Craft Cocktails in a Can
It’s a rare cocktail drinker who might find themself jealous of beer drinkers—until they want to enjoy their favorite mixed drink on the trail, on a picnic or just on the go. The distinctive sound of aan luminum can popping open for a refreshing reward at the top of the mountain, at a tailgate party or down a ski run, is the sound of a mission complete, the ultimate satisfaction, not to mention a more sustainable and lighter-weight item to carry.
Fortunately, cocktail imbibers can now join the rest of their can-chugging crew to raise a toast and rejoice as a handful of local distilleries are making canned cocktails for portable enjoyment.
Under the Desolation Distilling line, Beehive Distilling holds the distinction as the first Utah distillery to launch canned craft cocktails in 2019.
Using their own in-house Beehive Distilling spirits, mixed with the correct ingredients in the right ratios, the distillery’s three flavors—Moscow Mule, Gin Rickey and Gin & Tonic, have seen year-over-year sales of cans climb more than 30%.
“The best seller through the state stores is the Moscow Mule,” Beehive Distilling Partner Chris Barlow explains. “It’s just a super popular cocktail, and being in a can makes it very easy.” At the retail store at the distillery, the Gin Rickey reigns. “It is, (was, until people copied it anyway) very unique. I only know of two others.”Each 9% ABV 12 oz. cocktail can sells for $3.49.
Barlow shares that the popularity of canned cocktails continues to grow, and they are working on a few new cans that will be totally different to meet that growing demand.
Ogden’s Own Distillery
To the north, Ogden’s Own Distillery entered the canned cocktail market during the pandemic and now offers six flavors: Five Wives Moscow Mule, Five Wives Vodka & Soda, Porters Peach Tea, Porters Huckleberry Lemonade, Porters Whiskey and Cola, and Madam Pattirini Gin & Tonic.
To get a taste of Ogden’s Own canned cocktails, head to the distillery retail store in Ogden to pick up all six flavors, or visit DABC stores throughout Utah to find Five Wives Moscow Mule, Porters Huckleberry Lemonade, and Madam Pattirini Gin & Tonic for $3.33 a can.
Ogden’s Own Distillery President Mark Fine equates the initial success of their canned cocktails to several things. “Ogden’s Own Distillery and our brands have been very fortunate to have a true following. People may not know Ogden’s Own, but they know our brands … Five Wives, Madam Pattirini, and Porters have very loyal consumers.”
He also notes the importance of a well-made cocktail with balance. Their best-selling canned cocktail is the Moscow Mule, which took the distillery a long time to create.
“The Ogden’s Own team worked very hard on multiple samples to ensure the spice from ginger beer had enough kick and flavor without being overpowering along with nice freshness from lime,” explains Fine. “Many people may not know how to make Moscow Mules, yet it has become one of the top ten cocktails to order in bars across the country. Since it’s more than two ingredients, it makes sense and ease to purchase one ready to drink.”
When Ogden’s Own launched the Porters Huckleberry Lemonade canned cocktail in the spring of 2021, it was the most popular flavor through the summer, and has continued to do well throughout the winter.
“Almost everyone loves lemonade, and with the added flavors of huckleberry and whiskey that does not have an overpowering alcohol taste, it’s like an adult summer beverage,” Fine continues. “Flavored whiskeys in general have opened up demographics to women, Millenials and Gen Z (making up 60% of consumers on flavor whiskeys) who just don’t drink whiskey, have really helped the category grow.”
Fine concludes that the canned cocktail category will only continue to grow. “They offer the ability to experience cocktails they once were only able to get at bars and restaurants. Canned cocktails are a way for a group of people to have what they want and not be stuck with one flavor choice. You could have five different canned cocktails and everyone is happy.”
Sugar House Distillery
Newest in the canned cocktail mix is Sugar House Distillery, which uses its own vodka, rum and rye whiskey in their recently released first three flavors of 10% ABV canned cocktails. Find Raspberry Lemonade Vodka and Raspberry Whiskey Sour at 16 DABC outlets as well as the distillery. Vodka Tonic is sold exclusively at the distillery. All are $3.49 each for a 12 oz. slim can, equating to approximately two cocktails. Look for new flavors available at the distillery beginning in April: Whiskey Cola, Rum Cola and Bloody Mary.
Sugar House Distillery owner and distiller James Fowler worked with Thom Garwood of Garwood Ginger Beer to develop Sugar House’s flavors. “Thom was really a big part of putting these flavors together with me,” Fowler says. “He has a great palette and knows how to come up with some fun flavors, and when I drink these I can see Thom’s influence. I really like the direction Thom got us going with these first few flavors.”
Fowler explains that he chose not to make a Moscow Mule due to many competing products. “We needed to add something different to the shelves at the liquor stores. That’s why we went with the lemonade and whiskey sour.”
He shares a typical conversation he’s recently had with many customers who say, “I am not a whiskey drinker but that Raspberry Whiskey Sour is amazing!” “Then,” Fowler thinks to himself, “they will be a whiskey drinker soon.”
In just two months, Raspberry Whiskey Sour and Raspberry Lemonade Vodka have sold equally well—more than 4000 cans each.
Fowler feels the early success is due to convenience. “I think the ease of grabbing some cans is really catching on. Beer has been in the lead for a long time with this concept, so it is nice for a consumer to have a choice of other alcoholic drinks like canned cocktails or wine in a can. These cans have changed things and they are so convenient. You don’t have to worry about other ingredients. Do you have fresh lemon or limes? Nope, you can just grab a can and enjoy.”
With the new canning equipment and tanks, Fowler’s next step is to find a new home for the distillery where he says, “we can have a better customer experience with drinks and some food. For now, we’re making the best out of our space to get these out to the public so they can get them in their hands and try a delicious Sugar House canned cocktail.”
Coming to the Utah canned cocktail market in a very different way from other distilleries, Simplicity Cocktails actually started with that very delivery method in mind after co-founders Chris Weed and Chad Linville scrapped plans to open a gin distillery. Yet, in their efforts to explain and endear gin to their friends, they developed some tasty gin and tonic recipes and realized that there were few ready-to-drink options on the market.
“Canned cocktails have come a long way in recent years,” says Chris Weed, co-founder of Simplicity. “For the most part, gone are the days of cheap syrupy flavors that leave you with nasty hangovers.”
Today, Simplicity sells 11 canned cocktail flavors with a new Nitro Bourbon Sour on tap to launch in March. “Development has taken a bit longer than expected as we perfect the recipe to get the creamy head we’re looking for,” explains Weed.
You can find their most popular canned cocktail, the Moscow Mule and Cadillac Margarita in most state liquor stores along with canned bourbon and canned vodka with resealable lids. “We’re really excited about the canned spirits with resealable lids. We’re the first in the US to do this, as far as we know,” Weed says.
All of Simplicity’s products are available at their facility, with canned cocktail prices ranging from $3 to $3.80 per cocktail.
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