No fuss, better tasting, single serve, ready-to-drink cocktails make Happy Hours, holiday parties, and camping easier.
Small size ready-to-drink cocktails (RTDs) with quality spirits, new packaging and varying alcohol levels are showing up online, stacked on retailers’ shelves and in backpacks at record levels. The Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) reports that spirits based RTDs at 10-percent ABV and below are growing at a rate of over 200%. RTD cocktails are growing beyond mass marketed, low alcohol hard seltzer. Quality has risen in the last few years with more natural ingredients and less additives in the mix. Carbonation is a key natural preservative in low alcohol canned cocktails, and more producers are finding ways to avoid drowning the drinks in bubbles. The key to growth in the RTD market is portability. Large to mid-sized premixed cocktails have been on the market for some time. Single and double serve choices from 100 ml (3-ounce) to 355 ml (12-ounce) have increased since 2019. We’ll focus on a bartender’s half dozen of worthwhile, small sized products to imbibe. Along with new packaging options, the cocktails manifest both classic and new spirits combinations with varying alcohol levels. Note: We’ll cover gin and tonic RTDs in another article.
In 2021 Rod Vandenbos took another route to avoid carbonation by launching buzzbox, a new category for small RTDs. Vandenbos packages his cocktails in Tetra Paks. Yes, like kiddie juice boxes only in rectangular rather than square shapes. The eco-friendly advantages of the lightweight Tetra Paks are numerous for distribution and service. As a bonus, no refrigeration. When asked about the small “b” in the buzzboxes, owner Vandenbos emphasized the casual, understated style of the cocktails—the flavors are traditional and not based on bartender trends. Serious about the potential for buzzbox, Vandenbos built a 65,000-square foot production facility in Southern Calif. The ingredient list touts “handmade” products such as triple sec; Vandenbos confirmed that fruit is juiced onsite, and the vodka, gin and triple sec are produced in house from distillates and infusions. The Cuban Mojito buzzbox immediately got my attention. After pouring into an ice-filled glass, I discerned the aroma and taste of the Hieurbabuena mint which is vacuum packed and shipped from Cuba. While living on the Gulf Coast several years ago, I became well-acquainted with New Orleans’ signature cocktail, the Hurricane. The buzzbox offering was pleasant, not too sweet, and at 12 percent ABV, brought a mild buzz. Same for the Long Island, Margarita, Greyhound and more.