So, I road tested three in the name of ‘research’. Here’s what I thought. There are no sponsors here, and no favours, I was just curious.
First serve up, The Campari Negroni, 50cl. If these guys can’t produce a decent Negroni there’s a problem and it’s immediately clear they can. 26% ABV delivers the requisite bite and punch, it’s got great depth visually and in flavour terms. It’s balanced and faithful. It’s a great looking bottle, plenty large enough to share with admiring friends and accessibly priced at around £20-£25 for which you get convenience, quality and ‘real deal’ brand reassurance.
Next up… the Whitebox Freezer Martini. Great things often come in small packages and this proves the rule in a 10cl can. Frozen, so it pours with a lovely viscous motion in to the glass, then stands for a minute or two before thawing to a delicate, but undeniably strong (34% ABV), well balanced and, again, faithful gin Martini. Retailing at around £6 this delivers so much more than the packaging promises. It’s seriously grown up, whereas the can looks like my kids would want it and misses the mark. What I like about Whitebox is it’s good without having the anchor of a big brand behind it, and although that may well limit consumer trial, I’m drawn to its independence and want them to succeed.
Saving the best to last, Barfly’s very own KJ’s home-made “Noelgroni”. This blew the team away, not least because it was a generous and thoughtful gift to us all at our Christmas get-together, but properly punchy and full on flavoured. A mix of Sipsmith gin, Berto bitters, Cocchi di Torino and Averna in a pocket-rocket sized bottle with hand-drawn label. It showed that if you really want your drink your way, the best way is still to do it yourself if you’ve got the wherewithal.
Ultimately, the stakes are rising in RTDs. It’s a premiumising market out there, and there’s no reason to be sniffy about them if the liquid is good enough and, that word again, faithful to the handmade version. It might not be off the Martini trolley at the Connaught, but if it’s in your freezer for around £5 a hit, that suits most of us just fine most of the time.
This article was written by Matt Coles, Strategy Director.
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