In the Can: Succeeding with Canned Beverages

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Ever since Coors first put beer into aluminum cans in 1959, this has been a popular way to package beverages. Canned wine and canned cocktails came many decades after beer, but that’s not stopping them now. In fact, according to market research company Nielsen, canned wine now generates more than $81 million annually, compared to closer to $46 million just a year ago.

Eager to be part of this, Joel David Liscio, wine director and general manager at Bin 14 in Hoboken, N.J, has introduced canned beverages to his lineup.

For wine, he offers Frico by Scarpetta’s Lambrusco (9% by volume) and Frizzante (10%), and Lorenza Spritz, a sparkling rosé. All are doing well, says Liscio. The rosé appeals mostly to women—and mostly younger women at that—while “everyone,” he says, is drinking the Scarpetta. “Bubbles are a great way to start a meal or start your happy hour.”

Bin 14 also serves two types of canned cocktails: One brand is High Noon Spirits, which produces hard seltzers it calls Sun Sips: vodka and real fruit juice (cherry, watermelon, grapefruit, pineapple) with the alcohol equivalence of a beer, around 4.5 percent.

The second brand is what Liscio calls “a blast from the past.” Bartles & Jaymes just launched four wine coolers: Grapefruit & Green Tea, Cucumber & Lime, Ginger & Lemon, and Watermelon & Mint. Bin 14 serves these directly in the can as a cocktail. They come with a large pipette filled with 0.5 oz. of liquor, a splash of juice, and a lemon or lime wedge on the side of the can.

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“I sat with these cans, cracked them open and tasted them, and came up with a way to make them appealing, visually and taste-wise,” Liscio says. “I upped the ante and added a little more flavor and little more depth.”

He adds basil vodka and lime juice to the Cucumber & Lime; ginger whiskey and lemon juice to the Ginger & Lemon; aquavit and Pallini Peachello to the Watermelon & Mint; and coconut rum infused (in-house) with green tea and lemongrass to the Grapefruit & Green Tea flavor.

Cans, says Liscio, “are just safer for beaches and pools. Cans are also somewhat cheaper; and they’re easier to ship; they weigh less; and they’re more portable.” Another plus for a bar or restaurant, he adds, is if you serve the drink from the can directly, there are no dishes.

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The costs to Bin 14 are the same as for other comparable drinks, Liscio says. The prices are good for guests, too. The Frico by Scarpetta runs $10 a can, and the Lorenza costs $12 a can, but each is two servings. The High Noon beverages run $8 and the Bartles & Jaymes cocktails are $10 apiece, though these contain a shot of liquor. He also does some by the bucket: a bucket of five High Noons costs $40, saving $1 per can; and for brunch, the Scarpetta’s are sold by the bucket—$35 for a bucket of five. At brunch, guests often order some orange juice, too, and make their own mimosas.

The only problem with the cans is they have a bad reputation, Liscio says, so there’s no mention on the menu that these drinks come in cans. “If you mention it, customers are scared away.” He finds its better to sell these verbally, and casually.

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