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Not quite Ready-to-Drink

I’ll admit that even if you understand how to make delicious cocktails, the required work can still be a deterrent. Whether that’s squeezing citrus, the inevitable cleanup, or just not wanting one more thing to do. Thus the cocktail’s true competitor is often a glass of wine or beer. Open and enjoy.

With the popularity of cocktails on the rise and the knowledge that people don’t always want to craft them, ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails have arrived.

Last weekend I was given a handful called “On the Rocks,” produced by #BeamSuntory. Included was an #Aviation, a #Margarita, a #Cosmopolitan, and an #OldFashioned. The instructions are simple, “pour over ice and enjoy.” When it came time to try them, I did add one extra step and shook the first three while stirring the Old Fashioned.

While I stand behind the craft of making drinks for yourself and others, I appreciate the concept of being able to enjoy something tasty in a flash. Frozen pizza is rarely as good as a fresh pie, but there are many I enjoy. Progress has also been made in better preserving some items and learning how to synthesize perishables like citrus juice. Renowned bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana produces “fake lime juice” at several of his bars. To avoid the carbon footprint of trucking citrus into their bars, they use a combination of citric, malic, and tartaric acids as a replacement for juices like lemon and lime. Maybe they were using a process like this in the bottled cocktails?

After shaking and stirring, I poured each drink into a glass. The Aviation had a light violet hue from the Creme de Violette, and the Cosmo had a paler expression of its signature pink. The Old Fashioned had the brown color one would expect, but the margarita was pale white.

The reason cocktails with citrus, egg white, and creams are shaken instead of stirred, is to aerate and liven them up. Bartender Marshall Minaya described it as dancing on your palate. Despite having given the first three a shake, they tasted flat.

I could taste the Aviation’s violette and maraschino liqueurs, but absent were the gin’s botanicals and the bite of lemon. Rather than the traditional cranberry, the Cosmo leaned on elderberry extract, which I could taste, along with the triple sec, but it still fell short. Of the three shaken drinks, the margarita fell the hardest. The flavor was muted with little sign of the tequila. The lack of flavor aside, the biggest drawback was each drink coated my mouth with a sweet film.

When it came to the Old Fashioned, I added an expressed orange. Despite a good stir, it tasted solely of bourbon. While it’s easy to overdo bitters, I couldn’t detect them. The drink would also have benefited from a touch of additional sweetener to balance out the whiskey.

While I’m open to the idea of easier-to-enjoy cocktails, this attempt falls short.

Is there a ready-to-drink cocktail that you enjoy? I’d love to hear about it.



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