The ready-to-drink segment of adult beverages has been soaring for several years now. In July, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States reported that sales of liquor-based RTDs shot up some 56% between 2020 and 2021. The figure registered less as news and more as a foregone conclusion. But the boom comes with the threat of over-saturation. Indeed, the primary challenge for emerging brands is to find a meaningful point of separation. Epic Western Cocktail Company has tapped into a winning formula by appealing to outdoor enthusiasts. And they’re getting help from one of the biggest names in the space.
YETI Capital, the investment arm of the eponymous cooler company, took an initial position in the drinks brand last year. The venture capital firm based in Austin, Texas was initially enticed by Epic Western’s commitment to quality ingredients. Namely, that company founder and CEO, Adam Love, was making a line of Ranch Water using craft tequila, relying only on monkfruit as a sweetener and canning it in the remote region of Jalisco where it was actually distilled (“tequila” is not legally tequila if it’s bottled or canned outside of Mexico).
Love sat down to an auspicious dinner in early 2021 with YETI co-founder Roy Seiders, who immediately sensed a potential for synergy. “[We] hand-picked Epic Western above all other products in this space because they’re the only ones doing it the right way,” according to Seiders. “The premium nature of Epic Western aligns perfectly with our personal standards and meshes well with the other game changing brands in our portfolio.”
For his part, Love was already determined to pursue a lifestyle brand aimed at the very same folks who covet rugged, high-end coolers. “This thing started with a passion for a better canned cocktail—a true Ranch Water—and his turned into a full-blown experiential brand,” he tells Forbes. “We have [outdoor] ambassadors, we sponsor musics festivals, we create cool branded experiences like a post dove-hunt cocktail hour in the field.”
The confluence of music, sports and what the brand dubs, ‘Western Lifestyle,’ includes a 3-year sponsorship deal with the Tennessee Titans, as well as the involvement of fly fishing legend J.T. Van Zandt—who is now a part owner. “I make my Ranch Water – what I call Bay Water – out of 100% blue agave tequila, a little pinch of salt, Mexican mineral water, and lime,” he explains. “Epic Western is the only one that has been able to pull it off in a can.”
Those cans are 12 oz. in size and contain no less than 3 oz. of tequila each, with an overall alcohol-by-volume clocking in at 10% for the original flavor. A sparkling spin on a Skinny Margarita called the Chispa Rita as well as a Paloma-inspired grapefruit variation both come in at 8% ABV. Four packs retail at around $18. In the first quarter of 2023 they’ll release a spicy take on the Chispa Rita called Brush Fire, while also expanding into Florida, California and Arizona.
With the backing of YETI—and the blessing of tequila cocktail connoisseurs—Epic Western is ready to ride off into the sunset as a lasting success in the RTD space. “We’re a true lifestyle brand,” adds Love. “Who knows, we could even make saddles next.”