Just say no to canned whiskey

Just say no to canned whiskey

Ready to Drink (RTD) cocktails are having a moment, with sales up over 225 percent since 2016. Some whiskey distillers are getting in on the action, spawning truly unappealing products like canned Jack and Coke, or Manhattan-in-a-pouch for $25.

We can’t blame whiskey distillers for trying to make hay while the sun shines. It’s a tough economy, and people are, somewhat inexplicably, drinking these off-putting canned whiskey concoctions. 

But that doesn’t mean you have to. Let’s back up a step to reflect on why exactly these canned cocktails appeal to the masses. In a word, they are convenient. And convenience can be good. Unless it’s not. 

No CAN do

To someone who is an equal-opportunity cocktail drinker and would just as soon down a 28 oz. margarita from Señor Frog’s as an expertly mixed Old Fashioned, the simplicity of a canned whiskey drink might just be the right fit. 

But unless you are apathetic about the quality and flavor of whiskey, which we presume is not the case for readers of this blog, canned whiskey cocktails should be avoided at all costs. 

Why? Because the best whiskey is made by craft distillers who settle for nothing less than perfection at every stage of the process, insisting on details like locally-farmed grains, pure mountain water, and White Oak barrels.

This attention to detail cannot be replicated in canned form, and the truth is that low-quality whiskey is the industry standard for RTD cocktails.  

“Most whiskey-based canned cocktails use minimally-aged whiskey that wouldn’t even be considered for a freshly-made cocktail,” says Brian Treacy, co-founder of Sagamore Spirit.

Sagamore Spirit is a rare exception in the RTD canned whiskey industry because it uses the same straight rye whiskey it sells in bottle form. But even for those few RTD producers that opt to use higher-quality whiskey, there’s still no escaping the metallic aftertaste of a cocktail that’s spent its life in an aluminum can.

If you’ve tried them, you know. The price you pay for convenience is a tinny, cloying cocktail that makes your teeth hurt. These are simply not drinks made for the discerning whiskey drinker. 

A Modest Proposal

You’ve got places to be, and they don’t all come with an open bar. And yes, there’s a case to be made for the convenience of grabbing a couple of cans from the fridge when you’re headed to a tailgate or your neighbor’s backyard bonfire. But are we really willing to sacrifice the satisfying flavor of an expertly crafted whiskey just to save a few minutes?

If we may, consider turning away from the draw of the canned cocktail and reach instead for a classic Hydroflask tumbler. 

Build in an extra five minutes before you leave the house (call it self-care) to mix up your favorite whiskey cocktail. Fill your tumbler of choice. (Hydroflask offers tumblers from 12 to 28 oz; Yeti and many other brands offer similar products.) 

Your drink will stay cold all night (trust us, these tumblers do not mess around), and you will spend your hard-earned free time savoring an exquisite cocktail rather than trying to kill the metallic aftertaste with handfuls of Doritos.

Stock up and head out

We’ll take this opportunity to remind you that many classic whiskey cocktails include a very modest list of ingredients. Keep them on hand, and you’re ready to go. 


  • 2 ounces rye or bourbon
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Old Fashioned 

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 ounces rye or bourbon

These recipes, according to New York Times Cooking experts, take two minutes to make. You can add cocktail cherries or orange twists for garnish if you like, but it’s also fine to skip the accouterments when you’re on the go.

Craft spirit enthusiasts like you know that whiskey is made to be savored, not tolerated. Show up to your next outdoor celebration with an OG cocktail on ice, and watch for envious looks from the canned cocktail crowd!

Need to stock up on craft whiskey for your home bar? Check out the RackHouse Whiskey Club. RackHouse scours the U.S. looking for the best craft distilleries with the most interesting stories to curate a unique subscription box filled with full-sized bottles of hard-to-find small batch whiskey. We’re building a community of premium craft whiskey drinkers. And you're invited! Join us.
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