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I Tried 30 Canned Cocktails—These Are The Ones I'll Be Drinking All Summer

Canned cocktails are the quintessential summer drink, but which ones taste best? I sampled a wide range to find out.
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I love a good cocktail—and I'm not just talking about regular mixed drinks. Specialty cocktails are always my go-to bar order, partly because I love the way they taste but also because I enjoy having something made for me that I would probably never make for myself at home. I'm also not a big fan of beer or hard seltzers, so when summer rolls around, and I'm meeting up with friends at the park or headed to a backyard hang, you can bet I'm bringing a case of canned cocktails.

Chances are you've noticed that canned cocktails are everywhere. I first got into them a few years ago, but lately, I've noticed more and more brands and varieties seem to be taking over liquor stores across America. And with warmer weather finally here, I decided it was time to sample some of the most popular canned cocktails to see if I could find my new favorite go-to beverage.

Of course, the most fun way to conduct such an experiment was obvious: A good ol' fashioned taste test with a group of fellow canned cocktail lovers. So I called four friends and invited them over for a tasting party. When all was said and done, we tried 30 different canned cocktails—yes, you read that correctly, 30!—spanning a wide range of drink types, liquor varieties, and brands.

The goal was to try them all and jot down some tasting notes as we sipped so we could come to a consensus about which ones might be contenders for our new staple summer drink. I'll admit that as the night went on, the notes got a bit…foggier. But after sampling each can, we were pleasantly surprised by how easy it was for us to agree on our favorites. In fact, the results were pretty much unanimous!

Read on to find out which canned cocktails we'll be bringing to all our summer gatherings—and which ones we'll be leaving on the shelf. And if you're more of a beer person, we've also got you covered with 15 Healthy Light Beers to Drink This Summer.

Best Low-ABV Cocktail: Surfside Vodka Cocktails

two cans of surfside cocktails
Courtesy of Shiyara Dhanraj

First up was Surfside Cocktails from Stateside Vodka. We tried four different flavors: Lemonade + Vodka, Iced Tea + Vodka, Iced Tea & Lemonade + Vodka, and Peach Tea + Vodka. Much like their names, the differences between them are almost too slight to notice.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed these. Vodka isn't my go-to spirit, but I would happily take the Lemonade or Iced Tea flavors to a picnic or BBQ.

We all agreed that the Iced Tea + Vodka was the best of the bunch; it was refreshing and tasted just like tea. But be warned that although it has a lower ABV of only 4.5%, you really can't detect the taste of vodka at all, so the effects may start to add up quickly if you're not counting your drinks.

    Other notes on the Surfside Vodka cocktails:

    • If you enjoy a boozier cocktail, you could also use these as mixers for a slightly stronger drink.
    • The Peach Tea + Vodka was our least favorite, only because it didn't quite have enough flavor. But if you like a super subtle and light tea flavor, you might enjoy it.

     15 Healthy, Low-Calorie Mixers for Every Kind of Cocktail

    The Most "Bar-Like" Cocktail: Tip Top Negroni

    pouring a canned negroni into a glass
    Courtesy of Shiyara Dhanraj

    I love a good Negroni. In fact, give me as much of the bitter booziness as possible, please. I'm used to ordering these at a bar, so I'll admit I didn't have much confidence that a canned Negroni would deliver—but sometimes it's nice to be proven wrong.

    Only a few of us tried the Tip Top Negroni because not everyone is a fan of the gin/vermouth/bitters combo. But those of us who tried it agreed that it tastes just like a Negroni you'd get at a cocktail bar. It's flavorful and still maintains its booziness, something I'm always wary of with canned drinks.

    This one could certainly work at an outdoor gathering, but I'd say it's more the type of canned cocktail you'd bring to a small dinner party. Grabbing a few of these can save you the trouble of having to make the cocktail yourself, and when you throw it in a glass over ice, you'd never know it came from a can.

    Other notes on the Tip Top Negroni:

    • The small can is honestly adorable, and its compact size makes it easy to grab and go.
    • As a brand, Top Top seems solid overall. We also tried their Espresso Martini, and even though it wasn't as good as some other espresso martinis in our taste test, it was still impressive, and we all agreed we'd drink again.
    • I highly recommend pouring it over ice rather than drinking it straight from the can.

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      Most Unique Cocktail: Mother's Milk Coconut Water Cocktail

      hands holding a can of Mother's Milk cocktail and a glass underneath
      Courtesy of Shiyara Dhanraj

      Mother's Milk Coconut Water Cocktail was a fan favorite, and I can almost guarantee that if you brought this to a party, everyone would be talking about it—provided they like the taste of coconut.

      The coconut is strong with this one, and there's just no escaping it. That may be a negative for some, but all four of us agreed this was a beverage we'd keep coming back to (and we did for the next few days until they were all gone!). Mother's Milk is made with simple ingredients: just coconut water, vodka, and shiso—a Japanese herb that has a slightly citrusy flavor to it—and at 9% ABV, it's just boozy enough that you can enjoy a can or two at a casual gathering without getting sloshed.

      This one tasted nice when enjoyed straight out of the can, but if you're at home and want to elevate the experience even more, try it over a few ice cubes.

      Other notes on Mother's Milk:

      • You can definitely taste the vodka more than some of the other vodka-based options we tried.
      • Three out of four of us ranked it in our top five, so it really was a crowd-pleaser.

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      Best Tequila Cocktails: Cutwater

      two cans of Cutwater cocktails on a white background
      Courtesy of Shiyara Dhanraj

      Cutwater has kind of blown up in the last few years, and we were impressed with both of the brand's canned tequila drinks we tried: the Lime Margarita and the Tequila Paloma.

      The margarita was everything you'd expect from a canned marg—you could taste the lime and the tequila, and at 12.5% ABV, you may start to feel a buzz after just one can. I'd almost describe it as what you'd get if you put a Chili's margarita inside a can—a statement some people may interpret as negative, but as a person who will happily hit up a Chili's for the 2-for-1 marg and chips and queso, I mean it as a compliment.

      But while we all enjoyed the Cutwater Margarita, the drink that really stole the show was the Cutwater Paloma. This sparkling drink was well-balanced, flavorful without being too overpowering, and frankly, the ultimate summertime canned cocktail experience. This one is only 7% ABV, so it's also a bit easier to sip on casually throughout the night.

      Other notes on the Cutwater Margarita and Paloma:

      • Both of these drinks can be enjoyed year-round, but there's something about the flavors that just screams summer.
      • I like that Cutwater uses high-quality tequila in its drinks and that there are only a few ingredients. It feels like a clean experience.
      • This brand has over 30 types of canned cocktails made with tequila, gin, vodka, and whiskey, so if neither of these is up your alley, chances are Cutwater has something else you'll enjoy.

       I Tried 12 Ready-to-Drink Margaritas & The Best Tasted Like Summer

      Best Gin Cocktail: Social Hour Gin & Tonic

      hand holding a glass and canned cocktail on a white background
      Courtesy of Shiyara Dhanraj

      I haven't been much of a gin and tonic gal in quite some time (which I blame on one particular Halloween party in 2018 that still makes me shudder). But I knew I had to try Social Hour's Gin & Tonic because I had seen so many raving reviews online.

      Everyone loved it—even me. And my friend who lived in London for a few years even said it's exactly like the canned G&Ts she used to drink there. We truly had no notes with this one. It was sweet but not too sweet, well-balanced, and had just the right amount of fizz.

      At 11.5% ABV, you could be good with just one can, or you could enjoy a few if you're going big. Regardless, we all agreed that this is a great can to have on hand.

      Other notes on Social Hour:

      • My friend, who's a bona fide gin and tonic girly, says she'd absolutely buy it again.
      • Social Hour's products and the spirits therein are all produced in New York, which is a bonus if you live in the Northeast.

       11 Best Healthy Margarita Recipes

      Best Espresso Martini: Tribini

      two cans of Tribini espresso martinis
      Courtesy of Shiyara Dhanraj

      Tribini's Espresso Martinis were the talk of the evening. That's partly because of how delicious both drinks were, but I think most of us were just blown away by how vastly different each drink was and how Tribini somehow nailed them both.

      The Golden Espresso Martini is milky and creamy, and it smells just like a vanilla iced latte. It's definitely on the sweeter side and is made with a cream liqueur, but you can still taste the coffee—something all of us wanted. To quote one of my friends, "It's definitely giving Bailey's."

      The Double Espresso Martini was unlike any martini I've ever had. I've only had sweet espresso martinis, but this one isn't sweet at all. In fact, it tastes just like a black iced coffee or cold brew. If you like your iced coffee unsweetened, this is the drink for you.

      Other notes on Tribini:

      • The brand also sells a Toasted Hazelnut Espresso Martini and a Peppermint Mocha Martini, though we didn't try those.
      • We drank both flavors straight from the cans, but we agreed that they would be great shaken with ice and strained into a coupe glass.

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      Best Sparkling Cocktail: Two Chicks Vodka Elderflower & Pear Cocktail

      can of Two Chicks cocktail and a glass
      Courtesy of Shiyara Dhanraj

      Sparkling cocktails are never my first choice. I usually prefer something on the boozier, smoother side. But after trying the Vodka Elderflower & Pear Cocktail from Two Chicks, I just might get into bubbles.

      Once again, we all loved this one, and agreed it had the perfect amount of flavor. It's not too strong, but you still get tasty hints of the flavors, especially the pear. This can only has an ABV of 5%, similar to a lot of popular hard seltzers, making it a drink you can sip on without having to worry too much about feeling the effects of the alcohol.

      Other notes on Two Chicks:

      • We tried a few of their other flavors (Vodka with Peach Cucumber Tea & Thyme, Vodka Cranberry & Lime, and Vodka Lemon, Strawberry & Basil), but none really impressed us as much as the Elderflower & Pear.
      • Despite the fact that the other flavors weren't quite as delightful, I'd still say this is a brand you can rely on for an easy summertime drink.

       I Tried 10 Popular Hard Seltzer Brands & One Is My New Summer Fave

      Best Overall Canned Cocktail Brand: Post Meridiem

      three cans of Post Meridiem cocktails on a white background
      Courtesy of Shiyara Dhanraj

      We tried three cocktails from Post Meridiem: Margarita, Espresso Martini, and an Old Fashioned), and I'm awarding this brand with the title of Best Overall Canned Cocktail because we were just so impressed by all three of them.

      These were the booziest of the bunch, so they're probably "one-and-done" drinks—which is great for people who just want to stick to having one drink (and save some money!).

      The flavors in each variety were really powerful, and everyone in the group noted that if you served these beverages over ice in a glass, you wouldn't be able to tell it came from a tiny can.

      Other notes on Post Meridiem:

      • The margarita was quite citrusy and offered more complex flavors than we expected.
      • The Old Fashioned had a strong kick at the end, and at 37% ABV, it's one you'd need to sip on slowly, or you might get into trouble.
      • Someone said the Old Fashioned "is giving petrol—but in a good way." Interpret that however you wish.
      • Post Meridiem also makes other canned cocktails, such as a Mai Tai, Cosmo, and Daiquri. Now I'm excited to try those, too, because after tasting these three, I'll drink pretty much anything this brand puts in a can.

       10 Best Low-Carb Beers That Won't Ruin Your Diet

        A complete list of all 30 canned cocktails we tested

        holding a canned cocktail
        Courtesy of Shiyara Dhanraj

        Of the 30 canned cocktails we tried (a sentence I truly never expected to write), there were bound to be some duds. Of course, everyone has different taste preferences, so we're not here to hate on any brands. But among our group of four cocktail tasters, only the ones above were clear and unanimous winners.

        Here's a complete list of all 30 canned cocktails we sampled. It's gonna be a long summer, so you've got plenty of time to try them all for yourself!

        Samantha Boesch
        Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha
        Sources referenced in this article
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