Ready-To-Drink (RTD) beverages are almost as popular as Zoom during the pandemic. As Nielsen reports all time highs for the sector, liquor stores’ shelves—and websites—are filling up with canned cocktails. Neat Pour did some samplin’ of three emerging brands: Five Drinks, Onda, and Tip Top Cocktails. Here’s the scoop.
Backstory: The Five Drinks concept is simple—literally. The company offers basic mixed drinks like Moscow Mules and Palomas made with natural ingredients. To hammer home the point, the cans’ minimalist design prominently displays the ingredients in a large font on each can.
Details: In addition to the Mule and Paloma, Five Drinks also offers a Margarita, Mojito, Gin & Tonic, and Water Melon Vodka Soda. Each can is 200ml and ABV runs from 5.9% (Watermelon) to 11% (G&T). The brand is available at Total Wine and Drizly in Florida and available via mail in 41 other states.
Taste: Five Drinks can be sipped from the can or served over ice. We started by trying both, but as we worked our way through the flavors, the can (with a straw) method won out.
The drinks themselves are well made, most taste similar to what most bars using fresh juice offer. Five Drinks nails the basics of correct ratios and quality ingredients. The flavor profiles are not overly complex, but that’s not the idea. Instead, they chose serving mixed drinks, a basic beverage group that drinks easy. And, indeed, their offerings do go down easy.
Backstory: Launched over July Fourth weekend, Onda’s goal is less about replicating craft cocktails in a canned format and more about creating a new canned drink, sui generis: tequila sodas. The company is angling to compete in sectors like the booming hard seltzer category. Onda distinguishes itself from that field by using actual spirit, blanco tequila (NOM and all)–not a neutral grain spirit or a malt liquor–as a base.
Onda clearly has big plans for the line. Their operation is heavy on branding and “lifestyle” appeal. A large investment from NYC based venture outfit 25 Madison seeded the company and they looked poised for rapid growth.
Details: Onda’s tequila soda line launched with a sparkling lime flavor and a sparkling grapefruit (a Paloma riff). The juice is natural and the 355ml (12oz), 5% ABV servings only contain 100 calories, all key talking points from the brand.
Tasting: Both varieties of Onda were tasty and refreshing when sampled on a hot Louisiana evening. Unlike many canned drinks, Onda was not overly sweet and the natural acid really provided a nice balance. Don’t expect some sort of agave-nerd style Paloma though; Onda is it’s own creation and geared towards a wide market, a market looking for something smooth but tasty to stock the cooler.
Backstory: Tip Top is basically the polar opposite of Onda. They are all about offering authentic classic cocktails as RTDs. They are not for slurping out of a can, but intended to be poured into glassware and served, well, properly.
Tip Top’s drinks program is helmed by a celebrated expert, Miles Macquarrie of Atlanta’s Kimball House and Watchman’s Seafood & Spirits. The perennial James Beard nominee is no stranger to the format; at Kimball House, he bottles what is perhaps the best French 75 we’ve ever tasted.
Details: The Tip Top range consists of a Negroni, an Old Fashioned, and a Manhattan. The cans are 100ml (like an actual cocktail serving) and include instructions how to
plate glass the drinks. ABV runs from 26% to 37%. Currently, Tip Top is only available in Georgia.
Tasting: Tip Top delivers an excellent approximation of these foundational cocktails. Sure, if you’re the type of drinker who regularly likes to call the spirits in their drink or request your own specs, theses–or any RTDs–are not for you. However, most drinkers will enjoy a cocktail on par with the offerings at a serious craft cocktail bar. As one would expect, the booze forwards selections also have a nice amount of sweetness and bitterness to offset the heat.