Remember Zima? Smirnoff Ice? Wine coolers? I don’t know what happened to them (or, if they’re even still around), but I can’t say I’d ever get the urge to pick one up and chug it down. I mean, there was a time and a place to drop a few Skittles into a Zima and show everyone you had the balls to eat the color-stripped candies at the bottom of the bottle. But, we all did things in college that we’d rather not talk about.
The problem with those bottled beverages is that they’re weak. To get around tax complications, these bottled phonies don’t even contain alcohol. They’re considered malt beverages to avoid getting hit with a 40 percent alcohol by volume spirit tax. Luckily, today is a new day, and more and more companies are saying screw you to the G-men, opting instead to take on those higher taxes. That means your canned cocktails now actually contain alcohol. And, before you laugh at the thought of a cocktail or wine in a can, remember that we all chuckled a bit when Oskar Blues first started canning, and look what happened there.
This new wave of canned cocktails actually tastes like something you’d get at a bar, and you can find a can of almost anything you’d want to mix up. Some companies (like Cutwater Spirits, the former Ballast Point distillery), not only cans their own alcohol, but they use homemade mixers, too. A vodka mule that’s delightfully bright, bold, and gingery; a rum and cola where you can actually taste the booze; and a tequila Paloma that’s so dangerously delicious, I could easily drink it all day long. They also make a Bloody Mary, which I wish I’d known about before I lugged 10 different ingredients to a friend’s house just to make my favorite brunch cocktail. You could actually see the black pepper and horseradish in that bad boy!
It’s not just about the cocktails, either. Canned wine has seriously upped their game, ditching the glass in lieu of more sustainable cans. Those four-packs of single-serving, 5-ounce canned rosé are perfect for a day out on the lake, or you can pick up a 375ml can of almost any red or white variety, which makes a great alternative to a full bottle of wine. In a way, it’s like a try-before-you-buy. Because the winemaker doesn’t have to pass on the price of the glass bottle, and no one has to worry about breakage, you can find these wines for $3 to $6 a can.
And then, there’s Social: Can we talk about Social for a second? I don’t know how to categorize a flavored, sparkling sake drink. Is it a cocktail? Is it a sparkling wine? I don’t need to give it a label to know that it’s fan-fricking-tastic. They have flavors like Hibiscus Cucumber, Pink Grapefruit Ginger, Strawberry Rose, Elderflower Apple, or Toasted Coconut Almond. It tasted like boozy spa water, and I loved every second of it.
The best thing about cans is they can go everywhere that glass can’t. Camping, picnicking, booze-cruising, you name it. Pack it into the kayak and spend the day fishing on the lake. Hike up to the top of the mountain and know the hike down will be much lighter (mentally and physically). Cans easily pack in and pack out without worrying about breakage or excess weight. Not to mention that Durango doesn’t make recycling glass easy, but I don’t even need to worry about that if I only drink out of a can.
To see if these cans were too good to be true, I took a trip to Durango Liquor & Wine Company – the one next to Walmart – and picked up more than a dozen cocktails and wines. You can find these cans at many different liquor stores, but these guys have the best variety, and they let you buy it by the can instead of having to commit to a four-pack. After taste-testing the wares with a few friends, I’d definitely recommend pouring the canned contents over ice or into a wine glass whenever possible. Just like beer, the flavors really open up when you can actually put your nose into the glass. That being said, there was only one beverage that had a tinny flavor when we drank it straight out of the can. The rest of them still tasted great, so don’t worry if you don’t have a glass handy.
Of all the wines we sampled, I have to give a shout out to Sofia’s Brut Rose. They really went above and beyond by gluing a plastic bendy straw to the side of the can, which totally amped up the awesome adult Capri Sun vibe. I know there’s a ton of outrage out there about plastic straws, but I still felt pretty fancy using it.
Lindsay D. Mattison is a professional chef and food writer living in Durango. She enjoys long walks in the woods, the simplicity of New York-style cheese pizza, and she’s completely addicted to Chapstick. Contact her at [email protected].