This article was created in partnership with Proof & Company NZ
Before a drink makes it to the menu at your favourite bar, the bartender has put a bit of thought into it. Whether it's a classic cocktail or some new cool tipple, they select which brands of liquor and juice to use, test a few combinations and put together, the formula that they find to be the best. Eventually, they pour it into the perfect glass in front of a patron waiting eagerly at the bar in front of them.
For Curatif, a company that specialise in world class cocktails, it is much the same. But to them, the perfect glass is a can, ready to go wherever you need it to. It has to be shelf-stable, it has to look right, and of course, it has to be as good, or better, than what you'd get at a cocktail bar. How do they do that? Matt Sanger, as one of the founders of Curatif (along with Jez Spencer and Sam Lane) knows well, the key ingredient is as much research as it takes to get the drink absoloutely right.
"Fortunately while we have reinvented the wheel for ready to serve cocktails, we don't have to search too far for inspiration - there's a whole world of incredible cocktails that have already been invented, improved, and are deeply loved for us to choose from when we're preparing to launch a new drink."
Indeed, the list of Curatif's canned cocktails includes a Negroni, a Mai Tai, a Daquiri, and an Espresso Martini among others. They're already drinks that appear on plenty of menus and at the top of everyones favourites lists - so when the team at Curatif pick a drink to make, their first step is to make it the same way any bartender would: "that gives us the benchmark for taste, appearance, and texture," Matt tells.
"Whenever we're working through development the end goal is to ensure that the cocktail that comes out of the can is as good or better than what you would find in a cocktail bar, so we have to ensure that the ingredients we work with are up to the task - that's why we work with such incredible makers and distillers."
On the Curatif 'liquor shelf' you'll find Four Pillars Gin and classic Campari for their Negroni, Archie Rose Distilling Co vodka for their Espresso Martini. It's an ecclectic mix of spirits, sourced because each it right for the drink. That sets the benchmark for Curatif to start working on the "formula", which, as Matt points out, "feels like a pretty clinical description for a cocktail recipe", but it's important to them to ensure that the finished product looks, tastes, and delights as it should.
For their juicy cocktails, including the soon-to-be-released Plantation Pineapple Daiquiri, they are proud to work with an Austalian juice producer who provides them with full-flavoured fruit that tastes as good from a can as juice squeezed right in front of you: "In itself, that's no easy feat," says Matt. And because fruit changes with the seasons, it's even trickier: "we do modify our formulations seasonally to account for the different sugar profiles of winter and summer fruit." How's that for the pursuit of perfection?
The process of creating their Espresso Martini was no less painstaking - it took two years, working with the team at Seven Seeds Coffee for months to find the perfect roast, grind, and brewing method, to make sure it was perfect, and, in Matt's words, ensure it had that "real roast flavour that you would expect of espresso from your favourite cafe". Those two years of research and development paid off in the form of multiple awards around the world, including a Double Gold Medal at the Aussie RTDs blitz 2020 SIP Awards.
The Curatif team know that a drink is ready to go into the can when it tastes just like (or better than) the drink you'd get at a really good cocktail bar. Then they can the drink nd share it with a few trusted palates for feedback - "and provided that those palates agree with ours we know that we're onto another winner."
Curatif's Four Pillars Negroni
"Our most recent launch - the Never Never Distilling Co Negroni took us well into the night reformulating to achieve the perfect combination of taste and texture. Passion for the process is critical - nothing goes out the door without many hours of review."
Their new Negroni, available this November, will be mixed with multi-award winning Never Never Distilling Co Triple Juniper Gin and Mancino Rosso Vermouth, produced by superstar bartender and producer Giancarlo Mancino.
It's certainly a labour of love, but when you try their products at a picnic, on the beach, out on the boat or at your place, you'll taste the difference, like a bartender in a can.