Ready To Drink Volume 6: We Found the Best Fall Canned Cocktail, Gold Fashioned Returns Even Better Than Before and More
Welcome to the sixth edition of the 2022 Ready To Drink rundown. Here at Whiskey Raiders, lots of ready-to-serve drinks cross our desks, the majority being bottled and canned cocktails. In this series, we present the ready-to-drink (RTD) releases we’ve tried recently. Now, more than ever, shelves are crowded with different expressions, all vying to be purchased. With fall in full swing and the holiday season forthcoming, RTDs have a place. It’s certainly nice to be able to relax and not worry about making drinks. Plus, a good ready-to-serve cocktail can serve as a great gift.
The Gold Fashioned — Our Pick For World’s Best RTD — Returns Boasting Older Whiskey Stocks
Last month, Chicago-based Sunday’s Finest Cocktails launched the second edition of The Gold Fashioned. The Gold Fashioned is about as good, fancy and expensive a premixed cocktail as you’ll encounter. A 750-milliliter bottle of the stuff costs $150, but for good reason. The Gold Fashioned features ingredients from each of the six permanently inhabited continents, sourcing saffron from Afghanistan, vanilla from Tahiti, cacao from Ecuador, gentian root from the French Alps, Seville orange peel from Spain, demerara from Malawi and, of course, American whiskey.
The 2021 Gold Fashioned contained a blend of 8-year-old Kentucky bourbon and 5-year-old Indiana rye — an extremely respectable base for a cocktail. This year, however, Sunday’s Finest went way bigger, building its 2022 cocktail around a blend of 15(!)-year Kentucky bourbon, 9-year Kentucky bourbon and 6-year Indiana rye.
Last year’s Gold Fashioned was the best RTD I’d ever tasted — until this year’s. I actually had a bit left over from last year’s batch, so I tasted the two side by side and found that while rye spiciness plays more of a factor in 2021’s, the 2022 cocktail is significantly better overall (note that 2021’s having been opened a year ago likely affected its taste). This year’s has more depth of flavor and is richer and chocolatier.
Even the packaging is improved from last year’s Gold Fashioned. Last year, the top of the box didn’t fit too well and would slide off too easily. This year, you don’t have to worry about that, as the box unfolds in dramatic fashion, revealing the bottle in the middle.
The 2022 Gold Fashioned is truly delicious. It’s a perfectly stiff, complex cocktail with delectable notes of cocoa, vanilla, orange, peanut brittle and caramel on the palate. It’s a damn-near-perfect Old Fashioned that, despite being premixed, will outshine most bartenders’ concoctions.
For $150, you’re paying for quality, and that’s what you’re getting. This is the best and fanciest RTD cocktail on the market. The Gold Fashioned is available for purchase from the Sunday’s Finest website.
George Dickel, Social Hour Bring Back the Best Fall RTD on the Market
Whiskey brand George Dickel and canned cocktail brand Social Hour in September announced the return of their Harvest Whiskey Sour canned cocktail, made with 13-year George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey, honeycrisp apple, Meyer lemon, cinnamon, maple and cardamom.
This is one of the best canned cocktails I’ve ever tasted, full stop.
Whiskey sours aren’t attempted much in an RTD format and for good reason. It’s tough to pull off a canned version of a cocktail that’s generally only any good if it’s freshly shaken, but Social Hour absolutely nails it with this release. It’s whiskey sour meets spiced apple cider, and it kicks total ass. The apple and cardamom pop on the floral nose, and the tasting experience is extremely well structured. The first sip blasts you with lemony sweetness, and then some whiskey notes enter and mingle with the sweetness. The flavors then gently dissolve into sweet, Honeycrisp-apple goodness.
This limited release can be purchased on the Social Hour website. A four-pack of 250-milliliter cans goes for $28 — bit pricy but worth it, as this is absolutely one of the best RTD cocktails on the market.
Slow & Low Launches Pair of Lemony Rye Whiskey Canned Cocktails
In August, Cooper Spirits’ Slow & Low added to its portfolio with two new RTDs: Whiskey Sunshine and Whiskey Buck. Both of these RTDs contain 10% ABV and were crafted by the brand’s director of innovation, Chad Solomon, and Christy Pope, director of brands & marketing. The two have more than 40 years of industry experience combined.
Whiskey Buck contains lemon juice, rye whiskey and ginger beer. Buck cocktails are better known as “mules,” due to the popularity of the Moscow Mule (aka the Vodka Buck) Whiskey Sunshine is a take on the Rye Whiskey Collins. It is made with lemon juice, rye whiskey, yuzu, sweet orange and oroblanco grapefruit.
In tasting the Whiskey Buck, the rye spice is really well-placed and contrasts nicely with the ginger beer and lemon. This is a refreshing drink that’s perfect for a warm day outside. The rye notes are really present and differentiate this drink from other RTDs on the market in an awesome way.
The ginger and lemon make this a tasty, refreshing drink, but the rye notes set it apart from other drinks on the market. I like this a lot. There’s a nice, almost cola-like sweetness. Twenty proof is a good mark — and I actually think they could probably bump that number up a bit — but it’s great as is.
I tasted Whiskey Sunshine next and found it to be even better than the Buck. The sweetness, tartness and rye spice layer terrifically, imparting notes of honey, grapefruit and lemon. This drink is sweet and tart like lemonade upon first sip and follows with a blast of tart, juicy grapefruit. Next, the whiskey notes coat your palate and hang around for the rest of the drink. This is an awesome RTD.
Slow & Low Whiskey Sunshine and Whiskey Buck are available in New York, Florida, Texas and California with a national rollout planned for next year. Four-packs of 200-milliliter cans sell for a suggested retail price of $19.99. Find Slow & Low products near you.
Tequila Brand Olmeca Altos Launches RTD Margarita
After being voted the best tequila for margaritas three years in a row by Drinks International, Olmeca Altos decided to make a margarita of its own and debuted it in September. Altos Margarita Classic Lime is made with Olmeca Altos Plata Tequila, natural lime flavor, triple sec and agave syrup and is sold in 750-milliliter bottles.
Hats off to Olmeca Altos, because this margarita is a rockstar. It delivers an awesome mix of dry, sweet and sour and has a nuttier profile than your average marg, which adds a great layer. Lime is joined by notes of amaretto, vanilla, coconut and hazelnut on the palate.
It’s tart on the front of the palate with loads of salt and lime and then settles into that nutty, almond-laden, sweeter profile, before finishing dry and tart.
This sublime margarita contains 15% ABV and can be found for a suggested retail price of $19.99 per 750-milliliter bottle.
Caskers sells this product for $22.99 and ships to Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
Flying Embers Releases Organic, Sugar-Free RTDs
In July, California brand Flying Embers announced the launch of canned margarita- and mojito-style canned cocktails. Hailing these drinks as “100% plant-based, organic” and adding zero sugar, Flying Embers is targeting a health-conscious audience with these drinks.
Rather than infusing these RTDs with sugar or syrups, Flying Embers ages its RTDs in tequila and rum barrels to imbue them with “authentic flavors.”
The 10%-ABV Sparkling Margarita Variety Pack comprises three flavors — Classic Lime, Blood Orange Pomegranate and Strawberry Guava — while the 8%-ABV Sparkling Mojito Variety pack is made up of Lime, Watermelon and Mango flavors.
Let’s start with the margarita pack and then move to mojito.
Strawberry Guava Margarita: This is pretty good. The lime comes through heavily, and the strawberry doesn’t smack you over the head. This isn’t as sweet as a lot of similar drinks on the market, which is an interesting change of pace and obviously makes sense given the zero sugar or carbs; you can definitely tell there’s no sugar, but the strawberry notes mix nicely with the lime. The finish is bitter lime rind. This is far from the best Margarita canned cocktail I’ve had, but it’s hard to compete with sugared alternatives, so I guess you need to grade on a curve. I respect the health consciousness, but I think I’d prefer a bit of sugar in my Margarita. This is solid, though — crisp and tart. The 10% ABV is welcome, as a lot of margarita canned cocktails go too low in that department.
Classic Lime Margarita: This is not great. It just doesn’t taste like a margarita — it’s more of a salt-and-lime seltzer. It actually reminds me of Stone’s Buenaviza Lager minus the beer. And actually, if you don’t think of it as a margarita, it’s not so bad. The lime-rind flavor is good, but it’s not accompanied by much — other than an overdose of salt — which makes it less interesting, and the flavors that are here become overpowering.
Blood Orange Pomegranate Margarita: I’ve figured out the key to enjoying these drinks: Ignore the labels. This, again, isn’t a margarita. If you think of it as a mimosa, however, it’s pretty good. This is the one I’m most likely to return to thus far. The pomegranate flavor is quite nice and natural-tasting and mixes very well with the orange. This is crisp and refreshing, tart and tasty. It still could probably use a little sweetness, but the flavors are more complex and enjoyable than the other so-called margarita flavors. The sea salt flavor is present but much less overpowering than in the Lim.
Lime Mojito: This is a straight spearmint bomb. Super minty, it kind of tastes like champagne mixed with lime juice and loads of mint. Refreshing and dry, this is pretty one-dimensional but not bad.
Mango Mojito: I quite like this one. The mango tastes very fresh and offers a nice contrast to the mint. Refreshing with a nice lingering sweetness, this is a good drink.
Watermelon Mojito: Not quite as strong as the mango but very good. Most watermelon-flavored drinks are overpowering and too sweet — but not this one. Watermelon is a perfect flavor for this sugar-free format. The watermelon flavor is light and delicate and balances nicely with the mint. This is a nice, light and refreshing drink.
Overall, these aren’t bad. There are certainly better options if you’re interested in sampling some RTDs, but if you’re a health-conscious drinker, these are a decent pick. If you’re going to go for one pack or the other, I’d recommend grabbing the mojitos. The lack of sweetness of these drinks operates much better in a mojito setting, where the mint mixes with fresh, fruity flavors.
Flying Embers’ Mojito and Margarita variety packs are available in select states in 12-pack formats, priced at $23.99. Find them near you here.
Alcohol-Free RTDs From ISH Spirits a Swing and a Miss — But the Boozeless Rosé is a Winner
Alcohol-free cocktails, spirits, beers and wines are a growing trend that I hadn’t explored — until now. I tried a few booze-free RTDs from Danish brand ISH Spirits, and to be honest, came away mostly unimpressed.
The DaiquirISH was the best of the three flavors I tried. It mimics the flavor of a traditional daiquiri fairly well with coconut, lime and an intriguing spicy character. The first sip of this drink is great — bursting with sweet and juicy flavor — but without the booze to balance out the juices, the rest of the rink falls flat. The spiciness comes along in the form of paprika and white pepper to add something beyond sweetness to the equation, but this is still a pretty cloying drink.
The GinISH & Tonic and SpritzISH each fall into a similar pitfall: They’re pretty good at first, but then an unsavory flavor kicks in to rain on the parade. The GinISH & Tonic is initially tasty with lots of lemon-lime flavor, but in what I assume is an attempt to mimic the herbal notes of gin, the drink goes too far in the wrong direction, offering a bitter, astringent finish. The SpritzISH, meanwhile, is initially refreshing and citrusy (and, I’d like to add, beautiful in color; the red-orange hue of the pour is very pretty), but then comes along an overpowering blast of bitter wormwood that lingers heavily.
I also tasted a Zero Proof Sparkling Rosé from ISH Spirits, and it was much more of a success. Made from merlot and pinor noir grapes, Château del ISH’s Sparkling Rosé is tart and tasty with no strange bitterness to rain on its parade, this booze-free rosé is quite similar to a good sparkling apple cider but with more red-fruit notes typically found in wine. My fiancée, who doesn’t drink alcohol, enjoyed the Sparkling Rosé so much she’s thinking about buying more to drink at our wedding — a powerful co-sign of this drink’s quality.
ISH Spirits products are available for purchase online. Four-packs of any of the RTD cocktails are priced at $21.99, while the sparkling rosé costs $24. The brand also sells a sparkling white wine and non-alcoholic Tequila, Gin and Rum.
Disclosure: Some or all of the drinks featured in Ready To Drink were provided for review by the brands that make them. This in no way affects our reviews of these products or any recommendations we make, nor was any commission earned from the reviews in this article.
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