There was a time when cans were the sole domain of beer. But then winemakers started putting their vintages in aluminum, and now the canned revolution has reached the world of cocktails (which, for the purposes of this story, we’re defining as any mixed alcoholic drink). Some of the entrants to this new class of RTDs, or ready-to-drinks, are just as good as what you can get at your favorite watering hole, but in a convenient, recyclable, and discrete package. That said, not all canned cocktails are created equally. (Sorry, White Claw.) To find cans you’ll actually finish, we reached out to 12 mixologists and bartenders across the country to ask them about the canned cocktails they like to sip. Their 13 favorites below include a canned Bee’s Knees, an alcohol-free spritz, and a sophisticated hard seltzer. Seeing as drink preferences can vary, we grouped their recommendations by what alcohol you’ll find in the can — from spirits to wine to spiked seltzer — and led each category with any canned cocktails we heard about the most. At the very end of the list, we also included a highly recommended nonalcoholic canned cocktail for anyone who’s off the sauce.
Five of the experts we spoke to endorsed LiveWire, a line of cocktails from bartender-turned-entrepreneur Aaron Polsky, who spent a decade working in some of New York City’s best bars. “Each cocktail is the creation of a particular bartender who works with Aaron to translate their concept into the canned format,” says Chloe Frechette, a senior editor at drinks website PUNCH. “In addition to sourcing high-quality ingredients that taste great, LiveWire puts the bartender front and center and compensates them for their intellectual property, which is something that doesn’t happen enough in the bar world.” As for what to try first, Porchlight beverage director Nicholas Bennett suggests the Golden God “for an easy-drinking blend of rye, brandy, and apricot.”
Two experts told us about Social Hour Cocktails, founded by bartenders Tom Macy and Julie Reiner, the minds behind the award-winning Brooklyn bar Clover Club. The line includes three cocktails in cans — a gin-and-tonic, a whiskey mule, and a pacific spritz — crafted with American-made liquors and ingredients. Leyenda and Fiasco! Wine and Spirits co-owner Ivy Mix says her favorite canned booze is the whiskey mule. “It has a fantastic spicy ginger kick that keeps me (and seemingly everyone else) coming back sip after sip,” she says. Adds Frechette, “Tom and Julie are two of the most fastidious bartenders in the business, and their attention to detail translates into their line.”
Mezcal diehards will be delighted to hear that there’s an entire line of canned cocktails dedicated to the agave-born liquor. The California-based Elenita currently sells two flavors: a refreshing cucumber-lime-basil cocktail and a more fiery, pineapple-and-jalapeño version. “They taste just like a bartender made them right in front of you while you were lying in a hammock on the beach in Cabo,” says Trevor Hoff, the owner of L.A.’s The Liquor Fountain. “They’re not trying to make cocktails for every drinker, but if you like mezcal in your cocktail, you’re set.”
Kennebunkport Resort Collection beverage manager Monika Lavigne says all three of Dogfish Head’s new canned cocktails “are ideal summer sippers.” But the “sweet and sour profile” of the Blueberry Shrub Vodka Soda is what she gravitates toward the most.
Jonah Dill-D’Ascoli, the beverage director at Rosemary’s East, directs gin drinkers (or those who will try anything) to this canned blend of gin, lemon, and honey, the ingredients that traditionally make up a Bee’s Knees. He adds that CanBee Cocktails was founded by beekeepers who donate portions of their sales toward “helping support local bees and beehives.”
Anyone who loves highballs will want to grab a few cans of Hitachino, a canned whisky cocktail from Japan’s Kiuchi Brewery. “Most beer drinkers have had Hitachino White Ale, or “the beer with the little owl on it,” says Julian Kurland, a manager and spirits buyer at Domaine LA. “What they don’t know is that Kiuchi Brewery has been making whisky since 2016 and not long ago began canning the whisky in a highball.” Kurland says that unlike the highball you might get at your favorite izakaya, the Hitachino is “more soda with a touch of whisky than whisky soda,” making it perfect for casual drinking.
Hoff is also a fan of Two Chicks, a line of canned cocktails founded by Meghan Hanna and Linda Cash. The attractive, flowery packaging and thoughtfully crafted cocktails — which include this canned mix of vodka with pear and elderflower that Hoff recommends — have made them a hit, he says. And at $16 for a four-pack, they’re affordable, too. “It’s a very easy brand for us to sell,” Hoff told us. “It seems like everything they are making is delicious.” If vodka isn’t your thing, the company also makes palomas, margaritas, gimlets, and a “new-fashioned.”
“If it’s warm outside, I want a spritz,” says Bennett. “And if I am reaching for one in a can, I am reaching for Ramona.” Of its five varieties, he recommends the Meyer-lemon, ruby-grapefruit, and dry-rosé flavors. (The other two are dry grapefruit and blood orange.) Lynnette Marrero, a co-founder of the bartending competition Speed Rack and the beverage director for Llama Inn and Llama San, also has a soft spot for Ramona’s Meyer-lemon spritz, which is a blend of lightly sparkling organic Sicilian wine and lemon juice. “It is perfectly light and refreshing,” she says. “Like canned sunshine.”
New York–based company St. Agrestis specializes in bottled and canned versions of Italian aperitivi, including Negronis and that beautiful creation known as the spritz. Former bartender and food-and-beverage professional Charlotte Porter has one word for this balanced mix of citrus, herbs, and sparkling wine: “fabulous.” And at 12 percent alcohol by volume, you’ll definitely get a buzz off just one can.
“This is a new and welcome addition to the ever-growing range of hard seltzers on the market,” says Bennett. The seltzer is a blend of botanical extracts and alcohol from fermented organic cane sugar and comes in three flavors: Surfer Rosso (with notes of hibiscus, sweet quince, citrus-ginger, clove, turmeric, and star anise), Sun Sign (which tastes of mandarin, sweet orange, oak, bay, and vanilla), and Faerie Fizz (containing hints of rose, jasmine, raspberry, green cardamom, and holy basil). “Each is so much more complex and enjoyable to drink than a White Claw,” Bennett promises.
Dill-D’Ascoli describes this newly released boozy sparkling lemonade from Montauk Brewing Company as a “beverage designed for drinking on the beach.” Its buzz comes from alcohol made from cold-brewed sugar, and the cans are sold in a variety pack that includes original, strawberry, blueberry, and pink-lemonade flavors — the pink lemonade being the best, according to Dill-D’Ascoli.
At $45 for a four-pack (that’s $11 per can), Empirical Spirits’ cocktails certainly aren’t cheap. But Kurland says they’re hard to beat when it comes to quality. “The company was started by two former fermentation specialists from Noma in Copenagen,” he explains. Can 02 is a lightly carbonated cocktail made from a base of beet molasses and Belgian saison yeast. “It features sour cherry, black currant buds, young pine cones, and walnut wood, so Empirical describes it as ‘the feeling of bounding through a Nordic pine forest during berry season,’” Kurland says. “I can’t say I’ve had that experience, but this is the next best thing.”
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