Though Gen Z’s drinking habits skew toward red wine, studies show whiskey’s staying power continues to increase within the U.S. People also are still inclined to prefer the convenience of home-delivered bottles instead of trekking to the local liquor store, according to Forbes.
Those facts, paired with the boom of pre-batch, ready-to-pour cocktails, make brands like Sunday’s Finest primed as the perfect addition to the home bar cart. But with so many pre-mixed cocktails on the market, sifting through which of these new brands are worth taking home can make it an overwhelming experience.
Sunday’s Finest, focusing only on a bottled Old-Fashioned, claims to hone in on the classic bourbon drink by selecting a handful of expertly chosen ingredients to create a bottle of batched-cocktails fit for a fancy cocktail bar. For some, half of the enjoyment in mixology lies in how well you make your own drinks, and asking over $100 for a bottle of pre-mixed ingredients takes the novelty out of the experience. But others enjoy the relaxing idea of putting in minimal effort (opening the bottle and pouring it into a glass), in order to get their desired cocktail. No matter which side of the spectrum you lean more towards, you have to admit that Sunday’s Finest pre-made bottles of the Old Fashioned drink are an intriguing idea. Here’s everything you need to know about it.
What whiskeys are in the bottle?
Sunday’s Finest boasts three base spirits: a 15-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon, a nine-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon, and a six-year-old Indiana Straight Rye Whiskey. The blend results in a surprisingly polished, but still lively, mouthfeel. Though the ratios of each whiskey (and who produces them) remain unknown, Sunday’s Best trio of whiskeys is designed to capitalize on the strengths of both bourbons and the single rye. We assume the selection of the triptych of base spirits is how Sunday’s Finest justifies its cost to the consumer. While we always order (or make) simply a bourbon or rye old-fashioned, the team behind Sunday’s Finest slyly blends the two styles of whiskeys to hopefully create a best-of-both-worlds scenario with this cocktail.
While the older bourbon ages in New American Charred Oak Barrells, which causes a caramelization and sweetening of tasting notes, the nine-year-old bourbon (according to the website) is responsible for the noticeable sweet vanilla and baking spice notes that wafted up from our glass even before we added our orange zest. The slight edge and perkiness from the golden liquid we attribute to the Indiana Rye that we tasted as the cocktail hit the back of our tongue, before dissipating again into a silky, smooth finish.
What are the other ingredients?
Perhaps the star of the Gold Fashioned is the bitters blend — Seville orange peel, generation root, single estate Ecuadorian cacao, Grade A Tahitian vanilla, and saffron, notes the site. Similar to a fine perfume, the spritz of bitters provides a complexity wherein the top scent can be deciphered on the nose. The saffron notes shine through and make the drink feel moody and introspective, while the vanilla and orange notes are buoyant and convivial.
We were curious how our own version of an old-fashioned would taste with the inclusion of these expertly made bitters that seem to give the overall drink a leg-up. Though we remain skeptical of a $150 bottle of bathed cocktails, we could fork over $25 for a tincture of the brand’s bitters.
Sunday’s Finest even sources the sugar, added with a gentle touch to its Old-Fashioned, with the intention of providing a sleek, round mouthfeel to the beverage. The unrefined Malawian Sugar, unlike the flatness of processed, white sugar, lends a rich fullness to the cocktail without overtaking the beverage with a saccharine edge. Finally, in a tiny, travel-mascara-sized tube, encased in an elaborate package resembling a fancy matchbox, is a vaporizer containing orange essence. The finishing touch of orange zest, contained in the adorable tiny atomizer, replaces the presence of an orange peel garnish, and with one single spritz, imbues the cocktail with a cheerful kick that buttons up the drink — not unlike straightening your tie before leaving the house.
How much does it cost?
Though we thoroughly delighted sipping Sunday’s Finest Gold Fashioned, at $150, we have to ask ourselves how much of the price tag can be attributed to Sunday’s Finest extravagant packaging. While unboxing the bottle, we were reminded of the overly ornate boxes we battled in order to free the American Girl dolls of our adolescence. A thick lapis blue cardboard box, embossed in gold, cradles the 750-milliliter bottle of Sunday’s Finest Gold Fashioned. And the aforementioned miniature box of orange zest spray crowns the entire package. Fit more for a gift when you want the receiver to savor the revelation, the packaging (though beautiful and well-made), ultimately ended up in our recycling pile by the end of the night.
While continuing to tally up the total value of Sunday’s Finest Gold Fashioned, we broke down the 750 milliliters into how much a single serving of the beverage runs its average drinker. At a suggested 2-ounce pour per drink (also what defaulted to while mixing our own), each bottle of Sunday’s Finest contains 12.5 servings at $12 a glass — about $4 under the price we’d expect to pay for the cocktail at a high-end bar in any city. However, the thrill of ordering from an actual expert, sitting in a sleek space, and perhaps learning something new about your own tastes, are all relinquished when you surrender yourself to an entire bottle of pre-made cocktail.
Where you can get it
Sunday’s Finest Gold Fashioned promises to be the "luxury ready-to-enjoy bottled cocktail," notes the website, for your liquor collection. It’s a solid concept, but it’s not the most accessible.
Sold in partnership with Apologue Liquors, Sunday’s Finest Gold Fashioned can be tracked down physically at stores in Chicago, at a smattering of specialty liquor stores in the Northeast, in Texas, and a couple of high-end stores in both San Fransisco and Los Angeles. Otherwise, you can order a bottle directly from the Sunday’s Finest website and other online spirit distributors such as Spirit Hub and Drizzly, if you live in a state permitting online liquor sales (which means you live in Alabama, Utah, Kentucky, or Mississippi, you’re out of luck). If you’re outside the U.S., you’ll have to get a traveling friend to ship you a bottle, seeing as there are no current retailers overseas, and Sunday’s Finest website didn’t allow us to type in a non-U.S. address in the shipping field. So, chances are, if you want to take a sip of Sunday’s Finest and decide for yourself if the steep price point is worth the ding to your pocketbook, plan your Old-Fashioned cravings ahead of time and order your bottle online.
How it tastes
If tasted blind, we would assume the cocktail originated from a cocktail bar or restaurant, perhaps due to co-founder’s Robert Haynes past life as a bartender at high-end cocktail bars such as Chicago’s Violet Hour, and his own bar Analogue. Haynes branched out into spirit making in 2017 with Analogue Liquors, before unleashing Sunday’s Finest Gold Fashioned to the public in 2020, right in time for pandemic shutdowns to bolster demand for restaurant-esque pre-batched cocktails to sip at home.
But in order to untangle if Sundays Finest truly levels up to an artisanal level, we first wanted to rehash everything we know and love about an Old-Fashioned. Like many simple recipes that can still somehow elude us, like perfectly scrambled eggs, the key to unlocking the perfect Old-Fashioned also eludes us because of its deceptive simplicity. Because it can be deceptively hard to make, we enjoyed that there wasn’t anything we would change about the taste of Sunday’s Finest Gold Fashioned. The subdued spice and caramel notes in the Gold Fashioned make the pre-mixed cocktail perfect for autumnal/wintertime imbibing.
The clever blend of the three base spirits along with the bitters blend lent to a memorable Old-Fashioned. We do think it tastes close to a cocktail bar’s cocktail, and if you’re an Old-Fashioned aficionado, you’ll enjoy the taste, though you may be missing that special touch your favorite bartender adds to their Old-Fashioned.
How it compares to a standard Old Fashioned
As we sat down to sip Sunday’s Best Gold Fashioned, we brushed up on our bartending skills and stirred up our own version to see how the new brand stacks up against a standard Old-Fashioned.
We went with Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon for its full body and soft finish, a splash of rich simple syrup, orange bitters, and a brandied cherry. The result was a smooth, tried-and-true replication of a restaurant bar’s old-fashioned — absent was any flare of personal style. Next to Sunday’s Finest, our Old-Fashioned fell a little flat. Also missing was the subtle dimensionality and moodiness we got while enjoying the Gold Fashioned, plus the texture of the whiskey felt sharper in our homemade version, while the Gold Fashioned was as luxuriously smooth as the ornate package promised.
Running around $50 a bottle for the Four Roses, plus the cost of orange bitters (under $10), an entire jar of brandied cherries (around $15), the entirety of our cocktail set (including simple syrup) ran us around $70 from start to finish — keeping in mind we already owned all the necessary bar tools and big ice cube tray (which all total up to around $50 to $100 depending on the set). If we had to do it all over again, we’d play around with mixing base spirits and choose a more esoteric bitter, but the Gold Fashioned definitely beat our homemade concoction.
Is it worth getting?
Overall, we respect and greatly enjoy Sunday’s Finest Gold Fashioned — our expectations were exceeded when it came to the overall quality of the drink. Indeed closer to a cocktail bar experience than we’ve ever had while cracking open most batched and bottled cocktails, Sunday’s Finest just might be the halo glowing over the growing market of pre-made cocktails. However, at $150, we remain skeptical and question who this beverage is ultimately for.
For us, the joy of cozying up with a stiff drink at home is tacitly attached to the pleasure of growing into a better home bartender and expanding our knowledge of spirits and our own personal style. Personally, we’d rather spend $150 broadening our liquor collection with various whiskeys and tasting their uniqueness side-by-side. But for the consumer with money to burn, the camper who is unwilling to sacrifice quality and pizazz, or the person who wants to gift a niche, luxury gift to their special someone, we’d nudge them to Sunday’s Best Gold Fashioned any day.