Taste Test: 7 Canned Cocktails to Drink All Year
Who knew a canned Bloody Mary would work so well?
If you’ve watched the brilliantly funny, Emmy Award-winning show Fleabag, you’re probably familiar with the Hot Priest’s penchant for canned Gin & Tonics. We first see him pull out a pack when Fleabag visits his church in season two, episode two, and they share a drink together, marking the beginning of their (spoiler alert) star-crossed story.
Canned cocktails, after all, are growing increasingly popular alongside spiked seltzer thanks to their portability and the whole “ready to drink” factor. However, Marks & Spencer, the company that makes the “Gins in a Tin,” revealed that sales rose 24 percent after the episode aired. Series creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge and co-star Andrew Scott (the Hot Priest) added more fuel to the Gin in a Tin fire when they handed them out to fans earlier this month in London. With all the hype, we had to wonder—could the Hot Priest be on to something?
In the spirit of Fleabag and science, we decided to have a canned cocktail drinking session of our own, albeit, with a few more options than just Gin & Tonics. After calling in samples, we ended up with canned cocktails from six different brands and 17 drinks total, ranging from lime margaritas and vodka sodas to Bloody Marys and bourbon smashes. The taste testers sampled each one, assessing the drink’s flavor and drinkability, as well as how it compares to the non-canned version of the cocktail. (We've had worse Thursday afternoons.) Turns out, we’re partial to vodka—sorry, Hot Priest. Read on for our favorites from each brand.
Cutwater Spirits Elderflower Vodka Spritz, 7 percent ABV
Availability: 35 states plus D.C.
We found this spritz, which contains Cutwater Fugu Vodka, elderflower, lemon, and “other natural flavors” to be aromatic and floral, with a lightly sweet flavor.
“This reminds me of the Dryck Fläder elderflower juice boxes at Ikea in the best way,” an editor wrote. “Love it.”
Cutwater Spirits Spicy Bloody Mary, 10 percent ABV
Availability: 35 states plus D.C.
This Bloody Mary—made with Fugu Vodka and Cutwater Spicy Bloody Mary Mix—was a true dark horse, and got great reviews for its spicy kick of flavor. It was also smooth and easy to drink.
"So spicy! But also so good," an editor said. "I would 100 percent buy. Add ice and celery and olives and [heart emoji.]"
Durham Distillery Cucumber Vodka Soda, 8 percent ABV
Availability: North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, South Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois
Out of all of Durham Distillery’s canned cocktails, this Cucumber Vodka Soda (cucumber-flavored vodka with natural flavors and soda water) was our favorite. It was refreshing and light, and the cucumber flavor wasn’t overpowering.
“I would drink this happily at a picnic,” one editor wrote.
You & Yours Distilling Co. Vodka Mule, 8 percent ABV
Made with You & Yours Vodka and “natural flavor,” the Vodka Mule reigned supreme in the You & Yours spread. We liked how bright it was, with delicate gingery undertones—some editors expressed they wished the ginger flavor was even stronger.
“It’s not too sweet,” an editor said. “I like the little hints of ginger.”
Plain Spoke Cocktail Co. Bourbon Smash, 10 percent ABV
Availability: Wisconsin and Minnesota
Plain Spoke’s canned cocktails had the strongest flavors out of all of the brands. We tried the Bourbon Smash, Moscow Mule, and Mojito, and liked the Bourbon Smash the most. It’s made with bourbon whiskey, lemon juice, and natural mint flavors—the end result was sweet and slightly syrupy.
“This reminds me of a whiskey ginger,” one editor said. “I would buy this.”
Empirical Spirits Minor Threat, 10 percent ABV
Empirical Spirits’ Minor Threat was the most unique canned cocktail we tried. It's made with milk oolong tea, toasted birch, and green gooseberry, and was almost reminiscent of beer, with malty and tea-forward flavors. Overall, it got positive reviews.
“Unusual but tasty,” an editor wrote. “I really like the smoky tea notes.”
Sprezza Vero Spritz Italiano Bianco, 5.2 percent ABV
Availability: 29 states plus D.C.
We tried two of Vero Spritz’s canned drinks, Bianco and Rosso. We loved how the lightly bitter vermouth notes came through in the Bianco, and found it to be a smooth and citrus-y—fitting, as it’s made with Mancino Vermouth and Scrappy’s Bitters.
“Great summer drink,” an editor wrote. “I would put it on ice.”