Posted on | December 22, 2015
Written by | Sara Kay
Meeting timeless demand, bottled cocktails are now moving upscale.
Ready-To-Drink (RTD) cocktails aren’t exactly new. Jerry Thomas’s How To Mix Drinks, circa 1862, advised bottling pre-mixed drinks for “fishing and other sporting parties.” Heublein’s “Club Cocktails”—boosted by celebrities—were the rage in the 1950s and ’60s into the ’70s, well before the genre was Ready-To-Be-Named. But the category appears to have taken a remarkable turn of late, with some RTDs going decidedly upscale.
The national market first got a taste of high-end bottled cocktails in January of 2014, when Cooper Spirits Co. (the folks who created St. Germain) launched Hochstadter’s Slow & Low, an 84 proof Rock & Rye, based on rye whiskey, rock candy, citrus peel and bitter herbs. The original worked so well that Cooper is now back with Slow & Low 100 Proof Rock & Rye (SRP $34.99). The current trend is “directly linked to the rise of cocktail culture,” says Rob Cooper, founder of the company. “Consumers now want quality cocktails at home.” And the trend is bound to get even stronger now that big industry players have joined in.
Campari’s entry seems particularly bold—they have essentially bottled their namesake product’s most famous cocktail, the Negroni. “We feel strongly there is a new opportunity for high-quality ready-to-enjoy cocktails,” says Dave Karraker, Vice President Marketing at Campari America. “Campari Negroni Ready to Enjoy allows consumers to have a perfect Negroni every single time.” Equal parts Campari, customized sweet vermouth and London Dry style gin, the new product is 52 proof, with an SRP of $39.99/1L and rolling out first in CO, MA, FL, DC, IL, NJ, CT and NYC.
Meanwhile, Diageo has tossed two hats into the bottled cocktail ring, offering the Studebaker Old Fashioned and the Studebaker Manhattan. The rationale was grounded firmly in American shopping habits, notes Jeff Parrott, North American Whisky Development at Diageo: “Through our research, we discovered that mixers are one of the top 10 items found in a shopping basket with whiskey, and ready-to-drink and pre-mixed drinks have grown +33% since 2011.” Inspired by the Prohibition classics, both products use a Canadian whisky base, are 60 proof and retail for $24.99 nationwide.