You Down With RTD?

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“Yeah, you know me!”

Canned cocktails are exploding on the scene, transforming the category’s reputation.


Ready-to-drink, aka “RTD,” refers to packaged beverages that are sold in a prepared form and are ready for consumption. Unlike traditional beverage mixes or brew-it-yourself products, ready-to-drink beverages can be immediately enjoyed upon purchase.

According to Mintel, the world’s leading market intelligence agency, RTD cocktails are having their moment. Mintel predicts a 9 percent rise in RTD cocktail sales by volume by 2021. Many factors are working in harmony to spur on this age of ready-to-drink cocktails. RTDs appeal to a younger generation and have the right buzz to succeed in the current cocktail market. Appearing at a wide array of venues, from restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and event venues to airlines, hotels, and pop-ups, this new generation of cocktails fit the bill of quality, taste, and convenience.

A 2017 report from Mintel confirms that 45 percent of U.S. adults drink RTD alcoholic beverages. The cocktail market now includes a younger crowd of discerning millennials and Gen Z members. They have a taste for products that are authentic, unique, premium, and handcrafted. These consumers have a focused eye on ingredient transparency and presentation, and ready-to-drink cocktail companies have obliged. Perhaps the most key selling point is the product’s convenience, appealing to the busy lifestyle of many consumers.

Whether experimental or classic in style, the cocktails have to taste good—plain and simple. These canned cocktails are enormously ahead of the category’s earlier adaptations, overcoming the stigma of the overly sweet malt beverages of barbeques past. No longer just a portable booze device, these cans do in fact contain a well-crafted cocktail. With product ingredients that read like a farmer’s market shopping list, this new generation of RTD cocktails is made with real spirits combined with handcrafted mixers. Just chill, open, and pour, and you’ve got yourself a party!

West Michigan distillery Coppercraft Distillery has a gin and tonic mixed with its famous 13-botanical gin. Quoted by trendsource.com, the Holland-based distiller says, “Our ready-to-drink canned cocktails deliver the same level of quality and first-class drinking experience that our consumers expect from a freshly prepared gin and tonic, but without having to go to a bar or mix it themselves.” Another single cocktail brand available across the mitten is The Copper Can, hailing from sunny California. Each copper-colored can of Moscow Mule is made with six-times distilled vodka, handcrafted ginger beer, and real, fresh lime juice.

Maybe the biggest player in the RTD game is Cutwater Distillery. Cutwater has over ten different canned cocktails available in Michigan year-round. “Whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, liqueur, and mixers are all made at our distillery in San Diego, California. Innovation is in our DNA, and we’ve combined our award-winning spirits and house-made mixers to create ready-to-enjoy canned cocktails perfect for any adventure ahead,” claims cutwaterspirits.com. From classics like vodka soda with lime and rum and cola to trendy favorites like a tequila paloma, spicy Bloody Mary, or bourbon highball, Cutwater is stocked with crowd-pleasing craft cocktails perfect for any event.

More brands of RTD cocktails are arriving on the scene all the time in the rapidly developing, increasingly competitive cocktail market. Detroit’s own McClure’s, known for its handcrafted pickles and Bloody Mary mix, is set to release an RTD Bloody Mary in a can this spring. If you consider yourself a craft beer aficionado and like your favorite craft beer from a can, enjoying your favorite cocktail from one should be a no-brainer.

Pack a bag. Prep some garnishes. Ready-to-drink cocktails are available all over West Michigan, and they’re ready to go wherever you go in 2019!


Charlotte Young is Creative & PR Manager at Imperial Beverage. Imperial Beverage is a long-standing member of the Michigan beverage distribution community. Established in 1933 after the repeal of prohibition and purchased by Kalamazoo’s Cekola family in 1984, Imperial has grown from a one-county beer distributor to a top 10 statewide beer, wine & spirits wholesaler. With 390 employees and four locations in Kalamazoo, Livonia, Ishpeming, and Traverse City, Imperial provides statewide coverage that serves every Michigan County, every week, all year long.

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