Premixed cocktails are coming of age. From a Spritz cocktail to the more complex Espresso Martini, here’s why the canned cocktail trend is so exciting.
Spread the word: the days of simple, saccharine premixed cocktails are over.
Our tastes have changed, our palates have matured, and bartenders have become chemists. And if changing consumer tastes are driving this new wave of high-quality premixes, premium ingredients and new brewing and distillation techniques are facilitating it.
According to Grand View Research, as of 2020, the canned cocktail sector was worth a staggering $714.8 million globally, and this figure is only projected to grow.
“Consumers are more educated than ever, they’re more interested in the provenance and nature of their drinks, and they’re of course ‘drinking less, but drinking better’,” says Matt Sanger, co-founder and managing director of award-winning Ready-To-Drink (RTD) cocktail brand Curatif. “This has meant the demand for cocktails has been increasing exponentially for years, but just hasn’t been met by the industry, with innovation lagging behind consumer interest.”
The original canned cocktails can be attributed to 19th-century American restaurateur and entrepreneur Andrew Heublein and his sons, Gilbert and Louis. When a cancelled event led to massive amounts of pre-made Martinis and Manhattans lying unused, the Heublein brothers discovered that the sealed cocktails retained their flavour and quality (thanks, probably, to the alcohol content, as it acts as a preservative), and proceeded to start selling pre-made cocktails in their restaurant.
The humble cocktail in a can survived through the centuries, including 13 years of Prohibition in the United States, even if over the years they turned into cheap, sugary, and preservative-laden concoctions that nobody really bothered with.
The good news is, today what comes in an aluminium can is more than just a spirit with a mixer. Contemporary canned cocktails utilise modern methodologies and high-quality, natural ingredients to be good enough to compete with the real deal – think craft cocktails like the Mai Tai, Negroni and Espresso Martini.
Not all drinks in a can are created equal however. Within the booming RTD space, hard seltzers are also gaining popularity. And while hard seltzers can cross over into the cocktail in a can category, there’s a difference. A hard seltzer is essentially the combination of a neutral alcohol (commonly derived from barley) and flavoured sparkling water, known in the USA as ‘seltzer’, hence ‘hard seltzer’. They can be brewed, but sometimes they are as simple as spiked sparkling water.
“For as long as the RTD category has existed, it’s mostly been about mainstream brands creating convenient serving methods – think bourbon and cola or vodka and soda and it’s many flavoured variants.” Matt explains. “Seltzer is an exciting category at the moment, but at the end of the day, ethanol, soda water, and flavouring misses the drama, quality and history of the world’s truly great classic cocktails.”
Do you like cocktails out of a can? What is your favourite? The RTD cocktails list is long and there’s something to suit all tastes, from the tried-and-tested, to more complex concoctions.
Recreating the cocktail bar experience in a can, the Mr Black Espresso Martini delivers that perfect taste – complete with foam head, thanks to being charged with nitrogen – with specialty grade Arabica coffee and Australian vodka. Just chill and pour. Also worth trying is Curatif’s Espresso Martini, a collab with Archie Rose.
Spritz cocktails are just the thing for the warmer days of spring and summer, combining your favourite spirits with the fabulous fizz of sparkling wine. Some refreshing spritz cocktails in a can options include the Blood Orange & Bitters Spritz from Sofi.
Gin and tonic lovers have their own canned cocktail list, whether it’s with classic dry gin or flavoured gins. Check out 23rd Street’s Signature Gin & Tonic, or opt for a pink gin soda spritzer with Gordon’s Pink & Soda.
The only thing that can rival the iconic taste of a can of rum and coke is rum paired with ginger. Worth trying are Capricorn Distilling Co.’s pre-mixes like the Rum and Soda with Ginger & Lime, made with small-batch aged rum.
The truth is that the freshness and convenience of these premade cocktails can sometimes outweigh the fun of homemade cocktails. Now you just have to decide which premixed potation to try!