It wasn’t long ago that bottled cocktails were terrible. (There, we said it.) But the category has taken a turn for the better, with newcomers and established players alike upping the ante by focusing on quality spirits and ingredients rather than relying on sugary mixers. Combine that with ease and portability, and it’s easy to see why bottled cocktails have taken off. With all the work done for you, they’re ideal for sipping on rough days or lazy weekends, when mixing a drink yourself seems like too much work.
These are six bottled cocktails to try now, from classics like the South Side, Old Fashioned and Manhattan to an 1800s-era rum punch.
1. Bully Boy Distillers’ Hub Punch ($28)
Made by Bully Boy in Boston, this deep-red 35% ABV drink is rum that’s been infused with “oranges, fruits and botanicals.” It pays homage to the original Hub Punch recipe that was popularized in the 1800s and first prepared at the Hub Hotel in Thousand Island Park, N.Y. and later brought to Boston. It’s not a true bottled cocktail since it’s not really meant to be quaffed straight up. The producer recommends mixing one part Hub Punch to two parts ginger ale and two parts soda water, so that’s what you should do. But that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment when no one’s looking.
2. Campari Bottled Negroni ($40)
Although it’s not hard to mix your own Negroni (it’s just equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari), this one-liter bottle of pre-mixed 25% ABV Negroni makes it even easier. The bottle features gin, Cinzano sweet vermouth and, you guessed it, Campari. That workhorse trio gives this classic cocktail its distinctive taste and ruby-red hue, with a flavor that closely mirrors the DIY version you’d make at home. So, while you may be taking a shortcut, you’re not sacrificing quality.
3. Courage+Stone ($30 for two 200ml bottles)
This line of Brooklyn-made bottled cocktails from comedian (and cocktail enthusiast) Aisha Tyler launched in 2019 with a classic Manhattan and Old Fashioned. The former is made with American whiskey, natural flavors of cherry and dark chocolate, and the company’s own bespoke vermouth and bitters. The latter is composed of American whiskey, cane sugar and those same custom bitters, plus natural flavors of orange and dark cherry. Both are a bit sweeter than the handmade versions you’ll find in cocktail bars, but pour them over plenty of ice, and they settle down into easygoing after-dinner drinks with just the right amount of whiskey bite.
4. Crafthouse Cocktails ($20 for 750ml)
Created by award-winning Chicago bartender Charles Joly, these premixed drinks helped to kick off the craft bottled cocktail movement. The lineup includes several classics and riffs on classics—there’s a Moscow Mule, South Side, Rum Old Fashioned, and Pineapple Daiquiri, to name a few—and they range from 10 to 15 percent ABV. Best of all, the cocktails come in a variety of sizes, from 200ml and 750ml bottles to a 1.75 liter box. Break that out at parties, and you’ll be remembered as the greatest host ever—or at least as the host who served delicious Moscow Mules from a box.
5. Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock & Rye ($23)
This sweetened whiskey drink has a long history. It was originally served in saloons and pharmacies, when proprietors would make rough rye whiskey more palatable by adding rock candy and other flavorings, including citrus. Hochstadter’s Slow & Low revives that tradition with a 42% ABV rock and rye made with honey, orange peel and “a pinch of rock candy.” Those flavorings create a tasty sip, but they don’t do much to soften the bottled cocktail’s alcoholic punch, so add plenty of ice and sip it slowly.
6. Watershed Distillery’s Old Fashioned ($35)
Made with bourbon, bitters, raw sugar and Ohio cherry juice, this Old Fashioned from Columbus-based Watershed Distillery is bottled at a precise 35.1% ABV. It’s robust, with just enough sweetness to take the edge off while still letting the whiskey shine through. Aromas of cherry and orange are followed by flavors of clove and dark cherry. Pour this one over a large cube of ice, and load up on the brandied cherries.