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The World’s Best Ready-To-Drink Cocktail—According To TAG Global Spirits Awards

The best ready-to-drink or canned cocktail in the world is a two-way tie between Croft Pink & Tonic and Barrelsmith Manhattan, according to judges at the 2024 TAG Global Spirits Awards.

The Ready-to-Drink (RTD) cocktails from Croft Pink, a port rose producer, and Barrelsmith, a producer of barrel-aged bottled cocktails, were among 12 RTDs selected for this year’s Best in Show by the TAG Global Spirits Awards. However, these two RTDs were the only entrants to be given scores of 95 by the judges — that is three points higher than the next highest-scoring canned/bottled cocktails, which received scores of 92.

Canned cocktails are increasingly popular with consumers and at competitions. Last year, RTDs were the fastest-growing category of spirits, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, growing by 26.8% and garnering some $2.8 billion in sales. But the category isn’t always known for its quality.

“Truthfully there are a lot of sub-par drinks on offer,” Tony Abou-Ganim, who founded TAG in 2022, told me in an email. That is why Abou-Ganim, an iconic barman known for his TV appearances and books on spirits, is so impressed with these RTDs.

He recommended drinking Croft Pink & Tonic either straight from the can or over ice in a highball with a grapefruit slice. “The aromatics are bright and honest with notes of citrus and pomelo,” he said.

As for the Barrelsmith Manhattan, Abou-Ganim said, it’s as good if not better than what you can get in a quality bar thanks to the barrel aging process. “At 35% ABV, it stands up and is recognized either over a large cube of ice or stirred and served up. The straight rye whiskey — always my choice in a Manhattan — married beautifully with the Rosso Vermouth with the orange bitters being a very interesting twist.”

Representatives from the companies behind each award-winning RTD were, predictably, excited by the recognition.

“It is a huge honor for a small husband and wife brand like ours to be recognized by Tony Abu Ganim and his TAG awards,” Matt Ellenthal, who founded Barrelsmith with his wife Martha Outlaw in Connecticut about two years ago, told me via email. “Tony is a renowned pioneer of the cocktail culture movement. I’ve studied his books and followed his career—from NYC to San Francisco to Las Vegas. He is a no-nonsense advocate for creating great cocktails, both at home and in bars and restaurants.”

Adrian Bridge, CEO of Croft Port, was equally excited about Croft Pink & Tonic’s high score. “The judges’ recognition of its complexity, balance, and length is a true testament to the hard work and dedication of our team,” Bridge said in an email to me.

Both RTD cocktails emerged at the top after undergoing TAG’s rigorous judging process. Just two years since its founding, the spirits competition has made a name for itself in a crowded spirits competition fiel, thanks to its rigorous and transparent judging process. Each entry is judged on a five-point scale of Sapidity — from the Latin Sapidus – to have and express flavor, taste, and be savory. That scale is applied over three rounds of blind tasting by different panels of judges to ensure those named Best in Show are truly the best of the best. The judges are listed on TAG’s website and are all respected industry professionals.

Other RTD cocktail brands that saw tremendous success in this year’s TAG competition are the Via Carota Craft Cocktails, which had two RTD cocktails earn Best in Show winners both scoring 92, and Cutwater, which was awarded five Best in Show selections with each garnering a score of 91.

Below are all 12 RTD or canned cocktails that earned Best in Show distinctions at TAG Global Spirits Awards. They are listed in alphabetical order.

Barrelsmith Manhattan (RTD), 95

Croft Croft Pink & Tonic (RTD), 95

Cutwater Spirits Lime Margarita (RTD), 91

Cutwater Spirits Lime Ranch Water (RTD), 91

Cutwater Spirits Spicy Bloody Mary (RTD), 91

Cutwater Spirits Tiki Rum Hurricane (RTD), 91

Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka + Tea (RTD), 92

Kai Lychee (RTD), 91

Rancho La Gloria Chocolate Martini (RTD), 91

The Roaster’s Daughter Espresso Martini (RTD), 92

Via Carota Craft Cocktails Classic Negroni (RTD), 92

Via Carota Craft Cocktails Signature Martini (RTD), 92

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