Cocktails are often served in celebratory environments, and people have been enjoying them for centuries as special beverages to be savored. The best canned alcoholic drinks replicate the flavors of those you’d find in a bar. However, a good cocktail depends on high-quality ingredients and an experienced mixologist who understands proportions exactly. Such requirements suggest that a ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktail would be impossible to achieve.
Premixed cocktails have been around nearly as long as their freshly made counterparts. Bottled drinks were overtaken by cans, and RTD cocktails have experienced intermittent popularity over the decades. These drinks were marketed for convenience, and they certainly delivered it. Yet achieving those goals often resulted in compromised flavor and quickly declining interest.
In recent years, the popularity of RTD beverages has surged again, but modern consumers don’t want to sacrifice taste for convenience. While many brands haven’t managed to achieve the balance of professional cocktail taste and canned convenience, a few have made it happen. So, what are these dynamic companies doing differently? Almost everything. Find out the secrets behind today’s best canned alcoholic drinks.
How the Best Canned Alcoholic Drinks are Made
Premium cocktails are made from quality ingredients. In a cocktail lounge, patrons would be disappointed to taste their favorite beverage made with artificial ingredients and unexpected fillers. Since these drinks are made fresh, there is no need to make such substitutions.
The canning process and demand for a long shelf life often send manufacturers down a different route to achieve flavor without concerns about ingredients that can degrade over time. To achieve bar-quality flavor from canned cocktails, brands had to return to classic ingredients and develop new processes to support them. These differentiators are what make the best canned alcoholic drinks stand out from the competition.
100% Pure Ingredients
Most cocktails get their palatable flavor from fresh juices that add tartness and natural syrups that sweeten the mixture. However, these ingredients can be challenging to use in a product that isn’t served immediately. Citrus degrades and oxidizes quickly, and syrups can present concerns around bacteria growth.
To avoid these potential issues, canned drink manufacturers make substitutions that can significantly change the beverage’s flavor. Citric acid is commonly used to replace pure juices and add a tart flavor. Flavorings, usually referred to as “natural flavors,” are often used to compensate for the lack of juices. Sweet elements in canned drinks can range from artificial sweeteners for sugar-free drinks to high fructose corn syrup. While these changes may seem subtle, they add up to completely change the taste of a cocktail.
The best canned alcoholic drinks use 100% pure ingredients derived from real sources to provide the same quality taste you get from fresh drinks. For example, quality brands use authentic ingredients in their canned cocktails, like margaritas with 100% lime juice and Double Old Fashioneds with demerara syrup. These distinctions require proprietary manufacturing and canning processes to successfully achieve. As a result, they deliver the same flavor as a freshly mixed cocktail.
The best fresh cocktails are a careful blend of precisely measured ingredients that deliver the perfect sip. However, many canned alcoholic drinks are malt and wine-based drinks with an alcohol by volume (ABV) level of 4–5%. When these drinks are made with entirely different proportions than a bar-mixed drink, it comes as little surprise that they don’t taste the same.
In contrast, the best canned alcoholic drinks are mixed with the right ingredients in the proper amounts and packaged neatly in a single-size serving with no room for error. Exact ounce-for-ounce measures of each cocktail ingredient are blended carefully and packaged into the standard cocktail size for a full-strength beverage.
A Proven Canning Process
Alcoholic drinks packaged in large bottles and tall cans prioritize quantity. While getting more for your money isn’t a bad thing, the sacrifice ends up as lower quality for higher quantity. Small cans allow mixologists to craft single-serve cocktails with precision. These packages also have a higher ABV that is equivalent to that of freshly mixed drinks. For example, a 12-ounce canned drink may have an ABV of 6.2% while a 3.4-ounce can has a 25% ABV.
The higher alcohol volume not only packs a stronger punch and delivers the taste of a properly mixed drink, but it also limits the number of preservatives required to keep the drink fresh. Small-batch canning provides more control over ingredients and ensures freshness as drinks are shipped from the manufacturer to the consumer. The combination of smaller cans and small batches provides consumers with canned drinks that taste authentic and fresh.
Malt-based beverages make up 90% of RTD volumes. This includes beer, seltzers, spritzers, and even some types of canned cocktails. Malt beverages are fermented and brewed. Spirits that are typically used in freshly mixed drinks are distilled. While malt-based drinks aren’t bad, they have a different flavor than those mixed with distilled spirits.
High-quality canned drinks use the same spirits as a freshly mixed bar cocktail. Real tequila, gin, rum, vodka, barrel-aged whiskey, and quality liqueurs are used to create the authentic taste you expect. You can often find a simple recipe printed on the can, so you know exactly what you’re getting.
Many canned alcoholic beverages, like seltzers, are designed to be carbonated. Yet classic cocktails typically don’t depend on the bubbly fizz of carbonation for sourness and flavor. High-quality canned cocktails are designed to mirror the drinks you get at your favorite bar.
The best canned alcoholic drinks skip the extra zip of carbonation to provide a classic cocktail with the proper alcohol volume, precisely complemented with the appropriate ingredients.
Serve RTD Cocktails in Style
Canned cocktails come in a handy single-size serving that you can pour, serve, and drink immediately. If you’re serving cocktails at a social gathering or party, you have many options for an elegant presentation. After all, you don’t have to go through the trouble of mixing the drink yourself, so why not have some fun with garnishing?
Pouring a canned cocktail over ice and topping it off with your favorite garnish will give you the most authentic cocktail bar experience. Whether you’re serving drinks or your guests are prepping their own, consider these always popular garnishes.
- Citrus slices or peels: Citrus is the perfect accompaniment to a variety of cocktails. Lemons, limes, and oranges can be sliced into wheels or wedges to perch neatly on the edge of a glass or put directly into the drink. A citrus peel twist adds a bright garnish and imparts oil from the peel into the drink. For variety, dehydrated or candied fruits offer a different flavor and appearance.
- Cucumber slices: Cucumbers are crisp, refreshing, and brightly colored. Slices are easy to prepare, but if you want to get fancy, ribbons add a new dimension.
- Salted or sugared rim: Dip the edge of a glass in liquid like citrus juice and then into salt or sugar to flavor the rim of the glass. A sugared rim works for a sweet drink, and a salted one is a better fit for stronger drinks. Either version provides an attractive crystallized appearance around the glass rim.
- Olives: A classic (and most likely expected) garnish, olives have a salty, briny flavor that pairs well with sharp alcohols. It’s also easy to serve speared on a toothpick and dipped into the drink.
- Chocolate rim: This doesn’t work for all types of cocktails, but those that already have a sweet taste (like a chocolate or espresso martini) pair nicely. A chocolate-rimmed glass also features an elegant look to dress things up.
- Maraschino cherries: A pop of color and sweet flavor make these garnishes a long-time favorite in the cocktail world. They work well in whiskey sours and Mai Tais and are almost a requirement for a proper Manhattan.
- Mint: The light, crisp flavor of mint is a perfect partner to the complex flavors of white rum and bourbon. Mint is easy to use since you simply place it on top of your drink, adding a lush look to any cocktail.
- Chocolate shavings: Like the chocolate rim, these toppings are best reserved for specific drinks. If you don’t want to prepare chocolate-rimmed glasses, chocolate shavings add the same flavor with an elegant appearance.
Taste the Difference of Quality Canned Alcoholic Drinks
The best canned alcoholic drinks deliver bar quality with no compromises on taste. You get the same quality you’d find in your favorite cocktail bars in the convenient packaging of a single-serve can. At Post Meridiem, we make high-quality cocktails with pure ingredients, distilled spirits, and no artificial additives.
Whether you enjoy a drink after a hard day’s work or serve them at a refined cocktail party, you can enjoy a true cocktail experience that rivals the appeal of a freshly mixed drink. Browse our online selection or look for a supplier nearby to see what the best canned alcoholic drinks have to offer.