Canned cocktail extravaganza! Critics rate 100 summer drinks – from piña colada to merlot

Felicity Cloake, Rhik Samadder, Fiona Beckett and Richard Godwin
·31-min read
<span>Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

The weather is brighter, there are daffodils in the park, the long, long winter of lockdown is finally easing and the shops are ready for our six-person outdoor meet-ups, with aisles brimming with tinned cocktails and wines. But which ones to choose if you’re not organised enough to take your own flask of margaritas to a picnic? Guardian drinks experts Felicity Cloake, Rhik Samadder, Fiona Beckett and Richard Godwin have tasted a whopping 100 canned spirits and mixers, cocktails, wines, hard seltzers and alcohol-free options to see which have the most pandemic misery-busting potential, and which can be sent right back to 2020.

Cocktails

By Richard Godwin, author of The Spirits cocktail newsletter

1. Bacardí Mojito, 5%, £1.50, Sainsbury’s
This tastes like someone dissolved spearmint gum in window cleaning fluid and tried to mask the taste with icing sugar. Everyone involved in the creation and marketing of this beverage should feel some shame.
Tastiness: 0/5
Value for money: 1/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 1/5
Overall: 0/5

2. Cantails Mojito, 5.5%, £15 for 5, cantails.co.uk
A passable attempt at a canned mojito, haunted by the ghost of freshness. Or possibly mint sauce? Becomes cloying after a few sips.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 1/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 2/5
Overall: 2/5

3. M&S Mojito, 8%, £2, available in-store
An icon, thanks to Diane Abbott, and the pick of the canned mojitos. Not uncoincidentally, it has twice the alcohol content of its rivals. But it still tastes more of chewing gum than rum, and the mouth-feel is sinister.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 1/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

4. Old Hopking Raspberry Mojito, 5%, £20.40 for 24, Aldi
This tastes like a drink from a dystopian future where raspberries are a distant memory. A sad thing.
Tastiness: 0/5
Value for money: 0/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 2/5
Overall: 0/5

5. Kahlúa Espresso Martini, 4.5%, £1.90, Waitrose
Trashy, but kind of nice. It’s a bit like liquid tiramisu, if such a thing can be imagined, with a nice rum backbone.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

6. El Sueno Paloma, 5%, £1.25, Sainsbury’s
A paloma is grapefruit soda plus tequila, which works just fine in can form. This is serviceable but, like the vast majority of canned cocktails, it’s not boozy enough for me.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 2/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

7. Empirical Can #2, 8%, €30 for 4, empirical.co
Empirical is run by two ex-Noma employees in Copenhagen, and this is a typically avant garde sip: a deep red, sour cherry fizz with a pleasant yeastiness and woody overtones. Overall, it tastes a bit like Belgian fruit beer mixed with aftershave. Which would probably be a more economical drink long-term, given the price of this.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 2/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

8. Shake Baby Shake Tropical Daiquiri, 4%, £15 for 12, goodtimein.co.uk
I am picturing a consignment of past-their-sell-by-date pineapple-themed J2Os, rescued from a warm pub. No alcohol is detectable, only sugar. A sordid mess.
Tastiness: 0/5
Value for money: 0/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 0/5
Overall: 0/5

9. All Shook Up Very Berry Bramble, 4%, £1, Tesco
If you were the kind of child who liked drinking neat squash, you might get a kick out of this. Like overdosing at a funfair.
Tastiness: 0/5
Value for money: 0/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 0/5
Overall: 0/5

10. Archers & Lemonade, 5.4%, £1.95, Sainsbury’s
A Proustian rush: a girlfriend of mine used to order these in the 1990s. But nostalgia cannot rescue this. Fake sweetness clings to the tongue, the gullet, the soul.
Tastiness: 0/5
Value for money: 0/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 0/5
Overall: 0/5

11. Unknown Pleasures Peach Iced Tea, 8%, £21 for 6, unknownpleasures.com
I don’t mind this one. The iced tea base is well balanced and not too sweet, the peach is subtle and you can actually taste some alcohol.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

12. Pocket Negroni, 21.8%, £5, shopcuvee.com
The only canned cocktail I have tried that unequivocally tastes of the drink it purports to be. Cute can, too. I commend its creators.
Tastiness: 5/5
Value for money: 5/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 5/5
Overall: 5/5

13. Niche Raspberry Cosmo, 10%, £12.50 for 3, nichecocktails.co.uk
At last, some booooooze! It actually tastes like a cocktail as opposed to a sugar-delivery system. Quite possibly some real-life raspberries actually went near this.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

14. Niche Mocha Martini, 10%, £12.50 for 3, nichecocktails.co.uk
Well balanced and boozy, reminiscent of one of those coffee-flavoured Quality Streets. A splash of milk wouldn’t go amiss.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 2/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 2/5

15. M&S Pina Colada, 8%, £2, available in-store
This is an extremely silly drink – it contains “banana flavouring” as well as the traditional pineapple/coconut combo – but it’s charming with it. Tastes vaguely of suncream.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 5/5
Overall: 4/5

16. M&S Passion Star Martini, 8%, £2, available in-store
A bowdlerised porn star martini, with a disturbing burnt rubber taste (pectin?) not quite masked by passion fruit concentrate. But credit to M&S for being the only company to list the ingredients on the side of the can.
Tastiness: 1/5
Value for money: 1/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 1/5
Overall: 1/5

17. Happy Fizz, 5.7%, £34 for 12, portersgin.co.uk
Some thought has clearly gone into this drink – it contains malted passion fruit, pineapple shrub and great wafts of patchouli. It comes out tasting like a yoga studio: incense and sour sweat.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 2/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

18. Happy Down Lychee Guava Chilli, 4%, £13 for 6, happydown.co.uk
I had mild hopes for this one but they were immediately dashed. The chilli invades the nostrils as horrible spectres of the fortified wine alcopop, MD 20/20, do battle on the tongue. Happiest down the sink.
Tastiness: 1/5
Value for money: 1/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 1/5
Overall: 1/5

19. Moth Old Fashioned, 20%, £3.99, Waitrose
A respectable old fashioned from the decent Moth range. Tastes like a grownup drink (20%!).
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

20. Pimm’s and Lemonade, 5.4%, £1.95, Sainsbury’s
The point of a Pimm’s is surely all the fresh fruit and mint floating in it. Without all that, this feels like half a drink.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 2/5

21. Smirnoff Passionfruit Martini, 5%, £2, Asda
Not merely vile, but actually upsetting. People were paid thousands and thousands of pounds to create this. The worst by a long way and the competition is fierce.
Tastiness: N/A
Value for money: N/A
Pandemic misery-busting potential: N/A
Overall: N/A

22. Sipful Blood Orange Mimosa, 4.5%, £14.95 for 4, sipful-drinks.com
This tastes like long-life orange juice mixed with low-grade cava which is, oddly enough, exactly what it is. It’s straw yellow, which makes me sceptical about the blood orange claims.
Tastiness: 1/5
Value for money: 1/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 2/5
Overall: 1/5

23. Punchy Whisky, Blood Orange, Bitters & Cardamom, 4%, £2.50, Ocado
Despite the low ABV, this has a good peaty taste of Scotch, which blends well with the warm citrus and spice. It’s not too sweet, either. It’s reassuring to know that this can be done.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

24. Bloody Drinks Classic Bloody Mary, 6.3%, £13 for 4, bloodydrinks.co.uk
Clearly, this is someone’s cherished recipe – the ingredients include soy sauce, pickle juice and sherry – and it’s a thick soup of umami, spice and strength. A useful thing to have in the fridge, since who can be bothered to make a bloody mary when hungover?
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 2/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

25. Cantails Espresso Martini, 5.5%, £15 for 5, cantails.co.uk
The dominant note here is not coffee but vanilla, which turns this into a not unpleasant mid-afternoon sort of drink.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

Wines

By Fiona Beckett, Guardian wine critic

White
26. Costellore Pinot Grigio Fizz, 11.5%, £1.49, Aldi
As you’d expect, Aldi undercuts the rest of the booming wine-in-a-can market with its own label offering, while also delivering a slightly more interesting pinot grigio than most. The chain’s rosé tin is good value, too.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 5/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 4/5

27. Babe Sparkling White With Bubbles, 12.5%, £2.15, Sainsbury’s
“We made this gorgeous can of white wine with bubbles for you because we love you,” gushes the blurb. Tastes of tinned peaches if that’s your thing.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 2/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5 (if you believe the shtick)
Overall: 2/5

28. The Copper Crew Chenin Blanc 2019, 13.5%,£24.99 for 6, coppercrew.co.uk
This smooth, off-dry South African white is pretty good for canned wine, but pretty average if you compare it with a bottle. It’s pleasant, and hallelujah for that.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

29. Cotswold Hills White Wine With Bubbles, 12%, £4.95, The Stroud Wine Co
A classy blend of Bacchus and Ortega from a vineyard managed by the Royal Agricultural University. Crisp, fresh and elderflowery – very Daylesford. I love the boxing hares on the label.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

30. The Curator Cape White Blend 2020, 13%, £4.50, Harvey Nichols
A fabulous rich textured white from star South African winemaker Adi Badenhorst, made from old vine chenin blanc, chardonnay and viognier. Proof you can get good wine in a can.
Tastiness: 5/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 5/5
Overall: 5/5

31. Ferdinand Albarino 2018, 13%, £9.71 (usually £12.95), Phoenix Wines
This can looked cool, but the contents were dire: tired, flabby and over the hill – a bit like we all feel after three months of lockdown. And the price! They must be joking, even for 375ml.
Tastiness: 1/5
Value for money: 0/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 0/5
Overall: 0/5

32. Most Wanted Pinot Grigio Fizz, 11.5%, £2, Tesco
“Most wanted”. The question here is by whom? It certainly doesn’t come into the category, as claimed on the can, of “the world’s most wanted wine”. Not by me at any rate. Bland and boring.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 2/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 2/5
Overall: 2/5

33. Pinot Pinot Pinot Grigio spritzer, 5.5%, £1.50, Sainsbury’s
At 5.5% you’re unlikely to forget how many times you’ve said pinot, but the truth is this sugary aromatised wine-based drink is all too forgettable, however low in calories. (Think old-school lambrusco).
Tastiness: 1/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 1/5
Overall: 2/5

34. Quello Semi-sparkling White Wine, 11%, £9.40 for 3, pullthecork.co.uk
One of the canned wine pioneers and the nearest the sector has to a natural wine. A fair bit of flavour with some attractive peachy fruit, but it felt a touch tired. Maybe I had some old stock.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

35. Three Choirs Dry White, 11%, £3.95, slurp.co.uk
But for the odd whiff of elderflower, this is so wimpy it could almost be alcohol-free. The kind of wine to sip after an afternoon pulling up weeds.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 2/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 2/5

36. The Uncommon Bubbly White Wine 2019, 11.5%, £18.99 for 4, Waitrose
Quirkily branded – the only danger being Gerald the giraffe might appeal to children – this is a decent, smooth, creamy English fizz.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 5/5
Overall: 4/5

Rosé
37. Barefoot White Zinfandel, 8.5%, £2.50, Tesco
Wine people sneer at white zin, but treat it as a sweet wine rather than a dry one and it’s actually quite enjoyable. This would be lovely with cake or a punnet of strawberries.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

38. Canned Wine Co Grenache Rosé No 3 2019, 12.5%, £5.99, Novel Wines
A full-bodied savoury rosé to drink with picnic food. But at the equivalent of just under £18 a bottle, it’s expensive.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 2/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

39. Cansecco Rosé, 10.5% £2.95, Master of Malt
Clever name, stylish can. This is much better than the white from the same brand, which is really unpleasant.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 2/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5 (because pink is always cheery)
Overall: 2/5

40. Hun Rosé, 13%, £2.50, Tesco
Fairtrade, vegan-friendly, recyclable … Hun is impeccably woke, apart, perhaps from referring to women as “hun”. This is almost drinkable, which is more than can be said for the white version.
Tastiness: 2/3
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

41. Hush Heath Balfour Pink Fizz, 11.5%, £4.99, hushheath.com
I’m not wild about the Brexity branding, but this does taste like – and is – a proper sparkling rosé, made in Kent. Not quite champagne in a can, but as near as you’ll get.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5 (can aside)
Overall: 4/5

42. Igo Organic Rosé, 12.5%, £3.99, Waitrose
It’s eye-go rather than ee-go (I go – geddit?). A stylish organic dry Spanish “rosado” that would be ideal with a selection of tapas. The white is decent, too.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

43. Nania’s Vineyard Rosé Spritzer, 5.5%, £4, naniasvineyard.co.uk
If there’s such a thing as an artisanal can, this is it. A nice natural strawberry taste, some winsome critters on the label … The vineyard is just about to move on to the next batch, so there are possible supply issues in the short term, but this is decent.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

44. Nice Pale Rosé, 12%, £2.65, Sainsbury’s
If you like Provence rosé, you’ll like this. It’s aptly named.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

Red
45. The Copper Crew Merlot 2018, 13.5%, £24.99 for 6, coppercrew.co.uk
Pleasant. Smooth. Medium-bodied. Not quite as swiggable as other South African reds. And you have to buy it in a multi-pack.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 4/5

46. Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection Pinot Noir 2017, 13.5%, £22.49 for 4, Amazon
If you’re a pinotphile, you’ll be pleased to find it in a can, possibly slightly less happy at the price given that you’re no doubt paying for the Coppola name.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 2/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5 (especially if you’re a Sideways fan)
Overall: 3/5

47. The Curator Red Blend 2020, 14%, £17 for 4, Harvey Nichols
Another winner from Badenhorst, this is a gloriously exuberant blend of cabernet, shiraz and cinsault that would make anyone feel cheerful. Perfect for barbecues.
Tastiness: 5/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 5/5
Overall: 5/5

48: Kiss of Wine ‘Feisty’ Nebbiolo, 12.5%, £97 for 24, kissofwine.co.uk
Kiss of Wine specialises in individual, mainly Italian, grape varieties. Nebbiolo is not for everyone – it’s a tad austere – but full marks for trying. If you buy in the 24-tin “event pack” it’s reasonably priced, too.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 2/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

49. Lubanzi Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre 2019, 13.5%, £3.95, The Wine Society
An enterprising project from two of South Africa’s most dynamic winemakers, with impeccable Fairtrade and sustainability credentials. Inside is a soft ripe juicy red. (The accompanying Chenin Blanc is terrific, too.)
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 5/5
Overall: 4/5

50. Nice Argentinian Malbec, 13.5%, £2.65, Sainsbury’s
The idea of an Argentinian vegan wine is a bit of a laugh, given steak is the national dish but, if you’re a malbec fan, you should be happy with this.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

Spirits and mixers

By Felicity Cloake, Guardian food writer

Felicity Cloake and her friend Emma enjoying canned cocktails in a London park.
Felicity Cloake and her friend Emma enjoying canned cocktails in a London park. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

51. CleanGin and Tonic, 0.5%, £20 for 12, clean.co
I’ll start with the lower-alcohol versions. This one is satisfyingly, lingeringly bitter, with a distinct cardamom flavour. Low-alcohol options can be cloying, but this is enjoyably crisp (and would be even better with a squeeze of lime).
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5 (if you’re not expecting gin)
Overall: 4/5

52. Gordon’s 0.0% & Schweppes Tonic, £1.60, widely available
Available in shops from 12 April, this is worth remembering – intensely limey with a subtle bitter edge that pulls it back from soft drink territory.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

53. Rude Mechanicals Vineyard Gin & Tonic, 0.5%, £2.50, rude-mechanicals.com
This is a very pleasant drink if you’re not expecting a gin and tonic – joyously fizzy, with a lingering citrus bitterness to it, rather like a grownup version of a sherbet lemon.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 2/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

54. Seedlip Garden 108 & Cucumber Tonic (alcohol-free), £2.75, Ocado
This tastes like gherkins, which would probably be quite refreshing on a hot summer’s day, but to me, is deeply weird. One for true sophisticates.
Tastiness: 1/5
Value for money: 1/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 1/5
Overall: 1/5

55. CleanRum & Cola 0.5%, £20 for 12, clean.co
I surprised myself by really enjoying this – it’s like cherry cola with a shot of amaretto (which is probably something I actually drank as a teenager) but almost alcohol-free.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 3/5

56. Bombay Sapphire Gin & Tonic, 6.5%, £2.50, Tesco
You know when you’re eating pilau rice too fast, and you accidentally bite down on a whole cardamom pod? This is like that, but in a can. Intensely spicy, but isn’t that what we all need?
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 5/5
Overall: 4/5

57. 6 O’Clock Gin & Tonic, 7%, £24 for 12, 6oclockgin.com
I approve of the fact this is 7% – not quite as strong as I’d make a gin and tonic, but still respectably robust. Add a squeeze of citrus for perfection.
Tastiness: 5/5
Value for money: 5/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 5/5
Overall: 5/5

58. Caorunn Gin with Franklin & Sons Tonic, 6%, £17.50 for 12, goodtimein.co.uk
Though it’s only 6%, this is gratifyingly strong, like the kind of gin and tonic your dad might make while telling you it’ll put hairs on your chest.
Tastiness: 5/5
Value for money: 5/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 5/5
Overall: 5/5

59. M&S Gin & Tonic, 8%, £2, available in-store
The undisputed king of them all. At 8%, this brings back happy, hazy memories of innumerable Friday-night train journeys. One for those who take such things seriously.
Tastiness: 5/5
Value for money: 5/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 5/5
Overall: 6/5

60. Eden Mill Original Gin & Tonic, 5%, £2, edenmill.com
Well balanced and citrusy, with a lively tartness thanks to the sea buckthorn in the gin. Distinctive, but still classic enough not to scare the horses.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

61. Gordon’s Gin & Schweppes Tonic, 5%, £1.80, widely available
Actually tastes like gin and tonic. Though I’d prefer it to be a bit stronger, more like one you might make at home, there’s no denying it does what it says on the tin.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

62. Brewdog Lonewolf Gin & Tonic, 6.5%, £2.25, Tesco
Easy drinking, with bitterness rather than booze the overwhelming flavour. According to my testing partner: “If you were making these yourself, you’d make them stronger. They need larger cans, basically.”
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/4

63. Haysmith’s Premium London Dry G&T, 6%, £1.19, Aldi
Aldi’s own label offering feels like summer 2021 in a can: delicately sweet and floral, but with just enough bitterness to remind you what you’re drinking. Good value for 6%, too.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 5/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 5/5
Overall: 4/5

64. East London Grapefruit Gin & Tonic, 5%, £2.25, masterofmalt.co.uk
The name don’t lie – this is “more like a pleasant grapefruity cocktail” according to my testing partner – but it would be very nice on a hot day, if we ever get one of those.
Tastiness: 5/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

65. Didsbury Blood Orange and Ginger Gin & Tonic, 5%, £8 for 4, didsburygin.com
Bitter and zesty, but not without a subtle warmth. I’m not a big fan of flavoured gins in general, but this one thankfully refrains from whacking your palate sideways with a sledgehammer.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

66. Eden Mill Oak Gin, Ginger Ale and Orange, 5%, £2, edenmill.com
Different, compared with a lot of the others, but not unpleasant – lightly spiced with a slightly tannic oak edge. I can’t actually taste the gin, but it’s interesting all the same.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

67. 6 O’Clock Gin Damson & Ginger, 5%, £24 for 12, 6oclockgin.com
The respectable face of fruity gin cocktails, with the tartness of wild plums and the sweet heat of fresh ginger. Well rounded and not too sugary.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 5/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

68. Haysmith’s Rhubarb & Ginger G&T, 6%, £1.19, Aldi
If you must spoil an honest gin and tonic, then this – not too syrupy, not too spicy – isn’t a bad choice. Definitely needs to be well chilled, though.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 2/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

69: Eden Mill Love Gin and Rose Lemonade, 5%, £24 for 12, edenmill.com
If you like turkish delight, you’ll enjoy this – there’s no bitterness here, just light, sugary, summery flavours. If you don’t like turkish delight, you’ll hate it. There is no middle ground.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

70. Slingsby Solo Marmalade & Mediterranean Tonic, 6%, £7.50 for 3, spiritofharrogate.co.uk
Bittersweet marmalade and bittersweet tonic water are happy bedfellows – though as neither my tasting partner nor I can taste the gin, it might be one to save for a tough breakfast meeting.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

71. Manchester Raspberry Infused Gin with Franklin & Sons Sicilian Lemon Tonic, 5.5%, £2.25, Morrisons
This tastes like those blue cinema (remember them?) slushies washed down with a vat of lemonade. But I like it. Worth it for the multiplex memories.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

72. Slingsby Solo Rhubarb Gin and Ginger Ale, 6%, £7.50 for 3, spiritofharrogate.co.uk
This is intense, like accidentally swallowing a bath bomb, but it is more likely, I assume, to get you drunk. Chill well and sip slowly: it’s a lot.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 2/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 2/5

73. Haig Club Clubman Ginger Ale & Lime, 5%, £2, Tesco
Whisky isn’t a drink I would usually pack for a picnic, but this is actually quite light and refreshing. A 330ml can, too.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 5/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

74. Malibu & Cola, 5%, £1.80, widely available
I don’t like Malibu and I don’t like cola, yet somehow I can’t resist this – it’s outrageously sweet, offensively coconutty and completely ridiculous. Top summer fun.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 5/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 5/5
Overall: 4/5

75. Captain Morgan Spiced Rum & Cola, 5%, £2, widely available
A straightforward rum and Coke, the kind of drink you would be handed in a club when it’s not your round and you have no control over what you’re given. Ah, nightclubs.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

Hard seltzers

By Rhik Samadder, Guardian writer

Rhik Samadder, sitting against the tree, with his friends Lauren, Tom and James.
Rhik Samadder, sitting against the tree, with his friends Lauren, Tom and James. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

76. Doña Sofía CBD Infused Lemon & Lime Seltzer, 5%, £30 for 12, donasofia.com
Sharp, satisfyingly limey, albeit with a slight taste of ground-up aspirin. CBD infusions aren’t everyone’s bag, but as seltzers are low in calories, sugar and joy, I appreciated the extra flavour.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

77. High Water Cucumber and Mint, 5%, £25.99 for 12, drinkhighwater.com
The cucumber comes through strongly, but with the mustiness cucumber is sometimes prone to. The mouth-feel is syrupy and upsetting, like something the BFG would drink. The can artwork is calming, though.
Tastiness: 1/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 1/5
Overall: 2/5

78. Chase’s Gin Pink Grapefruit & Pomelo, 5%, £30 for 12, chasedistillery.co.uk
Reminiscent of childhood medicine, but softly carbonated and smooth-drinking. The grapefruit perfume feels sophisticated and clean. James, one of the friends I enlisted to help taste these seltzers, scored this highly due to having “a recognisable flavour”.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

79. Clean & Press: Smashed Cactus and Lime, 5%, £25.95 reduced to £19.95 for 12, brewdog.com
This looks like an energy drink and sounds like a gym class. I don’t know how smashed cactus is meant to taste, but this tastes like a packet of those herbal mints you buy in health food shops.
Tastiness: 0/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 0/5
Overall: 1/5

80. OTO Balance CBD Botanical Seltzer, 25MG CBD, £3, elementsofgreen.com
A woody Shloer, a Valerian root tang. This is one of the few drinks here I actually enjoyed, perhaps because it’s a botanical CBD seltzer, not a hard seltzer.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 1/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

81. Fountain Mango, 5%, £25 for 12, hellofountain.co.uk
The nose is prosecco-y, the taste is summery and uniquely hoppy, like a fruit beer. The can puts me in mind of sunshine. If someone served me this, I would smile at them warmly.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

82. Two Days Vodka Lime Soda, 3%, £30 for 12, twodaysdrinks.com
The bouquet is sugar-free Sprite. The five times distilled vodka shot disappears, which is good. However, the perfume is vaguely suggestive of toilet bleach. This is definitely one for the purists only.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 0/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 0/5
Overall: 1/5

83. Topo Chico Cherry Acai, 4.7%, £8 for 4, Ocado
Cute name, though the can looks like it’s having an identity crisis. Lauren, another enlisted friend, said it tasted like the pretend cherries her Baby All Gone doll used to regurgitate.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

84. Slingsby Marmalade & Apricot, 5%, £7.50 for 3, spiritofharrogate.co.uk
Smells like gel pens, tastes like Fanta. This elegantly packaged, Paddington Bear of a drink is gin-based; almost as calorie-light as vodka but 1,000 times more delicious. A sunny delight – and runaway winner.
Tastiness: 5/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 5/5
Overall: 4/5

85. Berczy Passionfruit & Turmeric, 4%, £25.95 for 12, berczydrinks.com
Turmeric is a base flavour, unpalatable at strength. It’s vogueish, though. I found this undrinkable, but fans of fizzy bitter root flavour will be pleased.
Tastiness: 1/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 2/5
Overall: 3/5

86. Sentz Sweet Melon and Mint, 4%, £25.95 for 12 mixed flavours, drinksence.com
Mint is a magic genie flavour: it requires rubbing to wake it up, and does not can well. You can really taste the calcium, magnesium and potassium here, but who wants that? Inspires a visceral hatred.
Tastiness: 0/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 0/5
Overall: 1/5

87. East London Liquor Co. Watermelon, Cucumber & Vodka, 4%, £24 for 12, eastlondonliquorcompany.com
The cucumber is juicy, deep, somewhat bitter, yet the watermelon disappears, because seltzers are pointless. The cult brand are rightly known for impeccable quality and artisanal spirit, yet the primary taste you get here is lipstick.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 5/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

88. Bodega Bay Elderflower, Lemon & Mint, 4%, £24 for 12, bodegabay.co.uk
A floral, yet somehow buttery bouquet – utterly unrelated to the flavour claims on the can – that takes a sharp left turn, leaving an unfamiliar, chemical aftertaste; shocking and mercurial. It does get points for intrigue.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 5/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 3/5

89. M&S Raspberry and Rhubarb, 4.5%, £1.80, available in-store
The dons of fruity tinnies don’t fumble the bag here. The most a seltzer can achieve is close to nothing, with a nice smell, which this achieves. Podium-worthy.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 5/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

90. Keepr’s Pear & Ginger, 4.2%, £2.75, Ocado
The aromatic combination stands out, but without calories to flesh out the experience, the key notes are dissonance and regret. Like popping a pear drop, then licking a festival toilet.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 2/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 1/5
Overall: 2/5

91. Easy Social Cocktail Co Grapefruit & Lemon Verbena, 4.5%, £30 for 12, easysocialcocktail.co
Initially sharp, then metallic, then bitter, then nothing. You almost miss the danger once it passes. The vodka is too pronounced. Still, the branding is rather lovely.
Tastiness: 1/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 2/5

92. Served Lime, 4%, £10 for 4, serveddrinks.co.uk
Unambitious yet inoffensive, this tastes like lime and good water. Fresh, but not sharp, it’s made of wonky produce to reduce food waste, and has no unpleasant aftertaste, which makes it a de facto winner.
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 3/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

93. Long Shot Grapefruit, 4%, £28.50 for 12 mixed flavours, longshotdrinks.co.uk
Perhaps the platonic hard seltzer; I forgot I was drinking this while still drinking it. The grapefruit flavour is weaker than some competitors, but also lacks any unpleasant aftertaste.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 1/5
Overall: 2/5

94. Kopparberg Mixed Berries, 5%, £2, Morrisons
Smells as sweet as the Swede’s flagship offering, but without its cloying taste, and therefore even better. The purple can and black ring pull reminded me of Prince. Sophisticated? No. Fun? Ja!
Tastiness: 4/5
Value for money: 5/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 3/5
Overall: 4/5

95. Smirnoff Raspberry & Rhubarb, 4.7%, £1.50, Sainsbury’s
The pink fruits are nicely balanced in this one, or would be if it tasted of anything other than walking past a scented candle shop. Be kinder to yourself than this.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 2/5
Overall: 3/5

96. Top Chico Tropical Mango, 4.7%, £2, Sainsbury’s
This has an odd sourness to it, like a drink that might have been nice a week ago.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 2/5
Overall: 2/5

97. Clean & Press: White Peach & Mango, 5%, £25.95 reduced to £19.95 for 12, brewdog.com
Another offering from BrewDog, this one reminds my friend Tom of having Covid, a time when he says everything tasted to him of hard seltzer. Hard to claim much pandemic misery-bursting potential when, for Tom, “this reminds me of the thing I’m trying to forget”.
Tastiness: 0/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 0/5
Overall: 0/5

98. White Claw Mango, 4.5%, £2.50, uk.whiteclaw.com
One of the original hard seltzer brands, the aroma here is pleasant, but empty. Come on, we deserve more than the absence of suffering.
Tastiness: 3/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 1/5
Overall: 3/5

99. Fountain Passionfruit, 5%, £25 for 12, hellofountain.co.uk

I applaud the number of flavours Fountain make, and this one does at least taste of something. It tastes of cleaning fluid that has, inconceivably, gone off. Not the worst offender, which is mad.
Tastiness: 2/5
Value for money: 4/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 2/5
Overall: 3/5

100. Keepr’s Pomegranate & Rose, 4.2%, £2.75, Ocado
The floral bloom of rose, followed by deeper pomegranate, are both accented by soft bubbles. The touch of honey is a godsend. A combination that actually complements the copper-distilled vodka. A lovely drink. Good save, Keepr’s!
Tastiness: 5/5
Value for money: 2/5
Pandemic misery-busting potential: 5/5
Overall: 5/5