail offerings, not only because of their quality across the board, but because of their impressive range.
San Diego-based Cutwater proves that craft distilleries can provide some insanely good ready-to-drink cocktails, and they’ve got some unique mixes with everything from rum, to vodka, to whiskey and tequila — even a damn good bloody mary. There is not a single miss in their repetoire, and while we like their White Russians and Mai Tais in particular, their latest crowd-pleasing Pineapple Margarita (10% ABV) made from real tequila, triple sec, and pineapple juice is top of our list for summertime sipping.
2. Golden Rule Old Fashioned
We’ve found that many canned cocktails pack too much sugar and too little alcohol, tasting more like a soda than a true cocktail. But Golden Rule does things differently. The brand’s cocktails contain a high ABV (similar to the drinks you’d order in a serious cocktail bar) which brings an alcohol-forward flavor that real cocktail connoisseurs can appreciate.
This old fashioned, for example, has an abv of 39.5% — as the cocktail should be. This high ABV means the Golden Rule cocktails can be packaged in extra small and portable 100-milliliter cans. Besides the old fashioned, we also tasted the brand’s margarita. Both are excellent, especially as aperitifs before a dinner party.
3. Fling Craft Cocktails
Boulevard Brewing Co.’s take the same no-nonsense approach to craft brewing beer as they do for their craft canned cocktails. They only use all-natural ingredients and real distilled spirits, with crisp, refreshing flavors that make you feel like you’re lounging in a resort town’s lodge.
You’ll find old favorites in their portfolio like Mai Tais and Margaritas, but we like that they give some of their cocktails a unique twist, like the botanical gin in their Gina and Tonic, or a blood orange-flavored Vodka Soda. You won’t find a boring cocktail here, and while the ABV tends to be on the lower side for canned cocktails (5-9% usually), they offer a nice alternative to what you’d order at the bar. While they favor dark spirits, try zesty, citrus-forward Vodka Soda or the tangy Margarita.
4. Kahlúa Espresso Style Martini
Espresso martinis have been en vogue for the past year or so, and while you may think of smokey, dimly-lit bars, we think that Kahlúa’s canned Espresso Style Martini brings the same class for a lighter pice tag.
Kahlúa was especially thoughtful about the recreating the experience of drinking this cocktail too — when you pop the can open, nitro foam bursts into life to give you that perfect, velvety smooth foam layer in just 20 seconds. While you can pour it out into a glass to make it extra fancy, we feel like the ingredients all sing together just as well in the can. It’s just the right mix of quality vodka (4.5% ABV), coffee liqueur, and roasted Arabica coffee to feel like you ordered it from a bar. If you’re looking for a vodka cocktail more tailored for day-drinking, Canteen’s Cucumber Mint Vodka Soda is a good alternative.
5. Long Drink
The Finnish Long Drink, or lonkero, was popularized when Finland hosted the 1952 Summer Games in Helsinki, and needed a way to quickly serve cocktails to tourists. Since 2018, this effervescent beverage has quickly been growing its U.S. cult following, and once you get a sip, you’ll see there’s a lot to love here.
Just don’t call it a “canned cocktail” — while it’s a refreshing blend of gin and soda (5.5% ABV) with a sparkle of grapefruit and juniper berry, the uniqueness of the drink means its creators would rather not have you compare it to other RTD beverages. And we’re inclined to agree. Juicy and thirst-quenching, there’s not any drink out there quite like it.
6. JuneShine Rum Mai Tai
Tiki cocktails lend themselves well to being canned up, although some can end up either sickly sweet, or taste like nothing but burning alcohol — Juneshine strikes the perfect balance of tropical vibes and craft-minded distilling.
Juneshine is known best for their hard kombuchas, but their recent line of canned cocktails is sure to impress anyone tiki bar fans and high-brow mixologists alike. As the brand says, it’s “paradise in the palm of your hand,” mixing up real, award-winning Malahat craft rum, white rum, sparkling water, organic orange, pineapple, and lime. The little kick of spice from the rum really helps balance out the natural sweetness in the cocktail. There’s no added sugar, so you won’t start to feel it if you’re sipping one in the heat, but you will feel the two shots in every can at 10% ABV. Poolside lounging, here you come.
7. Onda Tequila Seltzer
Pretty Little Liars’ actress Shay Mitchell released her canned tequila seltzer drinks at the height of the pandemic, but we still keep coming back to sip them summer after summer. Made with nostalgic beach vibes in mind, while the flavors have expanded into a more tropical line, we like the simplicity of the incredibly bright-tasting originals.
Onda is made using Blanco tequila from a woman-owned distillery in Jalisco, Mexico, as well as natural lime and grapefruit juices. There’s very few ingredients, no sugar, and low ABV, so they’re easy to sip during a backyard hangout. With a slightly tart citrus flavor, you won’t need any additional mixers either. It’s just you and your can against the summer.
8. Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock & Rye
Don’t be fooled by this pint-sized can — you’ve gotta drink Rock & Rye just as the label says, “low and slow”. Hochstadter has canned up a proper rye old fashioned, with a combination of 84 proof Straight Rye Whiskey, a pinch of rock candy, raw honey, navel oranges and most importantly, Angostura bitters.
Slow & Low feels like the old bartender giving not what you think you want, but what you need, and trust us when we say that whiskey-lovers need Rock & Rye. The touch of sweetness makes it oh-so-drinkable, whether on the rocks, or straight out of the can. It’s unpretentious, a canned cocktail you can crack open at a tailgate, or paired with a porterhouse. At 42% ABV, it’s spirit-forward enough that you feel like you’re drinking something actually made at a bar, so it’s made to be savored.
9. Usual Wines Yuzu Spritz
There’s nothing ‘Usual’ about this wine spritzer — Yuzu Spritz’s modernized take on boring spritzers makes it great for sipping when you want to feel a little classy, like while viewing outdoor art instillations.
Made using Usual Wines’ brut sparkling wine (the same offered in one of our favorite wine deliveries) and first press Japanese Yuzu juice, we love that the clean, simple ingredients lend themselves so something craveable, you might not be able to drink just one can. A little crisp, a little fruity, everything is rounded out by the quality of Usual’s wine, which is made using sustainably farmed grapes with minimal intervention. The yuzu adds a kind of tang more unique than grapefruit or other citrus flavors normally added to spritzers, which makes it stand out like the cool cousin of canned cocktails. It frequently sells out, but their Guava and Raspberry spritzers are also sure please.