Canned cocktails are all the rage

Magical Realist Offline

"The idea of canning a cocktail solves a major problem: It’s hard to drink fancy, boozy beverages in places that aren’t bars. One of the major perks of beer is its accessibility; you can easily open a cooler and grab a frosty pale ale while toying around on a boat or lounging at the beach. And while it’s not impossible to whip yourself up, say, a Singapore sling from the contents of your picnic tote, it’s objectively a tad more difficult. Cans make life easier. And when you start thinking of all the places it might be fun to drink your favorite craft cocktail (on a boat, at a tailgate, in the park, in the shower), the idea of canning these beloved beverages becomes pretty darn appealing.

Unfortunately, canned cocktails don’t have the best reputation. They usually get lumped in with the cloyingly sweet and aggressively vibrant offerings so popular in the ’90s. But these weren’t technically cocktails—they were malt-based beverages and wine “coolers” that were taxed at the same price as beer. The flavors were mostly created with an excess amount of sugar, and there wasn’t any true depth to the alcohol, because spirits weren’t even part of the process.

Putting liquor in cans “came with heavier taxes,” says Yuseff Cherny, the founder of Cutwater Spirits, an award-winning distillery that paved the way for the now dozens of brands of canned cocktails. “Most companies feared the consumer would turn their nose up at too high a price tag.”

But as craft beer became more popular, it became apparent that folks were more and more willing to spend some extra dough on a quality drink—inside a bar or out. Liquor companies became increasingly comfortable with the higher taxes knowing that their products would be more inclined to sell. Simultaneously, an explosion in craft cocktail bars across the country has meant that curious mixologists are eager to bring their favorite flavors from behind the bar out into the world.

“I was tired of smuggling all of my favorite cocktail ingredients into places that wouldn’t allow glass,” says Adam Glatt, the founder of Proof Cocktail Co., perhaps best known for its remarkably potent canned Mai Tai. “Cans are an incredible vessel. Aluminum is lighter than glass, making for a small carbon footprint in shipment. They also contain more recycled content than other recyclable materials at nearly 68 percent recycled content, and can be endlessly recycled without limitation.”

Positive environmental impact isn’t the only reason to give these canned concoctions a second glance. While it might seem like nothing more than a get-drunk-quick scheme, many of the new additions to the field taste just as great as their bar-bound cousins. As the trend continues to grow, more distilleries and bartenders are finding ways to can cocktails both classic and unconventional. And these folks aren’t just tossing some Coke and Calypso in a can and calling it a day; they’re using innovative techniques, handmade syrups, and organic ingredients to create the sort of cocktail you’d receive at an upscale bar, but with the ability to drink it in whatever location suits your fancy.

Keep in mind, however, that not all canned cocktails are created equal, especially when it comes to ABV. Some are more mellow, with chuggability similar to that of a beer and an alcohol content as low as 5 percent, while Proof’s Mai Tai, for example, sits at 23 percent, and is meant to be split or shared. (Or not, we’re not here to judge.)"

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