Historically, many canned cocktails had muted flavors and lower ABVs than their freshly made equivalents. Now, thankfully, creative companies are perfecting the RTD format. Some are pretty boozy, too, so be sure to check labels before casually cracking into that second (or third?) can.
We gathered a team of expert tasters to sample dozens of canned cocktails on a summer Friday at VinePair HQ. Many were underwhelming, scoring high on looks but low on taste. Others impressed us with their balanced flavors, inspiring such remarks as, “Do we have any more of these? I want to bring a couple to my friend’s roof tonight.”
All agreed these seven should rise to the top of your cooler this summer. Here are seven of the best canned cocktails available right now, ranked.
Fishers Island, N.Y.
This is no Mike’s Hard Lemonade. This is just lemonade — really good lemonade — that’ll get you drunk if you’re not careful. The whiskey and vodka are almost undetectable, save for a brief breeze of booze on the finish. Clutch one of these with your face in a grill or your toes in the sand, or both, if you’re lucky.
San Diego, Calif.
Admittedly, our tasters weren’t expecting much of gin & tonic in a can. But as we individually sipped and pondered this packaged classic, we sat corrected. Hit with an herbal aroma, one taster recalled cleaning fluid, “but in a good way.” Quinine takes the flavor reigns, matching pronounced tonic with bold effervescence. The gin slips in with just a hint of botanical pith. Given this in a glass with ice and a twist of lime, we’re not sure we’d discern it from the real thing.
The nose on this one wasn’t our favorite, but the flavors are bright and summery, and our panelists felt it tastes more like a traditionally made cocktail than many of its canned brethren. “I like this more than I thought I would,” one panelist said. Light and easy-drinking, this is 12 fluid ounces of summer, at your fingertips.
San Diego, Calif.
We normally wouldn’t include multiple options from the same label, but we made an exception for Cutwater’s delightful Bloody Mary. Rich and robust, with tons of umami and considerable spice, this can made a strong impression on our panel. “Now, that’s a good Bloody,” one taster commented. Another noted the potential for bringing these cans to a day-drinking event or brunch party. We suggest serving on ice.
Startling in the best way, this G&T hits your palate like a bouquet of hibiscus flowers that’s been sitting in lime juice. Refreshingly crisp with a bubbly bite, this makes a great day or night companion, whether you’re sunbathing by the pool or headed to a backyard party. We love its portability in the can but recommend pouring this one over ice to view its bright pink hue and let its freshness last. As one taster concluded, “this canned cocktail is clearly made with love.”
Germany via Miami, Fla.
This crowd-pleasing sparkling wine cocktail with elderflower and lemon is, in a word, lovely. Easy-drinking and elegant, it separates itself from many canned cocktails with its refreshingly natural aroma (it smells like real elderflower and lemon, rather than artificial flavorings). One taster likened its flavor to a Whole Foods “healthy” soda, concluding, “I could crush this all day.” Floral, fruity, and nuanced with a Champagne-like finish, one taster reckoned it’d make a perfect companion to a posh picnic. Bring this one out to impress your friends.
A canned Old Fashioned is admittedly not for everyone or every occasion; but this is without a doubt the realest canned cocktail on the list. By that we mean the booziest. Clocking in at 84 proof, and made with straight rye whiskey, raw honey, air-dried navel oranges, Angostura bitters, and a dose of rock candy, this Old Fashioned in a can will raise your eyebrows and your spirits in no time.