by COLLEEN SULLIVAN | March 19, 2021
A few summers ago, my sister-in-law introduced me to a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Cupcake Vineyards, and I was hooked. Later that summer, I saw the brand’s wine in a can and was immediately intrigued. Would it taste the same coming out of an aluminum container? It was simple enough to find out—I performed a blind taste test, and quickly discovered I could not tell the difference between the two.
From wine to whisky, vodka to gin, rum to tequila, the canned cocktail craze has hit every segment of the spirits and wine industry, and made entertaining at home easier than ever. “During the craft beer boom, small brands started using cans for economic and manufacturing advantages,” says Tom Macy, the co-founder and CEO of Social Hour Cocktails. “But when those brands ended up being the most exciting beers out there, cans began to shed their inferior reputation. Couple this with the fact cans are lightweight, easy to stack and store, more environmentally-friendly than bottles, and don’t allow in light—therefore safeguarding the liquid inside—and you’ve got a product that has not only become acceptable, but one that’s became cool.”
Canned cocktails held a bad reputation for far too long, according to Neal Cohen, the co-founder of Tip Top Proper Cocktails. “Unfortunately, past canned cocktails have been marred by options that were overly sweet, used cheap and artificial ingredients, and offered cocktail styles that didn’t really mesh with the type of drinker who goes to cocktail bars,” Cohen says. “But today, we’re embracing a drinker who is more educated and demanding of quality products.”
With that said, here are 13 reasons why you should give canned cocktails a try next time you host a get together, whenever that may be.
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They Don’t Require Any Bartending Skills
Mixing cocktails at home requires sourcing and measuring ingredients, having the right tools at your disposal, and setting aside time to perfect a recipe. “This is not so with pre-batched cocktails, which are made with scientific measurements and equipment so there’s no room for error,” says Louis Catizone, the producer and co-owner of St. Agrestis. “Every ingredient is weighed to the tenth of a gram, allowing for consistent product and portion control, which can be difficult when making your own cocktail.”
Laura Johnson, the founder and CEO of You & Yours Distilling Co., adds that all the care and attention is the same, just a different means of storing the drink. “We’re essentially using the same ingredients as a bartender, only we’re mixing and serving the drinks in a different way,” she says.
Many are turning to pros to help design their cocktails. “We’ve partnered with awarding winning mixologists to help source the best ingredients and build the right balance, food scientists to ensure the viability and taste of our cocktails, and packaging engineers to ensure our real ingredients were protected,” adds Andrew Rodbell, the co-founder of Post Meridiem Spirit Company.
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They’re Made From High-Quality Ingredients
As the demand for canned spirits has risen, so has the call for quality ingredients. “In the past, canned cocktails included nondescript ingredients such as artificial flavors or chemicals,” says Tom Dufek, the co-founder of Plain Spoke Cocktail Company. “They shared more in ingredient makeup with sugary sodas than they did with the handcrafted cocktails you’d find at your favorite bar.”
Ingredients like real juices instead of engineered flavorings, spirits as opposed to malt beverages, and natural ingredients like ginger and spearmint are finding their way into canned cocktails while preservatives, chemical additives, and artificial flavors are making their way out. “Consumers want higher-quality ingredients for a more elevated drinking experience, which is why brands have started to incorporate them in their canned cocktails,” notes Noah Gray, the co-founder and CEO of Onda.
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They’re Portable and Convenient
Cans make it convenient to have a cocktail whenever you desire, like after a tennis match, bike ride, or hike. “Not to mention, they make for an easy drink on the golf course, at the beach, on a boat, or at the ski slopes—places where glass may be off-limits,” Cohen says.
Since they’re durable and won’t shatter into a million bits like glass, cans are a sensible option in places where the risk of breaking glass is high, like at poolside party, adds McKinley. “Plus, there’s no need to carry around a liter of booze or mixers,” notes Anthony Caporale, the Director of Spirits Education at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City.
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Typically, the quality of the contents will determine the product’s price tag. “If you’re using premium alcohol, it will increase in price and if you’re using malt liquor, things may be cheaper,” Gray says. Canned cocktails are also taxed as liquor—a higher rate than beer and wine. “You may be paying more in taxes for canned cocktails, but these taxes will already be baked into the price you see at the shelf,” Caporale says.
Notably, it’s the aluminum that has helped keep prices down. “We used to sell our two-pack Spritz in 200 ml bottles for $13.50, now we sell a 187 ml four-pack of cans for $19.99,” Catizone says. “We were able to cut costs because aluminum is cheaper than glass.”
“Rather than buying an entire bottle of a spirit, a mixer, and ice for $50 and having to carry all of that around, you can buy a single can for less than $3,” adds Jordan Dil, the co-founder and CEO of Elenita.
If you’re curious about a certain kind of cocktail, buying a can is a great way to try out a new favorite drink without investing in all of the ingredients to make one.
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They’re Getting Healthier
Turns out, canned cocktails may be better for you than their mixed counterparts. “High sugar, low-quality canned products are becoming a thing of the past, thanks to a shift in consumers wanting drinks that are light, refreshing, and low in calories and sugar,” Dil says.
Just like any packaged product, you’ll need to look at the nutritional facts on a canned cocktail to discover what exactly is in it. “On the can, it should show how many calories and how much sugar is in the product,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, a nutrition and wellness expert and author of Smoothies & Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen. “Some brands list ingredients, but not all.”
The good news: this recent generation of canned cocktails may be better for you than a cocktail made with traditional cocktail mixer, as the latter is generally made with a ton of added sugar and artificial flavors and color.
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They’re Single Serve, So There’s No Need For Sharing
There’s a sanitary aspect that’s made single-serve canned cocktails extra popular. “Especially during these times, when people are trying to avoid sharing as much as possible, canned drinks are a more hygienic choice,” Gray says.
“We’re starting to see a lot more restaurants and resorts opting for canned products over their typical bottle-service setup,” says Alix Peabody, the founder and CEO of Bev. “And you can’t overlook the fact that there’s no dirty glassware to clean up afterwards.”
You can’t overlook the fact that there’s no dirty glassware to clean up afterwards.
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They List the Alcohol Content on the Can
“Many drinkers today want to know how much alcohol they’re consuming, and with made-from-scratch mixed cocktails, it can be a big guessing game,” says Ryan Ayotte, the founder of Ohza. “Drinking a pre-mixed cocktail ensures transparency.”
The amount of alcohol by volume (ABV) in each can varies from brand to brand. “But the percentage should be listed right on the can,” says Dean Mahoney, CEO of Merican Mule.
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They Offer Various Amounts of Alcohol
“Part of the enthusiasm driving the canned cocktail and seltzer movement is the desire for lower alcohol beverages,” says Valerie Masten Bonne, the President and Director of Sales for HOXIE Spritzer. “Hard seltzers, wine spritzers, and cocktail spritzes are a great option for people who want a taste without a big buzz.” Gray agrees, adding that “Our beverages have a smaller concentration of alcohol as our goal was to make a premium option for a healthier, more balanced lifestyle.”
There is also a segment of ready-to-drink cocktails that come in smaller cans, are higher in alcohol content, and are meant to be poured over ice and sipped. “In our case, the styles of cocktails that we’re mixing are traditionally high proof, which is more loyal to the traditional pour you’d get at the bar,” Cohen says.
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They Can Be Sipped Right Out of the Can
There’s no right or wrong way to drink a cocktail from a can. “Pouring over ice into a chilled glass and topping it off with a creative garnish will give you the truest cocktail bar experience,” Macy says. “But then again, we designed our cocktails to be perfect right out of the can—and they absolutely are—no ice or glass required. It’s all about personal preference, but why wash glasses if you don’t have to?”
“I always prefer to drink canned beverages from a glass,” Caporale says. “If it’s carbonated, pouring it will release excess gas that would otherwise be released in your stomach with predictably unpleasant results while also allowing the aroma to travel to your nose while you’re enjoying the drink. If it’s still, pouring will aerate the drink and let your nose play along.”
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They Come in a Variety of Sizes
Sizing varies from cocktail to cocktail across the board, according to Johnson. “As producers, we’re collectively trying to figure out what works best for our goals and product vision,” she says. “Right now you can find tiny 100 ml canned cocktails with ABVs of upwards of 40% that really pack a punch, as well as standard 355 ml cans with as low as 3-4% ABV meant for more relaxed, marathon sipping.”
As for wine, the most popular can sizes are 250 ml and 375 ml—250 ml is a little more than a glass of wine, while 375 ml is more than two glasses of wine, according to Bonné.
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They Don’t Need to Be Refrigerated
Most cans are meant to be enjoyed in one sitting and don’t need to be refrigerated, although experts note most consumers enjoy their cocktails and wine chilled. “Producers work hard to make canned drinks stable at room temperature,” Caporale notes. “Once opened, if they’re carbonated, they’ll go flat fairly quickly. If they’re non-carbonated, they may last anywhere from a day to indefinitely depending on the ingredients.”
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They’re Perfect for Recycling
Sustainability is top of mind for many consumers and has driven some of the interest in canned wines and cocktails.
“Aluminum cans have a 50.4% recyclability rate in the United States, according to the EPA, whereas glass bottles are recycled at a rate of 33%,” Luke McKinley, marketing director for Novo Fogo Organic Cachaça, says. “Clearly, we have room for improvement, but I think consumers are increasingly enthusiastic about sustainability and a non-breakable can that can be crushed and tossed in the recycling bin fits into that thinking.”
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Experts predict the market for ready-to-drink beverages will continue to grow. “There has been a pent-up demand for quality, convenient, ready-to-drink cocktails and wine. And as more discerning drinkers are discovering these new options that meet and exceed their expectations, the category will continue to expand,” Cohen says.
“It’s no longer a trend, but a category,” adds Ryan Harms, the founder and owner of Union Wine Company.
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