Beverage

How Ready Are They?: Cutwater Spirits RTD Cocktails

Leading producer Cutwater Spirits ran their first national Super Bowl ad in 2022. We wanted to see how consumers feel about the product, so we analyzed five of their drinks.

An ambitious move

Ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails have recently gained popularity, and the pandemic spurred sales. Leading producer Cutwater Spirits ran the category’s first Super Bowl ad during game LVI. At an average cost of $6.5 million for a 30-second spot, the company’s ad declared its commitment to the canned cocktail sector of the adult beverage industry.

Noting these developments alongside March 24th being "National Cocktail Day" in the United States, Gastrograph AI wanted to see how consumers felt about the product, so we analyzed five of Cutwater Spirits canned cocktails across a USA general population aged 21-59. Their net impressions became Perceived Quality (PQ) scores on a 0-7 scale, with four or higher pointing to commercial viability.

What Gastrograph AI does



We use artificial intelligence to predict food and beverage flavor preferences for some 3 billion consumers worldwide. Unique in the industry, our model accounts for people’s experience of tasting—from tiny to vast. Continually trained by the world’s largest sensory database, Gastrograph AI can precisely interpret anyone’s flavor perceptions, even if they have no idea how to express them. We can then bring CPG companies the data they need to adjust, improve, or create new flavor profiles and products that consumers will love.

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Ranking Cutwater Spirits RTD Cocktails

Cutwater Tequila Margarita

The main ingredients of a classic Margarita are tequila, lime juice, and a sweetener. This flavor led the Cutwater rankings with a PQ score of 3.56 and preference driven by signatures of “fruit” and “sugars.” “Minerals,” “salt,” and “astringent” put consumers off, as did the intensity of dry.

The AI indicates that lifting the fruit signatures of berries, malic acid, pineapple, and wine grape would increase consumer preference as would decreasing the lime component.

Cutwater Vodka Mule

Next in ranking came the Vodka Mule with a PQ of 3.53, driven by signatures of “rich,” “bitter,” and “retronasal.” The presence and intensity of “spices,” “sour & acidity,” and “fruit” decreased consumer preference.

We learned that clove and oil were signature notes in “rich,” so increasing oil presence from 1% to 4.9% would add richness and lift consumer preference, as would augmenting the lemon note. Slightly reducing the presence of citric acid would also improve the Vodka Mule’s PQ score.

Cutwater Bali Hai Tiki Rum Mai Tai

According to eater.com, “The Mai Tai started as a rum cocktail so popular it supposedly depleted world rum supplies in the 1940s and ’50s.” Fast-forward to 2022, and the Cutwater Spirits version ranks third in our test. With a PQ of 3.16, our AI noted a cold finish with positive notes of “fruit” and a good level of “astringent.” The mouthfeel, presence of sugars, and signatures of “minerals” in this Mai Tai hurt consumer preference. 

The reference flavor effect chart tells us that increasing the levels of orange and citric acid would lift consumer preference, as would increasing the presence of both caramel and molasses. Decreasing the astringent intensity would also have a positive impact.  

Cutwater Bali Hai Tiki Rum Punch

Mindful that a typical rum punch includes light and dark rum; pineapple, orange, and lime juices; plus grenadine, our AI found that fruit signatures made up 45% of the flavor profile here. Various sugar references comprised most of the remaining profile to earn a PQ of 3.02.

The intensity levels of “mouthfeel,” “astringent,” and “retronasal” contributed to preference, while “cold finish” and “sugars” had a negative impact. De-emphasizing the latter pair while increasing the presence of sugar signatures like honey and orange peel would lift PQ scores.

Cutwater Grapefruit Tequila Paloma

Somebody has to finish last. While “dry,” “bitter,” and “fruit” worked in Grapefruit Tequila Paloma’s favor, the presence of sugar and intensity of “wet” and “retronasal” hurt the product’s PQ of 2.94.

Our AI found that increasing the presence of fruits such as coconut, red apple, and berries would improve consumer preference. Likewise, turning up cane sugar and vanilla levels would increase acceptance and raise the PQ score.

Cutwater Spirits RTD Cocktail Stack Rank

Product Perceived Quality (PQ) Mean Win Rate
Cutwater Tequila Margarita 3.56 60%
Cutwater Vodka Mule 3.53 59%
Cutwater Bali Hai Tiki Rum Mai Tai 3.16 48%
Cutwater Bali Hai Tiki Rum Punch 3.02 43%
Cutwater Grapefruit Tequila Paloma 2.94 40%

*PQ indicates preference on a 7-point hedonic scale

*Mean Win Rate is the average percentage of the target consumer demographic that prefers this product over other products

How to Create Delight

From RTD cocktails to powdered soft drinks, from corn chips to chocolates, we can reveal how people really feel about your product or concept. Our research and analyses here suggest that these Cutwater products have room for improvement and increased consumer preference.

Using discriminators from age and sex to food occasion, Analytical Flavor Systems can give companies the confidence to integrate flavors, textures, and aromas that will delight consumers around the globe. Let us help you discover the value of the truth in tasting. Just reach out.

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