If you’re a fan of cocktails, you’ve likely noticed. RTD’s are here to stay. They’ve been common in European markets for some time; however stateside, we had been left behind. Perhaps accelerated by the Covid Pandemic of ’20-’21— or perhaps it was inevitable— the 2020’s have seen an explosion of creativity in the space. Canned cocktails (or RTDs, “ready to drinks” as the industry calls them) are everywhere and there is a bevy of great offerings for fans of gin.
Here are some of the best we’ve tried so far.
Best bar strength gin RTD
Many canned cocktails attempt to approach the development of RTDs by approximating the strength of beer, hard seltzer, or other common canned alcoholic beverages, likely to be found in a cooler. There are a handful of others— like Crafthouse, Tip Top, and Proof Cocktail Co. that instead make high ABV drinks that more closely emulate their counterparts.
While it can be hard to make a shelf stable version of many cocktails, especially those that feature citrus, some have done it.
“Sour throughout, becoming more sour towards the finish. Early some sweetness with lime, and lemon oil. The mid-palate of Crafthouse Southside has some slight hints of juniper. It’s muted, but clearly there.
While good straight from the fridge, I find the overall balance improved when served as suggested— “over ice.” The subtle carbonation aspect is secondary to the overall experience. While I find it adds texture and body, I don’t know I’d say it’s a “fizzy” cocktail.”
Best Canned Gin and Tonic
There is no other gin drink that lends itself as easily to being served canned as the quintessential gin and tonic. One of the things to keep in mind in this category is that you’re not going to see a lot of big name tonic waters here. Many of the companies that make their own RTD G&T also have to make their own tonic water. Therefore, the flavor of these tonics can very somewhat dramatically from what regular drinkers of Schweppes of even Fever Tree might expect.
“Complex and gin-driven, The Heart Distillery Gin and Tonic stands head and shoulder above many of the widely available canned gin and tonics on the American market.
For me, it’s the complexity of the underlying gin, and the way that the drink— built around those flavors— serves to highlight, and not detract from the source material. Pleasantly effervescent, with pleasant bitterness, a generous hit of sweetness and great overall flavor, The Heart Distillery Gin and Tonic is remarkably easy-to-drink at its rather high ABV.
The high sweetness may be a turn off for some. However, for anyone else in search of a balanced, craft, RTD Gin and Tonic— The Heart Distillery Gin and Tonic is a winner in our book. This is one of my favorites on the market today, and I think you’re unlikely to be disappointed if you’re a fan of gin and tonics.”
Best Bespoke RTD Gin Drink
Some companies are stepping outside of the bounds of classic cocktails and cocktail books and inventing their own drinks. This is a huge opportunity for gin makers that I think is still rife for innovation. You can try to replicate a drink designed to be made in a bar, or you can invent a drink specifically for the can. This offers an opportunity for gin distillers to create delicious, new drinks, with ingredients that will work well in the places that cans go and coupes cannot.
I could quibble over the name— it shares little in common with a Collins other than that is served long and contains fizz.
But if you sip the Honeydew Collins with no prior expectations and evaluate it just as the drink in the glass— it’s an impressive combination of flavors that simultaneously feels tropical and roasted-pepper season in the desert.
The only aspect I might call disappointing is that if you saw the word “gin” on the label and expected some gin character— you’re not going to get a whole lot. Juniper is completely obfuscated below a melange of delicious, beautiful co-starring ingredients that while they work well together, it brings to the fore that classic question. “Is it gin?”
But tasted and evaluated as its own thing, the Honeydew Collins is delicious.”
Best Pre-bottled Negroni
It’s the easiest of drinks; it’s the hardest of drinks…. Just kidding, it’s really the easiest. But there are occasions where even the most ardent Negroni fan-girl might not be able to bring three different bottles to a party. What is she to do?
Unlike many gin cocktails the Negroni seems ideally suited for the canned context. It doesn’t require fresh citrus or other ingredients that are not well suited to a bottle. Vermouth, Campari and Gin are all inherently shelf stable.
Is it cheating that our winner is the only one that has access to actual Campari?
“The Campari Group’s pre-bottled Negroni may be considered a bit paint-by-the-numbers. It just does exactly what you’d expect. One part gin. One part Campari. One part Sweet Vermouth.
But at the same time, that is also it’s strength. The Campari Negroni is exactly what it should be. Nothing more, nothing less.
Bartenders should stick to mixing drinks-to-order. But for any time where you want a cocktail without having to make it— the Campari Negroni is a winning pre-bottled cocktail that will appeal to fans of the cocktail no matter their usual gin of choice.”
Best RTD Gin drink from a major brand
If you’re a major gin distiller and you don’t have an RTD. You’re missing out. Bombay Sapphire, Greenall’s, Tanqueray and more all have put their hat in the ring. However, one company’s offerings stand head and shoulders above the rest— and one specific drink in their line ranks as my favorite I’ve had in the states from a major gin brand.
“Good level of carbonation, especially early on the tip of the tongue. Green Juniper and angelica early— true to its source material— segue into a clean juniper back half with some hints of spice.
The sweetness is mild. While most pronounced on the finish, it never comes across as cloying.
The bitterness is also mild, for a gin and tonic. Towards the back a clean and restrained hint of quinine gives Tanqueray and Tonic that tonic note.
Across several metrics, Tanqueray’s canned gin and tonic is one of the more successful and “on trend” canned cocktails I’ve tried.”
Best Finnish Long Drink: Hartwall Original
Best non-carbonated: Lee Spirits Lavender Lemonade
Best gin and soda: Collective Arts Gin and Soda