Single-serving, ready-to-drink cocktails make it easy to enjoy and serve some of today’s most popular libations. They appeal to people looking for something more flavorful and sophisticated than beer or hard seltzer while eliminating the need to invest in a complex list of ingredients.
But after trying a drink or two, many cocktail connoisseurs find the experience a bit underwhelming. After all, it’s difficult to find canned beverages that taste freshly mixed. But there’s no reason to give up just yet. Instead, take a few minutes to discover what makes a good ready-to-drink cocktail, a refreshment you’ll be pleased to enjoy and proud to serve.
The very best ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails are made without shortcuts. They’re developed by expert mixologists, crafted with carefully selected ingredients, and sold at the same strength you or your friends would be served while enjoying a night on the town. They’re also not as difficult to find as you might expect. You just need to know exactly what to look for when comparing your options.
A Brief History: The Origins and Evolution Leading to What Makes a Good Ready-to-Drink Cocktail
Mixing a great cocktail requires a lot more pre-planning than pouring a glass of wine or topping off a beer. The concept of selling ready-to-drink spirit-based beverages alongside malt or wine-based alternatives is nothing new. RTD cocktails have been available since the late 1800s.
The first ready-to-drink cocktails were made by the Heublein brothers, a pair of wealthy hotel owners. They were asked to batch and bottle martinis and Manhattans for a local event. After the engagement was twice canceled, the brothers decided the bottles should be dumped. A curious clerk discovered the cocktails were still quite delicious. By 1892, the brothers’ ready-to-drink cocktails were sold to patrons in bars and restaurants.
By the early 1930s, after the development of interior liners that protected the flavor of ready-to-drink beverages, most bartenders made the transition from bottles to cans. Beer quickly became the convenient, single-serving, ready-to-drink alcoholic beverage of choice. Cocktails were considered more of a niche item, a product that appealed to a select number of people.
Today, the demand for RTD cocktails has rapidly increased over a relatively short amount of time. But most people browsing product options aren’t all that impressed by mass-produced beverages that taste similar to a cocktail. They want a drink that tastes just as strong, complex, and satisfying as any refreshment served by an experienced bartender.
Why Consumers Are Embracing the Simple Pleasures of Ready-to-Drink Cocktails
Hard seltzers and wine spritzers will always have a loyal following. People genuinely enjoy their flavor, carbonation, and low alcohol content. While you can always dress them up with attractive glassware and garnishes, they have an entirely different appeal than expertly crafted cocktails that embody the artistic spirit of a talented mixologist. Today’s consumers are clearly embracing the opportunity to experience the pleasures of complex, expertly flavored cocktails they can enjoy at home or social events.
Although the hard seltzer market is expected to blossom into a $17 billion industry by the end of the year, canned RTD cocktails are now the fastest growing segment of the spirits category. With the demand for RTD cocktails soaring, the sales of hard seltzers are on the decline. Not too surprisingly, well-established beer and soft drink companies are introducing cocktail-like beverages of their own, a move intended to capitalize on the current trends.
As big-name companies are churning out premixed variations of pina coladas, daiquiris, margaritas, and spirit-infused soft drinks, it’s the small-batch craft brands that are elevating the consumer experience. Instead of bombarding the market with mass-produced cocktails that ultimately taste like a mildly disappointing compromise between authenticity and convenience, the best brands deliver an exceptional experience even the most discerning cocktail connoisseurs can appreciate (and enjoy).
Why Settle for Less? How Small-Batch Production Is Elevating the Ready-to-Drink Cocktail Experience
There’s no denying that RTD cocktails have a certain retro appeal. But for far too long, consumer options were limited. Most mass-produced canned cocktails were made with low-quality liquor, artificial flavoring agents, and a range of questionable additives intended to extend shelf-life. They lacked flavor and authenticity. Most people simply weren’t all that impressed.
Even today, many people who appreciate well-crafted cocktails are hesitant to try a ready-made version of their favorite mixed drink. But innovative brands unwilling to compromise on quality are winning them over and winning awards. Whether you’re looking for a convenient way to keep a variety of cocktails on hand for home entertaining or to provide awesome craft cocktails to your customers without having to stock an entire bar with liquor and mixers, consider how the best brands are defining what makes a good ready-to-drink cocktail and fueling consumer demand.
Staying True to The Classics
RTD cocktails are intended to appeal to consumers who want a convenient way to relax with their beverage of choice without having to go to a restaurant or bar. But most aren’t willing to compromise quality for the sake of convenience. People who value the convenience of ready-to-drink cocktails want (and deserve) daiquiris that taste like daiquiris, vodka gimlets made with real lime juice, and old fashioneds made with actual bitters.
Delivering the authentic flavor of classic cocktail recipes requires sourcing and procuring premium ingredients and top-quality liquor. Accurately measured pours (in precise combinations) are essential, and details like using 100% real lime juice, barrel-aged whiskey, and natural sugar matter because most cocktail drinkers know how bar-quality cocktails are supposed to taste.
Consulting Expert Mixologists
Bartenders are trained to mix and serve alcoholic drinks. They’re tasked with providing a service to their patrons. Mixologists, on the other hand, have an in-depth understanding of the significance behind each cocktail ingredient and the impact of various mixing techniques. They’re often hired to create unique variations of traditional cocktails for bars and restaurants. Mixologists are also a valuable resource for ready-to-drink cocktail brands.
The best small-batch craft cocktail makers consult expert mixologists to confirm the authenticity of their recipes and integrity of their flavors. It’s the best way to ensure the sweetness, acidity, and alcohol levels of every cocktail meet (and exceed) consumer expectations.
Providing Full Strength Single Servings
As you’re browsing your local selection of ready-to-drink cocktails, take note of how much alcohol they contain. You’ll likely discover that many RTD cocktails have relatively little alcohol compared to the drinks served in bars and restaurants.
A lot of companies reduce production costs (and increase profit margins) by keeping their “cocktail” ABV similar to the concentrations in most beers and spritzers. The best craft cocktail brands understand that reducing the amount of alcohol and increasing the mixers enough to fill a standard 12-ounce can is a practice destined to cause considerable disappointment for anyone expecting to enjoy an authentic, bar-quality cocktail experience.
The cocktails poured in restaurants and bars are usually made without artificial flavoring agents or questionable preservatives. When you place an order, it’s reasonably safe to assume your bartender is serving a beverage made with quality ingredients.
There’s no reason to lower your expectations (or compromise your standards) just because you choose the convenience of drinking a cocktail poured from a can. With the best cocktail makers, you’ll know exactly what’s in your favorite drink because the ingredients are natural and familiar: no internet search required. You may even learn the exact recipe.
Today’s health-conscious consumers are shifting away from mass-produced beverages. Instead of drinking products made by large corporations with ingredients that ensure an unnaturally long shelf-life, they’re enjoying the advantages of selecting craft beers, ciders, wines, sodas, and RTD cocktails produced in-house in small batches. For RTD cocktails that taste like they came from a professional bar, look for brands founded by people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and put in the work. Exceptionally good ready-to-drink cocktails are out there; you just have to know where to look.
Have You Found a Brand that Understands What Makes a Good Ready-to-Drink Cocktail?
Market analysts expect the RDT cocktail market to expand at an impressive 13.4% CAGR through 2030. With spirit-based cocktails expected to maintain their lead throughout the forecast period, large corporations are taking notice.
Although many large beverage companies are selling their own flavor combinations, corporate-decision makers seem to prefer marketing spirit-infused products made with fewer calories and less alcohol. Cocktail drinkers who want RTD beverages that taste like drinks served by an experienced bartender choose Post Meridiem, the world’s best ready-to-drink cocktails.
At Post Meridiem, we research and procure the best ingredients from around the world. We also oversee every aspect of production, and our cocktails are created in-house in small batches. No shortcuts. No excuses. No compromise. To learn more about our selection of award-winning full-proof ready-to-drink cocktails and other cool cocktail stuff, find us online.