Published On: Wed, Jun 12th, 2019

Canned wine, craft cocktails and ciders have come a long way

Whether you’re tail-gating, camping, or just plain drinking in the park, the outdoor drinking season has officially kicked off. To make the most of it, you’ll want to pack light, so we’re talking cans, whenever possible.

Lucky for us, the selection of decent canned wine, craft cocktails and ciders is finally catching up to craft beer, which has always been the most portable of summer drinks. Here are 10 great options new to the LCBO that won’t weigh you down as you portage to the vacation home.

Cold Tea

Most years, the spring release of pre-mixed, ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails follows a theme, be it hard root beer, gin cocktails, or sugar-free vodka-sodas. This year, it’s time for tea.

One of the pioneering lower-sugar, more natural-tasting canned cocktail companies is Georgian Bay Spirit Co., which launched its sensationally-successful Gin Smash a few years back. This year, they’re trying to do it again with a Smashed Tea (667006; $ 2.95/473mL) that tastes kind of like a commercial, canned iced tea, but less sweet, slightly soapy (like Thrills gum) and with a hefty dose of acidity. Social Lite, an early no-sugar RTD producer, also went the tea route, with its Spiked Peach Iced Tea (649400; $ 2.95/473mL), which is 100 calories, contains no added sugar and definitely tastes like real, steeped tea, with a touch of bitter and sweet peach.

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Bridging the gap between wellness and alcohol trends, Ace Hill’s Hard Kombucha (649574; $ 3.25/473mL) is vodka-spiked kombu (tea fermented with a bacteria and yeast culture, that’s supposed to be good for your gut, since it might promote good bacteria. We’re happy to report that it’s gingery, super-dry and dangerously easy-drinking, especially when served on the rocks with a squirt of fresh lime. It could actually pass for a really pleasant Moscow Mule.

Dry-ish and fizzy

Used to be, if your wine or cider came in a can, the one thing you could be certain about was that it was going to taste terrible—and sweet. Canning technology has improved though, which is a really great thing for times when you don’t want to commit to a whole bottle and opt for a single serving instead.

Our pick for the very best wine in the can at the LCBO is Bollicini Sparkling Cuvée (647792; $ 4.95/250mL), a zesty and refreshing bubbly from Italy that delivers on the promise of refined casual drinking. Hailing from New Zealand, Joiy Sparkling (486456; $ 4.90/250mL) comes in a close second, since its fresh, fruity flavour reminds us of our favourite New Zealand robust expressions.

Made in Quebec with Rossissimo grapes imported from Italy, Pepito Sangria (647685; $ 3.45/473 mL) may still be a tiny bit on the sweet side, but has good flavour and actually contains less sugar than any other commercial version we’ve tried. It improves markedly with a wedge of lemon or orange and ice.

Speaking of low-sugar, Lonetree (127787; $ 2.95/473mL), a new, dry cider made with 100 percent Ontario apples is super-crisp and not too juicy—a refreshing change from the syrupy mass-market ciders that people serve on the rocks to cut the sugar. Serve straight-up.

Pink Drinks

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From ciders to wine, almost everything that isn’t iced tea this summer is pink. Here are a few highlights from this year’s rose-coloured line-up.

Deep rose-coloured Joiy Rosé Sparkling (647313; $ 4.90/250mL) is rich and medium bodied, with plenty of fizzy bubbles to cut the sweet fruity notes. When it comes to rosé cider, Brickwork’s Ciderhouse’s Rosé Cider (625236; $ 3.15/473mL) can’t be beat. With just a hint of Jolly Rancher candy taste, this is dry, refreshing and plenty of fun.

If you drink it straight, Gordon’s Pink G&T (667477; $ 9.95/4x355mL) is probably a touch too sweet and not nearly bitter enough. One wedge of lemon solves this problem though, somehow bringing out the underlying tonic flavours and transforming it into a light, fruity spring refresher.

Christine Sismondo is a Toronto-based writer and contributor to the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @sismondo

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Canned wine, craft cocktails and ciders have come a long way