Pre-mixed cocktails were once the preserve of easy-to-please teenagers, willingly exchanging their pocket money for sugary bottled booze - or perhaps for picnickers or festival-goers, catching some rays in the park as they sipped on supermarket cans of Pimms or G&T.
Now, drinks industry legends including mixologists Tony Conigliaro (Bar Termini) and “king of cocktails” Ryan Chetiyawardana (Dandelyan, Cub) have launched their own pre-mixed cocktails, and both independent brands and supermarkets have upped their game (hello, Marks and Spencer’s passion fruit mojito and dark roasted espresso martini). According to Master of Malt, pre-mixed cocktail sales have increased by 31.6 per cent this year as cocktail culture expands from the bar to the home.
"With batched cocktails now found in some of the world’s leading bars, the stigma against this style of serve has largely disappeared," says Pritesh Mody, the founder of World of Zing, which specialises in craft cocktails, hot sauces and seasonings.
For the lazier imbibers among us, this is very good news indeed: we can now quite simply pour ourselves a fairly decent negroni or Old Fashioned over ice, straight from the bottle.
But how to sort the gimmick from the glorious? We enlisted cocktail master Jean-Vital Castellaini (follow him on Instagram @cocktail_circus to see his fantastical serves), bar manager at Sixties-themed Soho drinking den Disrepute, to blind sample ten of the best and tell us how they really measure up...
“It’s not as bitter as I’d expect from a negroni. The vermouth takes the edge over the gin, so it’s more like a wine. But it’s very drinkable.”
Mr Lyan’s Rainy Day Spritz
“Super light, refreshing, and not very strong at all. It’s clean and delicate and has a good flavour profile, but it has no aroma and no base to it. I like it, but it would be better with fruit.”
The Handmade Cocktail Co. Old Fashioned
“It’s very similar to a typical Old Fashioned, but lighter. It’s easy drinking and the scent is grainy, but the fragrance of orange zest is missing. I’d drink it again.”
Pedrino Sherry & Tonic
“This is a terrace drink, to enjoy under a tree. It’s like lemonade, with a gentle fizz. It’s a nice apéritif, but a garnish of pepper, cucumber, strawberry or citrus would top it off.”
*Bartender's pick: Tails Cocktails Berry Mojito
“A strong berry aroma - ooh, this is good. The flavour is wonderfully strong. I can taste the berry, mint and rum distinctively. It’s well-balanced, clever and well-executed. It doesn’t need anything to be added to it. You could just serve it chilled.”
“This is an English-style vermouth, very strong in spice. Again, it’s missing the sharpness of strong gin. It’s a good drink in itself, but it’s not a good negroni in the classic sense.”
London Cocktail Company Margarita
“It’s bland, and it tastes fake. It reminds me of energy drinks; there’s no hint of tequila or salt. I would expect a saline solution of some kind for a margarita - this is like a child’s ice lolly.”
Longflint Rhubarb and Vodka Seltzer
“It tastes like Haribo melted with a bit of vanilla. It tastes like candy: it’s not sharp enough, and there’s not enough sourness from the rhubarb.”
Aske Stephenson Peanut Butter and Jam Old Fashioned
“I like this, because the rum is strong. It’s slightly too sweet, with only a little bitterness and a little salt, so orange peel would balance it and change the focus. It’s good to have the choice of a strong pre-mixed cocktail; that way, you can allow the ice to melt to weaken it.”
“It does smell strongly of coconut, pineapple and lime, but it’s not creamy enough, and it tastes all wrong. This is just for kids: a premixed piña colada with creme de coco and fresh, textured pineapple could work really well, so it’s disappointing.