While it can be really fun – not to mention satisfying – to make your own cocktails from scratch at home, it can require a lot of resources.
It’s not just the cocktail shaker, strainer, various spoons, muddlers and the ice you might need, it’s also the many bottles of booze. Buying all of this can get expensive, not to mention the amount of space needed to keep it in – sadly, we don’t all have room for a bar at home!
It’s no real surprise, then, that premixed, bottled cocktails are becoming so popular. You can now find plenty of ready-made cocktails on the market, which have been mixed and bottled by experts – you can enjoy your favourite tipple at home, without the hassle!
Members of the BBC Good Food on-test team sampled bottled negronis, manhattans, espresso martinis, a selection of gin cocktails and some ‘wildcard’ entries to find our favourite ready-made cocktails on the market right now.
Read on to discover the best bottled cocktails to buy. For more like this, visit our reviews section to find 100+ round-ups of spirits, drinks kit, wine and much more.
Best bottled old fashioneds
The Handmade Cocktail Company – the old fashioned cocktail
An excellent example of an old fashioned we think any whisky fan will love. This is deliciously rich and well-rounded in flavour, without having too much going on or being sickly.
As soon as you open the bottle, you’re hit with the scent of orange zest, which is also a prominent, but not overpowering, flavour in the drink, alongside vanilla sweetness.
The attractive bottle and vintage-style label would make this a great gift for old fashioned fans too. To serve, simply pour over ice. A twist of orange could be added as garnish, but it isn’t essential as the citrus flavours are already well-pronounced.
Map Lab – MAP bourbon old fashioned
This simple but effective old fashioned comprised of Kentucky bourbon, Angostura bitters and brown sugar really lets the taste of the whisky sing. The use of brown sugar (in place of traditional sugar syrup) provides a rich, caramelised sugar flavour, a little like crème brulée, but without being overly sweet.
At 37% ABV, it’s a punchy glassful, but has an elegant flavour profile combining deep, earthy whisky notes, a touch of citrus and molasses-like sweetness. To serve, stir and pour over ice, then garnish with a twist of orange.
Mr Lyan – bonfire old fashioned
As well as crafting unique cocktails for the menus at his London bars, multi-award-winning bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan, has created a range of premixed, bottled cocktails you can drink at home.
For this range, he takes classic cocktails and adds ‘a little Mr Lyan magic’ – his bonfire old fashioned is an excellent example. It combines whisky with unconventional ingredients: lapsang souchong tea, which gives a woody smokiness (hence the name), and cola bitters which provides a unique sweetness.
Despite these unusual ingredients, it still manages to taste like an old fashioned and a good one at that, with a great depth of flavour and interesting, but very well-balanced flavours.
Master of Malt (£29.95)
Best bottled negronis
Tinkture the Clean Alcohol Company – negroni rosa
A unique negroni with a twist, Tinkture’s negroni rosa is made using their rose gin, along with equal parts of Quaglia bitter Berto and Antica Quaglia vermouth Berto Bianco.
The result is a silky smooth, well-balanced, bitter-sweet negroni with pleasant rose notes. To serve, pour over ice, stir and finish with a slice of orange, and if you’re feeling fancy, some rose petals.
The bottle features a striking design, which would make this a lovely gift for negroni fans, or Tinkture encourages the reuse of their beautiful bottle – they sell spray and pump attachments so you can fill them with handwash, lotions, cleaning products, perfumes or hand sanitiser!
Tinkture – The Clean Alcohol Company (£15, 200ml)
The ever well-stocked Carluccio’s online deli has branched out into perfect summer tipples – take your pick of the canned cocktails (Amalfi pompelmo margarita anyone?) or try their own bottled negroni, ready to go. The tall, sleekly designed (and generously sized at 70cl) bottle contains a classic and well balanced Italian negroni, with Portobello Road gin, Campari and Italian sweet vermouth. A good value crowd pleaser, and a great addition to your next Italian dinner party.
Black Lines – negroni
Made with a blend of East London Liquor dry gin, Vittore sweet vermouth and Campari, Black Line’s negroni is really beautifully balanced. Part of this balance shows itself in the way the different notes come in stages on the palate; starting with a great aroma of dried oranges, followed by the vermouth on tasting. There’s a lovely lingering sweetness at the end and plenty of mouthwatering bitterness to balance it out.
Black Lines partners with emerging young artists for the illustrations on its bottle labels and we love this stylish design by illustrator Jamie Muck, making this bottle a great gift for negroni – and art – lovers!
Primo Aperitivo – negroni
A great example of a really classic-tasting negroni, this is satisfyingly rich in flavour, with strong notes of bitter orange and juniper, a slightly, raspberry-jam-like sticky sweetness and subtle hints of rose. It’s full-bodied, without being syrupy. To serve, chill well, pour over ice and garnish with a slice of orange.
Made in Italy, Primo negroni comes in a stylish bottle, the top half of which is matte blue and the base clear glass to allow the vibrant red cocktail to shine through, making it an attractive addition to any drinks cabinet.
Bottle Bar and Shop – negroni
Handcrafted at Bottle Bar and Shop in London’s Catford, this is a lighter, drier-tasting and more gin-forward negroni than some of the others we tried. Fans of manhattans and martinis might prefer this for that reason, as the emphasis is shifted more towards the gin and vermouth.
Alongside notes of citrus zest, thanks to 8 weeks of infusion with pink grapefruit and orange zest, this has a pleasant flavour of warming spices, particularly clove, making it taste almost festive. To serve, pour over ice with a slice of orange.
Best bottled manhattan
Mr Lyan – candelit manhattan
Another winning cocktail from Mr Lyan. The name, candlelit manhattan, is a nod to the use of wax – while the cocktail recipe itself is typical of a classic manhattan (made up of bourbon, vermouth and bitters), a thin layer of wax lines the bottle, which creates a luxurious richness and velvety-smooth mouthfeel.
The flavour is excellent too – well-balanced, with a nice level of sweetness and notes of lemon thyme. A seriously special cocktail, this needs no garnish, simply serve extra chilled, with or without ice as you prefer.
Best bottled espresso martinis
Troo Cocktails – espresso martini
A resounding winner, this has a nice coffee flavour (thanks to a mix of freshly brewed Italian espresso and a premium Mexican coffee liqueur), sweet notes of salted caramel and a silky-smooth texture.
The serving instructions suggest shaking in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice for 25 seconds. This creates a really good foamy head – by far the best of any we tried – making it feel luxurious and satisfying, like an espresso martini you’d find in a good bar.
Bottle Bar & Shop – espresso martini
A really well-rounded and incredibly easy-drinking espresso martini, this has just the right level of booze, brown sugar sweetness and rich, aromatic coffee flavour. London-based Bottle Bar and Shop uses cold brew coffee made with coffee from local, artisan roasters Mont 58 Coffee and you can really taste the difference.
Although shaking with ice in a cocktail shaker didn’t create much of a head, the texture is still silky smooth and tastes high-quality.
Buveur – espresso martini
This single-serve cocktail feels like a real treat to drink. While it doesn’t have the strongest coffee flavour of those tried, it does have pleasant chocolate notes, thanks to the addition of dark chocolate bitters. It also has a nice toffee-sweetness and really good hit of booze.
It can be served simply poured over ice or shaken with ice in a cocktail shaker. We used a cocktail shaker which resulted in a slight foamy head, although not as much as on our winner. Buveur’s petite size makes it a nice one to enjoy on your own or if you don’t want to invest in a larger bottle.
Best bottled gin cocktails
Mac & Wild – Dundee sour
Scottish restaurant, butcher and shop Mac & Wild has created a range of bottled cocktails inspired by Scotland. Their Dundee sour is a spiced gin sour cocktail, combining Blackwoods gin infused with apricot and a blend of spices that you’d find in a traditional Dundee cake.
The cocktail isn’t technically ready to drink as it requires shaking with fresh lemon juice (and ice). Sticklers for the rules that we are, we thought about disqualifying it, but to be frank, it’s just too good not to include.
A delicious mix of rich, warming spices and sweet dried fruit notes are well balanced by the addition of the sharp, tangy lemon juice. The bottle is beautiful and its wax seal makes it feel special. This would be nice served with a slice of Christmas cake (or Dundee cake, of course), but we’d drink it all year round!
World of Zing – elderflower & earl grey gin collins
A twist on a classic G&T, this blend of Tanqueray gin, earl grey tea, elderflower liqueur and cinchona bark tastes like a grown-up iced tea, making it great for summer. Again, this isn’t quite a ready-to-drink cocktail as it suggests serving over ice and topping up with soda water, but the result is delicious and refreshing, and it does mean the bottle will stretch a lot further.
The elderflower and bergamot provide nice perfumed, floral notes while the cinchona bark gives a bittersweet, tonic-tasting finish, without being too sweet.
Tail’s Cocktails – garden cocktail
A mix of Bombay dry gin, St. Germain liqueur, lemon juice, cucumber and basil, this tastes like summer in a glass. It has a nice balance of floral elderflower from the liqueur; fresh, herbaceous notes from the cucumber and basil and a slight hint of lemon. It is sweet, so not one for lovers of sharp cocktails, but it’s very easy drinking.
There are two suggested serves – either shake with ice and strain into a martini glass or make a spritz by topping with soda water and ice. If you want to go a step further, both can be garnished with a slice of cucumber or sprig of thyme.
A real summery favourite, we can see this going down excellently at summer BBQs and at £25 for a litre, it’s good value too.
Best of the rest
Buveur – white russian
Buveur’s version of a white russian (usually made with vodka, coffee liqueur and cream or milk), uses almond cream in place of dairy and adds a drop of dark chocolate bitters.
The result is a delectable, dessert-like cocktail. Its smooth and creamy in consistency and the flavour is a really nice balance of caramel sweetness, rich coffee notes, a hint of cocoa and a hefty hit of booze.
Its small size means you only get one serving – perfect for when you want to treat yourself without buying a whole large bottle. Serve chilled over ice and, for a next level drink, dust with cocoa too.
Bottle Bar and Shop – remedy cocktail
Bottle Bar and Shop’s remedy cocktail is a blend of Fernet-Branca (an Italian amaro), brandy, orange liqueur, bitters and honey.
The result is a complex cocktail with plenty of zesty, fragrant orange flavour and warm honey sweetness, balanced by bitterness. It’s very slightly medicinal (perhaps the reason for its name), but smooth and satisfying.
A fantastic aperitif, simply serve chilled, neat or pour over ice and garnish with a slice of orange.
Bottle Bar and Shop (£17, 20cl or £28, 50cl)
Mac & Wild – Forth Bridge
Another Scotland-inspired cocktail from Mac & Wild, this one is based around the unmistakably Scottish, bright-orange-hued drink, Irn Bru. Like their Dundee sour (above), this is a sour-style cocktail, which requires the addition of fresh lemon juice.
It combines Mac & Wild’s own Irn Bru liqueur with Blackwoods vodka and a few ‘secret ingredients’. Satisfyingly sour, it also has the sweet vanilla-like notes and classic ‘rust’ colour associated with the Scottish soft drink.
This review was last updated in May 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.