But reports of the alcoholic cocktail death can be overstated. The Californian family-owned boutique aperitif company Haus, which also bottles its drinks rather than canned them, has grown rapidly since launching in 2019. Its line mixes fruit wine with everything from star anise , cloves, lavender and citrus with cinnamon, strawberry and elderflower. Flavoring wine in this way could raise the eyes of Burgundy winegrowers, but it produces a drink that is versatile enough to be consumed pure or in mixed drinks. Best of all, Relatively Low Volume Alcohol (ABV) means you can weave your way through more stuff without falling off your stools or alienating your guests. At 8%, the McBride Sisters line of canned California-made rosé spritzers have a similar quality.
Zuzu, an alcoholic “sparkling cocktail” launched in 2019 by old friends Ali Schmidt and Greta Caruso, prides itself on a “less is more delicious” philosophy. The pair’s original calamansi lime flavor includes just five ingredients: lime juice, agave alcohol, agave syrup, sparkling water, and a pinch of salt. And like most of these newer drinks, which are aimed at customers raised on the “coke is bad” doctrine, care has been taken to avoid over-sweetness. It has a summery, lemony flavor. Where Zuzu’s branding and simple glass bottles are deliberately understated, the packaging of the canned Onda is loud, adorned with glossy surf-inspired lettering. The drink consists of a mixture of tequila, sparkling water and fruit juice – lime, grapefruit, watermelon or blood orange – and, with only 5 percent blood alcohol content and no more than 100 calories per can, seems to target younger drinkers. (One of Onda’s co-founders is actress Shay Mitchell, a star of the teen drama “Pretty Little Liars.”)
Atlanta’s Tip Top brand, another provider of alcoholic options, looked further for inspiration for its pre-made cocktails. Intended to be drunk straight or poured over ice, they come in nicely small 100 milliliter cans, printed with a monocle giraffe logo and fonts that echo Prohibition-era posters. They also have return ABVs of up to 40 percent. While the margarita lacks a bit of the zest of the fresh lime, the classic, old-fashioned Manhattan and Negroni are all a treat, with a welcome bitterness and shameless strong liquors. “We felt there wasn’t the simple basic satisfaction for cocktails that are familiar,” says co-founder Neal Cohen, who started the business in 2018 with his childhood friend Yoni Reisman. “The discerning drinker, who usually avoids canned cocktails, understands that we came from a different place.”
On the one hand, this new wave of portioned drinks is a logical and pleasant extension of other dominant trends. Drinks are aimed at generations whose members are more picky about what they put it in their body, even if it’s looking for a buzz. The move away from plastic packaging makes aluminum more convincing, although its recycling credentials also deserve close scrutiny. And the pandemic has heightened the appeal of drinks that are easy to consume outdoors. But with each new can or small bottle also comes the implication that we are increasingly wary of collective consumption, less willing to split a bottle, so to speak. With their carefully calibrated blends of adaptogens or homemade liqueurs, these offerings align with a consumer fantasy that even our appetizer could be tailored exactly to our preferences and ours only. There is something unsocial, maybe even a little lonely, about it. After all, if there is one thing that McCarthy’s dark but redemptive novel and Coca-Cola marketing have agreed upon, it’s that while a can of Coke can be delicious and transportable, the he act of sharing it is more precious.