From canned Manhattan to canned bloody mary, I sampled a group of suspicious drinks
Pre-mixed cocktails have become increasingly popular lately. They’re convenient for when you’re traveling, picnicking, or just too lazy to open two bottles and wash a glass. However, you can never be quite sure what’s inside that can: Some pre-mixed drinks are well-crafted and tasty, yet many occupy the space between tasteless and unpalatable. And many more offer a weaker pour than a chain-restaurant bartender. I tasted ten of the vast array of pre-mixed cocktails on the market, from classics like the Manhattan to more experimental recipes such as the lychee margarita, and found my favorites.
10. Club Censored on the Beach
First, why “Censored” on the Beach? Anyone who gets their hands on this bottle is at least 21 and has heard the word sex before and possibly even committed the act. But the label on the bottle does make this cocktail look appetizing, poured into a highball glass, garnished with starfruit and kiwi…
Lies! Treacherous lies! After my first sip of Censored on the Beach, I clutched my throat like a silent-movie heroine, then immediately screwed the cap back on the bottle and set it down on the far corner of the desk, as though it would harm me. The first hit on the tongue is reminiscent of Kool-Aid, but then it turns into something like Robitussin with more sugar. Being a professional, I did my best to drink more, but I eventually gave up and dumped the rest in the sink. I’ll drink for you, reader, but I won’t projectile vomit for you.
9. Club Manhattan
A Manhattan in a can. I should have known better. The classic recipe and slickly designed can were part of Club’s relaunch a few years ago. Club began making pre-mixed cocktails in 1892 and I, must say, this Manhattan does seem to have some historical value. During Prohibition, when people drank Manhattans made of bathtub rotgut, I imagine they tasted like Club Manhattan.
8. Buzzballz Peachballz
When I had my first sip of this, I took a step backward. At 15% alcohol by volume, this is not your usual pre-mixed weak sauce. The ingredients are listed as “vodka & peach schnapps with artificial flavor” and that is exactly what it tastes like. Before you start screaming abiout this being some kind of frat boy roofie chaser, note the legend on the side that lets us know that Buzzballz is a “women owned” company, so it’s more of a pedicure night sorority bender. I found myself grimacing after each sip, but I will say this: Buzzballz does offer a buzz.
7. Sipper Ginger Rita
This claims to be a “low calorie, all-natural, cocktail-bar quality drink” and, well, sorta. At first glance I read the "SIP" on the label as "SJP" and thought, “Yeah, this is a Sarah Jessica Parker, binge-watch Sex in the City kind of drink.” The Ginger Rita (which sounds like the name of a burlesque dancer) claims to contain tequila and vodka, and I guess there’s some vague gesture at Margarita here, but it really just tastes like a vodka sour. I’m also getting a little Chardonnay in here somehow, but I think that’s just the vibe.
6. Punching Mule
The can says that there’s 7% alcohol by volume, but I would swear that I’m just drinking ginger ale, and a rather weak ginger ale at that, and not a Moscow Mule. I taste neither ginger nor vodka, but carbonation and a little sweetness. The Punching Mule is perfectly unremarkable, although it is gluten-free, if you’re looking for that. I could drink a lot of these, but I’m not sure why I would want to. Well, if someone gave me a choice between this and a Censored on the Beach, I would, sure.
5. Kahlua White Russian
Like a white Russian from a TGI Friday’s, the Kahlua premixed White Russian is serviceable, pleasant, and bland. You can suck it down like chocolate milk. I want to dump a shot of caramel vodka in it, maybe throw in a few espresso beans, something.
4. No Name Bloody Mary
The bloody mary is perhaps the most useful pre-mixed cocktail, and the No Name is an entirely respectable entry. Out of the can—as one might drink in a hotel room, at a campsite, or out of sheer desperation—it’s still pretty good, if a bit thick. Over ice, it’s a perfectly acceptable standard bloody. Could use a little pepper, maybe some lime, but that is the nature of all bloodys. It’s a good, solid tall boy size, which is appreciated and at 9.9% AV, it’s a got a nice kick, if not a Buzzball-like wallop.
3. Margarita King Natural Lychee Margarita
Oh, this is your girl-drink drunk right here. It’s got a light, pleasant flavor, and the pink-tinted champagne-shaped bottle is fun to hold in your hand. The Margarita King was apparently created “by Giovanni, named Master Margarita King by the SF Chronicle” with silver tequila, Triple Sec, natural juices, and cane sugar. It's definitely sweet, but is neither cloying nor overwhelming. And I can’t really taste the liquor but, hey, that’s part of what makes a girl drink a girl drink.
2. Cutwater Rum and Cola
This is nice. A good, sturdy rum and cola, and the cola here actually has a better flavor than Coke, as it is “house-made pure cane cola” mixed with Three Sheets white rum. You can taste the rum… and feel it too. There’s a nice little wooden-leg kick that makes it feel more like something a bartender poured and handed to you then something you popped a top on. Cutwater makes an entire line of canned cocktails, from gin and tonic to bloody mary, and I’ve yet to have one that wasn’t a winner.
1. VoCo Vodka and Coconut Water
Now this is an idea whose time has come. It’s light and refreshing, yet packs a kick and, unlike many pre-mixed cocktails, you can actually taste the ingredients. The coconut water is lightly carbonated, the vodka is smooth yet present. I can imagine myself drinking this on a boat in rough seas under the bright sun, and I can imagine myself drinking this when I am so hungover I cannot leave my bed—and how many things can be consumed while roleplaying both Jimmy Buffett and Charles Bukowski? I like you, VoCo. I am sure we will meet again soon in a non-professional capacity.