There’s no shame in sipping Natty Light and slamming shots of Mellow Corn in these dark days, but by now drinkers far and wide are probably craving something a bit more elevated. But since you can’t go out to your favorite bar for a craft cocktail, why not bring it all to you?
Cocktail subscription kits have become a phenomenon of late. I counted at least a dozen options when researching this story, all promising some variation on a theme: We send you the ingredients, then you make the drinks yourself. While many of these kits are pretty basic—how hard is it to make an Old Fashioned, anyway?—the four represented here are the cream of the crop, each providing an upscale experience that might otherwise challenge the home barkeep.
Best for: the (eventual) traveler
SaloonBox’s subscription kit is something you can and should take on a plane, once you can actually go anywhere. This kit has everything you need to make two recipes, each serving two drinkers. The kicker is that no fresh ingredients are included, so there’s no need to worry about fruit going bad.
The kit I received included two very different cocktails, including the Cherry Bomb (bourbon, honey, granulated lemon, and a full ounce of juice from the included jar of cocktail cherries) and the Oaxacan Paloma (mezcal, agave syrup, Scrappy’s Firewater Tincture, granulated lime, and a small can of Q Sparkling Grapefruit soda). The use of freeze-dried citrus crystals had me nervous, but I was surprised how effective they were in the cocktails. They added plenty of acidity without coming across as phony. (The secret is a long dry shake before shaking again with ice.) I’m even considering picking up some of the packets for future citrusless emergencies.
SaloonBox’s drinks weren’t the craftiest, but they were definitely the most portable; the ingredients come packaged together in a box that can neatly slip into your carry-on.
A SaloonBox subscription costs $49 to $53 per month, shipping included, depending on the term of your prepayment. That’s roughly $13 per serving, which is pricey but not overwhelming. You’ll get better value from the company’s a la carte kits, which are available as one-off purchases for $83 to $95, each including a full bottle of booze along with all the fixins needed for 12 servings of a single cocktail.
Shaker & Spoon
Best for: le gourmand
Shaker & Spoon’s motto, emblazoned on its boxes, is “Cocktails you never knew you could make!” I thought that was hyperbole, but no: Each month’s box is a monster, filled with enough ingredients to make four servings each of three cocktails, all variations on a theme that incorporate a single spirit. The two boxes I evaluated each included a whopping 11 ingredients. For example, an Asian-themed box included gochugaru salt, gochujang-honey syrup, and a tiny vial of Som Pineapple Szechuan Pepper Cane Vinegar Cordial. Aside from the fresh lemons (three in the box), I don’t think I’ve ever mixed drinks with any of this stuff.