If you’ve been following booze trends in the slightest for the last few years, then you know how fast the ascent of “RTD” has been. Buoyed by the same factors of convenience and simple accessibility that built hard seltzer into such a powerhouse segment of the alcohol market, and courting the same consumers, “ready to drink” canned (or bottled) cocktails have taken on a life of their own, becoming the fastest-growing segment of the alcohol industry in 2020. That such conveniently packaged cocktails would boom during the global pandemic seems like no surprise—after all, traditional cocktail bars were closed throughout the year, and many consumers simply don’t care to learn to mix drinks of any complexity at home. But rather than simply a pandemic-related flash in the pan, it seems as if the RTD segment will continue growing rapidly in 2021, expanding in terms of variety and levels of premiumization the consumer can expect to see on the shelves. Countless companies have scrambled to get their RTD cocktails into package stores, from the distilleries themselves to conglomerates that own them.
Few companies making RTDs are blessed with such a bevy of unique in-house ingredients as Italy’s Luxardo, however. The famed producer of numerous liqueurs and spirits such as Luxardo Maraschino announced the arrival of its own RTD cocktail lineup last month, starting with three canned drinks that each make use of the company’s own proprietary spirits. In retrospect, it seems like a no brainer—if you produce your own aperitivo liqueur, why not sell a canned, ready-to-drink spritz? If you can really nail such a product, you might even convince drinkers to give your aperitivo a try, rather than simply relying on a better-known product like Aperol. It’s a potential win-win scenario for the likes of Luxardo.
Each of these three drinks is lightly carbonated and weighs in at 10% ABV—not too much on paper, but potentially dangerous in terms of how drinkable they end up being. Suffice to say, these cans aren’t meant to be downed in quantity like you’re plowing through a six pack of beer, or you might end up in rough shape indeed. And indeed, the $19.99 MSRP for a four-pack of these cans doesn’t exactly imply them to be everyday patio pounders either—at $5 per 250 ml can, Luxardo is clearly making a statement about their own valuation of their namesake liqueurs.
So with that said, let’s get to tasting and see how they did.
This is obviously a canned take on the spritz, which has become all but synonymous with Aperol in the U.S., that liqueur being owned by Campari. The “aperitivo” category, however, is significantly wider, encompassing various Italian liqueurs that blend sweet and bitter influences in a wide range of strength and assertiveness. Most aperitivos are infused with various herbal and citrus flavors, making them popular before-dinner drinks that are said to stimulate the appetite. Luxardo’s own Aperitivo falls into this category, and its sprtiz is simply this liqueur along with “sparkling waters and natural flavours.”
This one pours with an intensely orange-pink color, almost neon in tone, making it look eye-catching but a little bit on the “artificial” side in the glass. On the nose, it smells remarkably like the peel of a fresh navel orange, as if someone has just peeled the fruit and expressed its oils. On the palate, it tastes of orange candies, with a fairly straightforward but refreshing profile. Residual sweetness is moderate, and not as cloying as I feared it might be, with a subtle grassy bitterness that holds it in check just a bit. Of note is the fact that this Spritz seems to drink best over ice, which provides a bit more dilution and makes its texture feel less syrupy on the palate.
All in all, the Luxardo Aperitivo Spritz is very round on the palate, and seems designed to be extremely approachable. The trade-off is that it isn’t very complex, and the more herbaceous /fresher notes are harder to find behind all the centerpiece citrus. Regardless, this would likely be a crowd-pleaser, and I must state again that it hides the alcohol extremely well. Imbibe with caution.
This is an interesting take on the spritz that uses Luxardo’s Bitter Bianco liqueur instead of the regular Aperitivo, and promises “a drier, lighter and more bitter” cocktail, or a more sophisticated version perhaps of the traditional, neon orange spritz.
The results are quite interesting, partially ringing true to the company’s description, but not entirely. There is indeed more of a balancing presence of herbaceousness and bitterness in the Bianco spritz, but I’m not sure it’s actually the more dry of the two—in fact, this one just seems more intensely flavored and complex in general to me. On the nose, it’s again quite citrusy, with orange zest that is met by fresh grapefruit juice and hints of pine needles. On the palate, that piney bitterness is a pleasant counterpart to the sweeter citrus candy, but it’s still a fairly sweet drink overall. I appreciate the amaro-like herbaceous notes that make this a more complex drink overall, but they also serve to make it more intensely flavorful.
All in all, it feels like Luxardo meant for this brand to be perceived as dry, light and elegant, but it’s a bit more vivacious than that. In fact, I’d call it more boldly flavored than the regular Aperitivo Spritz, and likely my favorite of these canned drinks.
This one is produced from Luxardo’s own gin brand, which is infused with the same sour Marasca cherries it uses to produce its famous Maraschino liqueur. Like the others, it’s lightly sparkling and still weighs in at 10% ABV, in a 250 ml can.
On the nose, this one is fresh and bitter and fruity and floral all at once, in a way that actually does evoke aperitivo liqueurs in general, albeit with less general focus on citrus. The texture of the drink is round and not too sweet—this is definitely the driest of these products, drawing plenty of resinous notes from both the tonic and gin to offset its sweetness. It’s light-to-moderate in bitterness, with a lightly piney and resinous flavor that subtly hints at cherries and cherry pits, along with hibiscus-like florals. Easy to drink and refreshing, this brand would likely be ideal for those who find the spritzes too sweet.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.