The Great British Shake-off

Izzy Payne

Izzy Payne


After building a website for our friends at Moth our eyes were opened to the possibilities of canned cocktails, but is the canned version better than the DIY? We did a very official experiment to put them to the test.

Moth, standing for ‘mix of total happiness’, is a brand of canned cocktails that packs premium mixology into a portable can at an affordable price. Canned cocktails are so in right now, and Moth has created an elevated product to take your at-home cocktail experience to another level.

One thing you should know about me is that I love a good DIY. From making my own clothes to building furniture to doing DIY gel manicures, if I can do it myself I’ll always give it a fair whack. So upon the first sip of my first magnificent can of Moth, I began to wonder…could you do it yourself and it still be this good?

I know that a big plus factor of Moth is its inherent portability. If this test were a real controlled study, we’d probably have to be doing this on public transport, but that seemed pretty inconsiderate for everyone involved.

This is not a test of portability or convenience, because if it was Moth would already win. This is a test of taste and overall drinking experience. So I gathered the most inexperienced gaggle of Neverblanders I could find to put their skills to the test.

We basically wanted to see whether doing it yourself is better. I think you can see where this is going. The teams were chosen and their names were picked:

Margarita Mammas a.k.a. Lauren and Bichen

Scared Shotless a.k.a. Ryan and Bethan

Shake-Off Queens a.k.a. Sarah and Laura

Let the games begin.

ROUND ONE: martini mayhem

In case you were wondering why I’m qualified to conduct such an official experiment, I’m not really. Sure, I worked in pubs and bars since the tender age of fourteen, collecting decades' worth of experience in this area, but mostly I just felt like making an average Thursday in the office a lil’ more exciting.

Now, if we were training these guys to work in a proper cocktail bar, I would have had them make it properly, but that's not what this test is. It's a test of whether the average person, with no training or experience, can make a DIY that's as good as the Moth’s canned version. I’m not introducing them to dry shaking, emulsifying or pre-chilling. You’re getting an espresso martini (ish) in a juice glass. It’s called realism.

In the spirit of realism, all of our ingredients were procured from our finest local Tesco Extra. We’re using Smirnoff voddy, espresso out of the office coffee machine, Tia Maria and some homemade sugar syrup. The budget was tight guys.

I gave them the measurements and some (vague) instructions on how to tackle their first cocktail. The Shake-Off Queens were up first, and despite their confident name began to quiver at the knees a little. Admittedly, I didn’t give them the most help. They knew the measurements and got a quick tutorial on shaking from me. What I neglected to tell them was how much ice to use, or how long to do it for, so The Shake-Off Queens produced more bubbles than the bougie cocktail.

Next up was Scared Shotless, who took a more strategic approach after learning from their competitor's mistakes. Once they figured out which side of the measure was the 50ml, they were flying. After a vigorous shake and a quick silent prayer, the martini was poured and it looked pretty perfect. We’ll find out how it tastes later in the competition.

Last up was Margarita Mammas who decided to abandon the concept of measurement altogether, using nothing but sheer overconfidence to judge how much liquor to use. Despite my reservations their final product appeared to be good - I was impressed and relieved.

ROUND TWO: It’s all about the liming…or timing

Now onto the margaritas.

To make this more interesting I told the contestants what their ingredients were, but neglected to mention the measurements or technique to make a successful margarita. At least they knew that a margarita involved tequila, sugar syrup, lime juice and triple sec (except we didn’t have triple sec so we used Cointreau. soz.)

Oh, and I was timing them. Quickest wins. It’s about efficiency in the face of pressure.

Much like my favourite thirsty Thursday margarita, this competition just got spicy. We worked in the reverse order this time to ensure The Shake-Off Queens had a fighting chance. First up were the Margarita Mammas who began chucking things in the mixer at a vicious rate. Tasting as they went, their tequila infusion was ready in a lengthy 4 minutes and 50 seconds. For all that time taken, you’d hope it would taste good.

Scared Shotless were up next, who continued their methodical approach from the previous round. Continuing to measure and pour carefully, the pair completed their margarita in 3 minutes and 24 seconds. Sure it was faster, but whose concoction would taste better?

Last up to conquer margarita mountain were fan favourites the Shake-Off Queens. Combining the tactical approach of Scared Shotless and the sheer chaos of the Margarita Mammas, these two blitzed through their margarita in just 1 minute and 24 seconds. It was a record time, but will it stand up to the taste test?

ROUND THREE: the taste test

This is the round that convinced people to partake in my silly little experiment.  Unsurprisingly, we had more volunteers to taste than to make the cocktails, so nine people were judging the team’s creations. The contestants and volunteers will be blind tasting their cocktails against a can of Moth. Both samples are shaken over ice and served similar glasses to eliminate any visual discrimination that could bias the results. See? Proper scientific.

We went team by team blind tasting their cocktails next to the Moth cocktails. Turns out it was pretty easy to guess which one was the Moth cocktail because some of the cocktails turned out by the teams elicited some tragic reactions.

First up to be judged (anonymously of course) were Shake-Off Queens. Once I had reshaken and repoured the martini it looked stunning. It tasted alright too, in part due to the massive amount of sugar syrup they had dolloped in at the last minute. Despite the group's collective sweet tooth, it was another point for Moth. A bit more of a split on the vote though. Neverblanders are fiends for a sweet treat. A strong start.

Next up was Scared Shotless, and despite my years of experience, I can’t quite explain how they managed to make an espresso martini that tasted that bad. I was like drinking old coffee with a shot of cheap vodka in it. Rough on the taste buds, rough on the head the next morning. Point to Moth. Unanimous.

“That is vile.”

Bethan McGrath, creator of said gruesome beverage. Quoted before she knew it was her own cocktail.

Last up were the Margarita Mammas who, despite their chaotic approach to mixology, created a pretty damn good espresso martini. The texture was vastly better than their fellow competitor’s attempts but lacked a depth of coffee flavour.

Despite some moderate success, Moth wins the martini round. Next up: the margaritas.

It quickly became apparent that this round was going to get scrappy. I didn’t see it coming, but people were willing to go to the mat for their margs. This round was a bit closer, with Scared Shotless and Shake-Off Queens creating some extra sweet bevvies that split the vote. Ultimately, based on the overall drinking experience, Moth came out on top.

We had one last team to taste, and the hopes were high for it. Bichen and Lauren did score surprisingly high with their espresso martini and had been tasting their margarita throughout ensuring the best flavour they could muster. They spent the most time out of everyone in the group, so surely that would give them more time to create something tasty.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, the Margarita Mammas created a beverage so foul that even I wouldn't drink it, and I voluntarily drank Lambrini last weekend. I can’t tell you what was wrong with it, but it was just plain wrong.

“God, that is rough.”

Laura Palmer, ½ of the Shake-Off Queens

You won’t be surprised to hear that Moth won yet another round against the cup of lime-infused bath water produced by the Margarita Mammas. Never has a name been so ironic. Sorry guys.

The aftertaste

Let’s be real here, I probably wouldn’t be writing this article if we had made better cocktails than Moth, but that's kind of the whole point. Making cocktails can be really hard and grotesquely expensive if you want a good result. Our informal test used real novices, budget-friendly ingredients and basic equipment because that’s what the average person would be using.

It’s great that Moth won, not only for the sake of this article but because it proves that when you invest in quality ingredients you produce a beverage that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Whether you’re sipping a can on the train on your way to meet up with your friends, or whether you’re curled up on the sofa after a long week with a good book, Moth is the ultimate beverage companion.

Although Moth won the overall competition by a massive margin, our in-house winners were the Shake Off Queens. They were quick, and consistent and produced the best-tasting cocktails by a country mile. Their prize? Bragging rights for eternity and the remainder of the alcohol we used during this very official experiment.

So we’ve learned a couple of important lessons here today:

Lesson one: investing in quality products will give you a quality experience.

Lesson two: never trust Bichen and Lauren to make you a margarita.

Level up your at-home cocktail game here.

Related articles

Stay in the loop

Sign up to get our thoughts, work and other tidbits straight to your inbox. No spam, promise.