“It’s just so simple” says Toby Maloney of the canned cocktail, speaking specifically about a very basic combination: that of salt and lime juice, dashed directly into a can of Tecate. It’s a drink that’s eminently popular south-of-the-border—and, by some accounts, it’s the only proper way to drink a Tecate.
This straightforward template, of building a drink in a can of beer or cider, has found favor in a number of New York bars, in part thanks to Maloney himself. He began offering beers dressed with salt and lime while working with T.J. Lynch at the Rusty Knot over a decade ago. “It just flew off the shelves,” he says. (Lynch would go on to add a few dashes of Cholula to the mix to create a signature beer can cocktail, the Loaded Tecate, which is still served at Mother’s Ruin.)
The large number of canned beers and ciders available today only broadens the possibilities in concocting these sorts of drinks, says Jane Danger, beverage director at New York’s Mother of Pearl. There, and at her soon-to-be-opened bar, Ladybird, she’s finding ways to translate a tiki-driven aesthetic via built-in-can cocktails. “It’s nostalgic in a way,” she says of the format, “and it’s another vessel, so you have something else to garnish and to play with, color-wise.” The “Dressed Can” currently on the menu at Mother of Pearl builds on pineapple cider, Jamaican rum, cinnamon syrup and absinthe.
Danger isn’t the only one stretching the limits of what these drinks can be; today, they might incorporate everything from syrups to Campari to Japanese single malt. But even in their most polished expressions, they still hold true to the fundamental charm of that original dressed-up Tecate.
Here, five new takes on the beer can cocktail.
While the combination of Tecate, salt and lime is, to Maloney, “just perfect,” he’s not averse to stretching the format. In his Tribute to Mermaids, Maloney builds on the big citrus notes of saison with added lemon and rum, plus honey syrup and Peychaud’s bitters. The result: a pleasingly high-low hybrid of a French 75 and a Daiquiri, with the yeast notes of the saison replicating the flavor profile of Champagne.
The Insta-Shandy is a prime example of T.J .Lynch’s playful approach to bartending. To further simplify an already effortless beer cocktail, the shandy, Lynch throws lime juice and spicy ginger syrup directly into a can of kolsch.
For Jane Danger’s Dressed Can, she plays off of canned cider rather than beer, and adds plenty of garnish. “In a can you don’t really get a lot of nose,” explains Danger, of the decision to decorate her drink with a mint bouquet. In addition to Jamaican rum, cinnamon syrup and lime, Danger’s can gets liberal dose of absinthe, dashed over top.
Matthew Belanger’s Garuda reads like the Loaded Tecate by way of Japan. Rather than splashing hot sauce over the surface of the can, he dips it in shichimi togarashi, a piquant Japanese spice blend. The execution is simple enough: dip, open, sip. Once there’s enough space, Belanger recommends pouring in one ounce (“or more if you’re brave”) of Japanese single malt.
Known for his canned soda drinks capped with inverted mini liquor bottles at Genuine Liquorette, Eben Freeman is no stranger to the built-in-can cocktail. For his Canned Campari Radler, he calls on canned grapefruit beer topped with a nip of Campari for a bitter, summer-ready twist.