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RTD Meaning Unveiled: Your Guide to the Convenience of Ready-to-Drink Cocktails


RTD Meaning Unveiled: Your Guide to the Convenience of Ready-to-Drink Cocktails

If you’re exploring the world of alcoholic drinks, you might have stumbled upon the abbreviation ‘RTD’ and wondered what it stands for. In the drinks industry, RTD means ‘Ready-To-Drink’— pre-mixed alcoholic concoctions specifically created for immediate consumption. Here we explore the origins, diversity, and growing appeal of RTD cocktails, shedding light on why these handy, convenient and easily transportable drinks have become a staple in the summer social scene.

  • Want to enjoy all the flavour of a cocktail without the expense of investing in a full selection of spirits and mixers? RTD cocktails provide the perfect solution for enjoying a range of sophisticated drinks without the need for mixology skills—ideal for parties, picnics, festivals or spur-of-the-moment celebrations.
  • The RTD sector is teeming with options, offering a huge range of signature creations in addition to classic cocktail favourites, all using premium ingredients to provide the ultimate in taste and quality.
  • Business is booming. The UK’s RTD market is on an upward trajectory, driven by consumer demand for both convenience and high-calibre drinks. Industry trends point to an expanding selection, including options with lower alcohol content and alcohol-free versions, perfect for an increasingly health-conscious audience.

Understanding RTD: The Basics

RTD is an abbreviation for Ready-To-Drink, denoting drinks that are pre-mixed and available for immediate enjoyment. White Claw, a popular example of an RTD product, has significantly impacted the market as the most popular hard seltzer in the RTD category. These convenient tipples typically come in cans or bottles and offer the simplicity of a cocktail experience without the fuss of preparation. There’s no need to gather a multitude of ingredients or master an intimidating array of techniques, because all the hard work is done for you. It’s essentially like having a personal mixologist on hand at all times! All you have to do is chill, pour and enjoy.

History of RTD Cocktails

Previously limited to sugary alcopops favoured by students and lukewarm cans for long, boozy train journeys, the RTD cocktail has undergone a significant glow-up in recent years, and they’re poised to become the go-to choice for a whole new generation of drinkers.

The story of RTD cocktails is as intriguing as the drinks themselves. The idea of pre-mixed cocktails can be traced back to 1892 with the launch of Heublein’s ‘Club Cocktails’ brand, which included traditional drinks as Manhattans, martinis, stingers, sidecars, and daiquiris, as well as fashionable period drinks. In 1969, Heublein began selling some of these cocktails in eight-ounce cans. In the 1970s, Heublein introduced “Malcolm Hereford’s Cow”, a new line of flavoured milk, 30-proof beverage (15% alcohol) that was popular primarily with women and college students.

These early experiments paved the way for the RTD category we recognise today. Gin-based cocktails, such as the popular Lonkero from Finland, also played a significant role in the history of RTD beverages.

The 2010s marked a notable resurgence in the RTD sector, particularly within the UK. From a classic Pimm’s to an Espresso Martini, the RTD category has redefined the British cocktail experience. What sparked this revival? A blend of convenience, innovation, and a craving for high-quality, artisan alternatives.

Types of RTD Alcoholic Refreshments

The demand for variety and innovation is pivotal in captivating the taste buds of RTD cocktail enthusiasts. The surge in popularity of premium cocktails has fuelled an increased appetite among consumers for RTD drinks that offer a broad spectrum of flavours and visually engaging presentations, prompting brands to diversify their range with new and increasingly creative flavour profiles. 

Far from being a limited format, the RTD category of alcoholic drinks encompasses a vast array of options. Among these, citrus alcopops stand out as a popular choice, blending alcohol with fruit juices or fizzy drinks to create an exciting spectrum of flavours. These typically include spirits such as vodka – currently the most popular RTD spirit – or rum, offering a light and fruity option ideal for casual drinking and the summer season.

In addition to new creations, classics are also available as RTDs, including time honoured classics like negronis, espresso martinis and mojitos. There are also fantastic low ABV alternatives to cater for the sober curious and low calorie hard seltzers for the health conscious.

The Appeal of RTD Cocktails

The shift from traditional cocktail mixing to embracing ready-to-drink cocktails in cans or bottles is significantly influenced by the trend of enjoying premium cocktails in the comfort of one’s own home, often referred to as the at-home cocktail culture which reached new heights during the pandemic and has maintained its popularity ever since. There was also a brief backlash to the ‘craft cocktail’ movement and mixologist culture, with drinkers unwilling to wait for lengthy prep times. With a pre-mixed option you can savour professionally crafted cocktails without ever having to leave the cosy confines of your living room.

Craftsmanship has become a hallmark of modern RTD cocktails. Brands are collaborating with renowned bartenders to create authentic recipes, ensuring a genuine cocktail experience. This shift is supported by advanced packaging technologies, such as nitrogen flush packaging and recyclable materials, which preserve flavour and carbonation while minimising environmental impact.

Another significant trend is the expansion of flavour profiles. Traditional cocktails like margaritas and mojitos now share shelf space with unique creations featuring exotic fruits, botanical infusions, and unexpected spice combinations. This diversity caters to adventurous palates and allows consumers to explore new tastes without the need for extensive bar equipment or ingredients.

RTD cocktails are crafted with convenience at their core, dispensing with the need for precise mixology skills or a cupboard full of ingredients — all you have to do is open and enjoy immediately. Indeed, the quality is so good they’ve even seen a boost in sales from people who traditionally favour spirits and mixing.

The RTD sector is experiencing rapid growth, with an ever-increasing variety of products catering to the ready-to-drink cocktail market in the UK as brands look to recruit the next generation of drinkers. Recently, certain types of RTD cocktails have seen a surge in popularity due to their convenience and the diverse range of flavours they offer.

Among the products experiencing significant growth are:

  • Tequila-based cocktails such as a Margarita which brings the spirited zest of Mexican culture to the UK.
  • Whiskey-infused alternatives such as sours, offering the rich and bold flavours that whiskey enthusiasts crave.
  • Fruit-flavoured vodka mixers, which provide a refreshing and light alternative for casual enjoyment.

ABV and Serving Information

Health-conscious consumers are also driving innovation. Low-calorie, low-sugar, and organic RTD options are proliferating the market, appealing to those seeking balanced indulgence. Additionally, the rise of non-alcoholic RTD cocktails addresses the demand for inclusive social beverages, offering sophisticated flavours without the alcohol content. 

Understanding the alcohol content and serving suggestions of RTD cocktails is crucial for responsible consumption and enjoyment. The good news is that with RTD cocktails you’re in safe hands. Typically, these pre-mixed drinks:

  • Have an ABV that is lower than spirits yet varies across the range of products available
  • Are generally milder in terms of alcohol strength compared to neat spirits
  • Feature alcohol levels that can be on par with or sometimes higher than many beers found in the UK.

The alcohol percentage in RTD cocktail offerings spans a broad spectrum. For example, a Negroni might have an ABV of 14-22%, while a pre mixed mojito could be around 4-5%. Recognising these variances is important as it influences how the body processes alcohol and informs appropriate serving sizes.

Enjoying everything from a light spritz to a hearty cocktail becomes more manageable with knowledge of its ABV, facilitating a balanced approach to drinking.

Serving Suggestions for the UK Market

Properly serving RTD cocktails can significantly enhance the drinking experience. For optimal enjoyment, these cocktails should be well-chilled by refrigerating them at least an hour before serving. Pouring some varieties over ice can keep the drink cold while also softening stronger flavours gradually.

As the old saying goes, you taste with the eyes first. Just because these cocktails come pre-packaged it doesn’t mean you can’t get creative, especially if you’re enjoying them at home. Choosing the right glassware, such as a tall glass for carbonated mixes or a stemmed glass for stirred or shaken creations, can elevate the entire experience. Adding fresh garnishes like a slice of lemon, a few berries, or a sprig of mint not only enriches the taste profile but also adds visual appeal—transforming a simple RTD cocktail into a special treat with a touch of extra care and attention to detail.

The RTD (Ready-To-Drink) market is buzzing with activity, shaped by consumer preferences, innovative product development, and prevailing industry trends. This dynamic sector is poised for substantial growth, largely fueled by consumers’ increasing appetite for convenience in their alcoholic beverage choices. But what does the future hold for marketing within this vibrant drinks category?

Current projections indicate that the RTD market will outpace the average growth rates witnessed across the broader alcohol industry, propelled by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR). A striking example of this growth is the projection that the low- and no-alcohol segment of the RTD market is expected to grow by an impressive 7.1% annually through 2024, as reported by IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. This surge is driven by a consumer push towards healthier lifestyle choices and an interest in more sophisticated, non-alcoholic beverage options.

The innovation within the RTD landscape continues to emphasise high-quality ingredients, unique flavour combinations, and a sense of luxury. There is a concerted effort to cater to specific consumer preferences, including the development of low-calorie options and non-alcoholic alternatives. These trends forecast a vibrant future for the RTD cocktail category, with a diverse range of products ready to satisfy the discerning tastes of consumers around the globe.

Market Size and Growth Projections

In 2022, the UK market for Ready-to-Drink (RTD) alcoholic beverages experienced a growth of 8.1% in sales value, reaching £866 million. This segment notably outperformed other categories, with a significant portion of the population, around 37%, consuming these drinks. This demographic primarily includes younger adults, particularly those aged 18-34, who accounted for 61% of RTD consumers​ (Mintel Store)​.

Additionally, the Flavoured Alcoholic Beverages (FABs) segment within the RTD category is projected to see significant growth. This is part of a broader trend towards premiumisation and craft offerings in the RTD market, with more consumers seeking high-quality, diverse flavours that provide a sense of luxury or escapism​ (Simpsons Beverages)​.

In the dynamic RTD category, there is a noticeable uptick in emerging trends and innovations. The inclination of consumers towards frequent introductions of novel flavours, collaborative branding efforts, and creative packaging designs are shaping their perception of high-quality products and influencing their buying choices. There’s an evident shift toward crafting RTD refreshments with an alcohol by volume (ABV) content below 4%, showcasing that innovation also encompasses the development of lighter options for drinks.

The patterns of consumption within the realm of ready-to-drink products are changing as customers broaden their horizons. They’re drinking more frequently, consuming greater amounts during each session, and delving into various RTD sub-categories. Since 2021, there has been a deceleration in innovation rates within this sector suggesting a strategic pivot towards launching new offerings with precise targeting strategies. It’s anticipated that these evolving trends will significantly transform the trajectory of the RTD domain over the coming years.


RTD cocktails are very much here to stay, and they’re getting better and better! The world of cocktails has been transformed by the emergence of RTD or ready-to-drink options. These premixed cocktails provide a blend of quality, convenience, and innovation, enabling consumers to enjoy an array of cocktails effortlessly, with an option to suit every preference. With their roots stretching back over years and a market that continues to expand rapidly, the RTD category is poised for impressive growth in the foreseeable future. Embrace this drink revolution and explore an extensive range of cocktails now available at your fingertips with RTD choices.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does RTD stand for?

“Ready to Drink,” commonly abbreviated as RTD, signifies drinks that are available for consumption in their pre-prepared form.

Savour your drink anywhere and anytime!

What is the history of RTD cocktails?

Since 1892, when Heublein introduced the ‘Club Cocktails’ brand, ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails have had a history. Their popularity has experienced a notable increase starting from the 2010s.

The sustained interest in these convenient pre-mixed cocktails illustrates that consumers appreciate being able to enjoy drinks without going through elaborate preparation steps.

Cocktails that are ready-to-drink (RTD) have gained popularity due to their ability to offer a high-quality cocktail experience at home. They provide the convenience of savouring professionally crafted drinks without the necessity for an assortment of ingredients or specialised skills.

Indeed, cheers to such ease and enjoyment!

What is the ABV of RTD cocktails?

The alcohol by volume (ABV) in RTD (ready-to-drink) cocktails spans a broad range, typically less than that found in classic spirits but with notable variability. For example, a robust Negroni may boast an ABV of 22%, while an Espresso Martini might come in at 25.7%. On the lighter side, options like certain flavoured spritzers or wine coolers offer much lower ABV levels, sometimes as modest as 3-5%, catering to those seeking a milder buzz.

What is the market size and growth projections of the RTD market?

In 2022, the worldwide market for RTDs was estimated at $33.9 billion and is forecasted to increase to $40 billion by the year 2027. This growth trajectory includes an anticipated doubling of volume share in leading markets by 2025 and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about +15% from 2020 through 2025.

Purchase Your Favourite RTD Cocktails Today

Ready to elevate your at-home cocktail experience with the convenience of RTD beverages? Visit our curated selection of premium ready-to-drink cocktails and discover the perfect blend of quality, taste, and ease. Whether you’re hosting a party or enjoying a quiet evening, our collection has something for everyone. Don’t wait to indulge in the art of fine drinking—order your favourite RTD cocktails now and savour the impeccable flavours delivered straight to your door.



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