I vividly remember growing up in Connecticut and watching my mom and my best friends' parents indulge in wine on a "special" occasion or at a fancy dinner. This ritual always felt elitist and unrelatable to me, unlike beer drinking, which felt casual and cool. It wasn't until I was in my late 20’s that my perspective shifted. I was living in NYC and working in fashion, an industry in which wine drinking is just as ubiquitous as opulence, sophistication, and style. It was only natural that my love for it began to flourish. I evolved from a beer and vodka soda-drinking college student to a full blown wine enthusiast who enjoyed a nice glass on certain nights of the week. As the years went on, I learned to appreciate different types of wine, the grapes, and the vineyards from which they come.
At our Mother's Day barbeque in 2018, my older brother, who closely follows the stock market and emerging trends, mentioned that canned wine was starting to scale. I went home that night and started doing some research on canned alcoholic beverages, puzzled that wine spritzers weren't yet a "thing" in the US when hard seltzer sales were skyrocketing. I sensed an untapped opportunity to make wine drinking accessible and cool for a younger audience, and I seized it. The next day, Cool Cat was born. I reached out to my good friend and talented art director, Carlos Jadraque, to design the logo and can. Carlos, like me, spent time working for iconic lifestyle brands including Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Oscar de la Renta. The first step was to create a memorable logo with a globally recognized brand name and design. The next step was to create the experience, and that would begin with finding the right flavors.
That summer, when my good friend and I were adventuring around Europe for my 39th birthday, I tasted a unique wine spritz at lunch in Croatia. The “Hugo Spritz'', as it was named, was a delicious, clean, and crisp wine cocktail that I immediately fell in love with. Its ingredients were the inspiration for our original flavor - Elderflower Mint Lime. After tasting multiple flavor profiles in California, we added Citrus, Grapefruit, and Berry to the menu.
The most important step in the Cool Cat journey was our April 2020 launch during the height of Covid - a challenge of epic proportions. Sussex Wine & Spirits in NYC’s Upper East Side was the first liquor store to carry our brand, and they were even gracious enough to allow us to ship our online orders from their store. Since they were down to only one employee of their own, their only caveat was that we package and label our own product. So, every day for three months, I biked across town from Chelsea to the east side, sat in a basement two levels below the ground, and got to work. To say that this was a daunting experience would be an understatement. It was a one-man labor of love.
Since those early days in a basement, we have certainly come a long way. Today we are sold in 6 states, CA, FL, NC, NY, SC, VA, and we have partnerships with Levi's Stadium (SF 49ers), Citi Field (NY Mets), and the University of Miami (Hurricanes).
From the first day of Cool Cat’s inception, I was passionate about providing our customers with the best canned wine on the market, and I think we’ve accomplished that. As a minority, it was of paramount importance that the brand be rooted in representation, inclusivity, and acceptance of people of all races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations. I think we’ve accomplished that, too. After all, our unique qualities are what makes us cool, and they should be embraced and celebrated. I think we can all “cheers” to that.