These days, I basically self-describe as “just a stack of fun canned beverages in a trench coat.” It’s only a slight exaggeration, too. You see, I’m fanatical about drinks, both hard and soft, but after a recent bout of taste-testing both canned wines and boxed wines (and dressing up for Halloween as the god of wine, Dionysus), I needed a break. Cracking into a cold one every day after work had become, without paying attention, a habit I wanted to break. So, instead, I started drinking my way through all the canned mocktails I could get my hands on.
Well, what started out as flirting with the drier side of things, turned into a full-blown investigation in how we drink as a whole. Canned mocktails can help sober (and sober-curious) folks move seamlessly through the world, but they’re way more than an occupation for your empty hands while out at a friend’s BBQ, a bar, or poolside. The cans nowadays look fun and perky. They’re also full of complexity all on their own, filling a major gap in the market for drinks that just simply taste good.
In total, I taste-tested around 41 different canned mocktails from a variety of brands, including so-called “social tonics” containing THC and CBD, with eight really standing out. That being said, not all mocktails are made equal (nor are they for everyone). Some canned mocktails can often taste eerily similar to their alcoholic counterparts, so do proceed with that in mind if you’re at a point in your sobriety journey where those flavors are distracting.
No matter what your regular might have been, I’m pretty sure this list of the best canned mocktails will likely promise a happier hour.
The Best Canned Mocktails
Best Margarita Mocktail: Recess Zero Proof Lime “Margarita”
There’s a collection of words I especially love to hear: “We doing margs?” Especially on a Taco Tuesday, the pull of a table-full of spicy margaritas with friends is almost too good to resist. Future Me also loves not having a post-Taco hangover (or a tummy ache from a frozen sugary marg), which is why I’m a big fan of the Recess Zero Proof Lime “Margarita.”
Laced with a hearty squeeze of lime and a touch of salt, the Recess Lime “Margarita” also includes a few added functional beverage standbys to help drinkers unwind, like tension-taming L-theanine and calming lemon balm. Did I feel calmer after drinking these? Not necessarily. Was it nice to mindfully swap in a tasty alternative for myself instead of autopiloting to a marg? Absolutely. So Future (and Present) Me say that’s a win-win situation.
Buy: Recess Zero Proof Lime “Margarita”, $29.37 (on sale!) for 12 (12-ounce) cans at Amazon
Best Mojito Mocktail: Ish Non-Alcoholic Mojito
Weird flex, I know, but my first alcoholic beverage ever was a mojito. Sure, that’s like saying my first word was “regatta,” but it just is the truth. I went into tasting all the varieties of NA mojitos with a lot of expectations. The one that really mimicked the balance of a well-made mojito? Ish’s Mojito.
The proprietary Caribbean-spiced NA spirit nails the rummy backbone of a classic mojito. The Ish Mojito also stands out for its peppy bursts of spearmint and tinges of fresh lime. If you, like me, enjoy when canned mocktails don’t shy away from adding a bit of faux alcohol burn or bitterness, I think you’ll be as bowled over by Ish’s full selection, too.
Bonus: The Ish Mojito also looks pretty damn near identical to an actual mojito when put in an iced-filled highball glass topped with mint, meaning it’s a great mocktail for when you want to really blend in amongst a less-than-dry crowd.
Buy: Ish Non-Alcoholic Mojito, $19.96 for 4 (250-mL) cans at The Zero Proof
Best Negroni Mocktail: St. Agrestis Phony Negroni
I think all drinks should be a bit more bitter — it’s an unexplored flavor entirely! So if I am at a bar, I’m ordering a Negroni, or a Boulevardier (a Negroni made with whiskey), or a Kingston Negroni (a Negroni made with rum). But now? I’ll likely be grabbing a bottle (or can) of St. Agrestis Phony Negroni (and really all the company’s bottled cocktails, like the Amaro Falso and Phony Mezcal Negroni), as they are giving my usual order a run for its top spot.
Once I popped the cap on my first bottle, all I could register was that I had uttered, “Are you kidding me?” out loud, to myself. Spoiler: The St. Agrestis’ folks are not kidding. These bottled NA Negronis pack in all that I know and love in a classic Negroni: herbal juniper, the bite of bitter orange, and subtle florals. In other words, this was a drink concocted by the best of all people: complete drink nerds. And I love them for that!
Buy: St. Agrestis Phony Negroni, $28 (on sale!) for 6 (6.8-ounce) cans at Boisson
Best Spritz Mocktail: Ghia Sumac & Chili Le Spritz
I’m not proud to admit this, but it must be said, because it really shows how much I love Ghia’s newest Le Spritz canned mocktail. Recently, I was giving a friend a few cans of my favorite mocktails as she was wanting to try out sober-curiosity herself. Of course, I curated a delicious selection I thought she’d like — except I completely kept all the Ghia cans to myself.
Before you say it, I just know you’d do the same — especially with the Sumac & Chili flavor. What starts as a subtle kick of heat quickly blossoms into a tangy bit of sunshine-y sumac that’s juicy without being cloyingly sweet. Basically, it’s like tasting fireworks and it made me (briefly) consider signing up for salsa lessons. Just heed my advice, and be sure to keep a stash of these in a secret place.
Buy: Ghia Sumac & Chili Le Spritz, $60 for 12 (8-ounce) cans at Ghia
Best Wildcard Mocktail: Mockly Eye Opener Booze-Free Cocktail
Some canned mocktails simply defy all categorization, existing in a league of their own. At this private party, one really stood out and made me reshuffle my ranking entirely: Mockly Eye Opener.
If anything resembling alcohol too closely is not the mood for you at the moment, yet you still want a bev full of complexity, you’re going to want to fix your eye on the Mockly Eye Opener. Simply put, Mockly’s canned mocktails are on a mission to not just mimic popular cocktail flavors, but instead opt for flavors that can stand on their own without comparison. As my favorite of the bunch, Eye Opener blends bright, juicy tangerine with herbal basil that feels like you’re drinking the first warm day that finally breaks through winter, but in a can.
Buy: Mockly Eye Opener Booze-Free Cocktail, $18.50 for 4 (12-ounce) cans at Amazon
Best THC Mocktail: ayrloom micro Honeycrisp
Under the umbrella of mocktails, there’s a whole subset of so-called “social tonics” that often have small doses of adaptogens, botanicals, CBD, and THC to provide an alternative kind of buzz (whether it be herbal relaxants like lemon balm, or a full-on high from THC). In this case, the ayrloom micro Honeycrisp was the instant winner.
Unlike many other canned THC mocktails I tried, ayrloom comes in a can with just 1 mg THC and 15 mg of CBD per mini can (whereas others ranged from 2 to 2.5 mg of THC per can). It’s an easier dose to handle for those who are lightweights (like me) or want to drink another one later (like my dear friends who cross-tested some cans for me). The ayrloom cans provided the most balanced high with a smoother onset (drinkable/edible THC products hit your bloodstream a bit more rapidly than smoking alone). Plus, the juicy Honeycrisp cider base tastes like a high-quality craft seltzer I might get at a bar, which they technically are (cider makers Beak & Skiff and 1911 are the geniuses behind ayrloom!)
Buy: ayrloom micro Honeycrisp, $39.95 for 12 (8-ounce) cans at ayrloom
Best Budget Mocktail: Spindrift Nojito Sparkling Water
We live in a world where many of us have intense Sparkling Water Allegiances, so it must be known that one of my main loyalties is to Spindrift. So when I found out that Spindrift added a mojito-inspired sparkling water to its fizzy universe, I knew I’d need to free up some fridge real estate.
Perfectly balanced brisk bits of mint (no toothpaste taste here) and tart lime make this can, like Spindrift’s many other flavors, truly taste like someone hand-muddled fresh-picked produce right into the can. It tastes like someone who really loves you made you a mojito-essenced mocktail, really putting some elbow grease into it. At just $7.69 for an eight-pack on your next Target run? It can be a very regular swap.
Buy: Spindrift Nojito Sparkling Water, $7.69 for 8 (12-ounce) cans at Target
Worth the Splurge Mocktail: Figlia Fiore Frizzante
One thing I love about a fun drink, especially canned mocktails, is how one sip can so easily transport you to a nice little daydream. With the Figlia Fiore Frizzante, I’m obviously traipsing into a hole-in-the-wall seaside Italian trattoria, aperitivo in hand, dressed in a sundress showing off just the right tan-to-sunburn ratio.
The perky crackling bubbles on my taste buds don’t hide anything, but rather reveal a lemon and bitter orange juiciness that counters the rosy, floral top notes that makes this a spritz for the crowds who want more citrus sweetness over something more classically bitter-forward. To balance out this daydream, should you choose to float on it, be sure to go full aperitivo hour by coupling the Figlia Fiore Frizzante with a bowl of salty kettle-cooked chips.
Buy: Figlia Fiore Frizzante, $24 (on sale!) for 4 (8.4-ounce) cans at Boisson
How I Tested Canned Mocktails
In all cases, I tasted these canned mocktails in hopes that they’d match or even out-test their alcoholic counterparts, focusing primarily on how well they mimicked an alcoholic cocktail, the quality of bubbles (if applicable), and depth of flavor.
Mimicry: Does the body, dryness/sweetness, and even burn level match or come close to what you’d find in a bottled version of the same cocktail? Sadly, there’s not a canned version of all the fun cocktails out there (at least not yet), so I focused on the ones that were most mimicked (like margaritas, mojitos, and spritzes) or tried to strike out with their own flavors. Bonus points if it also looks pretty in a similar glass that you’d serve its boozy twin.
Bubbles: One thing about canned cocktails and canned mocktails, is that carbonation can often help and hinder the flavor of a beverage. In my findings, many sparkling drinks are often bubbly for the sake of being bubbly, almost like they were hiding additives or artificial flavorings, so I eliminated any that felt like they were bubbly in a way that felt like a distraction or a departure from the drink it’s trying to emulate.
Depth of flavor: In short, did it taste “canned” (i.e., tinny, overly sweet, flat) in any way? If this was poured into a glass, would anyone be able to tell it came from a can? “No, and no.” Then, it’s a hard “yes” for me.
Did your favorite canned mocktail make the list? Tell us about it in the comments below.