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8 best letterbox cocktails that bring the bar to you

Treat yourself to a tipple that’s up to mixologist standards

Alicia Miller
Friday 28 October 2022 10:26 BST
<p>We were on the hunt for proper cocktails, Pimms in a tin didn’t cut it </p>

We were on the hunt for proper cocktails, Pimms in a tin didn’t cut it

Our Top Picks

Hands up if you love drinking a fabulous cocktail at home? Now, hands up if you love all the faff involved in making them – investing in the pricey kit, stocking up on the niche bitters and liqueurs, negotiating freezer space to make room for endless bags of ice..?

Yeah, we thought so. Unless you’re a professional bartender, you probably don’t get half as much pleasure out of shaking up a cocktail as you do in sipping one. But there is another way: the letterbox cocktail. These premixed liquid masterpieces take the pain away.

Crafted in advance by people who actually know what they’re doing and then delivered to your door, they remove the need for skill and the obligation to purchase countless ingredients. They deliver maximum taste in a tiny bundle of joy and all you need to provide is the glassware.

Letterbox cocktails don’t require much planning either. Pop them from the fridge or freezer and presto – Friday sundowner hour is sorted faster than you can say “on the rocks”. It sure beats batch-making party margaritas from scratch (have you ever tried squeezing two dozen limes in one go?).

What’s more, they make great gifts too. Whether you want to send some off to a friend as a birthday gift or use them as a sippable “hooray” for your cousin’s engagement, letterbox cocktails are an easy and classy way to celebrate. Given some kits come with pre-prepared garnishes to get you in the mood, the drinks are often as pretty as you’d get in a bar, too.

How we tested

We looked specifically for bartender-worthy pours – they had to feel like proper cocktails (Pimm’s in a tin didn’t count). Then, we tasted: our best letterbox cocktails all had to be next-level delicious, and be fairly priced. We served each one to its package instructions, chilling accordingly and using the appropriate glassware and garnishes. We awarded extra points for innovative flavours and to companies that operate sustainably. These are the ones that really shake things up...

The best letterbox cocktails for 2022:

  • Best overall letterbox cocktails – Cocktails by Mail the birthday pack: From £36, Cocktailsbymail.co.uk
  • Best letterbox cocktails subscription service – The Drinks Drop monthly subscription: £40, Thedrinksdrop.com
  • Best letterbox cocktails for old fashioneds – Kocktail the old fashioned collection: £39, Kocktail.co.uk
  • Best letterbox cocktails for daiquiris – NIO Cocktails casa del daiquiri cocktail box: £42, Niococktails.co.uk
  • Best letterbox cocktails for negronis – Cocchi negroni in a box: £8.25, Thewhiskeyexchange.com
  • Best non-alcoholic letterbox cocktails – Savyll bon vivant collection: £11.99, Savyll.com
  • Best letterbox cocktails for pornstar martini – Soho Street Cocktails pornstar martini: £28.99, Sohostreetcocktails.com
  • Best single bar offering letterbox cocktails – Map Maison map lab premium bottled cocktails: £55, Redletterdays.co.uk

Cocktails by Mail the birthday pack

Cocktails by Mail the birthday pack.png
  • Best: Overall
  • Customisable: Yes
  • Includes: Two each of the brand’s top-selling cocktails, two cocktails of your choice and a Love Cacao chocolate bar

Shall we tell you the reasons why we love Cocktails by Mail? Buckle up, folks, because it’s a long list.

First: every cocktail we tried was consistently delicious. Ex-bartender Steph DiCamillo, who founded the company, knows what she’s doing. She doesn’t play it too safe, deploying quirky and customised ingredients (think earl grey tea or cucumber bitters) which give her drinks the unique, polished profile you’d find in a destination bar. Take the best-selling birthday old fashioned – a blend of toasted coconut rum, pandan-infused rum, corn liqueur, salted caramel and cherry bitters. Unless you’ve got a background mixing drinks at the Savoy, we bet you couldn’t make that yourself at home.

Secondly, they’re green. The compact pouches Steph sends out are better than recyclable: they’re home-compostable. Even the labels she uses on her minimalist packaging are eco-friendly. The business is carbon neutral, too.

Third – yep, we’re still going – the cocktails have a sense of occasion. Unlike many competitors, Steph provides a bit of added wow factor with the occasionally included garnish (say, a tasty fennel salt for her limited-edition tequila-based amarillo submarine). Where she doesn’t, she provides a simple serving suggestion (ie fresh lime), so you can easily make it bar-worthy yourself.

And, finally, the cocktails are good value. Some cocktails by post cost upwards of £10 a pop – nearly as much as you’d pay to drink in a swanky bar – but Steph’s cost between £6 and £7 each. If that alone doesn’t make it worthy of the crown, what does?

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The Drinks Drop monthly subscription

The Drinks Drop monthly subscription.png
  • Best: Subscription service
  • Customisable: No
  • Includes: Two (£17), six (£40) or 12 (£70) cocktails per month

Last year we crowned The Drinks Drop as our IndyBest best buy, and we’re still very much obsessed. The brand works with some of the UK’s biggest-name bars – such as Hackney’s A Bar, Shapes for a Name (listed as one of The World’s 50 Best Bars) and Manchester’s Cottonopolis – to produce divine tipples that are plucked straight from their hallowed shakers.

As you might guess, the cocktails are delicious. Our banana and custard negroni with discarded banana peel rum was rich, bittersweet and complex. The money margarita by Dalston’s Hacha also zinged with a fruity pineapple note.

You can buy a one-off box of two or six, but also set up a monthly subscription – so cocktails just magically appear on repeat (they also offer same-day delivery in London). What’s more, every order comes with a free return baggie; pop in your empties, post it for free and The Drinks Drop will take care of getting everything properly recycled.

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Kocktail the old fashioned collection

Kocktail the old fashioned collection.png
  • Best: For old fashioneds
  • Customisable: No
  • Includes: Four different old fashioneds

There’s nothing old-fashioned about this old-fashioned collection. Besides fantastically sleek branding, this delicious set of four letterbox-sized bourbon cocktails pushes the boundaries with its quirky flavour combinations. Rich, nutty and fruity PB&J? Sure. Decadent salted maple, with a bit of Seignette cognac and banana liqueur, as well as salted maple syrup? You bet. Of course, there’s an expertly made classic pour in here too, just for good measure – and, for added fun, each cocktail comes with a bespoke garnish. The uniting factor is that all are made with Buffalo Trace, a standard-bearer of tastiness in the bourbon world.

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Nio Cocktails casa del daiquiri cocktail box

NIO Cocktails casa del daiquiri cocktail box.png
  • Best: For daiquiries
  • Customisable: No
  • Included: Six variations of daiquiri

Rum’s star is on the up, and with it, the daiquiri – after all, this underrated drink is basically the sugarcane spirit’s answer to a margarita. But if you’re not yet au fait with its charms, this box from letterbox cocktail pros Nio is the perfect intro. It’ll show you not only how delicious proper daiquiris can be, but also how diverse.

Six cocktails, all made with Ron Santiago De Cuba anejo 11 years old rum, have been designed by cocktail pros from London, Italy and Hong Kong, and each has its own profile. The frezza keeps things fresh, with mint and maraschino. The el presente is rippled with tropical notes of pineapple and passionfruit. And the noches de malecon has contrasting kicks of juicy melon and earthy coffee.

The packaging makes letterbox cocktailing a breeze, too. The cocktails are compact, stackable, opened with a simple rip of the top corner and can be kept out of the fridge if you’re short on chiller space. Everything is fully recyclable, too, and the company is carbon neutral.

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Cocchi negroni in a box

Cocchi negroni in a box.png
  • Best: For negronis
  • Customisable: Yes
  • Included: Choose from one (£8.25) to 12 cocktails (£89.10)

Any serious negroni fan knows that Cocchi storico vermouth di torino is the OG. When you blend this dark, richly flavoured, bittersweet vermouth – made in northern Italy since the 1890s – with campari and gin, you get a drink that’s far more than the sum of its parts. Think equal parts spiced and brooding, fruity and herby…and deeply delicious.

So, is it really any wonder that Cocchi decided to go and package it up? This tidy square box, opened simply with an easy rip at the corner (the design is actually put together by the aforementioned Nio), holds the perfect 100ml Cocchi negroni storico pour. With a decadent brown sugar note – as opposed to the cherry punch brightness you get with some serves – it makes for a dreamy after-dinner drink.

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Savyll bon vivant collection

Savyll bon vivant collection.png
  • Best: Non-alcoholic cocktails
  • Customisable: No
  • Included: Four 250ml cans

Just because you don’t drink, doesn’t mean you should have to miss out on a fabulous cocktail at home, right? And Sayvll’s delish alcohol-free concoctions do the job. Inspired by four bangers of the bartending world – bellini, moscow mule, mojito and paloma – they have a depth of flavour and an alcohol-like weight to them so often lacking in booze-free blends. The bellini tastes lusciously peachy, with a fresh citrussy fizz that brings to mind prosecco (it actually contains dry prosecco essence), while the paloma – our favourite – sings with grapefruit and lime. Best of all, you can power your way through the entire box of four with no worry about headaches in the morning.

  1. £11 from Savyll.com
Prices may vary
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Soho Street Cocktails pornstar martini

Soho Street Cocktails pornstar martini.png
  • Best: For pornstar martini
  • Customisable: No
  • Included: 1.5l pouch of pornstar martini

One of the go-to cocktails of our modern age, the pornstar martini was created by bartender Douglas Ankrah in Soho a full two decades ago, back in 2002. Ankrah sadly passed away last year, but you can toast his immortal contribution to the drinks world with this large-format rendition of his signature serve. The passionfruity delight comes with a pouring spout so you can keep the bag in the fridge and just squeeze out what you need come Friday night cocktail hour. The same function makes it perfect for parties, when you want minimum effort and maximum tropical fruity fun for your guests.

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Map Maison map lab premium bottled cocktails

MAP Lab premium bottled cocktails from MAP Maison.png
  • Best: Single bar offering
  • Customisable: Yes
  • Included: 500ml bottle, two 200ml bottles or six 50ml bottles

Looking to get a comprehensive taste of one bar’s cocktail programme? Enter this set of premixed mini cocktails from Hackney drinking hole Map Maison. The map lab collection pulls together a set of (mostly) classic cocktails – negroni, espresso martini, old fashioned, Manhattan and more – in one postable package, so whatever it is you’re craving you can have it ready to go on ice. We especially took to the vesper martini which was smooth to sip after half an hour’s chilling time in the freezer. The cocktails are packaged in mini 50ml bottles with a screwcap, so if you wanted to drink only half (as if that would happen) you can always reseal and pop back in the fridge.

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The verdict: Letterbox cocktails

We swooned over Cocktails by Mail – not only because they taste like great bar-worthy cocktails, but because they’ve got a strong eco-grounding and an added flash of fun with some proper garnishes. The company offers great value, so drinking great cocktails at home feel like a reasonable treat rather than a bankrupting splurge.

If you want to sip a cocktail designed by your favourite bar, then look no further than The Drinks Drop monthly subscription. This London-based company delivers pours designed by a clutch of the nation’s greatest bars – either by subscription or as a one-off.

And if you want a cocktail collection dedicated to a single spirit? We’d plump for either Kocktail the old fashioned collection – for a celebration of bourbon – or Nio casa del daiquiri cocktail box for a tasty take on tequila.

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