Reviews

The Great Ready to Drink Review

Ready To Drink’s Have Grown – But Have They Evolved? Leah Gasson tastes away to find out.

Fun, fizzy, silly and sweeter than your nan after a few sherries, ready to drink cocktails have been a ubiquitous staple for festival goers, Friday night train home-ers and Saturday in the park-ers for the best part of a decade.

Products of convenience rather than craft, these drinks were more often than not as equivalent to their namesake cocktails as a gun-shot soundtracked back alley motel was to The Savoy. Still, they did the job (or a job, anyway).

Luckily for us, with great competition amongst the craft distilling industry came great innovation.  Somewhere around 2017/18, artisan booze brands - keen to find new audiences - started to tap into the commuter crowd, birthing hundreds of tinned offerings. Where before we were limited to over-sweet G&Ts or dulled rum and cokes, now we have the world at our fingertips, from hard seltzers to boozy coffee.

I’ve tasted my way through some of the biggest names on the block to see what’s worth stocking up on, even trialling some of the more health-conscious CBD drinks, so grab your toothbrush and hold onto your dignity… we’re going in…

G&Ts

Sipsmith G&T cans
Sipsmith G&T cans

Sipsmith Zesty Orange G&T – 7.3%

Wow, wow, wow! At 7.3% ABV Sipsmith's version is an impressive amount stronger than its competitors. It’s a fantastic G&T, with sweet sherbet on the nose and huge quinine in the mouth. It’s fun, fizzy and incredibly easy to drink, reminiscent of Love Heart sweets. This comes with a hearty seal of approval – I’ll be stocking up.

Tanqueray Gin and tonic cans
Tanqueray Gin and tonic cans

Tanqueray London Dry Gin & Tonic – 6.5%

Tanqueray throws very few surprises at us with its gin in a tin offering. Not too sweet and not too sharp, it’s a pretty good rendition of a G&T and shows just how well the gin functions when it isn’t dressed up with garnishes. At 6.5% it carries a buzz, too, and a delicate citrus aftertaste. I was pleasantly surprised – definitely a good train station buy.

Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla Gin & Tonic – 6.5%

A more serious G&T than its Sipsmith counterpart, Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla works hard to channel the bitterness of Seville oranges. It’s elegant and sharp, with elements of sherbet softened by a slightly vanilla-y floral hit. This feels like a good all-rounder – perfect summer fodder, but that orange peel calls for a bit of love during the festive season.

York Gin & Tonic can
York Gin & Tonic can

York Gin & Tonic – 6.5%

The York Gin team have done an extraordinary job of showcasing their botanicals here; on the nose there’s a curious floral levity, whereas the mouth gives way to soft, numbing spices. The petal-like quality is definitely the work of cardamom – big enough to overwhelm the quinine but not so loud it’s soapy. An absolute cracker and great with food. 

York Gin Berry Fiz G&T – 6.5%

The berry smell jumps right out of the can, but that’s about the only punch it packs. To taste, the strawberry notes are muted while the quinine is too pronounced, resulting in a taste that is nothing short of metallic. Perhaps served up with a strawberry garnish the fruit would be elevated, but straight out of the can it feels a little accidental, like they dropped a berry in the drink by accident and didn’t do anything about it. Stick to the original.

East London Liquor Company Grapefruit G&T – 5%

Living up to its hipster location, East London Liquor Company definitely has the coolest looking can of the bunch – tactile and pastel hued, it’s definitely one that will grab your attention. ELLC have taken a real tongue in cheek approach here and they truly speak to my soul with the words ‘classless and glassless’ stamped onto the side of the can. My kind of people.

This is another one with wow factor – the tonic is vibrant, the grapefruit soft and the cardamom from the underlying gin arrives like a sucker punch. It’s bubbly in texture and personality, with a huge, refreshing citrus core. 

CBD Infused

As an anxiety sufferer I can safely say that I haven’t felt relaxed since the summer of 1996, so a microdose of CBD is not going to slow my palpitations. Still, I can see the appeal – CBD is said to promote many health benefits, from easing depression to helping with acne. 

CBD, as I’m sure everyone knows by now, is derived from the cannabis plant. It contains no THC (the psychoactive component), so while I’m certain there are teenagers who could convince themselves they were achieving something of a high from these drinks, it would be akin to the time Preston from the Ordinary Boys got tipsy on chocolate liqueurs. In other words: impossible.

OTO CBD Drinks
OTO CBD Drinks

OTO – Elderflower, Cucumber Liquorice.

Cucumber is the overriding flavour here, with crispy, mulchy salad notes throughout. The elderflower is shy, whilst the liquorice brings a nice, calming woody flavour to the finish. If you’re into that big wet cucumber taste have at it, otherwise avoid like the plague.

OTO Korean Sencha, Mint and Kampot Pepper

Promising to centre my thoughts and bring the day into focus, this mint-dominated effort from OTO has a real breakfast taste to it, with the sencha and mint combining to create a strong tea hit. It’s a super refreshing and unusual flavour - definitely unlike anything you’ve tasted before.

AVER drinks
AVER drinks

AVER Lemon Ginger & Cayenne

Aver's “functional water” with “boosting adaptogens” makes a lot of indecipherable promises, but any relaxing effects were negated by the fact that my oesophagus was a raging fire for hours after drinking it. The carbonation sat at a really strange level too – was it flat? Was it fizzy? Does it matter? Does anything? I started to wonder that as my mouth was confronted with the sourness of a thousand ancient lemons. 

TRIP Peach Ginger

This is a delightful, delicate drink with a beautiful hit of peach juice and a soft ginger kick. Those who benefit from the effects of CBD would enjoy the gentle flavours, but this is also a nice alternative for those who don’t want alcohol but do want something a little different, as it sits a world away from traditional fizzy drinks.

TRIP Lemon Basil

This is another absolute delight from TRIP. Herbal, refreshing, tangy and superbly fizzy, the flavour is lemon fresh and incredibly moreish – a great summer twist on sparkling water.

The Rest…

Disaronno Sour – 5%

Full disclosure: An ex-colleague of mine once wouldn’t talk to me for an entire week after I convinced him to try the blindingly saccharine, needlessly fizzy M&S Pina Colada in a tin. Our office was small and the silence was painful, but I will defend that carbonated creamy mess until the world stops spinning. Is it nice? Well… that’s subjective. Is it bursting with joy? Sunshine in a can? Undoubtedly. If I am saying a drink is too sweet then it’s absolutely time to admit that a drink is too sweet…

And so here we are. Holy moly. My teeth tried to walk out of my mouth and check into the local A&E after just one swig of Disaronno’s lemon-heavy drink. The nose is all marzipan and joy, but the flavour is overwhelmingly citrussy. It’s like a hot toddy in a cold can, which tells you everything you need to know: chiefly, don’t do it.

Disaronno Fizz – 5%

This takes the flavours of the Sour and makes them all more coherent, with the bubbles slicing through that gloopy lemon syrup sweetness. On the nose it’s amaretti biscuits, in the mouth its lively and electric, with the bubbles releasing pops of almond as they crash across the tongue. It’s a dessert drink, best enjoyed as a stand alone.

Disaronno Mule – 5%

The Mule is the best of the Disaronno bunch, with the ginger working hard to calm the sweetness down. If the Fizz was amaretti biscuits, this is ginger nuts, with a warming, sherbet kick. The fizz is so big as to feel slightly aggressive, but it only makes the drink more punchy. For a cold drink it’s a definite winter warmer. 

Tia Maria Café Frappe

The Café Frappe is fine – it’s easy to drink, the texture is foamy and creamy and the Tia Maria flavour rings out as clear as a bell. I’ve no qualms and no doubt about drinking it again, but it does feel like a bit of a missed trick. The coffee has an ashy, burnt taste and the milk is redolent of the stuff from the little plastic cups you get in hotel rooms. Coffee and milk are the are the presiding flavours of the drink, so why not invest in something decent? 

Longflint Rhubarb & Vodka Seltzer – 4.5%

Made using Sacred vodka (soon to be ELLC following the acquisition), this is a premium take on the ready to drink offerings and it tastes every inch the part. There’s a hit of toffee to the nose, but the taste is of tart rhubarb, freshly pulled from the ground and squeezed into the bottle. It’s intense, rich and, somewhat refreshingly, doesn’t leave me reaching for my toothbrush. The only question I have is about the bottle – Longflint looks posh, no doubt, but the ready to drink element relies very heavily on one owning a bottle opener. This isn’t a grab-from-the-train-station and go affair (but I wish it was). 

Berczy Peach and Raspberry Hard Seltzer – 4%

Berczy with the good hair, as I’ve taken to calling it, has some of the most beautiful branding in this experiment, but there’s a lot less going on beneath the surface. On first sniff it’s a burst of peach hearts and sugar, but that promising start doesn’t necessarily translate to the tongue. There’s nary a raspberry in sight and the peach is incredibly delicate. It’s a great hard seltzer for a gentle start, but it’s incredibly watery and falls just on the wrong side of boring.

LuvJus – Pineapple, Mint, Jasmine – 4.8%

Firstly the name: excellent. This Pride heavy vodka drink is a lovely, lively, totally tropical endeavour, with the pineapple and mint – both obnoxiously loud – clashing together to create a whole new flavour that taste somewhere between a Mojito and a Pina Colada. LuvJus is refreshing, not too sweet and the branding is amazing, with a great 80s look. This was the best of the hard seltzers as far as my palate was concerned – it’s definitely worth picking up a can or two for the park next time the weather allows.

In Conclusion…

In the Ready to Drink world, Gin is still king. The G&Ts were by far the most accomplished of all the drinks, with East London Liquor Company, Sipsmith and York Gin standing high above the rest (although I will give a special shoutout to LuvJus here). 

Gin in a tin is the perfect middle ground between the often forgettable hard seltzers and the sugary cocktails, most of which made me feel like that five-year-old at a birthday party – the one who eats a thousand jellybeans and punches Mr Blobby in the nuts.

Spirits Kiosk
Served Raspberry Hard Seltzer Pack of 12
Served Raspberry Hard Seltzer Pack of 12
12 x 25cl4%GB
£32.28
Sipsmith London Dry Gin & Tonic Can Pack of 12
Sipsmith London Dry Gin & Tonic Can Pack of 12
12 x 25cl7.3%NL
£39.48
DRTY Hard Seltzer Raspberry Rose Pack of 12
DRTY Hard Seltzer Raspberry Rose Pack of 12
12 x 33cl4%AU
£30.00

By Leah Gasson

13 October 2021