10 best canned cocktails perfect for picnic boozing

From a gin in a tin to seltzer in a can – these are the ones to know about

Millie West
Wednesday 16 June 2021 16:40
<p>They’re all about convenience and make a welcome change from the same-old cider and beer</p>

They’re all about convenience and make a welcome change from the same-old cider and beer

Canned cocktails have come of age. Consumers are no longer limited to saccharinely sweet concoctions with suspicious ingredient lists, thanks to a growing market of premium drinks to convince even the most sceptical of sippers.

While Fleabag did much to glamorise gin in a tin, the demand for premium ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails has accelerated in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, as restaurant and bar closures forced bon vivants to source at-home alternatives. In 2020 alone, UK drinkers spent £412m on RTDs – an increase of 23 per cent on 2019. But it’s not just the industry’s movers and shakers capitalising on this burgeoning market, there’s a new cohort of innovative start-ups, including Good One, Two Days and White Box, which are pioneering pours to rival the big players.

Of course, convenience is key. Forget shaking and stirring – all that’s left for you to do is find a suitable sunny spot and crack a can. And after a year of mixing cocktails over Zoom, we’re all in need of a break from the bar trolley.

Then there’s the portability. Cans are much niftier to pack in your picnic cooler than wine and beer bottles, plus there’s no risk of breakage en route. The environmental impact of cans over bottles is worth considering, too; not only are cans infinitely recyclable, they also weigh less to transport, which cuts down on carbon emissions and reduces their overall carbon footprint. Single-serve cans can also help to combat wastage, allowing customers to try a tipple without commitment.

When judging this line-up of libations, we considered flavour, quality of ingredients, and value, as well as the originality of the offering. From pocket-sized negronis from top distilleries to spritzers destined for day-drinking, these are the canned cocktails to have in your cooler this summer.

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The best canned cocktails 2021:

  • Best overall – Porter’s Pocket negroni, £5, Shopcuvee.com
  • Best for turning holiday mode on – Vacay paloma, £19.50, Haveavacay.com
  • Best for Instagram – Gerry’s pineapple and coconut rum seltzer, £19.99, Drinkgerrys.com
  • Best for strong measures – MOTH old fashioned, £3.99, Waitrose.com
  • Best for hot days – Ace and Freak ginger and Lemongrass mule, £14.95, Aceandfreak.me
  • Best for at-home mixology – Good One cloudy grapefruit & thyme craft hard soda, £33, Haveagoodone.co.uk
  • Best for a lighter alternative – TWO DAYS vodka lime soda, £30, Twodaysdrinks.com
  • Best for a tropical take on the G&T – Porter’s gin hippy fizz, £34, Portersgin.co.uk
  • Best for brunching – Miami Cocktail Co. sunrise rosé sangria spritz, £3, Waitrose.com
  • Best for unique flavours – Empirical CAN 02, £5.50, Eatyourgreensleeds.co.uk

Porter’s Pocket negroni

Best: Overall

If there’s one can to convince the naysayers, this is it. Made by Whitebox Drinks in Edinburgh, this pocket-sized negroni combines Porter’s award-winning cold-distilled gin with bitter campari and sweet vermouth for a neat, single-serve worth savouring.

In the interest of impartiality, we served our pocket negronis to unsuspecting taste-testers with all the thought-out flair they deserve (chilled rocks glass, ice, orange twist) and they were none the wiser that their A+ cocktail came from a can. Then again, why would they? The sheer quality of the ingredients shines through in every sip. A case would make a great gift for dinner hosts as a welcome change from the conventional bottle of wine.

Vacay paloma

Best: For turning holiday mode on

If you want to get a true taste of what Vacay is all about, then we’d recommend their mixed pack (£18) which allows you to try all four craft cocktails and choose your favourite.

An actual vacation may be off the cards for the moment, but with a cooler full of these canned cocktails, a Regent’s Park picnic can be just as rosy as an afternoon on the Riviera. Combining mature Blue Weber agave tequila with pink grapefruit juice, soda and a dash of lime, their Paloma successfully achieves the salinity you expect of the classic Mexican cocktail, but, if you’re not a fan of tequila-based drinks then the blood orange vodka soda was another resounding success, combining triple-filtered vodka with fresh citrus and a heady hit of hibiscus.

Gerry’s pineapple and coconut rum seltzer

Best: For instagram

If we’re judging on picnic aesthetics alone, Gerry’s wins hands down. Just look at those perfect pastel hues! A palette Pantone could be proud of. But as the old adage goes, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, so we’re happy to report that Gerry’s delivered in the taste department, too. The cans offer a welcome departure from overly sweetened seltzers, using only natural flavours across their vegan and gluten-free range.

The pineapple and coconut rum seltzer was a firm favourite across the taste-testers, hitting every topical high note and successfully quelling that pina colada craving – without the calories. The lower ABV drinks come in a range of summer-ready flavours – including a vodka-based watermelon and mint spritz – which we’ll be keeping in the fridge for a post-work pick-me-up.

MOTH old fashioned

Best for: Strong measures

MOTH (mix of total happiness) achieve exactly what they set out to on the tin. Don’t be put off by their diminutive stature, for these seemingly small measures (125ml) pack a mighty punch, whether you opt for a classic old fashioned, negroni, espresso martini or margarita.

Though the appeal of canned cocktails lies in their portability, we loved that each MOTH can detailed how to elevate the experience if serving at home. Trust us, if you take the time to chill your glass and add a classic twist to your Old Fashioned or a salt rim to your margarita, you’ll reap the rewards. A premium cocktail in one convenient can.

Ace and Freak ginger and Lemongrass mule

Best: For hot days

Ace and Freak is another millennially-minded canned cocktail company with punchy slogans and Instagram-ready branding, but the unique flavour combinations will ensure that they stand out from the crowd. The all-vegan range reimagines old classics, like the ginger and lemongrass mule which achieves that trademark tang thanks to the addition of fresh ginger juice, while the watermelon and cucumber sangria was a refreshing remedy for a recent five-hour train journey.

Plus, for every can sold, the company will donate 5p to The Great Oven, a charity aimed at building ovens to help communities in need across the world. Which is as good an excuse as any to crack another can.

Good One cloudy grapefruit & thyme craft hard soda

Best: For at-home mixology

Too often, hard sodas tread too lightly with flavour and end up falling short, but we’re pleased to report that Good One are bringing a whole host of thoughtful pairings to the party, including an all-natural raspberry, basil and lime, and, our favourite, the cloudy grapefruit and thyme.

The semi-sweet citrus notes balance out the savoury thyme, while sparkling Northumberland spring water brings a slight salinity to the mix. The serving ideas for each can are a nice touch, too: sip straight, serve on ice, or up the ante (and the ABV) with a shot of gin to make a Salty Dog. We tried the latter and it worked a treat, so much so that we’ve ordered a case to upgrade our at-home cocktail game when guests come calling.

TWO DAYS vodka lime soda

Best: For a lighter alternative

We must give kudos for this brand’s eco-credentials, with every element of the packaging – from the can to the box it’s delivered in – being 100 per cent plastic-free and 100 per cent recyclable.

For too long, the market for hard seltzers has been dominated by all-American imports, but now British-born brands like Two Days are shaking up sessionable sodas on this side of the pond. Crafted with a single shot of five-times distilled vodka, sparkling water and a squeeze of natural extracts, Two Days aren’t cocktails in the classic sense, but with fruit-forward flavours like crisp raspberry, classic lime and the latest addition to their line-up, juicy peach, you may not miss the higher alcohol alternatives.

Porter’s gin hippy fizz

Best: For a tropical take on the G&T

If you’re looking for that first cocktail “let’s order another” feeling, then Porter’s is the can for you. It’s gin-based but far from the standard G&Ts you’d pick up at any old supermarket, combining patchouli leaf, pineapple shrub, malted passionfruit with hop soda. This herbaceous high-ball was unlike anything else we tasted and, at under £3 a can, excellent value when considering the quality of the ingredients. The kitsch design is just an extra bonus, of course.

Miami Cocktail Co. sunrise rosé sangria spritz

Best: For brunching

Though we had our reservations over Miami Cocktail Co’s slightly Goop-esque #DrinkClean marketing campaign, we did welcome the shortlist of identifiable ingredients that make up each single-serve can and its commitment to swerve artificial additives and preservatives, though they may be a tad sweet for some palettes.

The brand’s spritz range – which landed on UK shelves in 2020 – segways from the standard with the likes of a mandarin and rosé mimosa, elderflower and ginger margarita, and, our personal favourite, the sunrise rosé sangria spritz. We can see these colourful (and, dare we say it… Instagrammable) cans being a big hit at summer festivals.

Empirical CAN 02

Best for: Unique flavours

Headed up by ex-Noma chefs, Lars Williams and Mark Emil Hermansen, this innovative Danish distillery is famed for its weird and wonderful flavour combinations and its first foray into canned cocktails is certainly no exception. The names read a little like a Dr Seuss double act, but don’t let that put you off; CAN 01 leads with an acidic gooseberry flavor balanced by a flowery oolong tea, and rounded out by toasted birch and pomelo zest, while CAN 02 combines walnut wood, sour cherry, blackcurrant buds, and maqaw pepper. Priced at £5.50 per can, Empirical was one of the more premium options we tried, but one we’d purchase again based on the quality of the pour.

The verdict: Canned cocktails

Though nothing will compare to a cocktail in your favourite bar, the case for canned cocktails is clear: convenient, cost-effective and, with the coming of picnic season, a welcome change from the same-old cider and beer.

Porter’s Pocket Negroni impressed across the board; served over ice with a twist, it was the closest we came to recreating that authentic cocktail experience at home. If you’re tasked with supplying the BBQ booze this summer, we’d recommend a Vacay mix pack every time – the variety of flavours ensures there’s something for every palette, be it a paloma or a Tom Collins.

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