Support Your Favorite Craft Distillers Through Their Canned & Bottled Cocktails
By Richard Thomas
The covid-19 vaccine may be in distribution, but like a case of Pappy van Winkle, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to get any anytime soon. We’re all set for a long pandemic winter, and if your state hasn’t already tightened its restrictions, that is just a matter of time. I’ve taken to calling it “lockdown lite;” you may have options to go out, but the smart play is to be picky, do that as little as you can tolerate, and hunker down to spring.
Most bars are attempting to cope with pandemia by offering cocktails to-go; it’s a well-established practice by now, and I encourage you to take full advantage of it. However, after keeping your favorite local bar afloat, you should also pay attention to keeping your favorite craft distillery in business as well.
The big liquor-makers have been doing just fine or better than ever in the midst of pandemia, with a business model firmly rooted in selling mass market products through liquor stores and supermarkets. That business has gone wholly unaffected by the springtime lockdown and subsequent ebb and flow of restrictions, or if affected it has been for the better. Small distillers, however, as a rule rely heavily on out-the-door sales through gift shops and/or their own in-house bar. Another major source of revenue are their partnerships with specific bars and restaurants, which unlike liquor stores have taken it on the chin this year.
Bottled and canned cocktails have a bad reputation, and several years ago they certainly deserved it, since most of them were cheap soft drink mixers and were horrible. That isn’t the case anymore. Plenty of examples of pre-prepared cocktails from small distillers are available now, and I’ve had many that are just as good as my takeaway bottles and bags of drink from my area bars. Best of all, these are designed to sit on your shelf for weeks or months, giving you a no fuss option for jazzing up your stay at home nightlife.
Dad’s Hat Pocket Cocktails
This Pennsylvania distillery has built up a well-deserved reputation for being a forerunner in the revival of Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey, based on their house style of boldly spicy whiskeys made with no corn and loads of rye. Dad’s Hat now has bottled Manhattans and Old Fashioned, made with that bold rye, available in their distillery webstore. Manhattans are traditionally a rye cocktail, and frankly if you haven’t had one with a bold, very rye-forward whiskey, then you haven’t had the Manhattan in its proper frame of reference yet. The Dad’s Hat Cocktails come in 100 ml bottles.
Distillery 291 Bottled Cocktails
This Colorado distillery has built their identity around maturing whiskey with inserted staves of Aspen wood. On top of aging in the Colorado environment, the aspen staves have gone a long way to granting their whiskey a distinctive identity. They responded to the pandemic by selling bottled cocktails made with their whiskey, and I was lucky enough to get to try some from two time zones away, and I say lucky because sales are presently limited to out the door. They were wonderful, and came in handy for my (limited) home entertaining. Hopefully they will take the hint and make their cocktails available for shipping, because mine certainly didn’t suffer from being sent to me from Colorado to Kentucky.
Rogue Whiskey Mule
Having started out in the craft beer business, the folks at Rogue Ales & Spirits are no strangers to putting together a drink that holds up well to canning. It draws on their whiskey, plus ginger, lemon, simple syrup and soda water. Although cold mules, served on ice in copper mugs, aren’t necessarily a first choice in wintertime, people still drink chilled stuff in the cold and enjoy their refreshing virtues. Moreover, I imagine this is one of those canned cocktails that will continue on even after the current crisis is over.
Treaty Oak Old Fashioned
In true Texas style, Treaty Oak has gone big with their bottled cocktails. Whereas a 12 oz can or 100 ml bottle is the norm for these things, Treaty Oak sells its bottled Old Fashioned in 375 ml and 750 ml bottles. Made with their Ghost Hill Bourbon, they are as tasty as they are tall.
West Fork Lockdown Cocktail Company
Indianapolis-based West Fork has gone a different route to the bottled, served at-home cocktail in providing an all-in-one mixer. This has everything except the whiskey in the bottle, so all that is needed is to add something off the shelf. Although I’m sure West Fork has their revived Old Hamer brand of whiskeys in mind, their bottled Old Fashioned mixer gives drinkers an avenue for experimenting a little, and there are many folks (including me) who love to tinker without the fuss.