I used to be rather resistant to canned cocktails – indeed, to ready-made cocktails in general. After all, the ritual of making a cocktail, or having one made for you, is part of the point. We want all that rigmarole of shaking, stirring and garnishing, don’t we?
We do, when there’s time, but I have come around to the ready-to-drink can over the past couple of years. Firstly, they are ideal for moments when there just isn’t the time or kit to concoct one from scratch – on a picnic, say, or a train. There are the green credentials – cans are light to transport and endlessly recyclable. Then there’s the fact that some very good examples are kicking around these days.
Note that ‘some’. I tasted 30 this week and it was quite a rollercoaster. When these cocktails are bad they are very, very bad – massively over-sweet, cloying and gloopy, and tasting artificial. Happily, there are some very good ones too. Especially impressive are two ranges: MOTH and Whitebox.
Both offer drinks in small tins, from 100ml to 125ml, but with intense flavours. I could really taste the premium spirits in each one. As well as the MOTH margarita (notes below) I recommend their old fashioned and espresso martini, though the whole range is good. And Whitebox’s Freezer Martini and its Squeezy Margarita also float my boat.
Here are my top five canned cocktails of the summer. Do note how much they vary in strength and set the pace accordingly…
Small but mighty in flavour, a concentrated hit based on the renowned Enemigo tequila with triple sec and lime, not too sweet and finishing sharp and zingy. My favourite of the MOTH range, but they are all good.
Whitebox Pocket Negroni
A tiny tin, pocket-sized indeed, but one which contains a delicious ready mixed negroni, made with Porter’s gin, a bitter aperitif and sweet vermouth. Punchy at over 20% abv, it’s an intense and well-made alternative to making your own.
Jawbox Pineapple and Ginger Gin
Jawbox distillery in Belfast combines its pineapple and ginger liqueur with ginger ale for this. It could easily be over-sweet, but isn’t, as the sugar is balanced by just enough intense ginger and acidity. Good value.
Longbottom & Co. Bloody Mary
6.1%, Longbottom.co, £3 x 250ml
Richly textured with nicely judged spice and a satisfyingly long finish, here’s a well-made and complex ready-mixed bloody Mary. It contains olives, capers and vegan Worcester sauce blended in with real tomato juice and, of course, vodka.
Marks & Spencer Raspberry Mojito
M&S’s canned cocktails are the best supermarket range and they’re keenly priced. I’ve had a soft spot for their raspberry mojito for a while; it’s bright pink, with natural raspberry and lime juices, a definite mint hint and a generous slug of white rum. The tangy, refreshing finish suits hot summer weather.
Read last week's column: Five of the best English ciders to drink this summer