Are you “Ready to Drink”?

Are you “Ready to Drink”?

Over the past few years, the Sprits industry has seen a rise in the release of Ready-to-Drink (RTD) cocktails and canned seltzer drinks. With bars closed during the pandemic, these lines of products received an unexpected boost and now are easier to find than ever.

These prepackaged drinks can be purchased in cans and occasionally in bottles with varying ABV, focusing on the lower side of the spectrum.

Walking the aisles and checking out the coolers at the local liquor stores was a lesson in just how confusing the category can be, and hopefully, this guide will help you avoid some of the pitfalls you may encounter.


The Elephant in the liquor store

Out of the gate, one problem that Ready-to-Drink cocktails encounter is the confusion with canned seltzer drinks. These are at their core malt beverages with added flavoring agents.

Love them, hate them, enjoy them as you will, but understand they are not the same as Ready-to-Drink cocktails made with Spirits like Whiskey, Vodka, Rum, or Tequila. Not to say they're bad or even good, just different.

When you visit the liquor store, you usually find RTD’s and hard seltzer products side by side on the shelves and in the coolers. It does not help that brands like Jack Daniels have both RTD’s made with Whiskey and malt beverages sitting side by side.

If you are looking for a cocktail in a can, you will need to double-check the labels and make sure you are spending your money on genuine articles. They are very different flavor experiences.

Errors have been made, but hopefully, a little due diligence will prevent them from happening again.

Flavors, flavors, who has the real flavor

Reading labels and understanding what is in a product has become a necessary evil, and it is probably no surprise the more “real” ingredients, the better, as far as we're concerned.

One of the better ones we tried was the Novo Fogo sparking Caipirinhas line, which includes Original Lime, Mango and Lime, and Passion Fruit and Lime, at 8.2% ABV per can.

Each product is made with Novo Fogo Silver Cachaca and uses all-natural ingredients for its flavors. The goal of Novo Fogo owner Dragos Axinte was to create a light, refreshing line of products, and his company set the bar pretty high for those who followed them.

Another RTD that got our attention was when I heard about Siponey, a canned cocktail line backed by respected Spirit industry luminary Amanda Victoria and horticulturist Joseph Mintz.

Siponey currently has two flavors in the lineup: The Royale made with New York Rye Whiskey, wildflower honey, and lemon juice; and the Café made with cold brew coffee, honey, Rye Whiskey, and lemon juice, both at 7.25% ABV.

These all-natural ingredients drinks combine to create elevated flavor experiences far beyond what is usually found in the market.

Refreshingly fresh refreshments

Looking at the canned seltzer drinks, Flaviar realized there are no serious hard seltzers for Whisky connoisseurs - with real aged Whisky as an ingredient. So the flavor wizards took the delicate art of the Japanese Highball, leaving nothing to chance, and decided to six-up everyone.

HaiBall Whisky Seltzer

Behold, they created HaiBall. The latest batch is a blend of six aged Whiskies (17YO Single Malt Scotch, high-proof Bourbon, 3YO American Rye Whiskey, 10YO Japanese Whisky, and a hint of 8YO peated Scotch) and premium sparkling water. Using real Whisky - let alone six - for a canned highball sounds bonkers, but you can't fake genuine Whisky flavor. 5.9% ABV, by the way.

Right next to Haiball, there's a brand new hard seltzer quartet from Oaxaca: Madre Desert Water. The maker of a 2020 Flaviar Community Award-winning Madre Mezcal just released four fantastically invigorating artisanal 5% ABV Mezcal spiked seltzers.

Madre Desert Water

The Original is a smoky honest-to-god blend of Madre Mezcal and sparkling water; Prickly Pear & Lemon is a unique and enchantingly pink fruit bomb; Grapefruit & Yerba Santa is a citrusy and herbal over-the-border marriage of TX grapefruit and MX Yerba Santa, while Mushroom, Sage & Honey bets on a curious pairing of Reishi and Chaga mushrooms with Mezcal. Oh, and they're all infused with adaptogens, herbs, and fruit.

By design, these drinks capture the flavorful essence of their bar-sized counterparts and are enjoyable for fans of agave Spirit cocktails.

Something old, something new

Bacardi was one of the first large industry brands to enter the Ready-to-Drink market when they launched three products in 2020 with Bacardi Lime & Soda, Bacardi Limon & Lemonade, and Bacardi Rum Punch.

In 2021, they released three new products: Bacardi Bahama Mama, Bacardi Mojito, and Bacardi Sunset Punch.

All of the Bacardi Real Rum Canned cocktails are made with Bacardi Superior, natural flavors, and no artificial sweeteners. They are packaged in 355 ml cans and have 5.9% ABV, and can be found in four-packs or the aforementioned variety pack.

As you have seen, Tequila is not a stranger in the land of canned cocktails, but agave-based Spirits are the last ones to join the RTD market in a big way.

Case in point: Cazadores Tequila has recently released three 12-ounce Ready-to-Drink canned cocktails - Margarita, Spicy Margarita, and Paloma. All three products use 100% Blue Weber Agave Cazadores Tequila Blanco, natural ingredients, and agave syrup - and like other products in the market, they have a 5.9% ABV.

By design, these drinks capture the flavorful essence of their bar-sized counterparts and are enjoyable for fans of agave Spirit cocktails.

Like many other things, the Spirits industry is a slow-moving train when it comes to change. Research and development, consumer buy-in, product identity in a cluttered marketplace were all hurdles that Ready-to-Drink product producers had to overcome.

The fact that collectively this product category has achieved so much in so little time is impressive. There are many products out there, and availability is ever-changing, depending on the country, region, or even the season.

Enjoy the exploration and read the label to make sure you are purchasing a genuine article.

Do you have a favorite RTD drink? If so, please share it in the comments.

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