Pre-Mixed G&Ts… Bin Or Buy?

If you bounce on a train on a Saturday after 11am you see loads of folk sat drinking from various cans and bottles.  In the last year or so I’ve noticed that, among the beers and ciders…  and Buckfast (because Scotland)…  there has been an increase in the amount of people consuming gin and tonic from a can.
Now this got me thinking about how good these canned drinks actually are.  Are they a suitable substitute for the real thing or are they simply a “make do” option?
I decided to find out.

First thing I had to do was, very simply, buy absolutely every type of canned gin and tonic I could find.  To achieve this I visited every supermarket I could think of and hoovered every can into my basket on each visit.  I tried to keep everything as consistent as I could and started off buying the light or diet ones.  There was two reasons for this decision…  Firstly I normally drink light tonic so it made sense for a better point of comparison and secondly the majority of premixed cans appeared to come in both options….  I hadn’t hit the actual gin brands yet…
After starting this it transpired that as I picked up the “big” gin brands cans they were not available in both light and “normal” varieties…  Oops.  Gordons being the exception.
Anyway I had started with that so I cracked on and just gathered everything I could find.
It’s worth being aware that I tried to avoid picking up any flavoured gins and tried to stick with regular dry gin…  I did accidentally pick up one that, when you read the small print on the can (which I only did after the blind taste test), it transpired that this one was gin and soda…  Not tonic.  It’s in here anyway just incase you fancy it…  And because I had already bought it.

So…  What did I pick up?

  • Bloom & Fentimans
  • Lone Wolf
  • Portobello Road & Franklin and Sons
  • Edinburgh Gin and Tonic
  • Adnams Copper House and Tonic
  • Gordons and Schweppes
  • Greenall’s and Soda (oops)
  • Alfie Gin and Diet Tonic (Morrisons own brand)
  • Finton’s Gin and Diet Tonic (Lidl own brand)
  • My Classic Gin and Tonic (Asda own brand)
  • London Dry Gin and Tonic (Tesco reduced calorie own brand)
  • Gin and Diet Tonic (Sainsburys own brand)

I asked the good people of Twitter what information they wanted included in this little review and was surprised at the volume of responses…  Some interesting requests which, where I can, I’m happy to try and fulfill…

  • Ratio of gin to tonic
  • Where to buy
  • Calories
  • Sugar Content/Sugar replacement
  • Are both slimline and regular versions available?
  • Thoughts on can/bottle design, including photos
  • Is a garnish recommended?  Does it need it?
  • Volume of liquid in the container

What I will say in respect of the request for calories and sugar/sweetener content is that where the supermarket own brand cans were, for the most part, very upfront in respect of this information the bigger brands had very little and, in some cases, none of this information noted.  I felt this was a little disappointing in today’s calorie obsessed world.

The final thing I want to point out before we get going here is the fact that with the gin to tonic ratio…  Maths isn’t my strong suit so, if you believe the ratio to be incorrect, please don’t hesitate to let me know and I’ll get it fixed as soon as possible.  I did my best and used the sums given online but I did struggle to get my head around it a bit to be totally honest.

THE TASTING
So we wanted to do an unbiased, blind taste test…  However…  It turns out I don’t have 12 identical glasses…  So that, admittedly, was a bit of a fail.
So, how did I get round this I hear you yell through your phone/computer.  Very simply I used stickers.  A small sticker was stuck to the bottom of the can/bottle and another, corresponding sticker was stuck to the bottom of the glass.  This was a very small coloured sticker and all of them appeared white through the glass as you drank…  Problem solved.
My other half took care of sticking the stickers and pouring the drinks.  I then came in and mixed up the glasses and lined them up next to a numbered sheet.  This numbered sheet was simply for note taking and didn’t serve any purpose in respect of the can to glass identification.
The next stage was to begin tasting.  Prior to beginning and between, what turned out to be, every sip we took small drinks of water to try to limit “cross contamination”.

What I wanted from this was for it to be as unbiased and impartial as was humanly possible.  I can say with 100% honesty that I had no idea what specific can/bottle I was drinking at any given moment through the taste test.  It’s also worth my reminding you that at this point I was unaware that the Greenalls one was soda…  not tonic.

So….  Onto the blind taste test.  We’ll go through them from the lowest score to the highest.  The scores were out of a total possible score of twenty.  Four of the gins scored the same.  As a result of this they were tasted again together and ranked again from that.

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Lets begin…

  • Bloom & Fentimans Tonic
    ABV – 6.5%
    Cost – £3.00, Asda
    Volume – 275ml
    Regular and Slimline Versions Available? – No
    Calories – Not Available
    Garnish Recommended? – None
    Gin to Tonic Ratio – 5:1
    Score  = 6/20
    Design and branding wise you can tell INSTANTLY that the tonic is Fentimans simply due to the bottle.  The only thing Bloom-y is really the colour of the label…  Seems this is a very Fentimans orientated pre-mix.  Detail is fairly clear and on the back is a description of the gin and tonic themselves.  No information pertaining to ingredients or calories.
    This had quite a strong lemony smell from it.  When tasted the flavour of lemon was there but it was extremely synthetic and unpleasant.  This was very disappointing as I really like Fentimans…  I’ve never tried Bloom gin.  Not sure what the issue is here.  We both found this to be almost undrinkable scoring it with a low 3 each.
  • Gin & Diet Tonic
    ABV – 5%
    Cost – £1.00, Sainsburys (Own Brand)
    Volume – 250ml
    Regular and Slimline Versions Available? – Yes
    Calories – Regular: 138, Slimline: 68
    Garnish Recommended? – None
    Gin to Tonic Ratio – 6:1
    Score = 10/20
    The can is grey and a little sad.  They’ve tried to add a splash of colour with some dots and a relatively funky design but it still just sits there being grey.  There was basic calorie and nutritional information on the back of the can.
    There was very little in terms of smell from this one.  Taste-wise it didn’t offer much up in the way of gin.  We both agreed that this could easily be mistaken for a glass of lemonade.  We scored it a middle of the road 5 for the simple fact you could drink and enjoy it well enough but it lost points as there was no evidence of gin.  We awarded this a 5 each.
  • My Classic Gin & Diet Tonic
    ABV – 4%
    Cost – £1.00, Asda (Own Brand)
    Volume – 250ml
    Regular and Slimline Versions Available? – Yes
    Calories – Regular: 124 , Slimline: Unknown at time of writing TBU
    Garnish Recommended? – Wedge of Lime
    Gin to Tonic Ratio – 6:1
    Score = 12/20
    Asda have went for something a bit different on their branding and can aesthetic in that they’ve gone with a white can.  It’s very clear what it is and the falling lime wedges give an indication as to the potential flavouring in the can as well as the garnish recommended.  Calorie information was noted on the back of the can but nothing about the ingredients used.
    This is the first of the cans that scored a 12.  The reason that this was ranked bottom was simply the alcohol content.  It is, on average, 1% lower than the majority but is the same price so that put it into the bottom spot for the 12s.  Smell wise there wasn’t much from it and when tasting it had quite a good flavour of lime coming from it with a slight hit of gin underneath.  This one was awarded a 6 from each of us.
  • Alfie Gin and Tonic
    ABV – 4%
    Cost – £1.00, Morrisons (Own Brand)
    Volume – 250ml
    Regular and Slimline Versions Available? – Yes
    Calories:  Regular: 160, Slimline: 60
    Garnish Recommended? – None
    Gin to Tonic Ratio – Unknown, couldn’t find full spirit ABV
    Score – 12/20
    Another grey can.  This one had a splash of green with the main logo being black on a white background.  This is nothing stand out…  Very boring can.  Probably among the least interesting in terms of aesthetic that I picked up.  Nutritional information was to the side of the can with some limited information regarding sweeteners on the back.
    I felt this one tasted quite strongly of lime…  There wasn’t much of a ginny hit off of this which is one reason it is ranked fairly low…  The other is that it has the lower ABV – similarly to the Asda one.  It’s totally inoffensive and will quench your thirst if it’s all you can get your hands on but it’s not going to make you want to make it a staple, you know?  We gave this a 6 each.
  • Adnams Copper House Gin and Tonic
    ABV – 5%
    Cost – £2.00, Tesco
    Volume – 250ml
    Regular and Slimline Versions Available? – No
    Calories – 135
    Garnish Recommended? – Orange Zest
    Gin to Tonic Ratio – 7:1
    Score – 12/20
    One of the more interesting can designs, in my humble opinion.  Yes, it is still a grey/silver can but these guys have smashed a bright turquoise banner across it and then used white and a copper colour to do the brand names.  I like it as I think it would be far more likely to attract your attention than some of the others on this list.  Calorie information was on the back of the can but there wasn’t much in the way of nutritional or information on ingredients used.
    Copper House is a gin I haven’t tried before, although I am aware of it.  There was a nice citrus taste on this which I did enjoy but I felt it washed away and I was left with this, fairly strong spice.  I wonder if it’s the cardamom.  I also noted that there was a slight bitterness in the aftertaste which I was keen on but it didn’t linger too long to be a deal breaker.  I gave this a 7 but Louise gave them a bit of a hit with a low 5.
  • Lone Wolf Gin and Tonic
    ABV – 8.8%
    Cost – £3.00, Tesco
    Volume – 330ml
    Regular and Slimline Versions Available? – No
    Calories – Not Available
    Garnish Recommended? – None
    Gin to Tonic Ratio – 4:1
    Score – 12/20
    Grey can with a couple of logos on it…  Very basic.  Quite disappointing.  I know Lone Wolf have generally been minimal with branding which is ok but it doesn’t grab attention.  Also worth noting is that this can had almost no further information on it.
    This one honestly came as such a surprise to me that it was so low down…  But I’ll tell you something…  There was something really overpowering about what I was tasting.  I think it’s a combination of the cardamom and pine but it was just far too much. I’m not sure if it’s something about these botanicals in a can but this is very similar to what I felt with the Copper House. It was very smooth though which is the very least I’d expect…  I won’t lie…  Considering it’s a distiller I love and that it’s the most expensive out of the ones I picked up it was a bit of a let down.  Lone Wolf scored a pair of 6s.
  • Portobello Road & Franklin and Sons Tonic
    ABV – 5.5%
    Cost – £2.00, Tesco
    Volume – 250ml
    Regular and Slimline Versions Available? – No
    Calories – Not Available
    Garnish Recommended? – None
    Gin to Tonic Ratio – 6:1
    Score = 13/20
    I won’t lie…  This can is cool.  I love the design, I love the style and I love that it is totally different to almost everything else on the shelves.  It feels like it should be overcrowded but the branding for both the gin and tonic are still clear and easy to make out.  There was no calorie, nutritional or ingredient information on this can at all.
    Not a great deal on the nose with this one but I actually thought it was a very enjoyable gin and tonic…  Especially considering it was poured pre-mixed from a can!  I felt that I was getting a really pleasant, smooth, fresh gin and tonic flavour with a lovely ginny feel.  I scored it with a 7 and Louise hit it with a 6.
  • Greenall’s with Sicilian Lemon (and Soda…  Oops)
    ABV – 5%
    Cost – £1.95, Morrisons
    Volume – 250ml
    Regular and Slimline Versions Available? – No
    Calories – Not Available
    Garnish Recommended? – None
    Gin to Tonic Ratio – 6:1
    Score = 14/20
    Grey…  But this time it has a lot more colour to help it stand out.  The branding is done on a green background with a lovely big yellow lemon underneath. Again, it’s nothing outstanding but it is a bit more attention grabbing.  What I would like to see is it being made more obvious that this contains soda and not tonic…  The ingredients were noted to the back of the can but no nutritional or calorie information.
    Remember this is the one with soda…  This one basically tasted (and looked) like cloudy lemonade.  It was really really tasty but, clearly, not a gin and tonic.  This was where it ranked initially BUT technically it shouldn’t count…  But it is a really lovely thing to drink…  Probably too easy to drink if I’m honest.  We both scored this one a 7.
  • Edinburgh Gin and Tonic
    ABV – 6%
    Cost – £2.00, Tesco
    Volume – 250ml
    Regular and Slimline Versions Available? – No
    Calories – Not Available
    Garnish Recommended? – None
    Gin to Tonic Ratio – 6:1
    Score – 14/20
    This can I like.  It has the typical Edinburgh Gin branding and is a lovely light blue colour for the most part.  It’s simple but different and very very clear.  I like this can.  The can did not contain any information about ingredients, calories or nutritional.
    I actually really liked this one and was relieved when one of the “bigger brands” came through as being up in the top of the chart.  Very smooth and a delicious citrus flavour.  The reason it’s marked down and only placing fourth is that the Lidl and Tesco ones are half the price and, honestly, on par.  Unlike some on the list there’s a lovely hit of gin aswell…  Which is nice.  An easy 7 from us both.
  • Finton’s Gin and Diet Tonic
    ABV – 5%
    Cost – 99p, Lidl
    Volume – 250ml
    Regular and Slimline Versions Available? – Yes
    Calories – Not Available
    Garnish Recommended? – None
    Gin to Tonic Ratio – 6:1
    Score = 14/20
    Half white can half grey can.  The branding is all done on the white banner along the top half…  The logo has a little top hat…  Other than that this is nothing special.  There was some sparse information about sweetners used but no noted calorie information.
    Same score as the Greenfalls but this had to go higher because it actually is a gin and tonic drink.  This had a lovely citrus taste to it, predominantly lemon.  So fresh and flavoursome and extremely drinkable.  You could tell there was gin in it and we both really enjoyed it.  This was scored a 7 from each of us.
  • London Dry Gin and Tonic
    ABV – 5%
    Cost – £1, Tesco (Own Brand)
    Volume – 250ml
    Regular and Slimline Versions Available? – Yes
    Calories – Regular: 118, Slimline: 69
    Garnish Recommended? – Fresh Lime Wedge
    Gin to Tonic Ratio – 6:1
    Score = 15/20
    Tesco seem to have went to some effort with decorating the can but the problem is the green detail put straight onto the silver can gets a little lost.  They’ve tried to keep it simple but I think they’ve maybe got their colour scheme wrong if they wanted the branding etc to jump off the shelf.  The can does contain a list of ingredients and the calorie information.
    Similarly to the Finton’s this had a lovely fresh citrus hit to it and was just as enjoyable to drink…  However what put it over the edge ever so slightly for me was that it had a stronger taste of gin which, for my taste buds, balanced it out to be more akin to how I would take my G&T.  I hit this one with a solid 8 and Louise held back with a 7.
  • Gordons and Schweppes Tonic
    ABV – 5%
    Cost – £1.80 (price varies), Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsburys
    Volume – 250ml
    Regular and Slimline Versions Available? – Yes
    Calories – Regular: 213, Slimline: 75
    Garnish Recommended? – None
    Gin to Tonic Ratio – 6:1
    Score = 15/20
    Branding wise this is unmistakably Gordons.  The thing is its very much the same as most of the others in terms of its overall aesthetic.  Silver can, white banner, green and black detail.  What I will add though is that it’s very clear whats inside.  The Schweppes logo may be small and near the bottom but given its a bright yellow logo on the silver can it does stand out.  There was no detail on the ingredients used but the calories contained within were on the front and back of the can.
    Gordons was the surprise winner…  I won’t lie.  It pipped the Tesco one with the same score and genuinely took us both by surprise as it was the final reveal.  It scored a total of 15 and our individual scores were still the same as the Tesco one…  However what put this one over the edge was how smooth it was as well as this lovely gin flavour that shone through and finished with this lovely citrus aftertaste!  I gave this an 8 and Louise gave another 7.

Most of the pre-mixed stuff seemed to have an elevated amount of citrus in it so, in my opinion you should be good for a garnish-free tipple on the train but maybe if you’re home fire the lime wedge in…  For fun if nothing else!

PROPER G&T COMPARED TO THE PRE-MIXED VERSION
The final thing I thought would be interesting to do was compare a canned G&T to the real thing.  The only gin out of all of the ones tasted that I had an actual bottle of was Lone Wolf…  So that was the decision made then.

How Does Lone Wolf Gin and Tonic Compare to the Lone Wolf Canned G&T?
I tried to find info on the can to see if there was any idea of the ratio of gin to tonic in it…  There wasn’t.  The can says on it that its served as it would be in a bar so i figured that must the the typical 3:1 tonic to gin ratio…  I then fired up a post on Twitter (because we can’t do stuff these days without telling the world) about this part of the experiment and I was quickly told that, through the magic of maths, it was actually worked out that the ratio was actually 4:1…  Not sure what decent bar would serve it like that to be honest….  But anyway the deed had already been done at this point so there wasn’t much I could do other than wallow in the fact that my maths is so bad that even when the equation was loosely explained…  I still didn’t get it…  Luckily, for the most part, to do social media, blog and my day job maths is not a requirement so this inability generally goes unnoticed and I can blend in with normal smart society!

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Anyway…  Enough blabbering about my inability to count.  On to the results of the highly scientific experiment…

So essentially I poured my (totally wrong) 3:1 ratio gin to tonic using the Lone Wolf gin with their own tonic into my stubby little glass (barely fit but there we go) and then fired the canned equivalent into the same exact type of glass.
I didn’t apply any garnish as I wanted to sample ONLY the liquid… Why? You ask… I have no idea…  Maybe part of the decision was made based off the fact it was getting late and I couldn’t be bothered cutting grapefruit…  Maybe the other part was I wanted to just keep it at it’s most base level.
With both glasses filled we took a try of each…  The biggest surprise was that they tasted very similar (not sure why this was a surprise because, in theory, thats exactly what they should be like!)…  There actually wasn’t much to differentiate the two…  However what was interesting is that that botanical taste in the can I mentioned earlier was, of course, present in the actual gin and tonic as well BUT no where near as strong…  Weird right?  I found this to be far more palatable as I genuinely found that taste too much in the can…  However…  Louise preferred the can to the real thing.

So to sum up…  I think the pre-mixed variants are good in a pinch or for ease during travel or for a picnic or something but, in my opinion, they don’t really stack up to the real thing…  bet you’re shocked by that outcome.

The final thing I’ll say is to remind you that this is all based off of the personal taste of me and my other half…  Everyone’s taste is, of course, very different but hopefully this may give you a step for a hint with ones to maybe avoid AND maybe make you more inclined to try certain others.
What I realised with the blind tasting is that my bias and gin snobbyness may have led me to miss out on some cans that actually were fairly enjoyable and, instead, pick up branded gins that I actually may not have liked as much.

Try some for yourself and see what you think…  And please let me know your thoughts on my list and the order they came in…  Also are there any other taste tests/experiments that you’d like me to do?  Let me know as we had a ball doing this one.

As always thanks so much for spending some time with my thoughts and you can get more involved in my blog by following my social media and taking part in polls which do include what subjects you’d like me to dig into for future posts so follow me using the links below…  You probably won’t regret it.

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Cheers
Nic x

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