While it might seem simple, it’s surprisingly hard to make a perfect Old Fashioned, Manhattan or Gin & Tonic. You can purchase all the ingredients for your favorite cocktail, shake it up and strain it into a chilled rocks glass, but there are no guarantees that it will actually taste anything like it’s supposed to. Fear not, brave cocktail fan. A handful of distilleries have decided to do the work for you by releasing pre-made, bottled cocktails.
The obvious reasons for purchasing bottled cocktails are convenience, consistency and affordability. “Most people don’t have access to cocktail bars, so this is our way of bringing mixology expertise to the living room,” says Dave Willis, co-founder and head distiller at Bully Boy Distillers, makers of a pre-bottled Old Fashioned. “Well-made bottled cocktails are already measured and muddled, so it makes enjoying a cocktail really easy and accessible.” On top of that, a single cocktail at a bar can run you up to $15, while less than $30 will likely buy you a whole bottle of a pre-made cocktail.
The trend of bottled cocktails is a combination of many things. “Over the past few years, we’ve seen an unprecedented growth of new distilleries across the country,” says Willis. “For one thing, there’s more innovation and output in the marketplace.” A lot of this innovation is directed at categories that are ripe for disruption.
“Popping tops is fast and pretty awesome,” says Nandini Khaund, Spirit Guide at Chicago’s Cindy’s. It’s not just distilleries making bottled cocktails. Bartenders across the country have been experimenting with pre-made cocktails for years. “They’re easy for bartenders to batch and also for guests to crack open and enjoy.”
It’s a fairly ingenious way to showcase nuances in the art of booze. “If I were a distiller, I’d make sure the drink was perfect, a representation of conceptual intent; You can create layers of flavor and tell a story with one cocktail,” says Khaund.
In the past, bottled and pre-made cocktails weren’t really known for their quality. “They were syrupy and unbalanced,” says Willis. Bully Boy, Watershed and a few other distilleries realized that it would be fairly easy to improve on the status quo.
Also, on a more basic level, when you run a distillery, you taste a lot of really good cocktails. “When you taste something phenomenal, and you have the ability to bring it to market, why wouldn’t you?”