Just in time for summer, RMFR wants to share our newest choice beverages for front porch sippin’ from WheelHouse Canning Company. We crack open a few cans of the artisanal, gluten-free cocktails from founder, Quinton Bennett, in three flagship flavors: Black tea-thyme lemonade and vodka; grapefruit-lime-mint and gin; and mint-cucumber-elderflower-lime and vodka.
“We’re really excited about the product we have and we think it’s really unique,” says Bennett, who adds that their ideal lineup is to have seven total options with four standards and three seasonals. “We intend to roll out other flavors and a whiskey cocktail really soon.”
Look for what Bennett calls “a refreshing blend of bourbon whiskey-apple-ginger-honey and lemon” to debut the first week of September 2018.
Bennett, a career bartender of 18+ years tells us that during his post-college travels he found himself in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, “just for the season” and chose to stay for the next 10 years. In 2014, he left his mountain life for Denver, to work behind the stick at The Kitchen, and is among the opening staff at Mercantile where he became privy to “a whole other level of bartending.”
Just over two years ago, the excessive prep prior to service led to a moment of brilliance for Bennett when he says “it dawned on me that no one was putting spirits in a can.”
“People really appreciate a balanced drink and it doesn’t need to be too fussy,” says Bennett. “I think light, refreshing cocktails are always a nice option.”
On August 21, 2017, WheelHouse canned cocktails hit the shelves in a handful of Denver-based liquor stores but is available today at approximately 150+ retailers and 15+ golf courses. The average price tag for a single can is $4.99 or quadruple down with a four-pack for approximately $17.99. Big name venues such as The St. Regis Aspen Resort, Denver Zoo, Elitch Gardens Theme Park and numerous Colorado country clubs are also signing on to carry the convenient libations. Currently the product can only be found in-state, but Bennett says that they’re “hoping to branch out” by wintertime.
“We’re seeing some good traction,” says Bennett. “We really want to build a solid base in Colorado.”
The WheelHouse commissary kitchen, located in Denver, is where they concoct their small-batch specialty syrups made with mint, cucumber, elderflower, thyme and fresh-squeezed juice, with their canning and packaging facility nearby in Longmont, Colorado.
“We’re Colorado for sure,” says Bennett.
Our favorite of the three flavors we sample is the black tea thyme-lemonade and vodka which is “a play on a John Daly.” It’s savory, herbal and citrus qualities pleasantly surprise us since we initially worry it’s going too be too sweet for our taste buds. Bennett says they’ll continue to make small tweaks to the existing recipe with plans to “up the carbonation a little more” and give it “a little more black tea flavor.”
Both the grapefruit-lime-mint and gin and their most popular flavor, mint-cucumber-elderflower-lime and vodka, are easy-drinking with an additional cool mouth-feel from the palatable fragrant syrup, inspired by St-Germain.
“It’s good for the golf course or anywhere it takes you,” says Bennett, who drives home the point that “it’s a great vessel” and “cans go, where bottles can’t.”
Bennett intends to change the perspective that canned products are “less-than” and references a tasting he led where 10 participants blindly try beer from Avery Brewing Co. straight from a keg, in a can and from a bottle. The conclusion? “They all prefer the canned,” says Bennett.
“Craft breweries show over the years that you can put a great product in a can and it’s likely the best vessel for delivering a quality controlled product,” says Bennett. “That stigma of not being able to put quality in a can has disappeared.”
If that sentiment is not completely diminished in the eyes of some skeptics, we can attest that it tastes incredibly crisp and is an attractive option to take on-the-go: hiking, camping or on the water. It’s portability and sustainability are both functional qualities that fits the mindset of active and eco-aware Colorado consumers.
“The big thing is that they’re truly a proper cocktail with fresh ingredients,” says Bennett. “They’re 100-percent what you’d get at a bar; fresh juice, real craft syrups and spirits.”