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The RTD (“ready to drink“) cocktail category has exploded over the past few years. You can find bottled and canned versions of nearly any drink you can think of, but not all of them are up to snuff. Granted, many classic cocktails are simple enough to make yourself, and arguably superior when made from scratch. But when you’re expecting friends over or throwing a party, you don’t want to be tied to your bar cart all night, which is where these pre-made elixirs can come to the rescue. The good news is there are some RTD brands that are worth checking out, whether you are throwing a party or just having a drink before dinner on a Tuesday night. Here are nine of the best premium canned and bottled cocktails to try now.
Slow and Low Coffee Old Fashioned
Slow and Low Rock & Rye is a bottled cocktail that has been around for a while now, but the newest member of the family arrived just this fall. The Coffee Old Fashioned is a caffeine-infused take on the classic, made with rye whiskey, Intelligentsia coffee, honey, demerara, Angostura bitters and orange peel. At 80 proof, this drinks like a real cocktail and the coffee flavor really shines through here with sweet and citrus notes rounding out the palate. Just pour over a large ice cube and enjoy.
This bottled Old Fashioned from Sunday’s Finest is the “gold standard” of bottled cocktails and likely the most premium one you can find. The reason for this is the quality of the ingredients it’s made from eight-year-old Kentucky bourbon, five-year-old Indiana rye, saffron bitters, demerara sugar and a citrus spritz. Drinks expert and beverage director Robert Haynes is the man behind this luxury bottled cocktail, so quality was definitely at the forefront from conception to execution.
Not only do these RTDs taste good, but they also come in cool bottles that you have to twist to mix the alcohol with the other ingredients. Try the Classic 5 sampler package it includes an array of the drinks you will find here: Bourbon Sour (made with high-rye bourbon), Margarita, Ginger Drop, Eastside and Rum Punch. These cocktails are made with just a few ingredients, proof that simplicity and fresh components are often the best routes to cocktail perfection.
High West Old Fashioned & Manhattan
Utah distillery High West makes some excellent whiskey, mostly rye but some bourbon as well, using both sourced and in-house distilled spirits. There are also a couple of barrel-aged bottled cocktails available, an Old Fashioned and Manhattan. The former is made with bourbon, rye, sugar and bitters, aged in used rye whiskey barrels and bottled at 86 proof. The latter swaps in vermouth and bitters, and is also aged in rye barrels. Both follow pretty traditional recipes, but that is precisely why they work. And the extra flavor picked up as they age in these used casks makes these especially good.
On the Rocks Aviation
This bottled cocktail company started up a few years ago, and now has an impressive lineup of options in its range. Each drink is made with a well-known and respected spirits brand – the Old Fashioned uses Knob Creek bourbon, Cruzan rum is the base of the Mai Tai and Effen Vodka is the key component of the Cosmopolitan (the fact that Beam Suntory now owns the company explains why these particular brands are used). Overall, these are premium RTDs that can go toe-to-toe with a drink you’d mix up yourself.
George Dickel and Social Hour Harvest Whiskey Sour
This brand-new canned cocktail is a collaboration between Tennessee whiskey brand George Dickel and RTD company Social Hour. The Harvest Whiskey Sour combines premium 13-year-old Dickel whiskey with apple, Meyer lemon, cinnamon, maple and cardamom. It’s a little bit sweet and a little bit sour and the quality of this well-aged whiskey is apparent when you sip. Garnish with a slice of dried apple or a cinnamon stick for maximum enjoyment.
Small Hand Cocktails
These carefully composed bottled cocktails are worth seeking out, as they are made with high-quality ingredients and conceived with a creative flair. The core lineup includes the Plum Blossom, tequila-infused Pineapple Paloma and vodka-based Marina, all made using fresh ingredients. There’s also the Gimlet Project to check out, a series of lime and grapefruit mixed drinks using vodka, gin, or tequila.
Mister Katz’s Rock and Rye
Slow and Low isn’t the only rock and rye game in town. NY Distilling Company, based in Brooklyn, makes this bottled version of this historic drink using its in-house distilled Ragtime Rye whiskey, rock candy sugar, sour cherries, cinnamon and citrus. The sweetness plays nicely with the rye’s inherent spice, making this a good RTD option to keep on your shelf at home.
Livewire is a brand that features various bottled and canned cocktails, each created by a different respected bartender with a long track record in the industry. Holy Tyger was the work of Shannon Mustipher. It combines bourbon, lime, coconut, lemongrass, Rockey’s Liqueur and Bittercube bitters. Think Whiskey Sour meets tiki, and you are sort of on the right path. Of course, the best thing to do is pour over some ice and taste for yourself.