Ready-to-drink (or RTD) cocktails are not what they were just a decade ago and that's a great thing! There's a new crop of canned cocktails that are surprisingly delicious and impressively duplicate the taste of a freshly-mixed drink. Ranging from margaritas and vodka sodas to replicas of the whiskey smash and Bellini, they're diverse and offer a convenient libation for drinkers of all tastes.
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The Finnish long drink has been a popular drink in Finland since Helsinki hosted the 1952 Olympic Summer Games. In 2018, cans of this alluring beverage were released to the U.S. and it's quickly finding a new fan base. This beverage (5.5 percent ABV) captures everything that's great about the original. It's a blend of natural grapefruit and juniper berry flavors backed by gin and a refreshing sparkle. A bit like a grapefruit gin and soda, the creators don't like to call it a canned cocktail because it's completely unique. However, its taste rivals all others in this category and there's a sugar-free, zero-carb version that's tasty, too.
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Great things come in small packages, including the 200 mL cans from Plain Spoke Cocktail Co. This Madison, Wisconsin-based company specializes in canned cocktails (10 percent ABV) that are as close to hand-mixed drinks as you're going to find. While they offer a mojito and Moscow mule, it's the other two cans that really impress. The bourbon smash is a treat for whiskey drinkers, made with Midwest bourbon and real lemon juice and mint. Their version of a brandy old-fashioned tastes like the real deal that you'll find at any good Wisconsin bar.
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Fabrizia Spirits is a New Hampshire company that specializes in limoncello. Inspired by their Italian roots, they make fine renditions of the sweet lemon liqueur that are used in two canned cocktails: margarita and lemonade. Each includes limoncello and fresh-squeezed Sicilian lemon juice along with either tequila or vodka and weigh in at 7 percent ABV. They're not carbonated and it's best to shake the can before opening. The drinks are a perfect balance of sweet and tart, making them a refreshing summer sipper.
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Boulevard Brewing Co.'s canned cocktails are as impressive as their beer. Their Fling Craft Cocktails stand up to the "craft" moniker. The flavors are well-balanced and they're made with natural ingredients, including real distilled spirits.
Ranging from 5 percent to 9 percent ABV, the Fling spans the cocktail scene. You'll find Blood Orange Vodka Soda and Cucumber Lime Gin and Tonic, along with a mai tai and a margarita. Fling has fans of dark spirits covered, too. The Rye Whiskey Mule and Bourbon Smash offer a nice taste of the original cocktails.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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If you love a sparkling wine cocktail, but want the convenience of a pre-mixed drink, look for Miami Cocktail Co.'s Organic Spritz. The slender cans are filled with organic wines and ingredients without added sugar. They're 110 calories per drink and delightfully mild at 4.2 percent ABV. The flavors include a sangria, mimosa, and Bellini, along with tequila-inspired margarita and paloma (made with 100 percent blue Weber agave wine). Each is fantastically bubbly, refreshing, and the fruit flavors are bold and wonderfully tart.
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Novo Fogo Sparkling Caipirinha
For a caipirinha on-the-go, look for a can from Novo Fogo. It offers the same refreshing taste of Brazilian cachaça, lime, and sugar that makes the caipirinha great, without the need for a muddler. Using their organic cachaça as the base, the Sparkling Caipirinha Cocktail (8.2 percent ABV) is bright and flavorful. Adding carbonation to the familiar drink is a nice twist and they offer passion fruit and mango caipirinhas as well.
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The Moscow mule is a favorite for canned cocktail producers and it's the focus of Eastside Distilling. Based out of Portland, Oregon, the craft distillery has many impressive spirits, and these mules follow suit. The Portland Mule (10.5 percent ABV) is made with the distillery's Portland Potato Vodka, so it's gluten-free. It includes real lime and ginger, giving it a nice balance of spicy-tart sweetness, while the marionberry-flavored mule offers a taste of the Pacific Northwest.
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Coffee is not off the table in RTD cocktails. Cafe Agave is a line of spiked coffees that will give you double the buzz in a surprisingly tasty little drink. Using cold brew coffee from dark-roasted Arabica beans, these 12.5 percent ABV coffees are spiked with agave wine and flavored naturally. The flavors include Espresso Shot, Caffe Mocha, Salted Caramel, and Vanilla Cinnamon, each with a rich coffee flavor. It's only in the finish that you get an alcohol bite; a good reminder that this isn't your average cup of joe.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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It's no surprise that craft distilleries are producing impressive canned cocktails. San Diego's Cutwater Spirits is another gem with some unique offerings. The Fugu Vodka-based cans range from fruity vodka sodas to a horchata cold brew coffee and spicy and mild versions of the bloody Mary. There's a gin and tonic, margarita, and paloma, as well as a rum and cola or ginger beer and a whiskey lemon tea, highball, and mule. They range from 5 percent to 12.5 percent ABV, so you want to pay attention to the strength of each can.
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Rock and rye is a delicious old-fashioned drink of spicy rye whiskey and sweet rock candy. Hochstadter's Rock and Rye has been a favorite bottled version for many years. The current "Slow & Low" offering is inspired by the original 19th-century recipe and it's available in convenient cans. Unlike the other RTD cocktails, this little 100 mL can is 42 percent ABV (84 proof). That's as strong as most straight whiskey! At just over 3 1/4 ounces, it will pack a big punch, so it really is best to go "slow and low" with this one.