Two of Suntory's latest RTDs, The Cocktail Bar Professional Gin & Tonic and The Cocktail Bar Professional Moscow Mule were just released on April 3rd. New, affordable, and two cocktails I drink at bars. Sure, why not?
Before that though let's just take a look at yesteryear. Suntory has in fact actually already had a "The Cocktail Bar" lineup of RTDs for several decades. The first of the series launched in March 1993, a good 25 years ago, and as years went by, there were a total of 100 different pre-mixed cocktails available in different sizes and containers. The Cocktail Bar was successful in its own right, inspiring both Nikka Whisky and Kyowa Hakko, whose drink business was eventually bought by Asahi, to release copycat versions. In Asahi's case, they still sell theirs, called Cocktail Partner. With the enactment of new laws in the late 90s, however, Suntory began to lose market share thanks to the rise of low-priced chuhai and happoshu. They mostly gave up on The Cocktail Bar brand, and since 2007, The Cocktail Bar has lived on only as just-add-ice 1.8L jugs.
But that changed on Tuesday. After just over a decade in hibernation, Suntory is trying to breathe new life into The Cocktail Bar with the release of The Cocktail Bar Professional Gin & Tonic and The Cocktail Bar Professional Moscow Mule RTDs. *sound of two cans popping opening*
The Cocktail Bar Professional Gin & Tonic
As I mentioned back when these were announced, the G&T does contain a hint of Suntory's Roku craft gin. And it really is just a hint!
Nose: There's a whiff of fake lime juice at first, but I am getting a faint note of Roku's floral notes, Afterwards I think I could even smell some juniper!
Palate: Putting this over ice was a bad idea, as it really took the bite out of the tonic. The texture is much too flat. Switching back to the can, it's easier to deal with. If you like a dry gin & tonic, don't expect much here. That said, if you're at the combini struggling to choose a roadie, it's dry enough to be a good alternative to the often overly sweet chuhai. It does actually does use gin as the base spirit, and you can taste it.
Finish: The tonic finally seems to come through afterwards! I've been waiting for that.
Flavor-wise it was much more tolerable going straight from the can. But really, who wants to drink a G&T with no ice? Even at this price point, you'd have to be pretty desperate.
The Cocktail Bar Professional Moscow Mule
Most combinis in Japan sell both vodka and ginger ale, and they also sell ice by the cup. So unless you absolutely must have lime, it's entirely possible for anyone to make their own combini Moscow Mule to their preferred abv. And Suntory wants to sell it to me in a can?
Nose: Canada Dry. Probably not -- Suntory already makes their own ginger ale.
Palate: That real lime juice does makes the slightest difference compared to the gin & tonic, but the balance is off here. Being 7% abv I would expect the ginger ale to step up to the plate and deliver, but sadly, it doesn't. Again, don't bother trying to put this one on ice either.
Finish: I wish the spiciness that I get from the ginger ale here would actually come out while the liquid was still in my mouth. This just leaves me wishing I had a real Moscow Mule, strong & gingery as they should be.
Unfortunately, both were quite disappointing! I advise you to stick with chuhai.
Whiskey Richard is the founder of nomunication.jp, and has been saying he has lived in Japan for ten years for the past four years. He enjoys drinking basically anything except straight-up Campari.