Thanks to the booming business of ready-to-drink cocktails, there are now plenty of canned/boxed/bottled cocktail options you can pack for your camping trip. Long gone are the days when you had to lug bottles of liquor, mixers, and bar tools to the campground. With different sizes and packaging available, a well-crafted drink can easily fit in a backpack or even a back pocket.
Here are the best RTD cocktails to take camping. No refrigeration or shaker needed. Although ice is always a good must-have.
Best Overall: St. Agrestis Negroni Bag-in-Box
Any time is a great time for a Negroni. And thanks to St. Agrestis' totable 1.75L bag-in-box, you can also sip a Negroni while communing with nature. "I think they've done a really good job of keeping it feeling like a classic Negroni without using classic ingredients like Campari," says David Othenin-Girard, spirits buyer of K&L Wine Merchants in Hollywood. The airtight container keeps the cocktail drinkable for up to three months after opening. Not that it would last that long after one night at your campsite. The box is good for 20 3-ounce pours. But with that convenient spigot, it would be easy to lose count.
"I'm a huge fan of St. Agrestis Inferno Bitter, and they've incorporated it so seamlessly in this large-format Negroni. You'll be the fanciest campers around, toting this to the campground!" — Prairie Rose, Editor
Best Craft: Vervet Tiki Tea
Southern California beverage company Vervet makes every single ingredient—spirits, bitters, amaro—and uses locally sourced produce for its canned cocktails. Its best-selling Tiki Tea celebrates LA's iconic tiki bar, Tiki Ti, which was built by one of Don the Beachcomber's Filipino bartenders, Ray Buhen. The tiki-inspired cocktail in a can showcases Asian flavors, mixing prickly pear vodka with oolong tea, ginger, allspice, vanilla, clove and lime.
"I think it accomplishes something that isn’t easy," says Daniel Djang, co-founder of fundraising event Art Beyond the Glass and popular LA cocktail blogger Thirsty in LA. "It captures the essence of tiki without the usual cloying sweetness or massive amounts of rum/spirits. Balanced and easy sipping!" The 8% ABV cocktail is sold in a four-pack of 12-ounce cans.
Best Margarita: Crafthouse Smoky Margarita
Back in 2013, Crafthouse Cocktails, founded by James Beard award-winning bartender Charles Joly and Chicago bar owner Matt Lindner, was the first to introduce the idea of well-crafted RTDs. Since then its line has expanded beyond 750ml bottles to 200ml cans and even a 1.75L box.
Its smoky Margarita with a blend of mezcal and blanco tequila would beautifully complement a dinner of grilled meats. Whether you're camping on your own or with a crew, there's a size to suit your drinking needs: a 200ml can for drinking solo, a 750ml bottle for a few friends or a 1.75L bag in a box for 14 other friends. ABV is 13.9%.
Related: The Best Mezcals to Drink
Best Low Alcohol: High Noon Sun Sips Pineapple Vodka & Soda
At 4.5% ABV this hard seltzer is lighter than most beers, providing a bit of a buzz without slowing you down. Unlike most in its category, it's blended with vodka versus malt liquor, making for a cleaner taste that allows the fruit flavors to shine.
The RTDs by High Noon have proven themselves popular by dominating sales from 2020-2021 (they took six of the top 20 spots). But its pineapple vodka and soda made with real pineapple juice is its best-selling flavor on Drizly. They're available in four packs of 355ml cans.
Related: Best Cobbler Shakers
Best Keto-Friendly/Sugar-Free: Canteen Cucumber Mint Vodka Soda
For a bit of a buzz and none of the guilt, the aptly named brand Canteen Spirits offers a Cucumber Mint Vodka Soda that would be just the cooler to relax with after hiking up a mountain or while tubing down the river. Not only does a can contain 0 grams of sugar, but 0 grams of total carbs, no gluten and it's only 99 calories a serving. The vodka sodas are 5% ABV and available in a six-pack of 12-ounce cans.
Best Coffee: Cutwater's Horchata Cold Brew
San Diego's Cutwater Spirits, which has a 24-canned cocktail lineup, offers an interesting take on the java drink. Its horchata vodka serves as the base and is mixed with a medium-bodied roasted coffee, making for a creamy 12.5% ABV coffee drink with cinnamon and vanilla notes.
"I like an RTD that is using a real spirit," says Mike Capoferri, owner of Thunderbolt and creator of one of the best cocktails-to-go programs in Los Angeles. "And [Cutwater Cold Brew is] more expensive than a malt liquor type of RTD but it's a more quality product. I love espresso martinis and coffee cocktails. And if you're day drinking at the campsite, it hits that morning coffee button."
Best Whiskey: LiveWire Alley Cat Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned cocktail is a natural camp cocktail. Basically, all you need to pack are whiskey, sugar cubes and bitters. But for the best ready-to-drink Old Fashioned grab this delicious take by Chris Patino of San Diego's Raised by Wolves. The bar industry icon partnered with LiveWire founder Aaron Polsky for the company's first bottled offering. The mix of straight rye whiskey and apple brandy with cherry bark vanilla bitters comes in a 375ml bottle that's good for six drinks. Pass it around a campfire or top off a pour with some club soda and an orange wedge for a refreshing variation.
Related: Best Flasks
Best Nonalcoholic: Lyre's Amalfi Spritz
Gabriella Mlynarczyk, author of Clean + Dirty Drinking: 100+ Recipes for Making Delicious Elixirs, With or Without Booze, is a fan of Lyre's canned Amalfi Spritz.
"It reminds me of an Aperol Spritz, which is why I like it. Light, bittersweet, citrusy and super crisp if you refrigerate it." Drink the nonalcoholic sipper chilled right out of the can or well-equipped glampers can pour the spritz into a wine glass with ice and an orange wheel. The Amalfi Spritz is sold in a four-pack of 8.45-ounce cans that have a 12-month shelf life.
Related: Best Nonalcoholic Drinks
Best Splurge: Empirical Spirits Can 02
Considering Empirical Spirits was created by alumni of the world's best restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, the premium price for its four-pack of 12-ounce cans is unsurprising. But out of the three canned cocktails on offer, Othenin-Girard highly recommends Can 02 for summertime drinking. Its ingredients include sour cherry, black currant buds, young pine cones and walnut wood.
"Ultra-complex and drinkable, it's made by the Noma of craft distilling," he says. "It's tart and not at all artificial tasting (fake cherry is my kryptonite)." The carbonated cocktail is 8% ABV with no sugar added.
Best Portable: New Fashioned Dry Cocktail Old Fashioned
For the most portable cocktail option, there's this insta-cocktail by New Fashioned, a dry cocktails company created by bar industry veteran Mikki Kristola (formerly of The Varnish in Los Angeles). One packet can fit discreetly in your back pocket, allowing you to enjoy a margarita anywhere: trailhead, canoe, tent.
All you need to make a perfectly fine cocktail with this powder mix is a 50ml mini of whiskey, a utensil to stir, some sort of cup and ice (or really cold water would serve in a pinch). The powder, which is 10 calories a serving, is simply sugar, cherries, dried orange peel, cinnamon, and vanilla. A box contains seven powder sticks.
What to Look for in a Camp Cocktail
When packing for camp cocktails, not only should you look for packages that are portable, such as cans or boxes, but products that won't need to be refrigerated. It's going to be a long trek out of civilization. Any RTD made with fresh juices won't fair so well. And since the market is growing crowded with so many options by everyone from craft breweries to premium spirit brands, you can narrow down your options by looking for those made with quality spirits and ingredients. Bonus if they're created by well-known bartenders.
Nowadays there's an RTD for every type of drinker: those who want low-ABV, sugar-free or even nonalcoholic. But for something camp-friendly, you'll want a drink that's super portable, shelf-stable, and well-crafted. And St. Agrestis' Negroni Bag-in-Box (view at St. Agrestis) exceeds in all aspects. What could be more perfect than a 1.75L boxed classic cocktail? Just remember to keep the spigot clean because bees and ants.
Is there more or less alcohol in RTD cocktails?
Ready-to-drink cocktails are available with the same amount of alcohol as cocktails made at home and in bars. And it says right on the packaging how much alcohol by volume each serving contains so you're never surprised.
How long do RTD cocktails last?
Depends on the brand. For LiveWire's packaged drinks, the cans will keep for 18 months before flavors change. But bottled cocktails that are all spirit can keep indefinitely, only evolving over the years. Meanwhile, St. Agrestis' Negroni Bag-in-Box can last three months after it's opened.
How do you store properly?
If you're not going to get to it right away, store the packaged cocktails someplace cool and dark. When you're ready to imbibe, throw them in an ice-filled cooler for a couple of hours or crack it open and pour over ice.