Updated: Dec 8, 2022
Spirits company The CoreBev Group has partnered with cold brew coffee brand RISE Brewing Co. for its latest canned cocktail launch, Moonlight Barista.
Made with CoreBev’s Cylinder Vodka and RISE coffee, Moonlight Barista (15.5% ABV) is a nitro espresso martini available in 6.8 oz. cans. Sold for $17.99 per 4-pack, the brand is rolling out in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Florida this month and will be in about 100 doors to start, including Total Wine & More and Stew Leonard’s stores, as well as ecommerce platform Drizly.
According to CoreBev founder and CEO Stelios Stavrianos, the two Connecticut-based companies began working on the drink around three years ago after meeting at a local trade event. Stavrianos said they applied a perfectionist attitude towards crafting a premium espresso martini that can match the flavor of a freshly made cocktail; he estimated that the drink went through roughly 10 formulations a month from 2019 up until it was finalized this year.
While there are multiple RTD espresso martinis on the market already – including from brands like Kahlua, Loverboy, DELOCE, and CoreBev’s own The Cocktail Chemist – Stavrianos noted that the use of nitro is unique in the category and the drink also boasts a more pure flavor profile with no creams or sugars. In addition to helping Moonlight Barista stand out on shelf, the nitro also helps to extend shelf life and offer what Stavrianos called a more authentic cocktail experience.
“When you shake and pour it, [the nitro] gives it a really nice thick head, much like you’d get with a regular espresso martini in a classic cocktail bar – fresh espresso will have that nice foam head when you shake it,” he said. “So crack this into a martini shaker, shake it with some ice and it’ll look and taste exactly like the best espresso martini anywhere in the world.”
Founded in 2017, CoreBev closed a seed funding round in December led by real estatement investment fund HAVN Ventures and since the beginning of the year has grown from six employees to 13 full and part-time team members, including former DuPont global finance manager John Zachary as CFO and Jesse Gallo as logistics manager.
Moonlight Barista marks the fourth brand in the CoreBev portfolio, after flagship brand Cylinder Vodka, cocktail seltzer line Pasha’s and The Cocktail Chemist, which it acquired in January.
The company pulled back on plans to rebrand The Cocktail Chemist line shortly after the acquisition, as Stavrianos said consumers almost universally preferred the original packaging in testing. CoreBev is now focused on expanding the brand across the country, most recently adding the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos in Connecticut. By the end of the year, Stavrianos expects The Cocktail Chemist to be in about 400 accounts in seven states, including Illinois, Texas and California.
As well, CoreBev is now looking to launch four additional brands throughout the next year, including a bourbon line produced in partnership with an unannounced media company, a tequila brand built around a charitable mission to support Mexican communities, a bourbon barrel aged coffee liqueur product, and Minus, a line of non-alcoholic RTD mocktails.
“When I started telling people that CoreBev was not just going to be [selling] vodka, they all said ‘No, just focus on the vodka,’ and yes, there’s a story to tell around putting your passion into just one thing,” Stavrianos said. “But CoreBev’s tagline is ‘Leading alcohol innovation’ … I see all these other products, all these other brands, as we’re giving people something to look forward to. We have these ideas, we have the opportunity to bring these products to market and create these cool partnerships.”
For RISE, the partnership is part of a growing extension into the alcohol sector via co-branded products. The brand previously provided its coffee for a nitro coffee stout from Evil Twin Brewing, a cold brew coffee porter and a nitro hard coffee from Half Full Brewery, and a non-alcoholic “Stouty Brew” made with Athletic Brewing Co.
“I think we are inspired by entrepreneurs who are on the grind and hustle and work hard every day, and that’s something that inspired us with the CoreBev team – it’s the same energy and passion that we have as a team,” RISE co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Jarrett McGovern told BevNET.
According to McGovern, Moonlight Barista is the first of three new collaborations in the canned cocktail category. The company has also partnered with Pernod Ricard for an espresso martini kit which will feature pre-measured cans and bottles of RISE coffee, Absolut vodka and Kahlua that consumers can mix at home. There’s also a rum-based espresso martini made with Cisco Brewers called Nantucket Rise. Both products are scheduled to launch this fall.
In working with CoreBev, RISE finds itself in the position of being the larger and more established name, and McGovern said the company will play an active role in marketing and growing Moonlight Barista. In addition to promoting the cocktail at events, RISE will also work to sell the line into its existing restaurant and on-premise accounts “where it makes sense to have an espresso martini.” As well, the company will also look to get its core nitro coffee drinks into accounts currently carrying CoreBev products.
The two companies will host a Moonlight Barista launch party in Connecticut this fall, Stavrianos said and will hold a number of pop-up events after.
“The more people that we can sample RISE with in different unique ways, the larger our customer base grows,” McGovern said. “I think it is always fun to collaborate and when you can bring the tribes together great things happen. But I think really, for us, it’s a way to sample RISE in a unique way to a different audience that might not even be traditional coffee drinkers.”