Behind an upstart Valley beverage company, Arizona takes the lead in canned cocktails.
What’s spreading faster than a COVID variant? Enthusiasm for canned cocktails, evidently. According to industry tracker IWSR, the industry grew 50 percent between 2019 and 2020, with revenue of more than $700 million – a figure that some experts predict will quadruple to $3-$4 billion by 2025. Astounding, right? It’s almost as if the public was unaware that juice, sugar and a spirit of one’s choice tasted great together until somebody started canning it for them. Convenience is clearly part of the appeal, but according to Steve Cislaw, co-owner of Tempe-based Chaco Flaco, consumers are motivated by the mixology, too. “We knew our flavors were out of this world,” he told PHOENIX last summer, recalling the moment he and partner Chuck Moore decided to jump into the premixed cocktail game several years ago. “[So] we went through the process of starting to formulate these cocktails we were launching, and they turned out amazing.” Their growing fanbase seems to agree.
Chaco Flaco is a Latin-ization of Moore’s childhood nickname: “Skinny Chuck.” It also alludes to the diet-friendly cocktail’s sub-200 calorie count and 6 percent ABV.
The product is available in three flavors: Mango Margarita, Vodka Berry Mule and Strawberry Daiquiri, to go along with Cislaw and Moore’s line of Bloody Mary and margarita mixers.
The original can design featured a prominent Día de los Muertos theme, which was great for Arizona, but puzzled Midwesterners. “We didn’t want to completely cave into the market,” Moore told PHOENIX. “So, we kept a little bit of that.”
Released in spring 2021, Chaco Flaco may soon join the ranks of Arizona products that go international. Currently available throughout the Southwest and California, it will also appear on shelves in the UK, if the owners’ plans come to fruition. “We want to create a healthy buzz,” Cislaw says.
Beer of the Month
Wren House Brewing Co. Chai Jolly
Wheat Ale/5% ABV/25 IBU
What makes chai, chai? It might surprise you – or not! – to know there’s no “chai plant” that yields the fragrant tea in your Starbucks chai latte. Rather, it’s a cardamom-dominant amalgam of spices that often includes cinnamon, ginger, star anise and cloves – all of which you’ll find in this seasonal offering from Phoenix brewer Wren House. A rare “dark wheat” ale – with a name jocularly inspired by legendary Arizona camel driver Hi Jolly – the beer is by no means a chai bomb. The spice is restrained and tasteful, with a delicious afterburn of vanilla that’s ideal for cold-weather sipping. Store one in your hump this winter. Available at Arcadia Premium and other fine beer stores. wrenhousebrewing.com