What comes to mind when you hear the word “cocktail?” A smoke-filled bar on Manhattan’s upper east side? A lavish hotel serving hand-crafted margaritas on some lush, tropical island in the Caribbean? Or maybe just new and exciting flavor combinations sourced locally by your favorite hometown mixologist.
Regardless, signature drinks have a way of finding themselves at the forefront of adventure. Now, the world of high-class beverages finds itself facing a new horizon: craft cocktails in a can. While canned cocktails have a substantial pedigree that dates back decades (all the way to the prohibition era in fact) as a market sector, high-quality craft cocktails in a can have taken off in a major way over the last five years.
Today, we’re going to explore this emerging consumer trend with a focus on the factors that are driving it forward, as well as all the key criteria you should look for when purchasing a canned cocktail product.
Why Are Consumers Focusing on Craft Cocktails in a Can?
It started with hard seltzers.
Look in any grocery store, convenience store, or liquor store in America and you will likely find a virtual catalog of hard seltzer products. Since their inception in 2013, hard seltzers have gone from basic fruit flavors to an experimental canvas for brewers to launch their most creative ventures and designs. And while hard seltzers definitely opened the door to a beer-alternative market, we’re not here to focus on the history of fizzy alcoholic drinks. We’re here to talk about an entirely new level of beverage: craft cocktails in a can.
According to The Atlantic, sales of craft cocktails in a can rose a startling 40% in 2019 alone. Since then, this particular market sector has boasted a skyward trajectory with sales volume gaining yearly. According to a Penn State study, the RTD industry rose from a 7% market share in 2019 to account for 11% of global alcohol sales at the end of 2021. One thing is clear: RTD cocktails have the momentum, but what’s actually driving those numbers?
In a bar setting, cocktails are one of the more expensive menu items. Not only are consumers paying for the liquor and fresh ingredients, they’re also paying for the theatrics and social experience involved with mixology. With a single drink costing upwards of $15, in contrast to canned or bottled beers which average around $5 or more, it’s easy to see why consumers are turning to a more cost-effective means of enjoying their favorite cocktails.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The more popular craft cocktails in a can become, the easier it is to find them in everyday places. Consumers no longer have to go to a bar setting to enjoy their favorite drink; they have an increasingly wide range of cocktail options available right at their local liquor store (or wherever spirits are sold).
Changing demographics and social norms
Perhaps the most important factor contributing to the rapid proliferation of RTD canned cocktails is the attitudes and tastes of the millennial consumer in a post-Covid world. The pandemic affected at-home mixology, leading to an increased interest in cocktails.
Now that things are (mostly) back to normal, people have a taste for good cocktails but less free time on their hands to make their own. Enter the high-end canned cocktail. Mass-produced domestic beers had their moment in the sun. Now, drinkers of all ages are looking for a more refined beverage without necessarily making a pilgrimage to the bar.
It’s not just the taste and quality that the modern demographic craves. They are also looking for drinks with fresh, ethically-sourced ingredients. Additionally, they are seeking an atmosphere of increased moderation when it comes to their drinking habits, an attitude that craft cocktails in a can are perfectly suited to address.
What Makes a Cocktail in a Can a High-Quality Product?
As a culture, our collective tastes have changed. RTD canned cocktail products boast a rapidly increasing market presence. But with an ever-increasing array of products available on store shelves, it’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff. Next time you head to your neighborhood liquor store for a craft cocktail in a can, here are some key factors you should take into account when selecting a quality product.
Nothing sinks a nice, canned cocktail and its flavor quite like subpar ingredients. Take fruit juice for example. The status quo for low-end canned cocktails is to use artificial ingredients and “natural” flavorings. While these ultimately extend the product’s shelf life, they have a definitive impact on how the beverage tastes.
In contrast, a high-quality RTD cocktail will use all-natural ingredients such as 100% real juices, liqueurs, bitters, and authentically distilled spirits. The end result? A canned product with a taste indistinguishable from a bar-made cocktail.
For years, 5% alcohol by volume (ABV) and 8% ABV has been the Goldilocks zone when it comes to canned alcoholic beverages. That may fly when it comes to seltzers and beers, but cocktail drinkers are used to something with a little more kick. Fortunately, modern craft cocktails in a can are ready to oblige.
Strong alcohol content is the mark of a quality product. Canned cocktails should use authentic, distilled spirits, making them just as strong as their in-house counterparts. Authenticity through the strength of the alcohol and the quality of the ingredients. It’s what this modern-day audience expects and demands.
Historically, canned drinks have come in a narrow range of sizes. The standard 12oz. can. The whopping 24 oz. tallboy. The sleek middle ground afforded by the 16 oz. seltzer can. While this stereotypical sizing schema might work in the context of seltzer and beer, the world of high-end Cocktails is a different animal altogether.
By their very nature, handcrafted cocktails use a stronger grade of distilled spirits. Unlike beers and seltzers, which typically sit somewhere in the 5% ABV range, craft cocktails in a can often clock in at 15% to 35% ABV due to the inclusion of liquor.
Unfortunately, high-quality cocktails aren’t ideally suited for a 16 oz. pounder. Cocktails require a more refined balance of ingredients and a more sophisticated touch. Look for smaller 100ml to 200ml cans, which is similar to the amount of a standard pour in your favorite bar. Don’t let their diminutive size fool you, though. Smaller canned cocktails means a better balance of spirits + liqueur to mixers, making for a strong but balanced cocktail.
There’s an old saying: the proof of the pudding. In this case, the pudding is how the cocktail tastes. Roughly translated, that means a combination of superior ingredients, strong alcohol, and perfect sizing all add up to a signature bespoke taste as rich as any cocktail you’ll ever find at a bar. With modern advancements in distilling and canning techniques, the ultimate barometer for quality is how the drink itself tastes.
Why Choose Cocktails in a Can Over Other Products?
There’s nothing quite like sitting at the bar and enjoying a freshly made cocktail. It is an experience that speaks to every individual’s tastes, values, and lifestyle. And while the experience is a big part of mixology’s allure, the question becomes, “Why would I want a craft cocktail in a can instead?”
For starters, it both simplifies and economizes the process for cocktail lovers. As mentioned earlier, a single cocktail in-house often costs $15 or more. RTD cocktails in a can, however, retail for as low as $3.99 per drink. Canned cocktail products will potentially save you lots of money in the long run, especially if you are a dedicated cocktail connoisseur. When’s the last time you ordered an Espresso Martini for $4.49?
Price point aside, the cocktail in a can also has an advantage over traditional bar drinks where portability is concerned. Want a cocktail at the beach? No problem. At a cookout? Absolutely. With craft canned cocktails, any place where you can safely and legally consume alcohol is fair game. Couple that with pour-over-ice simplicity and the power of choice, and you have a winning combination.
Beer and seltzer are no longer the only options as far as canned beverages go. Canned cocktails, which are expected to bring in somewhere north of $4 billion dollars in revenue in the immediate future, represent a viable, cost-efficient third option for savvy home drinkers. Sure, most store-bought beverages can’t touch a fresh cocktail, but modern advances in canned beverage manufacturing paired with the highest quality ingredients have created a class of consumer packaged goods that are on par with any mixologist’s best offerings.
Where Can I Find the Best Cocktail in a Can Products?
Finding canned cocktail products is an easy process. Many grocery and liquor stores carry six packs right on their shelves. You can even pick up single cans or a variety pack at your favorite liquor store. Consumers no longer have to go out to the bars to obtain a superior quality mixed drink.
In many states, purchasing is as easy as making a quick trip to the store of your choice. With high-quality flavors such as daiquiris, mai tais, old fashioneds, margaritas, or signature drinks like vodka gimlets and espresso martinis, consumers have a huge range of choices right at their fingertips.
That said, the best way to find craft canned cocktails is to go straight to the source. It’s easy to order high-quality RTD cocktails right from the convenience of your own home with companies such as Post Meridiem Spirits.
Post Meridiem features a robust and easy-to-use online shop fully stocked with your favorite combinations, made with only the freshest ingredients, all in the perfect size and quantity. For more information on Post Meridiem’s operations or to view the full beverage lineup, visit us online today.