For as far as we’ve come toward a more nationally notable dining scene, the coasts still have the edge. Case in point: the canned cocktail.
Within the past year, nearly every food and lifestyle magazine has swooned over cocktails in cans. Tantalizingly convenient, the premixed caipirinhas and French 75s tease a summer filled with poolside frivolity, riverfront shenanigans, and lakeshore gaiety. Or at the very least, drunk-ass picnics.
So how painful it was to bring a list of the sexiest new canned cocktails into several local liquor stores, only to be met with, at best, blank stares, and at worst the simultaneously belittling and discouraging question: “Where did you even get that list?”
Sigh. Clearly, I got it from the cocktail-addled imaginations of the coastal elite.
But fret not, landlocked brethren, we’ve still got options. Below are seven canned drinks to try while we wait for the luxury of the east and the west to converge over the nation’s thirsty midsection.
7. Juicebar Cocktails
Carrot Aloe Mango, 4.9% ABV
Since May, Juicebar has been popping up at a lot of shops around town. The brand promises all-natural, “clean and green” cocktails in “smoothie-inspired flavors,” as if giving the world of malt beverages a healthy kick in the pants. That’s not exactly the health tonic we’d recommend, but the carrot/aloe/mango flavor is surprisingly drinkable. Does it taste like a melted peach Jolly Rancher? Maybe a little. It’s lightly carbonated, with the sweetness of a nectar that effectively masks the malt aftertaste. Steer clear of the more ambitious but less successful pineapple/lime/cilantro variety, which awkwardly clashes the bitter flavor of the malt with herbal cilantro and tropical fruit.
6. White Claw
Black Cherry, 5% ABV
All hail the dawn of the boozy seltzer water! While some other brands’ bitter aftertaste and fake fruit flavor dampen the magic of the low calorie count, White Claw’s black cherry flavor balances booze and fruit essence perfectly—almost too perfectly. You could get very, very drunk on these. If that isn’t your goal, go slow and mix some virgin seltzer in from time to time for good measure. No matter what, you’re keeping your calorie intake low (110 per can!) and your party quotient high.
5. Bravazzi Hard Soda
Blood Orange, 4.2% ABV
If you love the sophisticated sodas of San Pellegrino, but you’re tired of sneaking off to the kitchen to funnel in booze from your hip flask, Bravazzi hard Italian sodas (in grapefruit, limonata, and blood orange flavors) will make your habit a bit easier. Unlike the spiked seltzers, Bravazzi isn’t so concerned about calorie counts, but the result is a thoroughly quaffable refreshment. The sugar cane brewing process makes this naturally gluten-free and the flavor bright and sweet, with some blood orange bitterness to avoid cloying.
The Bubbles, 11% ABV
When you need to make a toast but you’re too comfortable in your inner tube to pop a bottle and fill a champagne flute, reach for a cold can of the Bubbles. This sparkling Chardonnay from Underwood is a portable, potable party with notes of “ripe citrus, tropical fruit, and white flowers.” It’s dry and refreshingly effervescent, and double the booze of other cans on this list.
3. Joia Spirits
Sparkling Moscow Mule, Sparkling Greyhound, Sparkling Cosmopolitan, 6-7% ABV
We’re giddy over our local soda company stepping in to fill the void of canned cocktails in the Midwest—even more so because these flavors are actually tasty. You’d expect as much from a company that breezes past standard pop flavors in favor of Grapefruit Chamomile Cardamom and Ginger Apricot Allspice. For its debut cocktails, Joia opted for classics with contemporary buzz: the Moscow Mule, the Greyhound, and the Cosmopolitan. We were instant fans of the Moscow Mule, which nails the thirst-quenching double-whammy of fizz and spicy ginger. The Greyhound plays on the easy-drinking mix of vodka and grapefruit to instantly delight. The Cosmopolitan was perhaps our least favorite, simply for its syrupy sweetness, but if the cranberry-vodka combo is your drink of choice, you’ll find this one a passable substitute for the real deal.
2. Cutwater Spirits
Gin & Tonic, 6.2% ABV
Cutwater Spirits is the latest canned cocktail to enter the Twin Cities market, starting last week. From the beer wizards behind San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing, the extensive line (gin and tonic, bloody Mary, rum and cola, cucumber vodka soda, vodka mule, etc.) could easily fill a cooler with enough variety to suit all tastes and occasions. Though the spectacularly spicy Bloody Mary (10% ABV) passes muster and a Rum & Cola (7% ABV) is a smooth and sweet sipper, the Gin & Tonic is the clear standout of the bunch, blending an aromatic gin with bright grapefruit and cucumber tonic and effervescence that lasts. We could see many hours knocking these back on a shady patio, no glass or lime wedge necessary.
1. Slow & Low
Rock & Rye 42% ABV
Aiming to impress with your canned drink of choice? Hands-down the best can on this list, Rock & Rye is a tiny package that packs a craft cocktail bar’s worth of quality—and booze. This slow-sipper mixes rye whiskey with raw honey, navel orange, and Angostura bitters, like an Old Fashioned in a can. It goes down smooth enough to drink straight, or you can pour it over ice if you’re feeling fancy. At $3.50 a pop, this tipple is a much better deal than most bars around town will cut you.
Where to shop:
Joia Spirits and Juicebar are available at most area liquor stores. Big-box retailers should have your Bravazzi and White Claw. For Underwood, call ahead to your favorite shops; we had success at France 44. Cutwater is making its way into the market and as of press time was available at Surdyk’s, Wayzata Wine & Spirits, and Stinson Wine, Beer, and Spirits; Slow & Low is available at Total Wine & More.
What we’re looking out for in the future:
We may not have them in the Twin Cities yet, but these buzzed-about cocktail cans are on our radar: Novo Fogo Sparkling Caipirinha; Pampelonne French 75; Can Can Cocktails’ small-batch White Linen and Boar’s Bourbon Root Beer out in California; Mighty Swell Sparkling Cocktails from Austin, Texas.
All photos by Lucy Hawthorne.