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8 best letterbox cocktails that bring the bar home to you

From the classic negroni to swanky original mixes – these concoctions go down a treat

Alicia Miller
Tuesday 31 August 2021 08:27
<p>Enjoy happy hour from the comfort of your own home without giving up on quality</p>

Enjoy happy hour from the comfort of your own home without giving up on quality

Drinking fabulous cocktails at home is heaven. But making them? Somewhat less heavenly. You’ve got to invest in the ingredients: spirits, mixers, bitters, vermouths, liqueurs – some of which get used once or twice, then sit at the back of a shelf collecting dust (we’re looking at you, peppermint schnapps). And you’ve got to have the bartending skills too. Splashing vodka into a glass doth not a Bond-worthy martini make.

Here’s where the letterbox cocktail comes in. The best thing about these liquid masterpieces is that they’re crafted by people (often bartenders) who know what they’re doing. They’re compact by nature too: little bundles of joy delivered with your post, containing exactly what you need to minimise waste while maximising taste.

Unlike batch-making party margaritas from scratch (have you ever tried squeezing 24 limes in one go?) they require minimal planning and are speedy to serve. Pull from the freezer and presto! Friday sundowner hour is sorted faster than you can say “on the rocks”.

The best letterbox cocktails make ace gifts too. They’re the perfect pick-me-up for that friend going through a tough time, or a sippable “hooray” when your sister’s just got engaged. They can bring the atmosphere from a top bar home to your kitchen – in fact, some kits even include coasters and pre-prepared garnishes to get you fully in the mood.

How we tested

When choosing our best letterbox cocktails, we were strict on size: they had to be letterbox-friendly (though keep in mind some require a signature, so you may need to be around to receive it). They also had to be pro-level delicious, just like something we would expect to drink in a proper bar. Finally, they should be good value, costing no more than £10, or what you’d expect to pay in a typical city drinking hole.

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When testing, we prepared each one to package instructions, chilling as required and serving with the appropriate glassware and garnishes. While we tested a wide range of options from each brand, we’ve highlighted our favourite boxes below. If it’s your first time ordering, you’ll want a mixed pack – it’s the best way to discover your favourite pours for whenever your happy hour is.

The best letterbox cocktails for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – The Drinks Drop box of six: £45, Thedrinksdrop.com
  • Best for eco-conscious drinking – Cocktails by Mail the rum pack: £18, Cocktailsbymail.co.uk
  • Best for mini-gifting – Send a Negroni classic negroni: £15, Sendanegroni.com
  • Best for a virtual hols – NIO Cocktails postcards from Japan cocktail box: £29, Niococktails.co.uk
  • Best for sharing – Mr Fogg’s Letterbox Cocktails sling when you’re winning: £20, Mr-foggs-cocktails.giftpro.co.uk
  • Best party selection – BrewDog Distilling Co’s LoneWolf x Regal Rogue: £20.95, Brewdog.com
  • Best for fruity fans – Original pornstar martini by Douglas Ankrah: £24.99, Designmynight.com
  • Best for after-dinner drinking – Cocchi negroni in a box: £39.95, Masterofmalt.com

The Drinks Drop box of six

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

Ever wondered if the drinks from a fancy bar would taste so good without all that moody lighting and swanky service? The Drinks Drop answers the question with a big fat yes. This glossy brand, delivering next day nationwide, pops freshly mixed pours designed by some of the country’s finest bars – from east London’s Satan’s Whiskers to Manchester’s Cottonopolis – right through your front door. Each stylish little pouch is easy to chill in the freezer in 15-30 minutes and is ready to enjoy over ice or straight without the faff of a garnish.

Each one we tried passed the taste test with flying colours. The tokyo sour from London’s Happiness Forgets – made with Ford's gin, fino sherry, supasawa, yuzu sake and grapefruit bitters – was so smooth, citrusy and balanced that one sip had us vowing to throw in the home-bartender-towel permanently. We’d happily hand over cash to have a regular fix; ditto with the Grand Marnier-based grand and sour from The Coral Room and the apple martini from Hawksmoor. Each pouch bears the initials of the bartender who made it, and we felt that properly elevated the home drinking experience.

At £7.50 per 130ml recyclable pouch or £45 for six, The Drinks Drop is fairly priced – particularly given the bars these drinks come from would typically charge an extra fiver or more to drink them in situ. A no-brainer for your next dinner party.

Cocktails by Mail the rum pack

Best: For eco-conscious drinking

Rating: 9/10

In truth, we loved everything we tasted from Cocktails by Mail. But it was the buttery birthday old fashioned – made with Aluna coconut rum, pandan-infused Dark Matter rum, Nixta licor de elote, salted caramel and cherry bitters – that really stole our hearts. Rich, complex and innovative, it’s reason alone to plump for the brand’s three-cocktail rum pack, which also includes a coffee-infused twist on a negroni and their own ruby buckthorn, a curry leaf-infused rum and sea buckthorn juice concoction.

If you haven’t already guessed it, Cocktails by Mail excels at innovative flavour combinations: you won’t see or taste these creations anywhere else. They’re not part of the rum pack, but do also order the chilli-infused bullet margarita (£6.50, Cocktailsbymail.co.uk) and mezcal- and pineapple-gin based air chief marshal fufu (£6.50, Cocktailsbymail.co.uk) – you won’t regret it. Despite the creativity, though, flavours never get too weird; founder Steph DiCamillo trots just the right side of the line, delivering drinks you’d happily pay £12 for in a chic bar. And yet they cost as little as £6 each if you buy a few at once.

Where things get more exciting with Cocktails by Mail, though, is its eco character. The individual pouches are compostable (hence why they’re a tad less flashy than some other brands), ingredients are sourced thoughtfully and where possible locally, and the business is carbon-neutral certified. An all-around winner.

Send a Negroni classic negroni

Best: For mini-gifting

Rating: 8/10

It’s a simple idea: why send a birthday, anniversary or thank you card, when you can send a negroni with a customised message instead? While this brand lets you send just one cocktail and note for £10, you may as well send two drinks for £15 – all the better for your thirsty recipient.

Made with Porter’s gin, sweet vermouth and bitter aperitif (negronis are typically made with Campari), this ready-to-drink pouch of liquid ruby needs only pouring over ice and it’s ready to drink. Expect a classic, bright flavour profile – think candied cherry and zesty orange hints – that is equal parts punchy, sweet, bitter and crowd-pleasing. Bundled up in 100 per cent recyclable packaging, it makes for a lower-impact gift too.

NIO Cocktails postcards from Japan cocktail box

Best: For a virtual holiday

Rating: 8/10

The packaging is clever: an internal drinks pouch is housed within a square cardboard packet, so each cocktail holds its shape and can stack neatly and elegantly in your fridge or cupboard. When you’re ready to drink, simply tear off the corner, pour straight over ice, and hey! You’re a bartender extraordinaire.

NIO’s range is fantastic – all the classics, from limey margaritas to vodka sours – are on tap. But we especially enjoyed mixologist Patrick Pistolesi’s postcards from Japan range, which gave a Japanese twist to big-hitter drinks. (Take, for example, the Hokkaido pleasure – a gin sour with Etsu gin, La Okinawa liqueur and Toschi liquid sugar). Flavours across the board – as with all NIO’s cocktails – were clean and easy to enjoy. And the smart packaging (which is also recyclable) came with written commentary on the reverse so we knew exactly what we were drinking.

Unlike some other brands, you don’t need to keep NIO stored perennially in the fridge, and there’s no immediate use-by date on the packets, so you can buy a bunch and work through them over weeks or even months. Keep ‘em on hand for festivals, picnics, date nights – the versatility is endless.

Mr Fogg’s Letterbox Cocktails sling when you’re winning

Best: For sharing

Rating: 8/10

If you’ve ever been to one of London’s Mr Fogg’s seven branches, you’ll know they don’t do things by halves. The elaborate Victorian-themed drinking holes are famed for their elaborate decor, quirky menus and innovative pours. And for those who have missed sipping there – or haven’t yet had the chance – you’ll be delighted to know they’ve branched out into home cocktail kits.

It’s not just a sachet of drinks; it’s a miniature Mr Fogg’s experience delivered to your door. Think little branded cocktail coasters, garnishes tucked into cute paper envelopes and bonus sweets in candy-striped bags. It all feels celebratory, as do the cocktails themselves – rather uniquely on this list, they all come in double portions so unless you’re feeling greedy, can be shared with a friend.

The sling when you’re winning is just one of the options – but it’s a goodie. A spin on a Singapore sling, it’s cherried, concentrated and irresistible, with Bombay bramble, Benedictine, cherry liqueur, pineapple syrup, citrus and rooibos tea.

BrewDog Distilling Co’s LoneWolf X Regal Rogue

Best: Party selection

Rating: 7/10

BrewDog: not just about beer. If you didn’t know, the Scottish company makes spirits too, and here it has shaken them up into letterbox cocktails, in partnership with Aussie vermouth brand Regal Rogue. This mixed box of four drinks sticks to the crowd-pleasing classics, perfect for dishing up at a party or in a household of diverse tastes – you’re basically getting a classic martini, a porn star martini, negroni and a fruity sour (named wild wolf).

It’s a cliche, but it’s true to say that this box has something for everyone: the martini and negroni are punchier and drier, and altogether rather grown-up, while the other two are sweeter, fruitier and lower in alcohol. The commonality between them all is that you can really taste the vermouth – courtesy, as we’ve noted, of Regal Rogue. If you haven’t tried their vermouths straight this might inspire you to do so – made using unique Australian botanicals and flavourful Australian wine, they’re extremely delicious and worth exploring further.

Original pornstar martini by Douglas Ankrah

Best: For fruity fans

Rating: 8/10

Rest in peace Douglas Ankrah, a recently departed drinks industry pro whose name you may not recognise, but whose famed creation you will almost certainly have tasted at some point: the porn star martini. One of the most iconic cocktails of the noughties, created by Ankrah at The Townhouse bar in Knightsbridge, west London, it’s sweet, fruity and dangerously drinkable.

And this kit, designed by Ankrah himself, has all you need to create the irresistibly quaffable martini to perfection at home: Grey Goose vanilla vodka, Passoa passion fruit liqueur, passion fruit syrup and vanilla sugar. Each kit will make three to four cocktails – perfect for a small party of cocktail-loving friends – and comes with access to a video on how to get it just right, from Ankrah himself.

Cocchi negroni in a box

Best: For after-dinner drinking

Rating: 9/10

It’s another negroni, yes – but trust us when we say this one is totally different. It’s made by and with Cocchi, a heritage Italian vermouth di Torino with a rich, fruity and almost syrupy character. As such this negroni doesn’t have the cherry punch brightness of more classic serves – rather a deep brown sugary depth that is perfect for sipping after a meal.

It’s packaged in conjunction with NIO, listed above, so you’ve got the same compact, smart packing that lets you pour neatly right from the boxed pouch. And given it comes in a case of five, buying a couple of sets means you’ll always have a nightcap on hand when you need it.

The verdict: Letterbox cocktails

Letterbox cocktails provide boozy fun without all the faff. And if you want a brand that hits the nail on the head in terms of flavour, creativity and simplicity to serve, you’ve got to try The Drinks Drop.

If you feel it’s especially important to give the environment a helping hand, however – and who wouldn’t feel that way – Cocktails by Mail is a stellar alternative. This newbie’s eco-friendly efforts are as impressive as its cocktail-making skills.

Finally, if you’re looking for a perfectly crafted classic, the Cocchi negroni in a box is a thing of beauty. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better iteration anywhere, even freshly made at a bar.

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IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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