By: Alexa Shabinsky By: Alexa Shabinsky | December 30, 2021 | People
The canned cocktail industry is thriving, with new products launching on a regular basis. In 2013 Harley Bauer saw a gap in the industry and knew exactly how to fix it. Bauer and co-founder Michael Glickman set themselves on a mission to create the perfect ready-to-drink shot.
Co-Founder Harley Bauer
Putting the sugary mixers aside, Bauer and Glickman created a one-of-a-kind shot made with real fruit juice and natural flavor. With five flavors available and three different liquors, there is truly a LIQS for everyone.
We had the opportunity to catch up with industry leader, Bauer to talk all about LIQS and why Miami has played such a key role in the product's success.
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LIQS is such a unique product. How did you come up with the idea?
My business partner and I created LIQS in 2013, many years before the ready-to-drink boom that we all know of today. We discovered a void in the marketplace for a truly premium, premixed shot that would elevate any party or event, so we set out to design this product from scratch. Most consumers aren’t trained bartenders, nor do they have the tools or the time that is required to make quality mixed shots. Our goal was to develop a product that was perfectly balanced, delicious and that can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere.
Why did you bring LIQS to Miami for launch?
Miami was the perfect city to launch the brand in as it embodies the party lifestyle that is LIQS. From beaches and boating, to golfing and fishing, there are countless occasions where LIQS naturally fits in to help get the party started. In addition, the tropical weather, work hard, play hard mentality, endless event opportunities and perfect combination of locals and vacationers complement the brand’s “Less Prep. More Party” identity.
I am no longer based in Miami, but I am down there almost monthly as it’s my favorite escape from NYC and a very active market for LIQS.
Is there a crowd favorite flavor?
All of our flavors are pretty close in popularity, but it’s our Vodka Lemon Drop that takes a slight edge over the others. It’s an easy and flavorful shot to consume and one the most recognized classic shots people are already familiar with. A close second is our Whiskey Fireshot, which is made up of American made whiskey, cinnamon and vanilla crème.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced since launching?
When we launched, RTD (ready-to-drink) products were not popular at all. They were typically found on the bottom shelf in the back of a liquor store collecting dust. The assortment of RTD brands that were available in 2013 were mostly low quality, artificially flavored, loaded with sugar and low in proof, which didn’t resonate with consumers. Even though we had created a product that was made from premium distilled spirits and real fruit juice, we not only had to educate and convince consumers to buy it, but also distributors and retailers that the future of the category was in ultra-premium RTD’s. It took the better part of 3 years to change people’s perception, before starting to see consumers shift to becoming much more receptive to RTD’s. Although the category was already growing fast each year, COVID hit in 2020, which accelerated the category to explosive new heights. As lockdowns became the norm, restaurants and bars were unfortunately forced to close, forcing consumers to pivot to retail stores in search of high quality and convenient ready-to-drink options.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking to launch a product in the alcohol space?
Create something truly innovative and unique, be well funded and be prepared to live the brand 24/7! Launching a national liquor brand is not for the faint of heart as you are competing with global giants who have unlimited resources. Starting a brand from scratch requires a tremendous amount of capital, sweat equity and consumer education. If you are no different than existing brands already on the shelf, it’s going to be very hard to get on the radar of consumers without spending a fortune on marketing and even then, success is not guaranteed. Listening to your customers is also critical, whether it be from the taste of your product or the label on your package. At the end of the day, you must appeal to your target demographic to drive sales and be successful. Be nimble and be ready to pivot.
You launched during a time when social media, especially Instagram, was on the rise. How do you use social media to help spread brand awareness?
In the early days, we had a very limited marketing budget and weren’t able to go the route of traditional media (TV, Radio and Billboards) as it was very costly. Having the ability to use social media to introduce LIQS to our target demographic for a fraction of the cost was incredibly helpful, especially since we had to market to consumers across several states. It also allowed us to create a feel for the brand and show LIQS as the centerpiece for specific occasions and notable events, which helped gain credibility early on.
What’s next for LIQS?
In June 2021, LIQS Cocktail Shot was acquired by E&J Gallo! The dream for most entrepreneurs is to create and build a brand that can be attractive enough to be acquired by a larger supplier. Utilizing their incredible network and resources, they have already scaled the brand to heights that would be near impossible for us to have achieved as a smaller supplier. In the short time since acquiring the brand, E&J Gallo has expanded LIQS Cocktail Shots into major retail chains, independent owned retail stores, as well as restaurants and bars all throughout the US. Most recently LIQS launched two new exciting line extensions – 1.5L large format bottles and a 3L Box, which come in Margarita, Strawberry Margarita and Mojito. LIQS will continue to be an innovator in the RTD category with several new products planned for 2022!
Photography by: Courtesy LIQS