Drizly’s Top 5 RTD Cocktail Flavors
Riffs on classic cocktails dominate the top-selling ready-to-drink cocktail flavors
The convenience and ease of ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails have made this a breakout category in recent years. Though these spirits-based beverages make up a relatively small percentage of overall category share — accounting for just three percent of the total liquor category in 2020 — it is the fastest-growing liquor subcategory on Drizly, showing immense growth of over 1,000 percent in 2020 over 2019.
Though there’s so much innovation occurring within the RTD category, classic cocktails tend to dominate best-selling RTD flavors, suggesting consumers are eager to experience full-flavor cocktails at home without mixing and measuring. “As bars and restaurants closed last year, many consumers turned to making their favorite cocktails at home or trying ready-to-drink versions,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights.
“This is a category that is experiencing exponential growth with no sign of slowing down,” says Britt West, the vice president and general manager of E. & J. Gallo, which produces High Noon, Drizly’s best-selling RTD (though the vodka-based beverage does market itself as hard seltzer). “Consumers want to take spirits-based products to places where they used to drink beer.”
The top five RTD flavors across Drizly showcase the diversity of this growing category, which can offer significant opportunities for well-stocked retailers. “In order to capitalize on the variety of consumer demands, stores should offer multiple options of single-serve, on-the-go beverages,” says West.
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“Unlike fermented alcohol, vodka allows hard seltzer to develop a more refined flavor, where the fruit has a greater opportunity to stand out,” says West. “The finish is cleaner, with no unpleasant aftertaste.” High Noon RTDs make up seven of the top 10 best-selling RTDs on Drizly in 2021 to date.
Other top-selling vodka-based RTDs include Cutwater Vodka Soda, Canteen Vodka Soda, Ketel One Botanical Vodka Spritz, and Two Chicks Sparkling Vodka Fizz.
Margaritas have skyrocketed as a consumer favorite over the past year, particularly as consumers began recreating favorite restaurant cocktails at home. This sent sales of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice soaring on Drizly, and ready-to-drink margarita sales surged in tandem.
“Cutwater canned cocktails require no prep or clean up, offer a controlled ABV, taste consistently delicious, and can be enjoyed virtually anywhere — and consumers seem to enjoy the ability to enjoy convenience without sacrificing quality,” says Shreyas Balakrishnan, the president of Cutwater Spirits, whose Cutwater Tequila Margarita is among the top-selling margarita RTDs in 2021 to date.
Other popular brands include the multi-serve Skinnygirl, 1800 Ultimate Margarita, On The Rocks, and Jose Cuervo.
Tequila-based RTDs beyond margaritas are also expanding as consumer awareness of agave-based spirits increases. Top-selling tequila-based RTDs include Ranch Rider Ranch Water, Two Chicks, Onda, and Mamaitas.
To date in 2021, rum-based Mai Tai RTDs have been one of the fastest-growing RTD subcategories on Drizly. Sales of these classic tropical cocktails have largely been driven by popular brands like Cutwater Tiki Rum Mai Tai and On The Rocks Cruzan Mai Tai Cocktail.
“While many of the brands in the category are very niche, offering one type of RTD — specific-spirit-based cocktail or flavor — we provide a wide range of options offering something for everyone across nearly every spirit base,” says Balakrishnan. “We are able to make a canned cocktail that tastes exactly the way you would expect if you ordered it in your favorite cocktail bar.”
Gin and Tonic/Gin-Based
As a category, gin is on the rise, especially as summer gets underway. The most popular gin-based RTDs are based on classic cocktails like the gin and tonic and Aviation. The best-selling gin-based RTDs on Drizly in the past 12 months include On The Rocks Aviation Cocktail, The Long Drink, Cutwater Gin and Tonic, and Tanqueray London Dry Gin and Tonic cans.
Whiskey remains the largest liquor subcategory on Drizly, and whiskey-based RTDs have begun to grow in popularity. The most popular whiskey-based RTD remains the Old Fashioned, with top-selling SKUs like the On The Rocks Knob Creek Bourbon Old Fashioned, High West Old Fashioned Whiskey Barrel-Finished, Bully Boy Distillers Old Fashioned, Handy & Schiller Barreled Old Fashioned, and Tattersall Old Fashioned leading sales.
Other whiskey classics, such as Jack Daniel’s Whiskey & Cola, Crown Royal’s Washington Apple Canadian Whisky cocktail, and Cutwater’s Whiskey Mule, are beginning to gain share, suggesting the growth of whiskey-based RTDs will continue.