During the off-season the Padres brought back the brown, much to the delight of the majority of the San Diego baseball fan base. To celebrate, San Diego-based distillery Cutwater Spirits produced a new brown and yellow Padres-themed Vodka Mule can, complete with the pinstripes.
“We had to make a decision back in December or January if we were going to do it,” says Earl Knight, Cutwater Spirits Co-Founder. “We saw the cans that were mocked up and we thought it was amazing. The Padres thought it was cool so we started making the product and then the world went sideways.”
In March the coronavirus pandemic shut down baseball and pretty much everything else in America so Cutwater had a decision to make: stop production and wait for the season to start or keep going with a baseball product anyway.
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“We said you know what, people are still going to want to associate with their baseball team. So we just kept marching down the path with it and it’s been a hit,” says Knight.
Cutwater Spirits has had a relationship with the Padres for nearly a decade but an idea like this still took a little bit of salesmanship.
“They’re very protective of their brand, as they should be,” says Knight. “I have some really good designers. We kind of gave them some ideas and said mock something up, let’s see what they say. Their marketing folks were like, holy cow you guys nailed it.”
Sales of the special cans have been better than expected and the concept is already spreading across Major League Baseball.
“It’s been great so far and we’re talking with other teams around the country now. They were blown away by it,” says Knight.
Beer has been a tradition at staple of baseball games since the turn of the previous century (aside from the prohibition years) but the idea of selling canned cocktails at sporting events was a bit revolutionary.
“When we first started talking to concessionaires at stadiums they looked at me like I was crazy,” says Knight.
The concern was the spirits would be too high in alcohol content and cause problems in the stands. Cutwater’s canned cocktails contain the same ABV as the average beer, and the ease of service eventually won the day.
“You don’t have to have clean ice or cut fruit or have an actual person making cocktails and taking time. People want to get a cocktail and go back to their seats and watch a game so it kind of fit in,” says Knight.
Baseball’s slower pace has always allowed it to be more of a food and drink lover’s sport. In San Diego that’s been elevated to an artform.
“Baseball games, especially when you have a stadium as beautiful as Petco Park, you kind of want to walk around,” says Knight. “If you have a cocktail that you can take around with you and relax and go to the Park in the Park, you can wander and have a cocktail.”
During the COVID-19 outbreak Cutwater didn’t only keep producing its beverages. They also started distilling hand sanitizer for frontline medical workers, following the recipe from the World Health Organization for optimal effectiveness.
“We’re used to working with flammable liquids. As soon as the situation started worsening we had the county reach out to us and it was kind of funny, the toughest part we had was sourcing the bottles and the lids,” says Knight. “They were gone, you couldn’t find them any place. The county said we have a line on this many bottles and we said cool, send them to us and we’ll fill them, and we didn’t charge anybody for any of this. We gave everything away.”
They went to places like San Diego Food Bank and Meals on Wheels where people were on the front lines of helping others through the pandemic, all free of charge.
“We had a lot of people trying to buy it from us, companies, and I said listen I’d like nothing more than to sell something to you and take your money but right now we’re giving it to the folks like Rady Children’s Hospital, anything we could do to help out.”
Soon (hopefully) baseball will be back. But until we can get in and enjoy a cocktail at the park, you can get the Padres Vodka Mule can at San Diego area Costco stores and see their whole lineup online at www.cutwaterspirits.com.