Wild Leap Brew Co. in LaGrange opened its distillery in late 2019, designing its taproom experience around handcrafted cocktails and highlighting its new premium vodka. Serving concoctions like Wild Blueberry Basil Smash, Wild Leap became an anchor for the downtown LaGrange drink scene, but that came to a halt with mandatory pandemic closures in mid-March.
Selling to-go beer with curbside service was easy enough; the cocktail experience, not so much. Co-founder Rob Goldstein and his team had to figure out how to keep things running and his staff employed. They tried making huge batches of the taproom’s most ordered cocktails, selling them in 32-ounce portions, but that was made impossible by a crowler shortage caused by many breweries and distilleries increasing their to-go operations.
Premixed hard beverages already were trending, but the pandemic accelerated sales in the ready-to-drink category. It was a project Goldstein had planned, along with more spirits, but the pandemic’s impact on his business made developing ready-to-drink cocktails a necessity.
“We began experimenting by hand-filling cans and using our beer canning line to fill them,” Goldstein said.
Credit: Angela Hansberger
Credit: Angela Hansberger
Sales of 12-ounce cans tripled, but, with a commitment to using fresh ingredients, shelf life for the canned cocktails was about seven days, and refrigeration was necessary.
“Fortunately, we were already working with a team of beverage experts to extend the shelf-life of our cocktails, while maintaining all-natural ingredients," General Manager Brittany Knecht said. “We just sped it up a lot.”
Citrus is especially finicky in canned cocktails, and translating the necessary bright acidity of a cocktail into a shelf-stable drink is tricky.
After “dozens and dozens of iterations”, Goldstein said, and with the help of a scientist to make the cocktails shelf-stable, Wild Leap premium vodka cocktails debuted in late September with two varieties.
“We wanted to bring something unique to the table,” Goldstein said.
Crack open a can of the strawberry mango cocktail, and the aroma of mango leaps out at you. Creamsicle Mojito is made with orange, mint and lime. Each offering is 10% alcohol by volume, gluten-free, and requires no mixing. At 3 ounces of vodka per can, it contains slightly more liquor than a traditional cocktail. Both are subtly effervescent, with layers of fruit flavors and aromas distinguishable while drinking.
Four-packs of the slender 12-ounce cans of Wild Leap’s ready-to-drink cocktails are available for $11.99 throughout metro Atlanta.
Wild Leap Brew Co. 3008 Main St., LaGrange. 706-298-6400, wildleap.com.
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