Black Fly makes cocktail drinks that aren’t too sweet, just don’t call them coolers.
Who: Cathy Siskind-Kelly
Siskind-Kelly and her husband Rob Kelly are the founders of Black Fly, Ontario’s first micro-distillery that’s been making mixed alcoholic drinks since 2005. This spring, Black Fly has expanded its product line (and production) at their ultra-environmentally responsible facility. I spoke to her on the phone recently to find out more, then tried some of their “spirit beverages”.
What: Mixed Drinks That Aren’t Too Sweet
Rob Kelly originally wanted to start a craft brewery. A seasoned beer pro he was working with complained to him that coolers were taking an increasing market share of the ready to drink alcoholic market. It occurred to Rob that there weren’t any “craft coolers” being made in Ontario, and what was being made was really sweet. He changed direction, got Cathy involved and the couple decided they would make mixed drinks made with real distilled spirits, real fruit juices and sweetened with cane sugar. Above all they would be less sweet and more natural than the competition. (They are also all gluten-free, which is becoming an increasingly important feature.)
Where: London, Ontario, Canada
Black Fly is starting to sell their ready-made drinks (don’t call them coolers!) in the United States, but the product is resolutely Canadian. Their first product, and a perennial best seller, is the Cranberry Vodka, inspired by North Ontario cottage country. Cathy Siskind-Kelly emphasizes that Black Fly sources Canadian products as much as they can, especially the spirits, and what they can’t can’t they offset with their environmental initiatives, including light-weight, BPA-free, 100% recyclable bottles made in province.
Black Fly is on a roll, and seems to be on the forefront of an emerging trend in North America. Last year Rob and Cathy accepted the Hot New Now Award from the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America. As the good food revolution takes hold and expands, food and drink categories that have been dominated by big industrial producers (like soda pop, or even pickles) are being penetrated by craft producers that place added-value over cost cutting and mass marketing. Black Fly’s business advantage is that it’s been in the category for over a decade.
Why: Convenience and Opportunity
Black Fly’s Gin Tom Collins is a particularly pleasant way to ease into a summer Saturday evening. The gin has distinct rose-floral note, and the citrus comes from a combination of lemon and lime juices. It’s a very easy way to greet a friend who’s just dropped by unannounced. Especially if that friend is avoiding gluten. While Black Fly has a network of dedicated fans, who share cocktail recipes on their website, I think its killer application is as a standby in the fridge*, there waiting for the desire to drink something different. Watch this company.
*Or freezer: the plastic bottles don’t shatter, so it’s easy to make a frozen margarita or whatever with their products.