Bottled cocktails have been a thing for the past decade already. But because there are a lot of substandard brews out there, they usually don't have the best of reputations.
Often, they taste nothing like the actual cocktail. -Besides the name on the label, there's sometimes not much they have in common with the real deal.
However, during the last few years, things changed. Along with the trend of barrel-aging cocktails, bottled cocktails drew the attention of professional bartenders and big brands, and the whole concept got lifted to a new level. In fact, some of them are remarkably good.
Evolution of bottled cocktails
At first, bottled -or canned- cocktails appear to be a relatively recent phenomenon.
We all know the Mojitos or an Aperol Spritz in cans served in beach bars. Or the Caipis and Piña Coladas in champagne-like bottles on supermarket and liquor store shelves. All quite affordable, bright-colored, often too sweet, and equally often with an artificial taste.
Consequently, if somebody would serve you one of the above in a decent cocktail bar, you would probably be very upset.
But the truth is, bottled cocktails have been around for more than a century already.
In the mid-19th century, you could buy pre-mixed and bottled cocktails in bars, and companies like Heublein Spirits advertised them as "A better cocktail at home than is served over any Bar in the world." And the concept boomed.
Since then, bottled cocktails alternatingly got hyped and flopped over the past 150 years. And now, they are back -and the pandemic has further increased the demand.
Today, many producers of ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails successfully experimented with sweetness, acidity, and different levels of ABV.
They use top-quality ingredients and think about how flavors develop once combined and left in a can or bottle for longer than just a few hours.
What to consider when buying pre-mixed cocktails?
Similar to barrel-aging cocktails, some ingredients work better for pre-mixing and bottling, and some are not quite that suitable. It is best to have non-perishables only. And the higher the ABV, the longer the shelf-life.
Drinks containing dairy products or egg white are not such a great fit. They will most like be a disappointment when buying them in a bottled version.
Also, creamy components can be difficult to master. In particular, the previously mentioned Piña Colada is a popular choice but, unfortunately, next to never convincing.
So think twice about what you expect from your cocktail of choice. And be aware that pre-mixed, bottled cocktails don't come cheap if you want good quality.
Advantages of bottled cocktails
When you stay away from low-quality products, bottled cocktails can be a great alternative to freshly mixed drinks.
Of course, tastewise, it is hard to beat a fresh cocktail. But think, for instance, of a picnic or a day at the beach. You can effortlessly enjoy a beautiful, bar-quality cocktail.
What's more, it speeds up serving, and you can cater to large quantities in a short time. That is perfect for a party at home.
Thus, also bars came to appreciate the advantages of pre-mixing cocktails and started using the method. Some even cooperate with renowned brands for ready-to-drink cocktails and put them on the menu.
And then, there is the benefit of the price. High-quality bottled cocktails are usually more affordable than visiting a proper cocktail bar.
Brands to try
Here are four brands that offer bottled cocktails of the highest quality.
Home - Home Bottled Cocktails
After years of working for one of Hamburg's best Cocktail Bars, barkeeper Leo Ororz teamed up with multiple award-winning bartender Thomas Lang.
Together they wanted to try something new and went for pre-mixed cocktails. And they really did an excellent job.
Home offers seven cocktails. All are made after their own signature recipes, highlighting unusual ingredients like peanut butter, saffron, or pepper.
Currently, they ship within Germany only.
Price Range: 5.80€ - 6.60€ (USD6.80 - USD7.50)/serving
Our Recommendation: Peanutbuttercup
World of Zing
The guys from World of Zing have been in the market for bottled cocktails for eight years now. Pritesh Mody started selling his pre-mixed creations in 2014.
Since then, World of Zing Cocktails have won many awards and are served in some prominent venues across Britain.
The offer ranges from classics like Aged Negroni to Salted Caramel Espresso Martini and fancy stuff like a Mince Pie Rumhattan. Currently, they ship within the UK only.
Price Range: 3.80£ - 5.30£ (USD5.00 - USD7.00)/serving
Our Recommendation: Lemon Drop Chili Margarita
Crafthouse Cocktails was founded by Matt Lindner and prize-winning bartender Charles Joly.
In the early 2010s, they realized that a proper cocktail in a bottle was basically impossible to get anywhere within the US.
And by 2013, they were among the first (modern-times) producers who set out to satisfy the need for a decent, bar-quality bottled drink.
Price Range: USD3.00 - USD3.50/serving
Our Recommendation: Gold Rush
Tails Cocktails are also based in England and have been around for over a decade. The vision of founder Nick Wall was to make high-quality cocktails more accessible to a broader audience of cocktail lovers.
And he definitely achieved that goal. They focus on six signature cocktails and sustainable production. Every Tails' packaging material is sourced within a 50-mile radius of their production location.
Price Range: around USD3.50/serving
Our Recommendation: Porn Star Martini