We may look back at 2019 as the summer of the canned cocktail. Because, while recent years have seen nearly every variety of wine get the canned treatment, cocktails seemed to have lagged behind—until now.
With such an explosion of can-based cocktails on our hands, we felt duty-bound to try as many as we could get our hands on (and reasonably drink) over the course of a few weeks. From sparkling Caipirinhas to a pre-packaged Bloody Mary, here’s what to drink (or skip) before summer ends.
Greenbar Distillery Spritz
If you’re familiar with Los Angeles’s Greenbar Distillery it’s likely because of their Grand Poppy Amaro. But this year Greenbar jumped into the canned spritz market, leaning into their capacity as a distiller of organic spirits. Each spritz sports a 6% ABV and is packaged in a 355ml can.
The three flavors—orange, ginger, and hibiscus—are made from a base of cane spirits and include a truly impressive lineup of spices and botanicals. For instance, the hibiscus flavor alone contains jasmine tea, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, and sage among many others. All are organic and flavored with cane sugar.
Greenbar’s spritzes proved crisp and fresh, but also featured a surprising depth of flavor owing to its layered spice components. Those flavors, together with the bitter qualities of its citrus components, made each feel like a full-fledged cocktail while staying highly crushable.
Austin’s Mighty Swell offers slim, 12-ounce canned spritzes in four flavors: watermelon mint, grapefruit, peach, and mango. Each relies on cold-brewed sugar alcohol, which is fixed at 5% for each can.
They’re light, highly carbonated, and easy to drink. However, the flavors didn’t leave much of an impression. The watermelon mint reminded me of watermelon-flavored bubblegum, and its grapefruit expression had a distinctly Fresca-like quality.
Mighty Swell’s advertising leans into their modest calorie count—just 110 calories—and the fact that each contains only four grams of sugar. If you’re looking for the lowest-calorie, lowest-sugar option, you may be satisfied with Mighty Swell, but the faint fruit flavors reminiscent of the bubblegum aisle make them hard to recommend to the cocktail enthusiast.
Wine-based Ramona comes in two flavors—ruby grapefruit and lemon—and features Italian futurist-style labeling that’s impossible to miss. The Italian-made product is organic and classifies itself as a “wine spritz.” Both flavors are 7% ABV and come in a 250ml can.
The namesake citrus comes across clearly in each, in a way that’s not tinny or artificial, but crisp and fresh. Neither is particularly complex, but both hit the right balance between tart and sweet.
10 Barrel Brewing
10 Barrel Brewing is an outlier in the field: a brewery that decided to join the canned cocktail fold. Their first batch includes a Greyhound, a Moscow Mule, a Classic Margarita, a Mango Margarita, and a Pineapple Margarita. They range from 10-11.8% ABV and come in 355ml cans.
Unfortunately, much of the oeuvre proved to be on the sticky-sweet side. The sweet fruit flavors of the Mango Margarita outshone the tequila, and the Greyhound and Moscow Mule also proved to be sugar rushes. While the Bloody Mary was interesting in concept, it proved closer to a Campbell’s tomato soup in execution.
Boulder-based Cocktail Squad features a broad range of expressions, including a Greyhound, Gin and Tonic, Margarita, Vodka Soda, Whiskey Sour, and Bourbon Smash. Each is 10% ABV and served in a 355ml can.
Cocktail Squad’s range is diverse—and so are the outcomes. The Whiskey Sour proved tinny and overly sweet in the can, but became much better after it was allowed to mellow over ice in a rocks glass. While the bourbon was still imperceptible, the gomme syrup used to sweeten it proved round and honey-like.
Their Margarita benefited from a touch of salt, and wasn’t sweet to the point of outshining the tequila. The Greyhound was crisp with a nice grapefruit tang, and the effervescence of the Gin and Tonic was appreciated in a world where tonic tends to go too flat too quickly. On the whole, I found that every Cocktail Squad expression was aided by dilution over ice.
Novo Fogo Sparkling Caipirinhas
The Caipirinha, and cachaça, have yet to reach household name-status in the U.S., which makes the launch of Novo Fogo’s sparkling Caipirinha line all that more surprising. Canned at 200ml with an ABV that ranges from 8.2-8.5%, Novo Fogo’s cocktails—which come in lime, mango-lime, and passion fruit-lime— are among the more concentrated on the list. All are made with Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça.
Consequently, the smaller size and higher ABV make each feel like a true cocktail. All feature fresh, zippy fruit flavors that prove refreshing without blotting out cachaça’s grassy funk. The high-level of carbonation in each is a treat, and every one could be enjoyed straight from the (chilled) can.
On The Rocks
There’s no question that Dallas’s On The Rocks cleans up in the packaging category. Every cocktail comes in a glass bottle (not a can, but close enough), ranging from a single-serve 100ml, a serves-two 200 ml, or a 375ml container. And, unlike many of the drinks on this list, none are carbonated. Each touts the spirits it is made with: for instance, the Tres Generaciones Jalapeno Pineapple Margarita and the Knob Creek Old-Fashioned.
As the name implies, On The Rocks cocktails are meant to be poured over ice, and they do improve with dilution. While the Jalapeno Pineapple Margarita may not have had the depth of a freshly made Margarita, it was balanced with an appreciated kick of jalapeno and a rounded finish. I preferred it to their standard Margarita made with Hornitos Tequila, which proved too sour, cloying, and sharp.
The presence of Knob Creek was detectable in the Old-Fashioned, though its strong flavors of candied orange and cherry may turn off those who like their drinks boozier. The Aviation was a fascinating addition, although it contained a sweetness that was a little closer to pink lemonade. The Mai Tai benefits from a round, rich pineapple flavor, but remained a touch too sweet even after dilution with ice.
Slow & Low
Canned at 42% ABV, the 100ml Slow & Low can is a mini-me copy of the Hochstadter’s bottled rock and rye. Like its daddy, canned Slow & Low is made from straight rye whiskey, honey, navel oranges, Angostura-style bitters, and rock candy.
The rye whiskey presence is just as strong as the proof would suggest, accompanied by touches of citrus and sweetness that only slightly temper it. The strong, undiluted quality of Slow & Low may not make it your first choice on a sun-drenched roof deck, but it’s about the purest expression of a canned cocktail that exists.