Ready-to-drink adult beverages are moving into tasty new territory and local distillers are at the forefront.
MINNEAPOLIS — Skillfully crafted adult beverages in ready-to-crack cans are stacking up inside local liquor stores, much to the delight of discerning drinkers honed in an age of craft cocktails and high-class bartenders.
In recent years, hard seltzers like White Claw thundered into the market and swiftly dominated it. Now canned cocktails are eking out a hefty share of the market.
In 2021, premixed cocktails were the fastest-growing spirits category, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. And while there are products from major-market players, those from Minnesota companies are among the tastiest.
Switching distilling gears
Early adopters include Dashfire, the onetime bitters-only company from Minnetonka, Minnesota, and Duluth's Vikre Distillery.
Dashfire first appeared on liquor store shelves with small cans of Old Fashioneds and Manhattans, but recently launched larger sizes and fresh flavors.
"With our decade of experience in crafting cocktails using our bitters, we knew that moving into ready-to-drink cocktails was going to be the way to go," said Dashfire founder Lee Egbert. "It's such a great way for anyone to easily enjoy a quality drink without having to make it themselves."
Meanwhile, Vikre sprang onto the scene with a much lighter beverage, using its distinctive Juniper gin to make a canned twist on the classic French 75. The Frenchie hit stores in 2019 to immediate fanfare. The fact that the cans looked and drank remarkably different from most offerings at that time was intentional, said founder Emily Vikre: "We want what we make to be creative and bring its own perspective — every product is a bit of an art project in that way, an ode to flavor and community."
Vikre's cocktails are influenced by the European tradition of aperitif hour, often effervescent drinks with sweet, bitter flavors that entice appetites. The cans sport a different animal for each variety: a French bulldog in a beret (the Frenchie), a sloth on a BMX bike (the Vélo) and a hedgehog in a bowler hat (the Briar).