Great ideas often come out of the simplest of moments, or in the case of the new local canned cocktail venture Voktail, out of the mouths of babes.
“My family enjoys drinking vodka,” said co-founder Oliver Sill. “Four years ago at a family gathering, as my sister was putting her 3 1/2-year-old daughter to bed, my niece Sophie asked if we were going to go back out and drink voktails all night.”
Voktail became the family word, and soon, one they would trademark and brand.
“We had zero idea what we were going to do with the word,” Sill recalled. But with the help of Shannon LaBare and the savvy marketing firm Purveyor Branding, they created a retro 1960s logo. They worked with several mixologists, had a menu of cocktail recipes, and began scheduling pop-up events.
Sill, and his aunt and partner George Ann Caratan, launched the canned cocktail line this spring. But it took four years of trial and error. “With a full-time job and managing bartenders who were not always reliable, we were forced to cancel tastings, so we eventually scrapped the pop-up idea,” he said.
They met with vodka reps who foresaw a burgeoning market and suggested canning them. According to Nielsen, canned cocktails generated $117.99 million off-premise during the pandemic, a 146.6 percent increase compared to a year earlier. The global ready-to-drink cocktails industry is expected to reach $1.7 billion by 2028.
Voktail is canned at a distillery out of town. The rollout offered Spicy Jalapeño Blood Orange and Lavender Refresher. “We received feedback that the first round was too sweet, so we cut the sugar by a third,” he said. “It hasn’t affected the overall flavor.”
Voktail fans rave about its crisp finish. “They are delicious,” said Alexandra Cody. “My favorite is the Blood Orange, and it is so refreshing over ice.” Each can has 7 percent alcohol by volume. A four-pack sells for $12.99. “We are a true distilled spirits vodka-based cocktail made with all-natural flavors and are vegan and gluten free,” Sill added.
With a third canning complete, Sill and Caratan are developing a special Voktail for the Mayor’s Ball in December, and they expect to release two more flavors within the next seven months. They have signed a distribution deal with Advanced Beverage, and are setting their sights on the Southern California market.
“Honestly, never in a million years did I think I would be in the canned cocktail business,” Caratan said of making spirits. “The best part has been working with Oliver, and the businesses have been so welcoming and want to help us make this a success.”
“To think that a then-3 1/2-year-old now has us sitting here spinning numbers,” Sill laughs. “It has been a ride for sure.”