Review: We Tried The New Bottled Cocktails From NYC Hot Spot Via Carota

Via Carota is a cozy neighborhood restaurant serving Italian dishes in a transportive rustic trattoria. It's also the type of neighborhood joint where it's become near impossible to secure a reservation and attracts influencers and celebrities alike (go ahead, blame TikTok). Chefs and co-owners Rita Sodi and Jody Williams opened Via Carota in 2014 after each had established solo ventures, I Sodi and Buvette. The power couple (in business and life) is expanding the brand, and we're not just talking about the restaurants in Tokyo and Paris.

Via Carota has also created products for home consumption. Cookbooks? Sure, standard procedure. A line of pre-made craft cocktails inspired by their refined palates? That's worth a closer look. We took on the responsibility to investigate further by joining the chefs and owners for a tasting at the curated backroom in the Grove Street restaurant, a Florence-inspired space filled with glassware, china, and countless artisanal bottles. Chefs Sodi and Williams shared tasting notes and insights about the lengthy development process.

The good news is that you don't need to be nestled among the brownstones and luxury tourism of New York's West Village to enjoy a taste of your own. Here's our first take on Via Carota's bottled craft cocktails — and if they can stand up to the hype.

What's in the bottle

The Via Carota Cocktails team tells us it took two years to develop the six styles of ready-to-drink cocktails. The styles are broken into three families: custom-blend White Negroni and Classic Negroni, bourbon-based Old Fashioned and Manhattan cocktails, and Signature Martini and Espresso Martini. Each ready-made cocktail comes with four-to-six servings per 375-milliliter glass bottle. Williams calls the design the "icing on the cake." The sturdy bottle features a chevron mold as a textural element that we find pleasing, whether on the shelf or in hand.

The negronis required the development of aperitivo replacements because they couldn't use essential liqueurs such as Campari, a bitter yet sweet botanical with a distinct profile that isn't easily duplicated. The team developed signature aperitivos in collaboration with Forthave Spirits, a distillery in Brooklyn known for producing botanical spirits using only plant-based ingredients and without artificial filtering agents or artificial colors. Despite Campari's ubiquitous influence, the brand uses artificial coloring (officially stopping the use of a common red dye made of crushed insects in 2006), as well as animal gelatin during filtration (bad news for vegans).

Brooklyn's Faccia Brutto Spirits and a network of other spirits providers from around the country contribute to the rest. Sodi also reveals they would like to eventually distill their own spirits, a next step that feels on-brand.


At $39 for each 375-milliliter bottle, as of the launch, the creators described the Via Carota cocktails as a replacement for bringing a bottle of wine for a dinner party; each bottle contains about four servings. The ready-to-drink cocktails are available to purchase online at the Via Carota website and ship direct to consumers in most states. Details for local and nationwide availability are still in the works.

The ready-made cocktails are also a win in terms of sourcing, a hurdle for many to track down the less common botanicals required of aperitivos. We purchased the ingredients for a classic negroni (a bottle of Campari, Cinzanno sweet vermouth, and Gordon's London Dry Gin) for around $68 before tax. Yes, we now have many more servings, but we wouldn't bring three bottles with us on the metro. Even if you have gin on hand, we would venture to guess most people won't have a bottle of Suze gentian liqueur and Lillet Blanc on hand to mix a white negroni — and each bottle will easily cost $25 before tax.

Three bottle sets (negroni, bourbon, or martini) are also available for anyone interested in trying each blend in the cocktail families. The $99 kits come with two cocktail glasses, including long-stemmed Nick & Noras for the martinis and lowballs for the rest, and a branded stir.

How Via Carota compares to other bottled cocktails

We found comparing Via Carota Craft Cocktails to other pre-made cocktails in the market a bit tricky. The adherence to straightforward spirits instead of a version of seltzer is rare. Even if brands like Cutwater and High Noon use real spirits (most hard seltzers contain cheaper malt liquor), they're all carbonated.

Sparkling cocktails are popular for a reason — even the Via Carota team plans to release a negroni sbagliato in the future — but capturing the simplicity of a martini or a negroni is a steep order. Perhaps the aptest comparison is the celebrity-backed Thomas Ashbourne craft spirits, which include an old fashioned once linked to John Cena (he's absent from the current marketing) and The Perfect Cosmo by SPJ. The 375-milliliter bottles retail for under $20 as of this publication.

Bulleit also sells pre-made cocktails, including an old fashioned and Manhattan, with 375-milliliter bottles for around $20, as well. On The Rocks bottled cocktails are even cheaper but have middling reviews. Bully Boy Negroni might be the closest comparison out of the ready-to-drink cocktail because the brand also makes its own Campari replacement and retails at just over $30 for a 750-milliliter bottle.

Classic negroni

Developing a classic negroni presented the largest challenge for the chefs. "We absolutely needed a negroni," says Sodi, the same chef who was raised in Florence, Italy, and opened her namesake I Sodi with a negroni menu (it currently features five variations). The classic negroni is made with Forthave Red Aperitivo, dry gin, and the brand's custom spirit.

The chefs explained the negroni presented a considerable challenge to create bespoke vermouth. Chef Sodi seems to have been the harshest critic during the development of the classic negroni with the team indicating approval wasn't easily won. "We tried a lot of stuff and either it'll sit on the table or it's not going to be," Sodi tells us.

The drink is balanced and bittersweet, avoiding any cloying sweetness. We appreciate how the upfront juniper from the gin pairs with the orange notes and tannic finish. The herbaceous botanicals mixed with gin result in a mild orange color when in the glass. The simplicity of this negroni makes this cocktail (pre-made or otherwise) one of our favorites.

White negroni

The Via Carota White Negroni turned out to be an unexpected hit with taste testers at the product launch. The bottled cocktail is made with white aperitivo from Forthave, dry gin, and a signature vermouth blend. This clear negroni is clean, citrus-forward, and floral. We were pleasantly surprised by the notes of elderflower and a sweet finish that is balanced with the bitterness of gentian root.

Sodi says the development of the dry vermouth proved to be the most difficult to get right. The team worked with Fortehave Spirits for the custom blend of aperitivos that went through over 80 iterations in one year before locking in the botanicals.

Chef Williams says this white negroni blend is her new favorite to pair with dessert at the end of the night. We anticipate this style of negronis will also be a hit for drinkers looking to try something new and impress friends (without having to worry about ratios).

Signature martini

Martini drinkers tend to be a fickle bunch. The traditional ratios vary depending on who you ask, but the cocktail is often made with five parts gin or vodka of choice to one part dry vermouth, whether using Dolin, Noly Prat, or Martini & Rossi. In contrast, a dry martini drinker might ask for the vermouth to be swirled in the glass and tossed out (a move that feels akin to ordering six chicken nuggets in the drive-thru but asking for two to be thrown away).

Via Carota developed a 3-to-1 for a more approachable martini, says Matt Leeds, an investor in the consumer brand. This blend features vodka and a hint of sweetness that we find rounds out the drink without losing its foundation. One tester mentioned they'd never typically order a martini but loved the smooth profile. Another tester mentioned the pleasant notes of wormwood, a necessary botanical in dry vermouth.

Taste testers divided over pairing the drink with an olive or lemon twist as a garnish. We took the advice of a taster familiar with the restaurant's particular brand of olives — and we concur that the green olives are a treat in themselves. At home, we're inclined to grab some citrus to add a sharper bite, an area where the signature martini is lacking. For some, the smooth delivery will be welcomed (and might convert nonbelievers to the cult of martini), while purists may cry sacrilege.

Old fashioned

The old fashioned cocktail is a bourbon-based drink with minimal intervention by additional ingredients. In other words, an old fashioned is a simple cocktail designed to allow quality dark spirits to shine. Muddled brown sugar cuts the bite in the spirit, and water opens up the tasting notes of the bourbon. Otherwise, simple syrup is a time saver.

Even though the Via Carota Old Fashioned is categorized as part of the bourbon family, the blend features a four-year-aged rye whiskey. The cocktail mixes in bitters, orange flavor, and brown sugar. The bottled cocktail is earthier thanks to the charred oak rye whiskey with plenty of caramel, vanilla, and spice notes. We even noticed a tiny amount of maraschino cherry. The cocktail has a bite, which we appreciate, but feels balanced with the alcohol without the pucker at the end.

We enjoyed the pale brown blend with an orange peel to garnish. You can also add a candied cherry to pull out the stonefruit notes.

Signature Manhattan

The Manhattan is perhaps one of the most iconic cocktails. We enjoy this drink during the winter months for its rich spice and warming flavors. We also love an excuse to include a quality maraschino cherry in the cocktail. Perhaps because of its complexity — achieved with only three ingredients — a Manhattan is our answer for a go-to drink. Finding a bartender that doesn't deliver a watered-down concoction is something else entirely.

The Via Carota Signature Manhattan is a surprisingly rich and fully cherry-forward approach to the classic. As with the brand's old fashioned, the blend uses a four-year rye whiskey aged in charred oak. Of course, rye is quite similar in flavor to bourbon, but we agree with the camp that a classic Manhattan recipe benefits the earthier and spicier high-rye styles. The chefs seem to also prefer the distinction.

The team served the Manhattans neat. We noticed a bite, which finished at the back of the throat, is balanced by rich cherry and deep fruit notes in the cocktail. We do find it bright and balanced despite the sweetness. The blend isn't viscus or syrupy, a pitfall we've found in other pre-made cocktails.

Espresso martini

The espresso martini is yet again considered a trendy cocktail. We liked them in the aughts and now (and we trust they were good in the '80s and '90s, too). This style of martini also carries a reputation for being saccharine and, well, a bit silly. We're here to say that the aversion might be unwarranted (and likely sexist). No one scoffs at any Irish coffee for its sugar content, do they?

Espresso martinis are actually quite simple in terms of ingredients, despite what popular branding (or the eye roll from your bartender) might indicate. The original espresso martini recipe included polish vodka, simple syrup, Kalúa coffee liqueur, and a fresh shot of espresso. Via Carota's version is made with a six-times distilled vodka with real espresso.

We must say Via Carota's Espresso Martini bottled cocktail is immensely likable. Strong notes of dark chocolate and hints of cherry round out the palate. The liqueurs and use of real espresso result in a drink that takes straight from the roaster, and we found no bitter aftertaste or hints of staleness. The chefs say yucca is added so the cocktail will foam when shaken (swoon), and the foam still needs to support an espresso bean. This is a comeback cocktail we can get behind.

Are they worth it?

While we suspected the beloved chefs would never create disappointing cocktails, we admit to our surprise over how impressive the entirety of the Via Carota Craft Cocktails line is. These bottles are what we might call a culinary flex. Want to demonstrate that you understand quality or possess a refined taste? Grab one of the negroni mixes or the espresso martini to share with friends over a charcuterie platter. We could see the Manhattan as a gift for a person who dines at the restaurant — or enjoys a classic cocktail and is otherwise difficult for which to shop. In fact, we're craving a glass of the espresso martini right now.

The price tag is currently higher than other bottled or canned cocktails on the market. The quality does mean we agree with the creators that this line is more comparable to a mid-priced bottle of wine than most items on the ever-growing pre-made cocktail market. Spirits sourced from Brooklyn-based distilleries and the overall presentation make for solid conversation pieces. And we will admit to becoming somewhat emotionally invested in the team's concept of breathing a second life into the glass vessels.

So, yes, we expect that you will also be pleasantly surprised by the ready-made cocktails. Of course, if you've had a chance to dine at one of the chef partners' restaurants, you likely won't be surprised at all.